- 45 Years Ago Today: Gerry Francis Makes his Loftus Road Debut (coming on as a sub)
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- Tony Fernandes Talks re QPR (10 Minutes Video/Audio)
- The New QPR 27 Million Pound Loan - Report & Club Explanation
- Past QPR vs Blackpool - Photos, Reports, Video
- 11 Years ago Today Flashback: Richard Langley Hatrick (away To Backpool!)
- 45 Years Ago Today: Gerry Francis Makes his Loftus Road Debut (coming on as a sub)
- Year ago: Diary of a depressed, discombobulated QPR fan! And where’s the player of the year dinner?
- Note Massive gap between the handful of Twitter Leading Club (QPR have the best in the Championship
- QPR Kits Over the Years
DANNY SHITTU WARNS
Get West London - Former QPR favourite fires play-off warning
With Rangers 10 points behind second-placed Burnley with just eight games to go, it looks increasingly likely Harry Redknapp’s men will have to settle for a place in the end-of-season lottery.
And Millwall defender Shittu, who was part of the Rs team which lost the Division Two play-off final against Cardiff at the Millennium Stadium, says there is nothing worse than losing a game with so much significance riding on it.
He recalled: “I remember that game at Cardiff like it was yesterday. It was a game we went into full of confidence, so that extra-time winner really cut us up bad. It was a career low point that’s for sure.
“If QPR want to get promoted this time around their big-name players have to step up to the plate, be that in order to achieve promotion automatically or through the play-offs, because believe me they don’t want to go through what me and my team-mates did all those years ago if they got to the final and lost.”
The 33-year-old has happier memories of the play-offs with Blackpool, another of his former sides, who the Rs face in W12 this afternoon.
After impressing on a short-term loan spell at Bloomfield Road, Shittu became an integral part of Steve McMahon’s side, who eventually gained promotion to Division Two following a 4-2 final win over Leyton Orient.
However, it was a bittersweet moment for the towering centre-half as he was ineligible for the 2001 final, although he admits he was just happy the Tangerines were promoted.
He added: “I remember speaking to Alan Curbishley (then Charlton manager) a few weeks earlier to see if we could work something out but unfortunately it wasn’t to be.
"It was obviously really disappointing that I didn’t get to play in the final but at the end of the day we won, which was the most important thing.
“I had a fantastic time at Blackpool and I can't ever stop thanking everyone at the club for what they did for me.
"I certainly wouldn’t have made the step-up and gone and signed for QPR if it wasn’t for my spell there."
Shittu's current employers could do with some of his experience and fighting spirit as they find themselves embroiled in a relegation dogfight, three points shy of fourth-bottom Charlton but having played three games more.
But the Nigerian will play no further part this campaign after effectively being ruled out for the season with an Achilles injury. Time will tell how critical a blow that will be to the Lions' survival hopes. Get West London
MARK HUGHES - THE TELEGRAPH
Mark Hughes: Please don’t judge me on 12 games at QPR
Stoke City manager Mark Hughes says that other people can decide if he has restored his good name by his impressive work in the Potteries after being sacked at Loftus Road
Hughes has every reason to feel more content in the Potteries, given that Stoke chairman Peter Coates, who appointed him last summer, lives locally and has been a fan of the club from the cradle. Quite a contrast, then, to QPR owner Tony Fernandes, who divided his attentions at QPR with his business interests in Kuala Lumpur. “I have been taken aback by the warmth of feeling at Stoke,” Hughes admits. “Subconsciously, you sense perhaps that some people are expecting you to fail. I have never had that this season. Stoke are a stable club who understand that there are peaks and troughs in football, that you can lose games even if you do everything correctly.”
While Hughes’s accomplishments at Blackburn, whom he led to three successive top-10 finishes, would withstand the sternest scrutiny, there is a suspicion that he is still downplaying the extent of the QPR aberration. He can point to the foolishness of Fernandes in lavishing an absurd salary upon Jose Bosingwa, but the bald truth is that this most fastidious of managers – one who takes pride in his nuanced knowledge of nutrition and sport science – left QPR a basket-case of a club. Take an excerpt from the memoir by his successor, Harry Redknapp, in which the attitude of first-team players is portrayed as “arrogant and contemptuous” and where a “culture of decay” is said to have taken root.
He sighs at the reminder, acknowledging: “Maybe I spread myself too thinly.” Asked for extra detail, he explains: “An awful lot of things weren’t in place at QPR. The training ground wasn’t ready and we were trying to address that – we needed to create the right environment. But if you become too wrapped up in all of that you can lose a grip on your players and what they are doing on the pitch. I suppose I was being dragged into areas where I needn’t have bothered.”
Plainly, Hughes is embarrassed by this chapter of his work. By turns wary, brittle and circumspect when his QPR failures are raised, it appears he would far rather dwell upon his recent rehabilitation. On the surface, his methods at Stoke have evolved little: he has retained fellow Welshman Mark Bowen as his ever-present deputy, and sources close to him confirm that the 50-year-old has lost none of his passion for vast screeds of ProZone data. But results, as underlined by a sequence of only one defeat in eight, have been emphatically revived.
Hughes risked derision when he declared that he would bring a more dynamic, progressive brand of football to the Britannia Stadium, but he has since found himself vindicated. “To begin with we were probably overdoing the passing game, but Odemwingie has given us a little more of a cutting edge,” he says. “We used to find it difficult to dominate games, but now we carry a proper threat. We can be more direct, more quickly, but still have the capacity to retain possession. The balance is where it needs to be.”
He defends his forensic approach, and his indulgence in such coach-speak as “key performance indicators”, arguing that the “only reason I go into that is because I believe it can make a difference in the Premier League. Here it is about fine margins. You need to understand that or you’re not doing the best by your team”.
Attempts to elicit what key texts might feature in his private library, or whether he searches beyond sport for his inspiration, prove fruitless but Hughes does offer his own intriguing slant on leadership. “I probably have hundreds of books that I never read, but I just pick key sections from them to use in the role I have. I wouldn’t say I am one for Churchillian speeches, but they can be interesting to study.”
Hughes is uneasy about any intimation of criticism of his predecessor Pulis, but he realises that any depiction of Stoke as one-dimensional, long-ball brutes has been rendered redundant under his tutelage. “I was always impressed by the technical ability of these players – that’s why I felt that we could be a little different, that they could achieve more. We haven’t spent much money, though. Of the bottom 10 clubs this season, eight have smashed their transfer records, but we haven’t been anywhere near ours. We have paid only £5 million on two players [Odemwingie and Marko Arnautovic]. We have changed, and yet we have kept the qualities of the best Stoke teams, being difficult to beat and to break down. We have just added more strings to our bow.”
For all his scrupulousness as a manager, not to mention his gifts as a player for Manchester United, Barcelona and Bayern Munich, Hughes does continue to make some peculiar decisions. It is odd in the eyes of many that a man of considerable erudition would, for example, keep Kia Joorabchian as his representative, aware of the agent’s controversial past and accusations that he was influencing player contracts at QPR. “Kia’s just a friend and an adviser,” he says, bristling slightly. “He hasn’t been involved at Stoke, he’s just a guy whose company I like.”
Hughes can be acutely conscious of his public image. So as for whether he has restored his good name in the wake of the QPR debacle, he resists sounding too triumphalist. “I was quite prepared to allow others to take a view on it,” he concludes. “I kept my own counsel and waited for the opportunity to change people’s minds about my abilities. At Stoke, I’m allowed to work how I want. All I hope is that people will now see I’m not too bad at what I do.”