Belfast Telegraph

Hughes taken aback by Coates charge

Mark Hughes is baffled that the Football Association has charged Stoke chairman Peter Coates over his use of the term "bias", having opted not to punish Swansea manager Garry Monk for his "cheat" comments.

The FA handed Coates a misconduct charge on Thursday after he was quoted by The Sentinel earlier this month as saying ''there does seem to be a bias towards other teams'' regarding referees' decisions in recent Potters matches.

In October, Monk's reaction to referee Michael Oliver awarding a penalty against Swansea at Stoke, when Victor Moses went down, was to brand the player a diver, the decision to give the spot-kick ''disgusting'' and say: ''He (Moses) has cheated the ref and then the ref's cheated us."

The FA asked Monk to explain himself, but he escaped further punishment.

Giving his thoughts on the Coates situation on Friday at his press conference ahead of Saturday's home Barclays Premier League clash with Burnley, Stoke boss Hughes said: "There seems to be more sensitivity to a word like 'bias' rather than to the word 'cheat'.

"It is what the FA deems acceptable or not, but it is a little bit difficult to understand where they are coming from sometimes.

"My interpretation of what the chairman said was that he wasn't in any way questioning the integrity of referees.

"We are a little bit surprised by it - we didn't think what the chairman said warranted an FA charge.

"The chairman will always speak on a regular basis to give his views on his club and how we are doing, and rightly so.

"They are honest views, and we are taken aback somewhat."

Coates' "bias" comments had come just a few days after Hughes had angrily complained about a challenge by Alex Song on Stoke forward Mame Biram Diouf not resulting in play being stopped during West Ham's 2-2 draw at the Britannia Stadium.

The unpunished, rash-looking tackle from on-loan Barcelona midfielder Song came in the build-up to the Hammers' first goal.

Stoke's previous two home games had seen their striker Peter Crouch sent off and - in the Swansea match - captain Ryan Shawcross have a penalty awarded against him for grappling at a corner.

And Coates was quoted as saying on November 4: ''We feel we don't always get fair treatment and that is all we are asking for.

''There does seem to be a bias towards other teams. You always feel that because we have a good crowd that gets behind the team, referees seem to think, 'I will show them who's in charge here'. Perhaps it's a macho thing.

''You do get a bit fed up getting fouls against us and decisions having an effect on games, such as a two-footed challenge that doesn't even get a booking or a foul. I do feel that we get treated more harshly than the opposition.''

The FA's statement on Thursday said Coates has been charged "for misconduct in relation to media comments", and added: ''It is alleged the Stoke City chairman made comments which constitute improper conduct in that they allege and/or imply bias on the part of referees and/or bring the game into disrepute.

''He has until 6pm on 24 November 2014 to respond to the charge.''

Hughes also revealed he held "really positive" meetings this week with Professional Game Match Officials Limited, the body that provides referees for top-level games, and the FA's disciplinary committee.

The manager, who emphasised the issue of Coates' comments had not been discussed, said he had voiced concerns about decisions made against Stoke and come out more "reassured" about the "perception" of the club.

"It has given me an insight into how we are viewed and maybe reassured us somewhat to a point," Hughes said.

"We voiced a few concerns and they came back and had a view as well. It is important it is kept confidential, but hopefully maybe the perception that we have won't be there in the future.

"We're not looking for love (from referees) but we did feel a number of decisions had gone against us and just wanted a better understanding of why that is happening."

Hughes says midfielder Glenn Whelan, who has been out since mid-October due to a broken leg, ''should be an option'' for Saturday.

"Usually it takes six to eight weeks to heal (broken bones)," Hughes said. "But it's just over five weeks since the injury and he has done remarkably well to get back to where he is."

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