Why QPR hierarchy must match ambition with patience
As the Hughes era begins with a defeat, both the manager and the board must commit to the club’s long-term plans
Ambition was the driving force behind Mark Hughes’ appointment as QPR manager, but as Sunday’s defeat at Newcastle confirmed, it is patience from all parties which will ultimately determine whether the move is a success.
At a glance, Hughes and QPR fit each other perfectly. Hughes is an eager, enterprising manager, so ambitious that he quit Fulham last summer because they failed to match his own, lofty aspirations.
His new club, meanwhile, are run by a board who believe QPR can be challenging the Manchester sides for the Premier League title within the next 10 years, and plan to mark the beginning of that rise first by acquiring a new training ground, and then by constructing a new, multi-purpose stadium.
It is not difficult to see why Hughes turned Tony Fernandes’ head. His innovation on the training ground, which includes having GPS devices sewn into players’ vests so their training can be monitored, ‘mirrors Sir Alex Ferguson’ according to the manager’s head coach Mark Bowen – perfect for a chairman who when he took over held up the Old Trafford club as the one to aspire to.
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It is a far cry from the methods of club tracksuit-wearing Neil Warnock, whose traditional practice sessions increasingly became subject to speculation of player unrest in the final weeks of his tenure.
But ambition can be a tricky thing. Unbridled, it can lead to impatience, a premature anxiety that the targets set are not being fulfilled. It can lead to a manager quitting a club, as Hughes did Fulham, or a club sacking a manager, as QPR did so abruptly to an unsuspecting Warnock just eight days ago.
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Relentless pursuit of success can become an unhealthy state of mind to be in if the foundations are not in place, and in that respect what is needed both from Hughes, and from the QPR board, is an ongoing recognition that results will not come instantaneously.
Hughes needs time at QPR; time to implement his own methods, make his own signings and play them in his own formation. He needs more time than his predecessor, who at the very first sign of trouble found himself abandoned by the men who until that point had appeared to place great faith in him.
All the evidence needed was supplied during 90 minutes on the St James’ Park turf, where the limitations of the squad inherited by Hughes were on full show in a sixth league defeat in seven games.
Singings will arrive this week, and more will follow. Deals are almost complete for Chelsea centre-back Alex and Sao Paolo striker Henrique. They will represent the start of what promises to be a long rebuilding job.
But what if Hughes does not get immediate results? What if, come May, QPR are relegated back to the Championship? Fernandes has pressed the panic button once, but should the worst happen, he cannot press it again.
Tolerance must also come from Hughes, who as a manager has had a tendency to leave a club after no more than a few years, a fact readily pointed out this week by his successor at Fulham, Martin Jol.
Hughes spent three and a half years at Blackburn Rovers, in that time taking them to their first FA Cup semi-final in more than 40 years, and in 2005-06, just his second season, securing a top-six finish.
He assembled a squad high on quality, introducing Christopher Samba to the English game for just �400,000, and turning Ewood Park into one of the most formidable grounds for visiting teams.
But in 2008, just as Hughes’ mission to turn Rovers into a genuine Premier League force appeared close to completion, his head was turned by Manchester City, whose chairman Thaksin Shinawatra saw the Welshman as the ideal candidate to replace Sven-Goran Eriksson.
It was a move the aspiring Hughes felt he could not turn down, but his sacking just over a year later was a dent to his pride, and paved the way for his ultimately unsuccessful spell at Fulham.
Jol believes such a record casts doubt over Hughes’ ambition – but perhaps the opposite is true. Perhaps it is the sign of a man who is intent on making it to the very top of the managerial tree. Perhaps Hughes has eye on the biggest job of all, succeeding Ferguson in the dug-out at Old Trafford.
His ambition burns bright, but Hughes is on a two-and-a-half-year contract at Loftus Road, and it is paramount that all parties allow that deal to be honoured if the long-term plans that the club have laid out are to be realised.
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