Mark Hughes believes that Fulham could prove to be the real losers after axing manager Chris Coleman.

The former Wales international was sacked on Tuesday night following a 3-1 defeat to Manchester City 24 hours earlier, which left the club hovering just above the Premiership relegation zone.

The decision by millionaire club owner Mohamed Al Fayed came as a shock to most, including Coleman himself, who believed he was being summoned to a meeting to discuss players for next season.

His replacement, Northern Ireland boss Lawrie Sanchez, has already admitted he wants to stay permanently after being given the job initially on a caretaker basis until the end of the season.

But Coleman’s former Wales manager and teammate says that those in charge at Craven Cottage could be left to rue their decision.

‘I’m very disappointed for Chris, it’s a real shame for him,’ said the Blackburn boss, who spoke to Coleman immediately after the news of his exit broke.

‘He was shocked and it’s a big decision for the club. They must hope they’ve made the right one and only time will tell in that respect.

‘Chris made his mark there. He was a young man with a lot of questions about his ability when he was first given the job, but he went on to prove himself at the top level and is now viewed very much as a Premiership manager.

‘I think he’ll be back in football very quickly.’

Hughes gave Coleman the last of his 32 international caps in May 2002 as a substitute in a friendly victory over Germany, despite a serious car crash the previous year which had already effectively ended his playing career.

He succeeded Jean Tigana as Fulham manager in April 2003, steering the club to safety that season.

But after several seasons of steady improvement and despite the continual loss of star names such as Edwin Van der Sar, Louis Saha and Steed Malbranque, opposition to him came to a head recently with supporters calling for his sacking during a seven-match run without a win.

His departure from Fulham after four years in charge brought to an end a 10-year association with the club as player and boss.

And Hughes believes that his length of service could have been his undoing in the end.

‘I think it smacks a little bit of contempt because familiarity can breed that,’ said Hughes.