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Welshman has accepted offer to take reigns at Craven Cottage

By Wayne Veysey | Chief correspondent

Mark Hughes is on the verge of being appointed the new Fulham manager - and wants to make Craig Bellamy his first signing. UK understands that the Premier League club have offered former Manchester City, Blackburn Rovers and Wales boss Hughes the post following talks over the last 48 hours and he will be given the same £15 million transfer budget on offer to No.1 choice Martin Jol.


The appointment could be confirmed on Thursday and will set in motion a hive of activity on the coaching merry-go-round.

Despite the reluctance of Fulham chairman Mohamed Al-Fayed and chief executive Alistair Mackintosh to disrupt the established coaching structure at Craven Cottage, Hughes is expected to bring with him his close-knit backroom team of Mark Bowen, Kevin Hitchcock and Eddie Niedzwiecki although the fifth regular member, Glyn Hodges, will not join them.

First-team coach Ray Lewington, who took caretaker charge of the squad that has just returned from a short tour of Sweden, and goalkeeping coach Mike Kelly are set to link up with former Fulham boss Roy Hodgson at Liverpool.

Hughes, who was on the club’s original shortlist following Hodgson’s departure, had initially indicated that he would only take the role on his own terms and if his coaching entourage joined him.

The demand put off Fayed and Mackintosh but, following the failure to prise Jol from Ajax, they contacted Hughes again and were willing to bow to his demands.

With the changes having a knock-on effect with regards to staff already employed at Craven Cottage, with ex-Inter manager Hodgson wanting to re-jig his own coaching staff at Liverpool, there could now be some significant changes behind the scenes at Anfield.

Personal terms will be not be a problem for 46-year-old Hughes, though he will have to relocate his family from the north west.

His first task will be to concentrate on making a mark in the transfer market, for which he has been promised significant backing by Fayed.

It is believed that Hughes has told the Fulham owner that he would like to take Bellamy under his wing for a third time.

The Manchester City forward, who played for Hughes at Blackburn and at City, as well as the Wales national team, has been heavily linked with a move away from Eastlands but his wage demands could be a problem for Fulham, whose highest earner is believed to be on £40,000-a-week.

Hughes, who has been out of work since his dismissal from Manchester City last December, moved to the top of the pecking order ahead of Sven-Goran Eriksson, Ottmar Hitzfeld and Juergen Klinsmann.

His Premier League experience and success in working at a club with a similar budget at Blackburn Rovers were particularly attractive to Al Fayed.

Al Fayed has refused to rush into making an appointment but is aware that the season is only two-and-a-half weeks away and time is running out to make an impression in the transfer market.

The west Londoners have done the groundwork for a number of transfer deals, including Aston Villa's Steve Sidwell and West Ham's Robert Green if, as expected, Arsenal step up their interest in Craven Cottage No1 Mark Schwarzer. Fulham's interest in David James is believed to have cooled.

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