Villa chairman Randy Lerner was apparently unimpressed by the manner of Hughes’ departure from Craven Cottage and has turned his attention elsewhere. This could now put Fulham and Villa in direct competition as they chase a new manager weeks before the start of the new domestic season. Two out-of-work managers, Steve McClaren and Martin Jol, are said to feature highly on both club’s shortlists.
Predictably, plenty of papers are reporting that Mohamed Al Fayed was furious at Hughes’ decision. The Telegraph headline says it all, but the Guardian has the closest to the Fulham inside line:
Mohamed Al Fayed, the Fulham chairman, was furious after Hughes activated the break clause and tendered his resignation. A Fulham spokesperson said: “The chairman became increasingly annoyed by Mark positioning himself for another club, whilst still negotiating with us, and having agreed terms.”
Fayed was, however, ready to extend Hughes’s deal. One view from sources at the club is that contract talks with Hughes fell apart when Fulham felt unable to match the fees demanded by his representative, Kia Joorabchian.
Premier League rules prevent Hughes from speaking to another club until his contract expires at the end of June. In another twist, Hughes’ backroom team, understood to be a sticking point in his initial negotiations with Fulham last summer, remain under contract for another year at Craven Cottage.
The focus will now switch to who will succeed Hughes at Fulham. The bookies’ favourite is the former Villa manager Martin O’Neill, who is known to be a close associate of Al-Fayed and was believed to be close to taking over from Chris Coleman back in 2007. Jol was Fulham’s first choice after the departure of Roy Hodgson last year, but stayed with Ajax.