Sources close to Ashley claim he only made Harry Redknapp his top target only on the advice of close friend Paul Kemsley.
"I was told by Ashley's friends and family a week before Allardyce was sacked that Mike planned to make a change imminently, and that he wanted Mark Hughes as manager," a source told the Sunday Sun.
"The message was unequivocal: Allardyce was out, and Mike wanted Hughes.
"Clearly though, with Paul Kemsley having far more experience in football, Mike sets great store by what he says.
"And Paul Kemsley is possibly Harry Redknapp's biggest fan."