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Queens Park Rangers manager Mark Hughes is safe for now but fans' unrest grows after Southampton defeat
Mark Hughes is likely to be granted a stay of execution as Queens Park Rangers manager until at least the Manchester United game on Saturday but, with supporter unrest mounting, further talks will be held this week between the club’s main shareholders.
Lone ranger: Mark Hughes is running out of time at QPR Photo: AFP/GETTY IMAGES
By Jeremy Wilson and Jason Burt11:00PM GMT 18 Nov 20121 Comment
Tony Fernandes, the chairman, is currently in the United States where he attended a conference on Sunday and, although he still wants to keep Hughes, the manner of Saturday’s 3-1 defeat against Southampton has been a cause for shock and alarm.
A reaction is now being demanded at Old Trafford and there is a desire to see the club get back to basics. Player such as Shaun Derry, Jamie Mackie and Nedum Onuoha could all be recalled. There is mixed support for Hughes among directors but, until now, he has retained the crucial backing of Fernandes.
Tune QPR Sdn Bhd, a company owned by Fernandes, Kamarudin Meranun and Ruben Gnanalingham own 66 per cent of QPR, with 33 per cent controlled by the Mittal family’s Sea Dream Limited.
The final decision, then, does not rest solely with Fernandes and, if there is a strong feeling against Hughes this week from other shareholders, his job would still be in immediate jeopardy.
As of Sunday night, Hughes had not heard directly from any of the owners since Saturday’s defeat and was continuing his preparations for the club’s next match. The absence of any fresh vote of confidence could be interpreted as ominous but Hughes does not expect any kneejerk reaction, even if QPR have now gone 12 Premier League games without a win.
Fernandes apologised to supporters after Saturday’s game. “Everyone including me let the fans down,” he wrote. “Many of us need a hard look at themselves. I feel gutted. I have put my heart and soul into this with my other shareholders. And done all we can to give support to players and all management. I can only apologise to the QPR fans.We keep fighting.”
Representatives of Harry Redknapp and Rafael Benitez have already indicated to QPR that they would be interested in taking over should Hughes be sacked. Redknapp was asked about the situation on Match of the Day and, although he avoided the question, kept his options open.
“Mark is in the position and he’s a top bloke and an excellent manager,” said Redknapp. “He knows what he’s about and until and if there’s a change, it wouldn’t be fair for me to discuss it. We’ll just wait and see.”
One significant consideration would be the cost of replacing Hughes, who is 10 months into a 2½-year contract. QPR’s backing for Hughes has also extended to restructuring the backroom staff and a series of other key appointments, including new technical director Mike Rigg, who worked with Hughes at Manchester City.
There was, however, a big shift in the reaction of QPR supporters on Saturday, with some fans chanting “you’re getting sacked in the morning” and “Hughes out”. There were several anti-Hughes banners on display and there are also understood to be doubts about the manager among some players.
The QPR team were accused by supporters on Saturday of being “only here for the money”. Hughes accepted their vocal displeasure and said that he would make changes. “The fans are absolutely right to criticise given where we are,” he said. “In fairness, I was of the same view.”
Hughes delivered some blunt home-truths to the players after the match, accusing them of lacking mental strength. Asked if he would start again from scratch, Hughes said: “I may well. We have to understand that when you go into Premier League games you have to have a certain mentality. Sometimes we look a little bit naïve and dumbstruck.
“Something needed to be said. Whatever I said [in the dressing-room] will obviously remain private but I was well within my rights to say everything that I said. We’re at a point where we need to understand where we are.
“We’re not talking about a successful mid-table finish now. Given the manner of the performance, we have to accept that we’re in danger of going down. The sooner we recognise that, we will get the right mentality to move us forward. And maybe the right players. Obviously, given the performance, I picked the wrong players. That can’t be allowed to pass without changes being made.” Hughes, though, is still sure that he can turn QPR’s season around.
“You have to go through periods where there are doubts and apprehension about what the future holds and we’re at that time right now but making wholesale changes again at this club would be the wrong decision,” he said.
Djibril Cissé, meanwhile, became embroiled in a Twitter exchange with a fan on Saturday who he invited to QPR’s training ground for a “face to face” talk.
Cissé told Aran Hayashi “come to the training ground we’ll have a chat big man” after the QPR supporter said the Frenchman “couldn’t hit a cow’s a*** with a banjo. Telegraph
Tony Fernandes to decide on Mark Hughes's QPR future this week
• Hughes now admits QPR are 'in danger of going down'
The manner of the loss to the team in 19th place seems to have shattered Hughes's confidence in his players and his approach. Just one day before that match he had radiated optimism, declaring that his team were on the right track and, once injuries abated and he was able to field a settled side, they would soar up the table and fulfil the club's pre-season prediction of a top-half finish.
He was able to deploy an unchanged lineup against Southampton for the first time this season and his team were trounced; and now Hughes says they are at risk of relegation and he has to shake up things.
That process began with a dressing-room tongue-lashing from the manager immediately after the defeat. "I think we're at a point where we're so disappointed with what we produced that something needed to be said," Hughes said. "Whatever I said will obviously remain private but I was well within my rights to say everything that I said. We're at a point where we need to understand where we are. We're not talking about a successful mid-table finish now.
