It is now too late to rescue the miserable away form of this season (even if we were to win out), but whilst the calls for Hughes's head are resurfacing, it is not the results away from home, or even finishing in a worse league position than last season that will do for Hughes if he is sacked, as there has been plenty of opportunity this season when results (and league position) reached their nadir.This is absolutely key. Sacking a manager should not be simply a punishment for bad performance, just as keeping a manager should not be a reward for good performance. Rather, decisions on a manager's future ought to be made with the long term interest of the club in mind. This is why Everton were right not to sack David Moyes despite their finishing seventeenth in 2003/04. He could have been dismissed as punishment for failure, but Bill Kenwright recognised that a manager of his class was still the right man for the job - and so he has proved.
If Hughes is to be sacked, then it will be because the owners do not have the confidence that he can deliver what they expect the club to achieve, that they feel he is not the man who can take us to the next level and crack the top four and beyond. [Emphasis added]
There is a legitimate case for sacking Mark Hughes in the summer - I certainly don't agree with it but it does have some strong points. But to be credible, that argument must be that he is not the man to improve the club's position in the future, rather than simply arguing from desert. The question, then, concerns the extent to which this year's disappointing performance informs us of Hughes' ability to take the club on next season. And as sub-par as 38 points from 31 games is, I still think he's the right man for the job next season.
NB For a very astute take on reasons for and against sacking Hughes, check out nb's comment on this post from earlier on Monday. It presents an interesting dichotomy between the emotional case for Hughes and the rational case against.