The QPR Verdict: Fernandes must hold his nerve as Hughes asks for time
Rangers manager is under pressure after latest loss, but owner must no press the panic button yet
On Monday night, for the first time since he was appointed QPR manager almost nine months ago, Mark Hughes faced serious questions over his future.
West Ham United’s authoritative 2-1 win at Loftus Road kept Rangers at the bottom of the Premier League table.
With two points from their first six games, QPR are six points worse off than they were at the same stage last season. The early signs are of regression rather than progression.
It is a situation which has given owner Tony Fernandes plenty to think about. The table does not make pretty reading, nor does a fixture list which, after a difficult trip to an impressive West Brom this weekend, will soon throw up matches at home to Everton and away to Arsenal.
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This is not what Fernandes, nor his chief executive Phil Beard, were expecting this season. After a summer of spending – the ‘Rangers Revolution’ – they were anticipating a comfortable season in mid-table. They may very well be in for another relegation battle.
Fernandes is quickly learning that running a Premier League football club can prove a tricky business. Money does not guarantee success; big-name signings do not equal progress.
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But after sacking Neil Warnock after a run of 10 games without a win last season, this time Fernandes must hold his nerve. Hughes was Fernandes’s choice, hand-picked to take the club forward. Now he must be given the time to deliver.
On Monday however, Hughes wore the look of a man who knows the axe may soon be hovering above his head.
Clinging to the defence of QPR’s injury problems, which have admittedly hindered Hughes’s preparation, the manager simply asked for time.
“It’s difficult at the moment because in terms of selection it’s too fragmented because of injuries and players not being available,” he said.
“We’ve had players at different levels of fitness. Some haven’t had a full pre-season so it’s difficult to get that solidity which you need.
“We haven’t got that at the moment and until we do we’ll find it difficult to get results.
“It’s still early days. We know that once we get a full complement of players back we’ll get the points that our performances warrant.
“At the moment there are too many changes.”
Such sentiments may not wash with Fernandes, who gave Hughes a full summer to assemble a squad capable of coping with injuries. The fact that Hughes still faces fitness problems at the start of October should indeed raise questions.
There have also been some head-scratching team selections, which have seen both Adel Taarabt and Junior Hoilett, two of QPR’s best attacking players, dropped to the bench. Against West Ham, that was a costly move.
Hughes also persists with a 4-4-2 formation which clearly does not suit the players at his disposal.
Appointing Hughes in January may ultimately prove to be a mistake, but such a decision cannot be made barely two months into the new season.
Fernandes seems aware of that fact, taking Twitter on Monday night to seemingly assure Hughes that his future, for now, is safe.
“Mark will sort it out. Look at his record,” said the owner. “I am relaxed and confident. Six games does not make a season.”
For the time being least, Hughes appears to be under no threat. That is reassuring given that were Fernandes to remove Hughes now, he would undermine any promise of stability, which remains the long-term target at Loftus Road.
“We are looking to improve this year, and we will,” said Hughes. “Until we get points on the board everything is up for debate. The focus starts coming onto the club as a whole. Once we start winning football matches that goes away.”
Hughes can only hope that he is given the time to keep that promise, and that Fernandes does not press the panic button for the second time in less than a year.
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