QPR verdict: How Mark Hughes lost his grip at Loftus Road
19:33 19 November 2012
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“As far as I’m concerned, we will never be in this situation again while I am manager,” so declared a bullish Mark Hughes after the astonishing finale to last season.
The Welshman had just watched his QPR side escape relegation by the skin of their teeth at the Etihad Stadium, where his old club Manchester City celebrated their first title win in 44 years after famously overturning a 2-1 deficit in injury time.
At the other end of the table, QPR’s Premier League status was saved by Bolton’s failure to win at Stoke City, prompting Hughes to make his doomed vow to turn the club around.
Six months have passed since that day, and after an ill-judged summer spending spree brought no fewer than 12 new faces to Loftus Road, QPR find themselves in crisis.
Since their disastrous 5-0 drubbing by Swansea City on the opening day, winless Rangers have taken just four points from a possible 33, leaving them five points adrift of safety at the bottom of the table.
The fans have emphatically lost faith in the manager, and if Saturday’s abject 3-1 defeat to Southampton is anything to go by, most of the players have too... That is, if they ever had any in the first place.
Even more worrying for Hughes is that owner Tony Fernandes has declined to offer public backing to his beleaguered manager in the wake of their most recent defeat, fuelling speculation that his time could finally be up at Loftus Road.
Hughes’ poor management has been decisive this season, but the board must also shoulder blame for sanctioning the fevered summer spending which has paved the way for the club’s downfall.
The poorly-planned impulsiveness of QPR’s transfer dealings transmits to their performances on the pitch, where their clumsily assembled mishmash of players resembles a group of total strangers.
Take the arrival of former Inter Milan goalkeeper Julio Cesar. Undoubtedly a class act, but signed out of the blue just weeks after the arrival of Rob Green, who became a scapegoat for their dreadful start.
Green joined the club as their new number one at the beginning of the summer, only to be immediately shunted to the bench. How can that decision have affected him? And more broadly, how can it have affected the atmosphere in the dressing room?
Cesar is an upgrade on the former West Ham man, but he came at a cost, and the team has suffered as a result of yet more upheaval, with players now aware that they could be unceremoniously axed by Hughes at any moment.
And Green isn’t the only one to be shut out.
Striker Rob Hulse was among those deemed surplus to requirements at Loftus Road during the summer. The 33-year-old was sent on loan to Charlton, where he told London24 he had been one of six senior players sent by Hughes to train with QPR’s youth team as the new signings continued to flood in.
The likes of Hulse, Heidar Helguson and Luke Young may be technically limited, but humiliating experienced pros was no way for Hughes to endear himself to his squad.
And with his expensive wave of signings looking wholly disinterested on the pitch, he might now wish he could call on more old heads to help pull them out of their malaise.
Let’s not forget that at this point last season, Helguson - now at Cardiff - had hit five Premier League goals in seven appearances. Hughes’ toothless side would cherish such a contribution now.
Indeed, it was ironic that Hughes called on old heads Jamie Mackie and Shaun Derry from the bench as he tried to rescue the game against Southampton.
On paper, Hughes’ squad should be comfortable in this league, but it was naïve to think such a ruthless overhaul of the playing squad would not have damaging consequences.
Having turned his back on QPR’s old guard, Hughes is left with a collection of overpaid cast-offs from top clubs who aren’t motivated enough to dig in and turn things around.
Jose Bosingwa is among the chief offenders. Six months ago the defender was winning the second Champions League medal of his career with Chelsea. He has passed his peak and he knows it. Against Southampton he was utterly woeful before his 73rd-minute substitution.
Hughes’ squad is broken, possibly irreparably. His position is surely untenable, but there is no quick fix and a change of manager would not be an immediate solution.
These are disturbing times for QPR, and the thought of taking that sizable wage bill into the Championship makes you worry for the future of the club.