HARTLEPOOL United have moved to clear the confusion surrounding the appointment of their new manager – insisting John Hughes was always in the running for the position, writes CRAIG HOPE.
Yesterday’s dramatic events saw talks with Phil Brown stall in mid-afternoon, before an early-evening announcement that Hughes had joined from Scottish First Division outfit Livingston.
Brown had awoken yesterday morning fully expecting to be installed at Victoria Park.
He told SportMail just hours earlier he was relishing the prospect of a return to the club where he served as a player between 1978 and 1985.
But we can reveal that final negotiations hit a snag over a clause in Brown’s contract and we spoke with him yesterday afternoon, at which point he remained hopeful of reaching an agreement.
However, it quickly became apparent that Pools had switched their attention to Hughes, who at the time was watching a reserve-team fixture between Livingston and Partick Thistle.
Within an hour of that game’s conclusion the 48-year-old had informed Livingston’s hierarchy he was leaving for Pools, and Brown’s hopes of a return were dashed.
Pools chief executive Russ Green has today spoken with SportMail, and we asked him about the three-week search for a successor to Neale Cooper.
“With IOR (the owners) we do everything by the book,” he said, “We had 48 serious applicants for the role.
“We drew up a shortlist and Phil Brown was on that list.
“We had John Hughes on there as well and a couple of others.
“It was never said that Phil Brown was going to come and we never said there was a number one or a number two choice.
“John was someone who had applied for the job before and was someone I’d always been very taken with.
“He was always on the shortlist and we’re over the moon he is here.”
Green believes Pools have landed the right man for the role, insisting that big-name appointments – perhaps in the mould of Brown – are not always the right avenue to explore.
“A big name doesn’t guarantee anything,” he said.
“Look at MK Dons, they tried the likes of Paul Ince before appointing Karl Robinson, a young, up-and-coming manager, and they are flying now.
“We wanted experience at the same time and John has that in abundance.
“He built a great club at Falkirk over six years and that’s what we want him to do here.
“He shares our vision of where we want the club to go and we’re certain we have the right man.”
Hughes – affectionately known as ‘Yogi’ - will be unveiled to the press at Victoria Park today before his first game in charge against Coventry City on Saturday.
It will be his first match at the helm of an English club having begun his managerial career in 2003 with Falkirk.
He steered them to the Scottish Premier League in 2005 and enjoyed a Scottish Cup Final appearance in 2009.
He left to take over at Hibernian and secured Europa League qualification before a poor start to the following season saw him part ways with the Easter Road club.
He had been in charge of Livingston for just nine months before yesterday’s announcement he was moving south of the border.