March 14, 2018 / 11:17 PM / 4 days ago

Soccer: Hughes handed task of saving Southampton from relegation

LONDON (Reuters) - Premier League Southampton named Mark Hughes as their new manager on Wednesday, handing him the task of rescuing the club from the threat of relegation only two months after he was fired by Stoke City.

FILE PHOTO: Football Soccer - Premier League - West Bromwich Albion vs Stoke City - West Bromwich, Britain - August 27, 2017 Stoke City manager Mark Hughes before the match Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers

The former Wales and Manchester City boss replaced Argentine Mauricio Pellegrino, who was sacked on Monday with the club fourth from bottom in the Premier League table, a point and a place above the drop zone.

The 54-year-old Hughes has been given a contract until the end of the season, the club said in a statement on their website.

Hughes, a former Southampton player, guided Stoke to top-10 finishes for three successive seasons from 2013 to 2016 but is no stranger to this season’s relegation dogfight.

Stoke were in the drop zone when he was sacked after an FA Cup third-round defeat by League Two (fourth tier) Coventry City in January.

“It’s a challenge I’m excited by. It’s a great opportunity to come back to a club I know well, and a club I’ve got real affinity with, and I couldn’t turn that down,” Hughes said.

“The objective clearly is to remain in the league and make sure we’re a Premier League club next year. That’s where this club needs to be, that’s where it should be, and that’s our intention to make sure it remains there.”

Southampton have won five league games this season and managed only one victory, against bottom-of-the-table West Bromwich Albion, in Pellegrino’s last 17 Premier League matches at the helm.

Southampton, who are the ninth Premier League club to change manager this term, are in their sixth straight season in the top flight and have not finished lower than 14th in that time.

“Hughes has agreed a contract with the club until the end of the season and will take training at the club’s Staplewood Campus for the first time on Thursday,” Southampton said.

“The club is confident that this appointment will allow the complete focus of the manager, players and staff to be on the remaining games of this season.”

Southampton visit third-tier Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup quarter-finals on Sunday but their next league game is not until March 31 when they travel to relegation rivals West Ham United.

Hughes, the former Manchester United, Barcelona and Chelsea striker, also managed Blackburn Rovers, Fulham and Queens Park Rangers.

Reporting by Toby Davis, editing by Ed Osmond

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