Mark Hughes insists his position has not been undermined despite the departure of Les Reed.

Hughes was informed yesterday morning that the club’s vice chairman had parted company with the club with the team struggling this season having narrowly avoided relegation last time out.

Reed’s ally, technical director Martin Hunter, also departed, and Saints have now started the process of looking for a new head of football affairs.

Hughes is an old friend of Reed going back to his days studying for his coaching badges, and it was that connection that helped get the Saints boss into the club at the end of last season.

Despite Reed’s departure, Hughes believes his position is unchanged.

“I came in when the club was in a difficult situation,” he said.

“We were able to turn it round and in the summer after seeing the job I did first hand and how I operate I was offered a three-year contract.

“Les would have had a decision in that contract but not totally.

“The board had that decision and though Les is no longer around as a sounding board and a supportive guy in the background there were a lot of people in the background who supported the decision and so I don’t think it has changed my position.”

Reed joined Saints in 2010 but his powerbase really grew after the departure of Nicola Cortese.

Initially he had great success with Ronald Koeman leading the club to remarkable highs, but his position has been under increasing pressure after sacking two managers in less than two seasons and a string of high profile sales and incoming transfer flops.

“I didn’t see it coming,” admitted Hughes.

“I haven’t gone into an in-depth talk with the people involved, just a brief conversation with Ralph to inform of the decision that had been made but I’m sure that will come in the coming days.

“It will have been made for the right reasons to allow the club maybe to grow and grow in a different direction possibly.”

He added: “It was a surprise to everybody.

“It wasn’t something I had an inclination about. I was told earlier this morning.

“It was a real shame for Les because he’s done a fantastic job during his time and been able to establish this club as a fine Premier League club and he will walk away with his held high because he’s done a fantastic job.

“It’s unfortunate. The club feels it needs to go in a different direction and we have to respect that and we move on.

“In the short term for the team and everybody connected it’s all about the game at the weekend. We are looking to it and everybody is focussed on that.

“It’s unfortunate what has happened but you have to move on quickly in football and get on with the job in hand which is clearly to get maximum points at the weekend and that’s what we intend to do.”