To suggest that the manner in which Mark Hughes executed his survival plan for Queens Park Rangers was both calculated and expected is laughable. Losses to Wolves, Fulham, Blackburn and Bolton left the west London club with what appeared an impossible task.
Having lost to all three teams who would eventually be relegated, Hughes’ men would need some unlikely victories against some of the league’s top clubs. Despite numerous suspensions, injuries and problems with ill-discipline, QPR recorded wins against Liverpool, Spurs and Arsenal in a tempestuous final run of form that saw them almost beat Manchester City away on the final day of the season.
Some argued that the maintenance of their Premier League status was slightly fortuitous yet ultimately they got the job done, not without the help of a few summer signings though.
As well as getting himself sent off twice in five games Djibril Cisse scored some important goals for his new club. Both Mark Hughes and Tony Fernandes will be hoping that this summer’s signings can go some way to reinstating QPR as a regular fixture in England’s top flight.
Upon joining the club, Hughes signed Nedum Onouha, Bobby Zamora and Djibril Cisse. This summer he has already added Robert Green, Andy Johnson, Ryan Nelsen, Samba Diakite and Park Ji-Sung to that list.
Combined with the players bought last summer, The R’s line up will be almost unrecognisable from the one that won promotion in 2011. It might only be the club’s second season since rejoining the Premier League but 14 of their signings since that time have considerably more experience at the top level than that. Some even have international and Champions League experience under their belt.
Man Utd’ Park Ji Sung was a coup not just because he still has valuable playing time left in him but because he must have been suitably impressed with the club’s ambition in order to sign for them and no other team – he will undoubtedly have had offers from Asia.
Mark Hughes’ team weren’t quite as bad as the final table suggested last season. They didn’t help themselves though. Discipline was a real problem. Barton was definitely at fault but he wasn’t alone. Cisse was sent off twice in five games and Samba Diakite was also sent off.
Without these complications QPR could have been safer a lot earlier than they were. They wouldn’t have had to go in to the last day of the season relying on beating City or hoping their rivals lose. Hughes will hope that the turbulent final few months of the season will serve as a lesson to his players, at least to some of them.
Despite all their signings, there are two original players that it will be crucial for Hughes to really motivate. The first is Alejandro Faurlin. It was no coincidence that The R’s initial downturn in form coincided with Faurlin’s injury. He had been playing in a slightly deeper position to his role in the Championship but he was hugely effective performing in a similar role to Lucas for Liverpool or Arteta for Arsenal. He was able to break up play and move the ball on in a way that Derry, Barton and others struggled to do as effectively all season.
Secondly, Hughes need to motivate Adel Taarabt. He might not be the player he thinks he is, but he is still a quality footballer. If they can find a way to get him to train hard, improve his work ethic and perhaps pass a little more than they have a player capable of earning them survival on their own.
QPR have the ingredients for success. Their team boasts experience from every level of football including players to have played in the final of both the Champions league and the Europa League.
Amit Bhatia and Mark Hughes have signalled their intent for the club. Since their promotion just over a year ago the club have purchased 19 players totalling almost £28m. Now that ambition needs to be matched with on-field performances.
Follow Hamish on Twitter @H_Mackay