Stoke fired manager Mark Hughes on Saturday following an FA Cup loss to fourth-tier Coventry that heaped more embarrassment on a team fighting against relegation from the Premier League.
Hughes was in charge for 4 1/2 years, guiding the club from central England to three straight ninth-place finishes in his first three seasons.
This season, however, Stoke has been undermined by defensive problems — it has conceded 47 goals in 22 games in the league, more than any other team — and has lost eight of its last 11 games.
The 2-1 loss to Coventry in the third round of the FA Cup proved to be a final humiliation for Hughes, who was fired three hours later.
In a brief statement, Stoke said it would look to hire a replacement “as soon as possible.”
Stoke is in 18th place in the 20-team Premier League, the final relegation spot.
Hughes, a former Manchester United striker, had exactly 200 games in charge of Stoke, following spells as coach of Queens Park Rangers, Fulham, Manchester City, Blackburn and Wales’ national team.
After taking over from the pragmatic Tony Pulis, Hughes tried to make Stoke more expansive and bought a number of talented players from across Europe who had lost their way after bright starts to their careers.
The likes of Xherdan Shaqiri, Bojan Krkic, Marko Arnautovic and Ibrahim Afellay impressed in spells but were not consistent. Stoke gradually lost its identity — it started to concede more goals but was never prolific at the other end of the field — and was in disarray in recent weeks.
Stoke lost 7-2 to Manchester City, 5-0 to Chelsea and 5-1 at Tottenham this season. The most damaging loss may have been the 1-0 defeat at home to Newcastle on Monday, with Hughes having rested key players in the heavy loss at Chelsea two days earlier.
He was never likely to recover from that, but was still given another week by Stoke’s board, reportedly because there was no adequate replacement for Hughes.
The board wasted no time in firing him after the Coventry loss.
Former Manchester United midfielder Ryan Giggs and Northern Ireland coach Michael O’Neill were among the early favorites with British bookmakers to succeed Hughes.
Stoke has been in the Premier League since 2008.
Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80