by Rollercoaster Ranger

However much Tony Fernandes publicly states that he is backing the man he has entrusted with the task of building Q.P.R. into a strong Premier League club he must be having doubts. If he is brave enough to read any of the forums he will be left in no doubt that the majority of the club’s supporters are desperately worried and far fewer have any confidence in Mark Hughes’ ability to arrest our slide.

When Hughes arrived at Q.P.R. in January this year we were undoubtedly slipping towards relegation. With the aid of some inspired signings, such as Djibril Cisse, and with the long awaited first indications that Adel Taarabt was acclimatising to the Premier League we eventually embarked on a five home match winning run and, in the process, survived an incredibly tough series of fixtures to stave off relegation. Hughes had successfully achieved his initial target and was granted free rein to not only overhaul the playing staff but to also to rejuvenate the youth policy and to establish a scouting network, something that had been criminally lacking for many years.

Every Q.P.R. supporter knew that defence was a number one priority over the summer; Hughes, it appears, did not agree. The signing of New Zealand’s ageing captain did nothing to alleviate the need for some top quality defenders and only the most optimistic among us saw replacing Paddy Kenny with the equally suspect Rob Green as progress. Hughes then concentrated on strengthening the midfield and attack. The eventual signing of Bosingwa, once the season had started, seemed to be an afterthought, Mbia a stipulation for Marseille relieving us of Joey Barton for a season and Julio Cesar an incredible piece of luck. At his previous clubs Hughes had marked his presence by signing an imposing defender, i.e. Samba at Blackburn and Kompany at Manchester City, much as I respect what Ryan Nelson has done for us so far this season he is not in that class. This negligence came back to haunt him very quickly when we stumbled into a defensive injury crisis.

I cannot state with absolute assurance that our defensive frailties have definitely influenced his midfield selections, but his predilection towards wide players whose primary attributes are tracking back and shielding our full backs rather than marauding through the opposition make this very, very likely. It is not untypical of a football manager to attempt to shore up his defence first, Hughes missed a major opportunity here. He had the whole of the summer to address this glaring problem, backed by the most enthusiastic and understanding chairman he could possibly wish to have, but he failed.

Curiously the home defeat by West Ham may just save Hughes’ job and us from relegation. Two goals down and offering no goal scoring threat, Hughes was forced into making a change. The totally ineffective wide men were removed from play and our most creative attacking player introduced. Taarabt immediately gave our ponderous, sluggish attacks some impetus. It wasn’t just that he scored a fantastic goal, but his passing was incisive and his vision sharp; he simply looked menacing every time he had the ball. Such was Taarabt’s influence on the match, Hughes was forced to pick him for the next match where again he showed more than a few flashed of brilliance and scored another  magnificent goal. Regrettably our lack of a Premier League standard left back was ruthlessly exploited by West Brom, along with Ferdinand’s hopeless lack of concentration.

This international break has come at exactly the right time for Hughes. He must use this time to re-evaluate his team selections. His attempts to shore up our defence by neutering our attack have failed. Regardless of how many defenders we play we are simply not good enough to keep out any Premier League attack for 90 minutes. The wide men he is picking for their defensive outlook and work rate are failing to provide protection and are not offering any attacking threat. In Julio Cesar we have a goal keeper capable of pulling off stunning saves. At times our woeful defending will leave him stranded, but we must trust in him and commit to attack. Hughes must have seen the attacking potency offered by Adel Taarabt, a threat that could be enhanced by Hoilett on the other flank, he must rethink his strategy.

I’ve never liked Mark Hughes. I fear that Q.P.R. is just a port of convenience for him, not a destination. I’m very passionate about my club and I want the manager and players to be but I don’t see any passion in his eyes or hear any in his voice. I hate the way he noisily sucks in air through his teeth when he is speaking. Everything about him leaves me very cold. That, of course, is my problem not his, but if he is not going to be passionate then he needs to be tactically astute; so far there has been absolutely no sign of this.

Regardless of my personal feelings towards him, I’ve been in the Hughes to stay camp. Tony Fernandes has invested too much in him to jettison him lightly, but this now appears to be the only major argument in his favour, however  relegation from the Premier League would cost a lot more. Yes he has brought some fantastic players to our club and yes we have seen some flashes of good football this season, but overall we’ve looked inept, disorganised and, at times, disinterested. If I am to remain supporting Hughes he MUST demonstrate that he is learning from what we can all see.

Tony Fernandes, regardless of what he publicly says, is facing a serious dilemma over Mark Hughes. Even if they completely share a vision for the future can he sit and watch while Q.P.R. get relegated? Will the other investors accept this? I strongly doubt that. So how long can Fernandes afford to give Hughes to improve results? To avoid another panic stricken transfer window a new manager should be installed in time for him to review the current squad before January, so any decision to replace Hughes would sensibly be made by mid November. That is only 5 matches away but does include home matches against Reading and Southampton; those two matches may well hold the key to Hughes’ career as Q.P.R. manager. Over 2,000 years ago in Rome, Marcus Cicero, one of their greatest consuls and orators, declared that “Any man can make mistakes, but only an idiot persists in his error”. His comment is as valid now as it was then. Well Mark Hughes, Taarabt has shown you your error, please don’t show yourself to be an idiot.