Former Manchester United striker Mark Hughes was this week confirmed as the new manager of Queens Park Rangers, and the Welshman has wasted little time in making his mark at Loftus Road and setting out his ambitions.
As always, however, the duration of Hughes’ time in the QPR dugout will depend on his relative success. Under Neil Warnock, 17th in the Premier League was evidently not acceptable for Tony Fernandes. While ambition is always admirable, it must however be caged in reality. QPR, returned to the top flight for the first time since 1996, were predicted by A Different League to finish 16th at the end of this season, suggesting a narrow escape from relegation is what the R’s should have expected, and what Warnock appeared on course to deliver.
If that short-term goal is achieved it may in great part be down to the reported £30m budget made available to Hughes this month, although Hughes was at pains to play down the expectation such wealth can bring. He said: “It’s all well and good saying there’s a certain amount but you’ve got to be able to spend it in the right way and with the right players,” before adding, tellingly: “If there are weaknesses then we need to address them.” QPR’s major weaknesses this season would appear to be a lack of goals – with only 19 goals scored in 20 league games – and a dire home record, with only one win in 10 games.
Hughes, manager of Manchester City between June 2008 and December 2009, was almost immediately linked with a move for City defender Nedum Onouha, out of favour at the Etihad Stadium and capable of playing right-back or centre-back. The desire to re-shape a squad threatened by relegation must, if Hughes’ long-term plans are to be believed, be balanced by an understanding of where the team is to be in a year or more. Panic buying would in the long run do more harm than good, and leave QPR with the kind of unwieldy squad City are currently trying to trim.
The Hughes era at QPR begins with a trip to Newcastle on Sunday before a crunch relegation fixture against Wigan Athletic a week later – which, by virtue of the FA Cup draw with MK Dons, Joey Barton would now be available for. Hitting the ground running is imperative for Hughes, since, if he does wish to build a dynasty at QPR, the groundwork must be in place by May, with Rangers’ Premier League status secure.
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