An Open Letter to Mark Hughes

Dear Mark,

Almost a week has passed since that sad Saturday afternoon in which Stoke City were sitting in the relegation zone, dumped out of the FA Cup to a heavily-rotated League 2 side and lost their manager. I wanted to allow time to pass before reacting to the weekend’s events: emotions were at an all-time high and I believe it’s important to respond with a clear head and heart. I want this to be a statement of gratitude for all the work you’ve done over the last four-and-a-half years: nothing more, nothing less. You deserve that.

Thank you for all the success that you’ve brought to the club during your tenure. Finishing ninth in the Premier League for three seasons in a row is arguably one of the club’s most prestigious achievements in recent years and the club would do well to repeat it. Thank you also for that League Cup run that sadly ended just short of the final: being so close to Wembley again brought a real buzz to the area at the time and it could have been oh so different on that fateful night at Anfield. When the good times were rolling at Stoke, they really were rolling.

Thank you for bringing in some of the club’s greatest players. Xherdan Shaqiri is possibly Stoke City’s most ambitious signing ever, who has been able to produce some truly outstanding moments. Bojan has been a cult hero and his relationship with the players, especially Marc Muniesa, and fans has been wonderful. The growth of Marko Arnautovic is something to be commended and watching him at his best was an absolute joy. Victor Moses, Ramadan Sobhi, Bruno Martins Indi, Joe Allen and many others have been key to Stoke’s success during your tenure, thank you for showcasing them in your teams.

Thank you for transforming our style of play and producing some of the most breath-taking football we’ve ever seen. It’s been recognised far and wide that the divergence away from route-one football was a key priority from day-one of your tenure. The evolution of Stoke’s football over the first couple of seasons was a great story: one that peaked in the days of “Stokealona”. It was a task that you bravely took on at the start and one that was certainly achieved. Even though things evolved in a negative fashion towards the end, the height of Stoke’s football is what should be remembered.

Thank you for the incredible moments that we shared. Obviously, the lofty finishes in the league and some of the cup runs will remain in our thoughts for a long time to come. Some of the high-profile signings – particularly Xherdan Shaqiri – brought some incredibly exciting transfer sagas and really did prove how far this club has come. The 6-1 victory against Liverpool remains, and will remain for a long time yet, one of Stoke’s greatest games ever. Furthermore, the 4-3 at Goodison, the 2-0 win over Manchester City, the 3-2 win over Arsenal are just a handful of some of the finest memories created during the last four-and-a-half years, thank you for being the orchestrator.

Thank you for bringing in your ambition. Without it, maybe none of the above would have been possible. Expectations for this football club were raised on day one with your impressive initial press conference. Being brave enough to break the long-standing reputations about Stoke’s style of play was refreshing for people both in and outside of Stoke. New signings always spoke of your influence when committing their futures to Stoke, that’s certainly not to be overlooked. And of course, those all-important memories were because we believed in ourselves and took the game to teams. Thank you for making us believe, there were times where I thought Stoke City were unstoppable.

Finally, thank you for proving us all wrong. Even before you’d signed the dotted line, there were people worried about your arrival. People thinking that the QPR debacle would be replicated were proven otherwise pretty quickly. Not only that, the expectations for this club have risen during your time here. Even though this may have been the crucial element to the parting of the ways, it’s not something that you should be discouraged form doing in the future. It’s set the precedent for our future and we have you to thank for assisting us in our evolution.

There’s undoubtedly been ups and downs during your time at Stoke City Football Club. However, I’m sure that our memories of you will be the positive ones. The final outcome is regretful and you deserve to know that fans only had the best interests of Stoke City at heart. It was never personal, it was never emotionless, it was never out of spite. Having said that, all good things come to an end. Here’s to us all progressing upwards.

I’m sure we’ll see you in an opposition dugout soon.


Written by Ben Rowley

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