"Given the manner of the performance we have to accept that we're in danger of going down. The sooner we recognise that we will get the right mentality to move us forward. And maybe the right players. And I take responsibility for that. Obviously, given the performance, I picked the wrong players."
On Friday he was convinced those were the right players, dismissing supporters' suggestions that some of the glamorous summer recruits seemed to lack the stomach for battle. The Loftus Road crowd repeated those concerns throughout the defeat to Southampton, chanting "you're only here for the money" at various supposed stars and cheering when Hughes withdrew José Bosingwa, the former Chelsea full-back whose displays this season have attracted particular derision.
Hughes says fans are mistaken about the players lacking motivation but right about them being in the wrong frame of mind. He thinks that could be part of the problem.
"I can understand totally the frustration of the fans and they're well within their rights to say that, but I can assure them that's not the case," Hughes said. "Everyone is working really hard to turn this around but we just didn't function as a team. It was an enigma. It was a real puzzle in terms of why we produced what we produced.
"We have to understand that when you go into Premier League games you have to have a certain mentality, you have to get a foothold in the game and then progress from that point. We're finding it very difficult to understand [what happened]. I picked the same team as I did against Stoke, where we played really well, but the same team didn't function. We prepared in the same way – obviously factoring in the strengths of the opposition – but for whatever reason, whether it was the significance of the game in which you need to step up, we lacked the mental strength. We need to understand that we need to compete and give what's required. Sometimes we look a little bit naive and dumbstruck by what's going on."
It was perhaps significant that in the second-half against Southampton Hughes introduced Jamie Mackie and Shaun Derry, two of the players who helped get the club into the Premier League last year but who have featured little since his purchase of perceived more high-profile names.
Is Hughes about to turn back to these players in the belief that they are more likely to have the right mentality? "I have to look at the makeup of the team because [the Southampton match] can't be allowed to pass without changes being made in terms of personnel. We have to look at who we've got and get the balance right."
One part of the personnel that the manager does not think needs to be changed is ... the manager. "Stability is absolutely what this club needs long term," he said. "Along with that, until you get to the point where you're established in the Premier League, you have to go through periods where there are doubts and apprehension about what the future holds. But making wholesale changes again at this club would be the wrong decision. You would expect me to say that but I honestly believe it. We just need to get through this and look back and I think we needed to go through that period to grow stronger. It's difficult for everybody but we're not going to run away from it."
The club's foremost shareholder, Tony Fernandes, left, was not at the game on Saturday but his tweets, previously so effusive in their support for Hughes, have taken a grimmer tone. "Everyone including me let the fans down," he tweeted in the wake of the Southampton debacle. "Many of us need a hard look at themselves. QPR has amazing fans. They deserve better."
This week Fernandes will consider the next step along with the co-owner Amit Bhatia and Fernandes's fellow Malaysian backers Ruben Gnanalingam and Din Kamarudin. Guardian
Mark Hughes believes "wholesale changes" to QPR's management structure would be a bad move, despite admitting they are in relegation danger.
Mark Hughes: Insists QPR need stability
The Welshman is over-riding favourite with bookmakers to become the first Premier League manager sacked after the Hoops failed to win any of their opening 12 matches.
That poor start was epitomised on Saturday as QPR slumped to an embarrassing 3-1 home defeat at the hands of fellow strugglers Southampton.
QPR chairman Tony Fernandes has kept his counsel since, aside from a non-committal tweet in the immediate aftermath, and Hughes hopes to remain in charge.
"Stability is absolutely what this club needs in the long-term," he said.
"Until you get to that point where you can establish yourself in the Premier League, then you have to go through periods where there is doubt or apprehension about what the future holds.
"We are at that point in time now, but I think wholesale changes once again for this club would be the wrong decision in my view.
"You would expect me to say that but I honestly believe it.
"The owners understand that we're at that place in time. We just need to get through this, come out the other side and look back at this and think, 'We needed to go through that period to grow stronger'.
"It is difficult for everybody at the moment but we're not going to run away from it."
After narrowly avoiding relegation on the final day of last season, Hughes vowed that QPR would not find themselves in another fight for survival again under his leadership.
Those words have come back to haunt him and he admits their ambitions have changed.
"We're at a point in time where we need to understand where we are," Hughes said.
"We're not talking about a successful mid-table finish now because, given the manner of the performance against Southampton, we are in danger of going down.
"We have to recognise that, we have to get the right mentality to move us forward and maybe the right players.
"I take responsibility for that and, given the performance, I picked the wrong players [against Southampton]."
QPR fans were vocal in their anger during the defeat to Saints, chanting 'You're only here for the money' at the players.
While Hughes was quick to criticise his players' performance, he insists they remain committed to the cause.
"I can understand totally the frustration of the fans and they are well within their rights to say that," he said.
"I can assure them that is not the case. Everyone is working exceptionally hard to turn this around.
"Today we just didn't perform as a team. When you have a poor performance, the fans, given where we are, they are absolutely right to criticise." Football 365
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