Fulham Eye Martin O'Neill as Mark Hughes Resigns

Mick Bates by Mick Bates / 03 June 2011, 10:04

What a week of drama it has been in the summer managerial merry-go-round. The 2010/11 Premier League season has barely finished yet we have already witnessed casualties at Chelsea, West Ham, Aston Villa and now Fulham. Earlier in the week, as expected, Aston Villa and Gerard Houllier parted ways due to the Frenchman's ill health, which instantly sparked rumours that the Fulham manager Mark Hughes - who was in the process of negotiating a new deal with the Cottagers - was in line to replace Houllier. Amid this speculation Hughes decided to step down as Fulham boss last night after exercising the break clause in his contract.

The Welshman's sudden resignation is the strongest indication yet that he is set to become the Next Aston Villa Manager, but just to confuse matters, no club is allowed to talk to Hughes for 30 days due to the strict terms in his Fulham contract. In a further twist Aston Villa have reportedly lost interest in Hughes as they were deeply unimpressed by the manner in which the 47-year-old left Craven Cottage, and have now apparently shifted their focus to Steve McClaren and Martin Jol, who Victor Chandler have priced at 5/1 and 10/1 for the job at Villa Park. However, this could just be a strategy that Villa have conjured up in order to deflect attention away from themselves and Hughes, as they know that they cannot talk to the former Wales boss till July, and after the criticism they received for Martin O'Neill's departure last year they desperately want to be seen to be doing things the right way. It would therefore come as no suprise if Villa were renew their interest in Hughes in say...about a month's time.

Despite an indifferent start to the 2010/11 season Hughes managed to guide Fulham to an impressive eighth-place league finish and also a spot in next season's Europa League via the Fair Play table. In hindsight he probably would have taken the Villa job last summer but, when the news broke about O'Neill's shock departure, Hughes had already signed a contract with Fulham. In the aftermath of his resignation yesterday, Hughes - who had been in charge at Fulham for just nine months - insisted that his decision was not influenced by any outside parties. Fulham's chairman Mohammed Al-Fayed had been eager to extend Hughes' contract, but the deal is believed to have collapsed because of the extortionate wages demanded by Hughes' agent, Kia Joorabchian. As well as being the favourite to join Villa, Hughes has had his odds slashed from 25/1 to 5/1 in the Next Chelsea Manager Betting, adding more flames to an already rip-roaring fire.

Fulham's impressive form in the past couple of seasons, which has included an Europa League final, makes them an attractive option for numerous managers. At present Victor Chandler have installed the ex-Villa boss Martin O'Neill as the slight 2/1 favourite in the Next Fulham Manager Betting, whilst McClaren, Jol, Lee Clark and Alan Curbishley are all in the frame too. Meanwhile, the recently sacked Carlo Ancelotti has had his odds shortened to just 11/8 in the Next Aston Villa Betting.

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