Queens Park Rangers today sacked manager Mark Hughes after 10 months in charge, following 12 games without a win in the Premier League.
Amid supporters’ fury, rumours the Welshman had lost the dressing room and speculation that former Tottenham Hotspur boss Harry Redknapp was waiting in the wings, owner Tony Fernandes finally stopped backing his man.
There was nothing surprising about the announcement. Fans had been teased on Monday when it was widely quoted in the media that Hughes had been fired, yet the reports turned out to be incorrect.
Firing the manager one day before a match, no matter how low the expectations of coming away with anything but a battering from taking on Manchester United at Old Trafford, seems rather odd to begin with.
What is even stranger is that assistant manager Mark Bowen and first team coach Eddie Niedzwiecki, both of whom are loyal foot soldiers to Hughes, will take charge for the trip to Manchester.
It took around an hour for the media to be reporting that Redknapp was in talks with Rangers, with the added nugget of information that nobody else was having discussions with the club about the role, courtesy of certain “sources”.
Clearly what has happened is that the Rs took the decision to sack Hughes on Monday, sounded out Redknapp and possibly other candidates during the week, and then ushered the gaffer out of the door before he could do any more damage.
While supporters, who at best are fickle and at worst can be downright vicious, may now believe that the “worst is over” and it is safe to come out now, there still remains one huge, overriding problem at QPR that dismissing Hughes could not solve.
Too many players, who are earning far more than their performances deserve, simply do not care that the club they are employed by is on the brink of being relegated back to the Championship.
Against Southampton it was easy to divide the players on the pitch, whether they started the game or were introduced off the bench, into those that wanted to play for the club and those that had given up.
The latter group outnumbered the players with an ounce of decency and respect for the shirts on their backs by 11 to three. While the dressing room has been stuffed full of reputations, egos and false expectations, it has been drained of passion.
Men who fought tooth and nail to fulfil the dreams of fans such as myself, and return Rangers to the top flight, have been cast aside in favour of shameless mercenaries who fatally betrayed their manager.
Heidar Helguson and Matthew Connolly are now at Cardiff City, Shaun Derry was brought on to try and stem the flow against the Saints but, despite battling valiantly, has been frozen out for too long.
Paddy Kenny was shipped out to Leeds United so that not one but two big name players could be brought in, one ludicrously replacing the other almost immediately after he had made his debut for the club.
Hughes tried and failed to live up to his promises after the “great escape” last season. Despite believing that over a 13-year managerial career he has always left clubs in better shape than he found them in, this is not the case now.
Commenting on the end of Hughes’ tenure, the club applauded his “integrity and professionalism”. These are values that he was regrettably unable to instil in the players that were meant to lead the bright new dawn at Loftus Road.
Yet before we all start welling up now that Hughes is gone, and weeping at how despicably he was treated by so many of his own signings, we must not forget that the former Fulham manager was given £1million for keeping the Rs up last season.
If it is to be Redknapp, one lesson must be learnt from all of this: QPR cannot afford to make another expensive mistake. For one thing is certain – the media’s best friend does not come cheap.
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Originally published on Sky Sports on Friday November 23 2012.