He may not have been the most fashionable of candidates, but that didn’t stop QPR chairman Tony Fernandes from naming Mark Hughes as the London club’s new manager last month. Despite his short tenure with the Londoners there has already been much talk of whether he can be the man to keep the Super Hoops in the Premier League after just a single top-flight victory since his arrival.
Any such talk should be disregarded, and ‘Sparky’ should be given time to settle into his role, after an active January transfer window. But, the world of football is one that waits for no man, and the ex-Fulham, Manchester City and Blackburn manager must begin to prove that he is a better candidate than his predecessor Neil Warnock.
Many of the QPR faithful were more than little upset at the sacking of their former chief, after a wonderful campaign last term, in which Warnock guided his men to Championship victory and subsequent promotion. However, life in the top-flight proved to be a little too tough for the no nonsense manager, whose lack of tactical nous and failure to get the best of star names ultimately led to his demise.
Tony Fernandes reacted swiftly to dismiss the former Sheffield United boss early in January, after a dismal 1-1 draw with MK Dons in the FA Cup, looking for a man with Premier League pedigree who could turn his investment into another season at the summit of the English game. Hughes emerged as one of the early contenders for the role, meeting much of the Malaysian tycoons requirements.
Warnock’s previous Premier League experience must have contributed heavily to the chairman’s decision, with relegation at the helm of Sheffield United in 2005, and the whole ugly episode that ensued, hinting that the manager may have been a little out of his depth. This is not something that can be said for Hughes, who having enjoyed spells at numerous clubs, has the experience and should possess the know how to guide the Londoners clear of the trap-door. Fernandes simply could not wait to see if Warnock, with his patchy record, could drag the club to safety, with the financial implications of relegation weighing heavily on his mind, due to the long-term project at the club.
To go about his business Hughes has been given significant financial backing. Players with big reputations have been brought in, including Djibril Cisse and Bobby Zamora, and to get them working in tandem with fiery characters such as Joey Barton and Adel Taarabt would require a man with experience in working with such players. Hughes again has this ability, having got the very best out of Craig Bellamy at Blackburn, as well as an array of other stars at Manchester City.
It may also prove be tough for the ex-United player to win over some of the dressing room, who will remain faithful to Warnock. It’s fair to say at most other clubs Taarabt would have been out on his ear following some of his escapades thus far, and the likes of Clint Hill and Jamie Mackie have already spoken of their relationship with their former manager. If these players do not fit into the new plans at the club, their influence could prove to be destructive and difficult to negotiate for the Welshman.
With the experience and the knowledge of the game, Hughes could be just the man to keep QPR safe. It wont be easy, but Fernandes could have made just the right call, at just the right time.
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