Stoke V Sunderland at Britannia Stadium : Match Preview

22 November 2013 04:01
Stoke V Sunderland - view commentary, squad, and statistics of the game live.

Hughes gives up on Agudelo signing

Mark Hughes believes Stoke have paid the price for Greg Dyke's focus on increasing the number of English players in the Barclays Premier League after he was forced to concede defeat in his hopes of signing Juan Agudelo.

Since taking over as chairman of the Football Association in July, Dyke has made improving the playing resources available to the national team his priority, setting up a commission to look into the future of English football.

In a speech in September he raised concerns over the ease with which non-European players have been given work permits in the past.

Stoke were confident United States striker Agudelo would be granted a permit when manager Hughes and chief executive Tony Scholes travelled to the hearing on Wednesday, but the 20-year-old's case was rejected with no right to appeal.

Agudelo had signed a pre-contract agreement and had been due to join the Potters in January when his deal with Major League Soccer side New League Revolution ran out.

"We are really disappointed with the decision," said Hughes, who also expressed his frustration that the reasons for the rejection were not given.

"If I'm honest, I think there's lesser players been allowed in at previous work permit applications than Juan Agudelo. I just think maybe the goalposts have been changed somewhat.

"Obviously there was a statement by Mr Greg Dyke in terms of what he felt was lacking in the game and maybe the committee has taken that on board. Unfortunately we were the first work permit hearing after those statements.

"You look at the criteria and he hadn't played as many games as they need to but other factors have to be taken into consideration - obviously his age and his injuries, which stopped him being selected - so there were reasons why he hadn't played the full complement of international matches.

"I felt that should have been taken into consideration and his ability as a player and the impact that he would have had for us should have been factored in, but it didn't seem to register.

"He's a very focused and determined young man, he wanted to progress his career, and I felt and he felt this was the perfect club for him. No doubt somebody in Europe will pick him up and he'll be a sensation somewhere else unfortunately."

The decision forces a rethink by Hughes on his plans for the January transfer window, but a striker remains the priority.

He said: "We're still in the market for other players, the focus hasn't all been on one player. But January isn't easy to navigate, so we'll just have to hope we get a little bit of luck.

"We've been looking for another striker to complement the ones we have since the summer, that's not a secret, so we continue to look in those areas."

Sunderland's upturn in form has come since Gus Poyet replaced Paolo Di Canio in the hotseat, with wins over Newcastle and Manchester City lifting them off the bottom of the table.

Hughes was a team-mate of Poyet at Chelsea, and he said: "Gus is a great guy and a very infectious personality, so it's no surprise that he's gone in there and there's been a reaction.

"Gus wants his teams to get the ball down and play. They've had two really good home performances, maybe away from home they haven't been quite as accomplished.

"But it's up to us to make sure we disappoint them at the weekend because we're a good side and we've got the capability of beating Sunderland."

Gus Poyet has warned Sunderland they cannot afford to be caught cold after the international break for a second time if they are to dig themselves out of trouble.

The Uruguayan was given a stark picture of what lay ahead for him in his first game in charge of the Black Cats last month when they were trounced 4-0 at Swansea days after his international players had returned to the club.

They head for Stoke on Saturday having given their survival hopes a major boost with a fourth successive 1-0 victory over Manchester City last time out.

However, Poyet knows that will count for little if his side does not come flying out of the blocks at the Britannia Stadium.

He said: "After the last international week, it was my first game and we were destroyed by Swansea, and if we didn't learn from that and go with a different kind of approach to this game, then it's going to be very difficult to get out of the bottom.

"We need to make sure we don't repeat that and that we go with more confidence, showing how we want to play, being more competitive and make sure we get a result.

"Sometimes things happen for a reason and let's hope that that one was a good wake-up call for this Saturday."

Since the debacle at the Liberty Stadium, Sunderland's form has improved dramatically and they have won three of the four games they have played in all competitions, two of them in the league.

However, they remain deep in trouble in 19th place in the table with just seven points from their first 11 games and still three adrift of safety.

This weekend, it is the Potters and former Chelsea team-mate Mark Hughes who stand in Poyet's way, and it is a reunion to which he is looking forward, provided the result proves satisfactory.

He said: "I have got a good relationship with Hughesy. We played together and he was an unbelievable, unique player.

"He was the type of player you always want in your team because on Saturday at 3pm, he was always there, always.

"He never missed a Saturday at 3pm in terms of his desire to win football games, to score, to show the spirit that a team needs.

"For me in the beginning at Chelsea, it was important to see a player like him performing that way, caring so much on the pitch and giving you so much.

"I am pleased he is managing in the Premier League because he looks always a very special man."

Poyet is still without suspended duo Lee Cattermole and Andrea Dossena, but otherwise has no injury problems, although he is keeping a close eye on defender Wes Brown, who used the international break to recover from his exertions in three successive appearances after 22 months on the sidelines.

Source: PA