SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Mark Hughes has enjoyed a successful stint as Stoke City manager since replacing Tony Pulis in May 2013 and the Welshman is confident he can lead the club to even greater heights than last season’s ninth-place finish.
“It’s a challenge because in the last two seasons we had two top-10 finishes and we would like to do better than that,” Hughes told reporters in Singapore on Tuesday ahead of the Premier League Asia Trophy that also involves Arsenal and Everton.
“However, one thing we really have to realise is that a lot of clubs are trying to strengthen ahead of the big television deal to come at the end of this campaign, so there’s a focus on that,” he added.
”Therefore, a lot of teams are investing in their playing group as we are, just to make sure we maintain our position. If we can, we would like to push higher and if we have a good start to the season, we could well push for Europe.
“That’s our intention and let’s hope we can make it happen sooner rather than later.”
Hughes has already dipped into the transfer market to bring in Spanish striker Joselu from Hannover, as well as seasoned campaigners Shay Given and Glen Johnson, but he believes there is plenty of room for improvement at the Britannia Stadium.
“I think we still have some headroom, some ambition that we want to achieve. We have had two great years and we have at the moment something that most teams crave and that’s continuity in terms of the playing group,” added Hughes, whose side thumped Liverpool 6-1 on the last day of the season to finish on 54 points.
“I have been with the club for two seasons now and have re-committed to the club and many key players have done the same for the next two to three years, so I think we are looking ahead to a successful period we all want to be a part of,” he added.
”It’s going to be a challenge, it always is as the Premier League is very difficult.
”A lot of teams like us have had good ambitions to be successful but have failed, but since Stoke have been in the Premier League on a consistent basis we have improved year on year and we want to maintain that.
“We will achieve that by working hard collectively and challenge ourselves to be the best we can.”
Editing by Peter Rutherford