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Wednesday, 11 January 2012

QPR: Is Hughes the man to keep the Rs in the Premier League?


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Despite the likes of Guus Hiddink, Claudio Ranieri and Gianfranco Zola being linked with the vacant manger's job at Loftus Road, there was really only ever one man for the job, Mark Hughes.

Neil Warnock had barely had time to clean out his desk when talks with the former Blackburn, Manchester City and Fulham boss commenced and it wasn't long until the former Wales national boss was confirmed as the new QPR boss, signing a two-and-a-half year contract at Loftus Road.

It came as no surprise to see Hughes installed as the bookies' favourite when Warnock bit the bullet. The former Manchester United and Chelsea striker had been out of work since quitting Fulham in the summer and was looking for a challenge to get his teeth into. Keeping QPR in the the top flight certainly fulfills that criteria.

The Rs have managed to pick up just two points from a possible 24 and sit perilously above the relegation zone. Something had to give. Warnock hoped Tony Fernandes would trust him with his millions. Fernandes had other ideas. So now Mark Hughes has about £30 million to spend in the next three weeks in order to fulfill his one and only objective . . . avoid relegation.

The chairman has grand plans for the Rs and he is delighted with the appointment of Sparky. 

"Mark has a proven track record in the Premier League, bringing a wealth of experience at both club and international level," he said. "He has a great passion to achieve as a manager and has already been hugely successful in his career. His ambitions match those of the board and we are delighted to have him at the helm."

Fernandes is obviously thrilled to have Hughes on board, but can he keep QPR in the Premier League?

Well, despite being a great striker in day, the chairman knows that Hughes likes to build his teams from a solid defensive platform. At Blackburn Rovers he came in at a time when they were leaking goals at an alarming rate. He immediately got to work with the back four and it wasn't long before they were recording much needed clean sheets. He led the Rovers to three top 10 finishes and unearthed some exciting talent. If he can repeat that at Loftus Road then he will be on course to being a Rangers legend.

As we all know a strong defence breeeds confidence throughout the team and allows the midfielders the chance to try something creative, safe in the knowledge that if it doesn't come off the defence will snuff out the problem. QPR have conceded a number of sloppy goals this season but Hughes will get them organised and disciplined from the start.

Hughes also has a great scouting system. Again at Blackburn he signed Christopher Samba and Ryan Nelson players who most fans in England had never heard of but who turned out to be fantastic signings. At Manchester City money wasn't an issue. He could have almost any player he wanted. And sometimes he was even given players he didn't particularly want!

Fernandes is reportedly going to give Hughes £30 million to spend this month in order to keep the Rs up. Fernandes will be able to rest knowing that Hughes will spend that money well to improve the size of the squad and the quality within it.

Hughes will also have the ability to attract players to Loftus Road. No offence to Neil Warnock who did a great job persuading the likes of Joey Barton and Shaun Wright-Phillips to the club, but Sparky is the kind of manager who players will jump through hoops for. He's played at the highest level, has a great reputation in the game and commands respect. There should be a number of interesting arrivals at Loftus Road between now and the end of the month. Could Fulham's Bobby Zamora or Andy Johnson be reunited with their former boss or will he be able to persuade Didier Drogba to leave Chelsea?

Tactically Hughes is also superb. He will plan his team for every opponent, trying to capatilise on their weaknesses, but he won't be afraid to change things if it's all going pearshaped either.

The Rs are currently 17th in the table and Hughes has some huge games to get his teeth into, starting this Sunday with a trip to Newcastle United. That's followed by an FA Cup replay against MK Dons before hosting fellow Premier League strugglers Wigan at home. After that it's Aston Villa away, who he was linked with in the summer, Wolves at home and Blackburn away.

That is a huge run of fixtures and Tony Fernandes, and everyone with blue blood running through their veins, will be hoping the arrival of Hughes will have given everyone a boost. Survival was always the name of the game for QPR this season. If Hughes can achieve that, then the adventure will really get under way for the hoops.

Calling all QPR fans. Are you happy with the appointment of Hughes? Are you confident he can keep you up or do you think you stood a better chance of surviving with Warnock at the helm? Who would you like to see Hughes sign in the transfer window? What area needs looked at most urgently? Whatever your view we'd love to hear from you.

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Colin Illingworth

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