HARTLEPOOL United have moved to clear the confusion surrounding the appointment of their new manager – insisting John Hughes was always in the running for the position.
Yesterday’s dramatic events saw talks with Phil Brown stall in mid-afternoon, before an early-evening announcement that Hughes had joined from Scottish First Division outfit Livingston.
Brown had awoken yesterday morning fully expecting to be installed at Victoria Park.
He had said just hours earlier that he was relishing the prospect of a return to the club where he served as a player between 1978 and 1985.
But final negotiations hit a snag over a clause in Brown’s contract, and it quickly became apparent that Pools had switched their attention to Hughes, who at the time was watching a reserve-team fixture between Livingston and Partick Thistle.
Within an hour of that game’s conclusion, the 48-year-old had informed Livingston’s hierarchy he was leaving for Pools, and Brown’s hopes of a return were dashed.
Pools chief executive Russ Green explained the club’s actions.
“With IOR (the owners), we do everything by the book,” he said, “We had 48 serious applicants for the role.
“We drew up a shortlist and Phil Brown was on that list. We had John Hughes on there as well and a couple of others.
“It was never said that Phil Brown was going to come and we never said there was a number one or a number two choice.
“John was someone who had applied for the job before and was someone I’d always been very taken with. He was always on the shortlist and we’re over the moon he is here.
“He built a great club at Falkirk over six years and that’s what we want him to do here. He shares our vision of where we want the club to go and we’re certain we have the right man.”
Hughes will be unveiled to the press at Victoria Park today before his first game against Coventry City on Saturday.
It will be his first match at the helm of an English club having begun his managerial career in 2003 with Falkirk.
He steered them to the Scottish Premier League in 2005 and enjoyed a Scottish Cup Final appearance in 2009.
He left to take over at Hibernian and secured Europa League qualification before a poor start to the following season saw him part ways with the Easter Road club.
He had been in charge of Livingston for just nine months before yesterday’s announcement he was joining Pools.