Hughes: Stoke City's No.1 spot up for grabs after Begovic’s departure
Bosnia-Herzegovina international Begovic joined English Premier League (EPL) champions Chelsea for a reported £8 million fee a couple of days ago, with Hughes (pictured above) then swooping on experienced custodian Shay Given as his replacement.
The former Aston Villa keeper joins fellow new signing Jakob Haugaard from Danish outfit FC Midtjylland and rising English starlet Jack Butland in what looks like a three-way fight for the No.1 position at the club.
With that, Hughes believes that it is a healthy conundrum coming into this upcoming 2015-16 season.
“Asmir’s obviously gone now and we’ve moved very quickly by bringing Given in,” the 51-year-old told assembled media in Singapore, where they are about to commence their Barclays Asia Trophy campaign against Everton on Wednesday.
“We’ve brought in Jakob and we have a good young kid in Jack, so I think we’re strong in terms of strengthening our goalkeeping department. Now we’ll be looking to give opportunities to these guys here to grab the No.1 shirt at Stoke City.”
With Thibaut Courtois now the undisputed No.1 at Jose Mourinho’s impressive Blues outfit, many believe Begovic could spend most of his time at the Bridge warming the bench. However Hughes feels the former Potter has the qualities to challenge for a first-team spot.
“Of course Asmir’s up against an outstanding keeper in Courtois, but I won’t be surprised to see him putting pressure on the No.1 position,” insisted the former Manchester United forward.
“No one knows the quality he has as well as we do at this club; he’s very confident and experienced and he will back those qualities up (whenever he plays). There’s a specific role which Chelsea wants him to play at the club which is to push the rest (of the keepers), something similar to what we’re trying to create here by bringing in Given.”
Despite failing to land transfer target Xherdan Shaqiri from Inter Milan, Hughes is happy with his current crop of players, which includes new signings Joselu, Glen Johnson and Marco Van Ginkel.
“Every transfer deal is different and some of them will be frustrating,” he said.
“We’re pleased with the deals which we’ve done and we now have a really strong core group here. We’re encouraged by the quality we have in this group and we will continue to improve on this. People will see that this will be a competitive team which will try to be offensive and play on the front foot.”
Hughes is now eying the chance to win the Barclays Asia Trophy as they look to build on their successive ninth-place finishes in the EPL.
“The fact that there’s a trophy up for grabs gives that competitive nuance to this competition and we’re stimulated by that,” he said.
“Usually we don’t get to play the top five or six sides in the league at this stage of the season, so it’s something new which we can benefit from. The challenge now is to improve on our last two seasons where we finished in the top 10 and ideally push higher, maybe push for a European spot.”
Photo credit: Weixiang Lim/FourFourTwo