One thing that is certain is that for success the board will need to pay out to get their main man. Mowbray cost the club a lot of money but the financial risk we face if Rangers win 3-in-a-row could be massive as it ultimately means another two seasons in front of us in the Europa League (the newly designed draw for the qualifiers in the Champions League has killed Scottish teams).
Hughes is the highest profile manager that has expressed an interest in the job, and more importantly, is available at the present time. The interest from Hughes’ camp is genuine as his assistant, Mark Bowen, spoke of their delight at getting linked with Celtic. He said: “Mark has always said it has to be the right vehicle, the right situation. He’s always been a manager or coach who wants to go in and build a place and make a difference long term.
“It seems to be the natural thing at the moment that Mark is linked with any vacant manager’s position. His talents are widely recognised and since City we’ve been waiting for the right opportunity. In that sense, I suppose we were expecting this speculation and it’s a pleasant expectation to see that he’s been linked with the Celtic post. Mark’s credentials are there for all to see.”
It seems only natural then for the fans to get excited about the prospect of our future being in such capable hands. One of the main things that would get the Celtic support salivating at the prospect of Hughes at Celtic is his discipline and his players being a team of physical hard men. When at Blackburn, Cesc Fabregas questioned why Mark Hughes was even at a club like Barcelona back in the 80s and shook his head in disbelief when doing so. Hughes’ reply to such a disparaging remark? “I thought he should have shown more respect to someone who has played in more FA Cup finals than he has.”
There’s no two ways about it: the man packs punch, and plenty of it. The sheer thought about how Hughes would react to a defeat to St Mirren or Ross County would terrify any player. Even Georgios Samaras.
It’s not just the attitude he possesses but it’s also the team that he built at Blackburn which has had him linked with clubs like Chelsea and Manchester United over the years and a reputation as one of Britain’s best young managers. After steering them clear of relegation, Hughes took a rejuvenated Blackburn to three consecutive top 10 finishes, finishing 6th and 7th in the process and three consecutive semi-finals.
This was no fluke. Hughes built a hard working team which had a solid spine from goalkeeper to striker and spent a fraction compared to his competitors. Picking up bargains such as Roque Santa Cruz (£3 million, sold on for £18 million), Chris Samba (£400,000), Stephen Warnock (£1.5 million, sold on for £7.5 million), Benni McCarthy (£2 million) and most impressively, David Bentley (£500,000, sold for £15 million), who he turned into one of the best wingers in England whilst at Blackburn. Along with stars such as Brad Friedel, Morten Gamst Pederson and David Dunn, he turned Blackburn into a force that even the ‘Big 4’ struggled to overcome.
His success at Blackburn makes for solid reading. It’s the sort of reading that would, and should, makes head roll in the Celtic Park boardroom.
You could then counter that by throwing his Manchester City career against his Blackburn one. Like Avram Grant’s stint at Chelsea, it’s a hard one to figure: Hughes was never going to build a side that was going to win the Premiership (or even the Champions League) no matter how hard he tried. It’s an impossible task that will show itself to what it is in a couple of year’s time when City are done with another manager.
It’s also hard to fathom why Hughes would buy the likes of Robinho (one of the laziest players known to man) and persist with the longest drawn-out transfer sagas in recent times when buying Joleon Lescott. Like Grant at Portsmouth, it definitely looks and sounds like deals have been done above the manager’s head.
Even if you do choose to criticise Hughes on his Man City days, you can’t deny that he built a team that is currently fighting for 4th place and have a realistic chance of qualifying for the Champions League next season – a great achievement despite the money that was spent. No one can blame Hughes for spending as much money as he did; the money was there to be spent and the squad needed severely strengthening. So to get a new spine of the team gelled so quickly and still be challenging for the 4th spot is some going, as Celtic fans only know what drastic change can do a team…
As has been stated before, this simply is one of the most crucial and important appointments of a Celtic boss is a very long while. If we go cheap and ultimately balls it up, then the Celtic faithful better say hello to a few seasons of mediocrity. If the board are bold and spend the overdue money the fans want to see, then Hughes and Celtic can be like 10 years all over again…