Reed and his director of football operations, Ross Wilson, always have contingencies in place for the departure of staff and it is likely they would have sounded out Hughes over recent weeks.
But Southampton had expected far better this season, after three consecutive top-eight finishes.
"As far as the situation we are in at the moment, it makes sense to go with someone who has Premier League experience, who doesn't have to get to know a new set of players".
He has also managed Wales, Manchester City, Blackburn Rovers Fulham and Queens Park Rangers - and is behind only Arsène Wenger, Sir Alex Ferguson, Harry Redknapp, David Moyes and Sam Allardye on the list of most Premier League games. His status from his playing days is a further string to his bow - as is his availability - and it would be hoped he could provide an immediate bounce.
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Well, it would appear that Mark Hughes has been installed as favourite to take over.
They have won just five league games this season and their 3-2 victory at West Bromwich Albion, who are bottom of the table, in February is their only league win since November.
It's probably very similar to last season, the club had become very accustomed under Mauricio Pochettino and Ronald Koeman of having a team very much on the front foot, creating lots of chances and scoring lots of goals, being in games and giving the big boys a run for their money.
Club chiefs will want to make an appointment quickly with an FA Cup quarter-final against Wigan on Sunday.
In an open letter provided by the Daily Echo, the 46-year-old said: "From the beginning I tried to do my best every single day, I tried to give back to the club and tried to represent the club with pride".