Premier League

Stoke lining up Hughes - Report

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Tue, 28 May 2013 19:34:00

Robbie Keane admits he finds it hard to understand players who do not enjoy turning out for their country.

The Republic of Ireland captain will win his 124th cap when he lines up against England at Wembley on Wednesday, after getting late permission from the LA Galaxy to make a trans-Atlantic flight.

While Keane has changed clubs a number of times, his international career has been one of few constants and he says it will remain one of his priorities until the time comes to hang up his boots.

"For me, it's fairly simple: I want to play for country more than anything, and it still means as much to me now as when I made my debut at 18 years of age," Keane said. "That's certainly never changed.

"I can never understand why players don't want to play for their country, I find that very hard to take in.

"But that's only my personal view on that, people have their own reasons why they won't turn up or say they are injured or say they are not injured or whatever. I don't understand it, to be honest with you.

"Since I've been in the squad I don't think I've missed many games, to be honest with you. I have missed them through injuries.

"Certainly some players over the years who I have played with would prefer not to meet up with the national team. Me personally, I just find that hard to believe."

But he said that there were parts of him that could understand his former Leeds team-mate Rio Ferdinand's decision to end his international career with plenty of years ahead of him.

"You have to understand it from Rio's point of view," Keane said. "He's such a well-respected player and still probably one of best defenders in the world.

"He made his choice - he maybe went about it the wrong way or the manager did, I'm not really too sure of the politics behind that.

"I played with Rio at Leeds and he's a great lad. I know how much it means to him to play for his country but whatever happened between him and Roy Hodgson, that's something you are going to have to ask them.

"But one thing I do know is that England are missing probably one of best players in the world."

Hughes, the former Wales, Blackburn, Manchester City, Fulham and QPR boss, is the current favourite for the post vacated by Tony Pulis last week.

Stoke have also been linked with Roberto Martinez, who is to leave Wigan, but discussions with 49-year-old Hughes are believed to have taken place.

Hughes has been out of work since he was sacked by QPR last November.

The Potters parted company with Hughes' fellow Welshman Pulis by mutual consent after seven years together last Tuesday.

Chairman Peter Coates said the club were intending to move in a different direction.

Pulis guided the club into the Premier League in 2008 and they have stayed there since, also reaching the FA Cup final in 2011 and subsequently playing in the Europa League.

For Hughes, Stoke may present a challenge similar to that he took on at Blackburn, whom he led to three successive top-10 Premier League finishes and two FA Cup semi-finals before leaving in 2008.

He may also welcome the stability that life at the Britannia Stadium would seem to offer after the uncertainties of Loftus Road.

Hughes might also be able to work better with the Potters' current squad of players than Martinez, although the suggestion is the club want to tone down the robust style of old.

Pulis certainly started to come under fire from fans in the latter months of his reign over a perceived lack of development.

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