Mark Hughes resigns as Fulham manager
Mark Hughes resigned as Fulham manager on Thursday after a season in charge, leaving the way clear for a possible move to Premier League rival Aston Villa.
Hughes replaced Roy Hodgson last July and led Fulham to eighth in the league in his first season, qualifying for the Europa League via the fair play rankings.
But Gerard Houllier's departure from Aston Villa on Wednesday led to widespread speculation that Hughes would be his replacement, and the 47-year-old Welshman announced a day later that he had quit the London club.
Fulham confirmed the manager's departure in a statement, but added that Hughes had agreed to stay at the club until the end of June ''under the terms of his contract.''
Despite the reported interest from Villa, Hughes insisted that his decision to leave Fulham had not been influenced by another club.
''I hope the supporters and all those connected with the club will understand I wish to move on to further my experiences,'' Hughes said.
''I would also like to take this opportunity to clarify that neither myself nor my representative have approached or have been approached by another club.''
Houllier ended a nine-month stay at Villa Park on Wednesday because of ill health.
In announcing Houllier's departure, chief executive Paul Faulkner said Villa had ''already embarked upon the process which will lead to the appointment of a new manager.''
Former Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti, ex-England coach Steve McLaren and Everton manager David Moyes have also been linked with the Villa post.
Hughes, the former Manchester United and Chelsea striker, began his coaching career with Wales before a four-year spell managing Blackburn Rovers.
He took over at Manchester City in 2008 but was sacked in December 2009 despite the club being sixth in the Premier League, a casualty of the club's ambitious new owners from Abu Dhabi.
Hughes then took on the difficult task of replacing Hodgson, who left for Liverpool after leading unfancied Fulham to the Europa League final having finished seventh in the Premier League the previous season.
After a slow start, Fuham climbed into the top half of the table, and earned Europa League qualification for a second time. Hughes' last game was a 2-2 draw with Arsenal.
''I believe my management team and I have done a good job and the club has a strong foundation from which they can go forward,'' Hughes said.
''I sincerely wish Fulham a successful campaign in the Europa League next season and for their continued progress on and off the field.''
Fulham owner Mohamed Al Fayed has a short time to appoint a new manager if he wants to do so before the start of the season. Qualification for the Europa League starts on June 30.