SAINTS have opened negotiations with Mark Hughes and are hoping to confirm him as the club’s permanent manager before the end of the week.

Hughes is the club’s overwhelming favourite to take the job having come in for the final eight Premier League games of the season and saved the club from relegation.

There are not expected to be any complications in the deal with Saints also set to hand permanent roles to his assistants Mark Bowen and Eddie Niedzwiecki.

Saints chairman Ralph Krueger said: “We are in conversation with Mark Hughes.

“The opportunity that we all have if you look at Bowie (Mark Bowen) and Eddie (Niedzwiecki) too, the group, they were such a perfect fit for this club as people where they are in their careers, where we are as a club, where we were when they came in and where we would like to go there’s a fit there.

“We are having conversations and that should be clear one way or the other pretty quickly.

“We are in conversation and would like to look at that first. The club, even when we took Mark, have a list and candidates circled but we sort of had a trial period for both sides, and I don’t like saying that really, but it was pretty intense.

“You couldn’t have gone through anything much more intense than we went through.

“Because of that you got much deeper, much quicker than you would with a regular interview process, or just having a normal season together.”