(Reuters) - Welshman Mark Hughes was firming as the bookmakers’ favourite to replace Mauricio Pellegrino as Southampton manager on Tuesday after the Argentine was sacked with the Premier League club hovering a point and a place above the relegation zone.
Pellegrino, who took over from Frenchman Claude Puel in June, “parted company” with Southampton on Monday after a 3-0 loss to Newcastle United at the weekend left them with just one win in their last 17 Premier League games.
Ex-Watford boss Marco Silva and former West Ham United head coach Slaven Bilic are the other frontrunners in the betting to take over at St Mary’s Stadium.
It is Hughes, though, who is the early favourite to be handed the task of rescuing the club from their parlous situation only a couple of months after he was fired by Stoke City.
Hughes played more than 50 times for Southampton in the late 1990s and his appointment would end a run of four non-British managers after Mauricio Pochettino, Ronald Koeman, Puel and Pellegrino.
Hughes guided Stoke to top 10 finishes for three successive seasons from 2013 to 2016 but the club was in the relegation zone when he was sacked after an FA Cup third round defeat at the hands of League Two (fourth tier) Coventry City.
Like Hughes, Silva was sacked by a Premier League club in January - in his case Watford - and he has also been linked with a move back home to Portugal to take over at Benfica next season.
Silva impressed many with his ultimately fruitless attempts to guide Hull City to Premier League safety last year and he made a good start at Watford this season until an approach from Everton soured his relations with the club.
Croat Bilic was dismissed by West Ham last November after more than two years in charge at the East London club, during which he led them to seventh and 11th place finishes in the Premier League.
Former Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers, veteran Martin O’Neill and Koeman, who was named the new Netherlands coach last month, were among the outsiders for the job listed by bookmakers Skybet.
Southampton are hoping to announce their new manager before they visit third-tier Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup quarter-finals on Sunday with their next league game not until March 31 when they travel to West Ham.
They have won just five league games this season and their 3-2 victory at West Bromwich Albion, who are bottom of the table, in February is their only league win since November.
The club sit 17th in the league on 28 points, a point ahead of Crystal Palace and Stoke, with eight games left to play.
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.
Writing by Nick Mulvenney and Ken Ferris, Editing by Peter Rutherford