Belfast Telegraph

Hughes upbeat over Stoke prospects

Stoke boss Mark Hughes has emphasised his confidence that he can keep the club moving in the right direction.

The Potters announced last Friday that Hughes, who was appointed to the job in the summer of 2013, had signed a new contract through to 2019.

They have thrived under the Welshman so far, last term securing their best Barclays Premier League finish of ninth with their highest points total of 50 - records they are looking to better this time around, currently lying 10th on 42 points from 30 matches.

And Hughes, happy with the financial backing he has been promised, has every confidence things can keep improving for Stoke in the seasons to come.

Speaking about his new deal at his press conference to preview Saturday's trip to league leaders Chelsea, the 51-year-old said: "I'm really pleased - I think what it gives me and the staff at the club is continuity, and that is a rare thing in football these days it seems.

"I've had 18 months here and really enjoyed every moment of that. And to get a commitment from the owners is really satisfying.

"I think we are in a good place at the moment, that everyone is excited about what is ahead of us, and that a lot of the things you need to be successful at this level are in place. We just have to make sure we keep improving."

Although Stoke have spent moderately so far in his time at the Britannia Stadium, Hughes stressed funds are there for him to "really push the boat out" in the transfer market.

"We haven't spent a great deal since I've been here - I think it is something like a net spend of £6million," the former Manchester City manager said.

"But I've never been given the impression that if the right player was available and we wanted to really push the boat out, there would not be funds available.

"There have been some targets we have got very, very close to, where we would have been in a position to make a decision about whether or not we spent significant amounts, but we never actually got to the point where we needed to do that, just because the target fell by the wayside.

"I've never been in any doubt that if the right target is available and it is a possibility to get it over the line, then finances will be made available to me."

Stoke are currently only a point worse off than eighth-placed Swansea, but seventh-placed Tottenham have 11 more points than the Potters.

Asked if the equivalent for the Staffordshire outfit of Chelsea's pursuit of the title was a push for eighth place, Hughes said: "Yes, it is fair to say that - and we will always strive to be even higher than that.

"Last year we were ninth and arguably we came second in that mini-league - the teams above that, seventh to first, were markedly better over that season.

"So you could argue we came second then, and that the challenge for us is to be first and then maybe even better that.

"Certainly that (a finish higher than eighth) won't happen this year, but the anticipation and hope is that in the seasons that follow we can possibly break through that glass ceiling."

Jonathan Walters has sustained a calf knock, but Hughes expects the Potters forward will be available for this weekend's Stamford Bridge contest.

Defender Marc Muniesa is set to return to the matchday squad after missing five games because of a hamstring problem, and Victor Moses is also fit again - but will not be able to feature on Saturday as the opposition is the on-loan winger's parent club.

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