In a move that sent hundreds of pre-match previews up in flames, Queens Park Rangers manager Mark Hughes was dismissed from his post after a run of 12 games without a win and with his team bottom of the Premier League.
Without any background or contextual information, the sacking is a black and white affair, something that few can have any complaints about.
If an individual employed to nurture players into a cohesive unit that is able to function effectively in the Premier League fails to do this once over a dozen matches, then he deserves to be fired for effectively breaching the terms of his contract.
Indeed, the only quibble appears to be why Hughes was given so many opportunities – for what conceivable reason owner Tony Fernandes kept backing his man as the defeats racked up and the team failed to turn up week after week.
Nobody at the club will miss Hughes. Being a former Chelsea striker, he was already on a hiding to nothing when he succeeded the popular Neil Warnock as manager.
His dour touchline demeanour, tendency to opt for excuses over explanations and failure to arrest a worrying slide into “away from home sickness” were bad enough.
Yet these, coupled with astronomical wages and a bemusing £1million survival pay-out did nothing to endear Hughes to what comedians would refer to as a “tough crowd”.
Having said all this, it is worth pointing out that whatever his flaws, Hughes did keep QPR in the Premier League last season. Albeit by a whisker and albeit by the ineptitude of Bolton Wanderers, he kept us up.
In the club’s statement on his dismissal, issued this morning, Hughes’ “integrity and professionalism” were praised, and I do not think many could query this.
Whatever his faults, I believe the Welshman came to the Rs not for a payday, but to make this club a little bit better than it was when he found it.
Regrettably, he has been unable to do so. At least around the time of Warnock’s departure, Rangers had a solid team spirit and were losing games because of a lack of ability, not effort.
Now the players that would lay down their proverbial lives to battle for the blue and white hoops have either been shipped out to other clubs or banished to the substitutes’ bench, or worse, the reserves.
Heidar Helguson is scoring goals for Cardiff City, while Matthew Connolly (remember him?) is also with the Bluebirds.
Direct replacements for these two have been Djibril Cissé, who has been given the rather dubious title of “the new Patrick Agyemang” for an incredible goal scoring run last season which has been followed by very little in the way of goals, shots, running or effort so far in 2012-13.
The other swap has been for Anton Ferdinand, who most Rs supporters would gladly never allow near the defence again, particularly after his shambolic display against West Bromwich Albion and deserved own goal in the defeat to Southampton.
If one were to write a managerial eulogy for Hughes, it would perhaps read thus: “Former Chelsea striker Mark Hughes managed in the space of ten months to save QPR from relegation and buoy the fans with hopes of a new dawn.
Yet he was ultimately hung by the men he brought in to usher the club into a fresh era: grand signings such as Ji-sung Park and Esteban Granero may have given the impression of a robust, forward-looking outfit, but below the surface the core was rotten.
Hughes’ promise that the Rs would ‘never be in this position again’ is now laughably used to refer to Rangers being three places lower than where they finished up last term, rock bottom of the Premier League.
In attempting to cast off the shackles of near-relegation obscurity and finally fulfil his ‘ambition’, Hughes alienated reliable individuals who had given their all and battled to get the club back in the top flight.
He traded passion for reputation, commitment for aloof stardom and fans’ favourites for what some would refer to as ‘Big Time Charlies’.
The wage bill soared, the expectations were turned up to 11, but the team has done nothing but fall ever since a dismal 5-0 thrashing by Swansea City turned out to be not an aberration, but a sign of what was to come.”
Timing-wise this decision shows that the board, despite being staffed with fresher, more PR-friendly faces, still knows very little about how to go about managerial departures.
Tomorrow Rangers face Manchester United at Old Trafford. Assistant manager Mark Bowen and first team coach Eddie Niedzwiecki will take charge of a group of players short on confidence, belief and riven by disagreements.
With Harry Redknapp the favourite to replace Hughes, another spending spree is likely to follow that which Fernandes and his gaffer undertook in good faith over the summer.
We can only hope that this time, players are brought in to live and die by how they perform, and play for the shirt on their backs: not simply sit around, flatter to deceive and pick up their extortionate salaries each week.
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Originally published on QPRnet on Friday November 23 2012.