Belfast Telegraph

Stoke boss Hughes defends Chelsea

Stoke manager Mark Hughes feels Chelsea are no worse offenders than any other side when it comes to diving.

A number of incidents from last weekend's Barclays Premier League fixtures brought the topic of simulation back to the fore once again.

And three of those involved Chelsea players going to ground in their 2-0 home win over Hull, with Willian and Diego Costa being booked for diving either side of Gary Cahill apparently throwing himself to the turf but going unpunished.

Tigers boss Steve Bruce described the Cahill incident as being ''like something out of Swan Lake''.

But when Hughes, whose 12th-placed team are table-topping Chelsea's next league opponents, was asked ahead of that meeting if he thought the Blues were particularly guilty of diving, he said: "No - they are no worse than anyone else in my view."

Speaking at his press conference ahead of Monday's clash at the Britannia Stadium, ex-Chelsea striker Hughes admitted referees currently have a tough task on their hands trying to distinguish between incidents where a "soft" foul has been committed and where there has been no contact, with a player going down deliberately.

At the same time, though, the Welshman - who in October defended Victor Moses, the winger on loan at Stoke from Chelsea, amid accusations he dived in a victory over Swansea - does not regard simulation as "a problem right through the game".

Hughes said of the diving debate sparked by last weekend's incidents: "There is a focus almost every week, and more often than not it changes from one week to the next.

"An incident in a game will be highlighted and people will surmise there is a problem right through the game, but I don't think that is the case.

"I think there will always be players maybe anticipating tackles coming in, and when a defender doesn't, then that can lead to embarrassing situations for the people involved because it looks like they are trying to gain an advantage.

"It is important that if somebody is fouled, the right decision is made, even if it is a soft foul - a correct decision is a foul, or a penalty. That is not simulation in my view.

"So it is about getting the right decisions from referees, although it is not easy for them to deal with.

"I think more and more these days there is more skill in it, with players prepared to go down to gain an advantage even when there has been absolutely no contact whatsoever - that is incorrect, and should not happen.

"There is a grey area in terms of players having contact and players just going down without any, so that is what needs stamping out."

Meanwhile, Potters midfielder Glenn Whelan has indicated he wants to stay with Stoke for the rest of his career.

Whelan, with the club since 2008, is out of contract next summer and Hughes said on Thursday that an offer of a new deal has been made to the Republic of Ireland international which he is yet to respond to.

Quoted by The Sentinel on Friday, Whelan, who last started a Stoke game in early October, said: "I will be just keeping my head down and working as hard as I can to get back in the team, and see where it takes me.

"That has done all right for me since I've been at Stoke so I'm sure I'll be okay come the end of the season.

"I would definitely like to stay. I have always enjoyed coming in for training and pulling on the red and white jersey. That's no different now.

"It's difficult because I'm not in the team at the moment. I haven't actually sat down with the manager or anyone on the board, so where the stories have come from of late I'm not sure. They haven't come from me.

"If we can get something sorted out, it's not me wanting to leave. For as long as I still have a chance of playing I'll be doing all I can to spend the rest of my career here."

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