"We have probably done in two windows what would have taken a much longer period of time," said Hughes. "The window we have just had has been fantastic. The players we have been able to bring into the club is great. Not only in terms of ability but mentality as well. We feel as though we are in a better place."That was one of the interesting comments from Hughes that came out of the Lescott press conference yesterday, justifying the number of players that have arrived at the club since the January transfer window:
"We are very comfortable with what we've been able to do. I outlined my plans to the board in December 2008, told them the players and the quality of players that we needed. It was basically a process that should have been done over a three- to five-year period but we made the decision that we would try to make it happen in two windows, and to see how far we could get with it.Whilst a patient progress mantra was the way forward - with the board and Hughes comfortable with that - things have clearly changed in terms of being able to accelerate the plans that were in place.
For us to bring in the amount of players we have brought in, and the amount who have gone out, means we have changed personnel at an unprecedented level. Twenty-six players have been sold, released or sent out on loan and that is a huge turnover."
As well as bringing in competition for places and undoubted quality, what has been key is the mentality and make-up of the players who have arrived (and tellingly, of those who have departed):
The shift in culture has been stark this past half year or so, and the club appears to have a totally different outlook than it did heading into 2008/09. Whilst ably backed by the riches on offer, Hughes's role shouldn't be underestimated. It was often thought that he lacked the 'pulling power' to bring in the big names, and to then be able to handle them, but this appears not to be the case.
"Along with the experience we needed players with a winning mentality, we wante to bring players with character and strength of mind, who were used to being around a winning culture."I think every one of the players who has come in has a different mentality to the ones who have left the Club. That makes the group demanding of me and more demanding of themselves."
The squad now has a more unified air about it, with a far sharper focus on what needs to be achieved, and this stems from the top. Although the debate about Hughes's future has died down, it hasn't been extinguished entirely, but I'm amazed talk of his sacking still gets talked about. Anyone with even half an eye on how the club is now being operated should surely understand that Hughes has very strong backing and is very much here for the long haul.
What could be a point to debate though, is whether this alter the original desire for a top six position during 2009/10? If we are a couple of years on in our advancement, is Champions League qualification now expected at an earlier stage than previously desired?