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Mark Hughes favourite to land Southampton job - sources

Former Stoke City boss Mark Hughes has emerged as the leading contender for the vacant manager's job at Southampton, sources close to the club have told ESPN FC.

Southampton are searching for a new manager following the sacking of Mauricio Pellegrino on Monday night 48 hours after the 3-0 defeat to fellow strugglers Newcastle United.

A number of names have been linked with the vacancy at St Mary's and sources have told ESPN FC that the club are likely to move for a manager who is currently out of work as it be will hard to prise someone away from another club in their current situation.

Hughes fits the bill as he has been out of work since leaving Stoke in January after four-and-a-half years in charge of the Potters. He guided Stoke to three straight ninth-placed finishes, dropping to 13th last season before being axed following a poor run of form this season.

The 54-year-old Welshman is a former Southampton player having enjoyed a two-year spell on the South Coast between 1998-2000 and he has previously managed Wales, Blackburn Rovers, Manchester City, Fulham, Queens Park Rangers and Stoke.

Former Watford boss Marco Silva has been linked with the role, but is reported to be considering other offers, while ex-West Ham manager Slaven Bilic has expressed an interest in the job as he seeks a return to management.

Southampton are keen to make a swift appointment as they look to save their season and they hope to have their new management team in place for this weekend's FA Cup quarterfinal clash with Wigan.

The defeat to Newcastle left Southampton just a point outside the relegation places with only eight games of the Premier League season remaining and the club have decided to act to bring in a new man to save them from relegation after just one win in their last 17 Premier League games.

Peter O'Rourke is ESPN FC's transfer news correspondent. Follow him on Twitter @SportsPeteO.

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