LONDON – New Southampton boss Mark Hughes has challenged his under-achieving players to raise their game as they battle to ensure Premier League survival, saying they do not have the luxury of time.
The Welshman, 54, was this week appointed until the end of the season to replace the sacked Mauricio Pellegrino and been tasked with staying in the top flight and winning the FA Cup.
Hughes, who played for Southampton during a distinguished career, had been out of work for only 67 days following his dismissal by struggling Stoke, who remain two places below Southampton in 19th.
On Sunday he oversees his first fixture as Southampton manager in the FA Cup quarter-finals at Wigan but after that he will only have eight matches in the league to secure survival.
That run includes games against Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City and Hughes said: “Sometimes you have to step on people's toes and we are in that situation.
“When you've got the luxury of a little bit more time you can build relationships and that takes time. We've got no time to wait. We have eight weeks and we have to get on with it. If we upset people along the way they will have to accept it.”
Hughes said there was “a real energy to the club” but Southampton had to translate that into victories.
“I work in a certain way and with certain levels of training intensity I am looking for. I have seen that in the last two days; the levels that I demand I have seen. It's fair to say the feedback from people in and around the club is that maybe that intensity hasn't been there before but for me it's the norm because that's the level I work at.”
“We are looking solely to the end of the season and we want to be a Premier League club and win the FA Cup,” he added.
Southampton, just one point above the relegation zone, are on a run of only one win in their past 17 Premier League games, and they remain without the injured Charlie Austin and Steven Davis.