SAINTS are set to appoint vastly experienced Premier League boss Mark Hughes as replacement to Mauricio Pellegrino today.

The one-time Saint, who made 60 appearances for the club between 1998-2000, is understood to have been in discussions with the St Mary’s hierarchy in the last 24 hours over the vacant manager’s position.

Saints are keen to make a quick and experienced appointment after sacking Pellegrino late on Monday evening as they bid to keep the club in the Premier League after a disastrous run of one win in 17 games.

With 14 years and nearly 450 top-flight matches under his belt as a manager, Hughes quickly became Saints’ first choice and an announcement is said to be planned for today.

The players have been given today off but have been told to report for duty at Staplewood tomorrow morning, when the club plan to have Hughes in place to take training ahead of Sunday’s FA Cup quarter-final at Wigan.

The 54-year-old, who will likely be paid a lucrative bonus if he keeps the club in the Premier League, will need to immediately galvanise and rally a struggling group of players ahead of the remaining eight league games.

Saints sit one point outside the relegation zone, but a demoralising 3-0 defeat to Newcastle on Saturday has left the club in a deeply concerning, albeit salvageable, situation.

If there are no hiccups in agreeing terms, Hughes, who was sacked by Stoke City – Saints’ relegation rivals – in January after a run of five defeats in seven league games, will hold his first press conference on Friday, ahead of the Wigan trip.

Saints’ players were in training yesterday at Staplewood with first team assistant coach Kelvin Davis, goalkeeping coach Dave Watson and head of sports science Alek Gross leading the session.

Attacking midfielder Josh Sims insists he and his team-mates have every faith in the club’s board to make the right appointment.

“We have faith in the board that they’re going to be bring in the right manager and one who can help the club stay in the Premier League,” he said.

“That’s the big key now because the club deserves to be there. It doesn’t deserve to be relegated and we have faith in the staff to choose the right manager.”

The 20-year-old has been a bright spark in Saints’ troubled season of late and the youngsters reckons the boss will instantly see the quality in the team.

“It’s a difficult situation we’re in, but anyone coming in can see the talent that we’ve got here in the team and you’ll see the togetherness we’re going to show in the remaining fixtures,” he said.

Sims has urged Saints to stay focused during a turbulent time.

“It’s a big decision by the board but as players we have to focused on our job,” he said about Pellegrino’s sacking.

“We need to get the points on the board. We shouldn’t let that affect us. It’s up to the board to make their decision. We’ll let them do that and we’ll focus on the games.”

He added: “It’s not very nice. The performances have just not been good enough. I think we’ve been unlucky on a few occasions, but the result against Newcastle was a really bad performance.

“It’s not nice when you can affect it with performances on the pitch but unfortunately we’ve not picked up the points and the performances haven’t been good enough.”