Time for QPR to despatch floundering Hughes
“The team played as planned,” claimed QPR owner Tony Fernandes on Twitter following his club’s latest defeat, a 1-0 reverse at Stoke last Saturday that left the Hoops with just four points from 11 games and Mark Hughes clinging to his job. But with the team bottom of the Premier League, QPR fans are entitled to wonder whether there was ever a plan to all of this in the first place.
When the club signed Brazilian goalkeeper Julio Cesar just two months after awarding Robert Green a lucrative two-year contract, the temptation was to shrug at the crassness of it all and embrace ‘the project’ – onwards and upwards. But it turns out it was merely the most obvious example of the lack of any coherent strategy whatsoever at Loftus Road.
The ever-changing defence remains a concern, having kept just one clean sheet all season. Curiously, that came against European champions Chelsea and was the only one of the first eight matches in which Hughes picked an unchanged back-four. Needless to say, consistency of selection has not been a strength.
At the other end of the field it is difficult to ascertain what the vision for the season was supposed to be. Bobby Zamora and Andy Johnson, Hughes’ ageing pals from Fulham, started three consecutive games together at the start of the season – suggesting that the manager wanted to recreate the success he’d enjoyed at Craven Cottage with the pair.
So why were only three strikers named in QPR’s 25-man squad? How was a 4-4-2 supposed to bring the best out of new signings Junior Hoilett and Esteban Granero, let alone the enigmatic Adel Taarabt? And besides, within weeks Johnson was injured, Zamora disinterested and the fans were being asked to place their faith in the misfiring Djibril Cissé as a lone frontman instead.
It all serves to emphasise the seemingly obvious point that signing players is the easy part – using them effectively to win football matches is the skill. It’s a fact apparently lost on the manager. “I’ve got great support and I think it is a consequence of the work we have done in such a short space of time,” said Hughes last month. “We have taken the club a long way – not only off the field but also in terms of the personnel we have been able to attract to the club.”
The logic beggars belief. It’s some confidence trick to attempt to convince the stakeholders in a west London club awash with cash that it is only his knowledge and presence that has persuaded highly paid players to come to QPR. To then promptly lose football matches and still argue this should somehow warrant a tick against his name seems perverse.
But like all clubs embarking on this type of project, QPR preferred to talk in terms of selling prospective signings a vision rather than cold, hard cash. And the Loftus Road hierarchy appear to have been a little too impressed by what their transfer targets had done in the past rather than what they could do for the team in the future.
When José Bosingwa joined in the summer, Hughes told the club’s official website: “He’s another Champions League winner, the third in the squad now with Ji-Sung Park and Djibril Cissé.” How exactly those medals are supposed to help QPR out of their plight isn’t clear. Perhaps the only real surprise was that a fourth Champions League winner and regular Hughes plaything Roque Santa Cruz wasn’t aboard the gravy train too.
In talking up his transfer acquisitions, Hughes appears to believe he is making the case to be retained as manager. But if the players really are good enough to thrive and are not being fashioned into a team, that does not reflect positively on the manager. In fact, it’s a damning indictment upon him. As are the bald statistics – 21 points from 27 games in charge.
Hughes oozed confidence when assuring supporters on the final weekend of last season that the club would never again be in such a position with him in charge. In a sense, he’s right. The floundering Hughes should not be allowed to preside over this mess any longer, let alone get within sniffing distance of May. It’s time to go, Mark.
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