By Tim Penfold
Mark Hughes is the new manager of Bradford City.
Yes, you did read that correctly. Yes, that Mark Hughes.
To say this is a shock appointment does a disservice to the word “shock”. Benito Carbone would’ve been a shock appointment. This is beyond any of that – the highest profile manager this club has ever appointed, whilst languishing in the fourth tier.
Forget Hughes’ playing career – excellent though it was. His management career has been spent at the top level – international football and the Premier League. His record has plenty of highlights – getting Wales as close as they’d been to a major tournament for nearly fifty years, punching well above his weight with Blackburn and Fulham, revamping Stoke’s style after Pulisball and laying some of the foundations for Man City’s current success.
He wasn’t quite good enough to take them on to the next level – hence his firing and replacement with Roberto Mancini – but he signed Kompany, Zabaleta, Tevez, Barry, de Jong – all key players who helped turn them into the trophy-laden behemoth that they are today.
Of course there are failures – he didn’t do well at QPR, although the club’s transfer policy could most generously be described as scattergun and confused. He eventually went stale at Stoke, and his most recent job at Southampton wasn’t impressive.
But as a CV for a manager in League Two? This is beyond anything that Ryan Sparks could’ve expected, and makes Derek Adams’ claims that we couldn’t get a better manager look even more ridiculous.
The biggest worry is that he has not managed since late 2018, and has never done so at this level. Will he understand what’s needed in League Two, and are his methods up-to-date?
(If I was being uncharitable to Wales, and wanted to annoy Jason, who is a Welshman, this is where I’d make a snarky comment about the standard of the Wales players in the early 2000s.)
But while his lack of lower-level experience is the biggest question mark against him, this has been swept away in the excitement surrounding the appointment. The mood at the club has turned so quickly that fans will be considering whiplash claims – from apathy, despair and the increasingly loud talk of protests, to joy and disbelief.
We are national news again, and the feel-good factor is suddenly back. Valley Parade will be rocking on Saturday.
There’s never a guarantee of anything in football – Derek Adams taught us that – but with Mark Hughes in charge we can begin to dream again, and it’s been too long since we’ve been able to do that.