While Hughes appears to be safe from the sack, despite a troubled start to the
campaign that leaves his team bottom of the
Tony Fernandes, the club’s owner, was bombarded with bile on Twitter after
this latest defeat, 3-2 at
Fernandes once again pledged his full support to Hughes and there are no plans to remove the manager this season, but this significantly revamped team needs to start working quickly.
Fernandes tweeted: “For all QPR fans. Fans who analyse properly. I am not changing anything. And all shareholders agree. No team except the first game has outplayed us. We need a consistent 4 defenders not changing every week esp left and right back. Mark is the right man.”
After signing 12 players over the summer, Hughes has always maintained that patience will be required and, certainly, in the opening half an hour at the Hawthorns they played like a bunch of strangers just plucked off the streets of Sandwell.
An improved second half did not eradicate the damage and a 17th away game without a win in the league is a damning statistic.
Ryan Nelsen, one of the new arrivals, suffered a particularly chastening afternoon but insisted fingers should be pointed at the players and not Hughes.
He said: “We’ve got to live up to expectations, it’s our livelihoods, we have to win games. It takes time to gel, injuries to players in key positions haven’t helped.
“The only real bright spot for us is that at least it’s happening now. There’s a long way to go yet but we know each and every one of us have got to be a lot better. We’re letting the manager down here.
“If you don’t win games that’s the pressure that managers and players are under. We just have to win matches. I think every player has let the manager down at some stage this season. That’s not good enough at this level. Mistakes cost you.”
It is difficult not to feel sympathy for West Bromwich Albion, for every time they claim three points the focus seems to be on the weaknesses of their opponents. Albion were irresistible in the first half, with goals from James Morrison and Zoltan Gera far from a fair reflection of their superiority.
But, inexplicably, they allowed Rangers a way back into the game through Adel Taarabt’s exquisite volley shortly before half-time and it was not until Youssouf Mulumbu’s goal five minutes from time that the home team eased the tension. Esteban Granero’s consolation goal in stoppage time at least enabled Hughes to escape with some credibility.
For his old Chelsea team-mate Steve Clarke, there is a growing sense that bettering last season’s finish under Roy Hodgson is more than achievable. Unlike QPR, Clarke’s players are thriving on knowing each other’s game inside out and defender Jonas Olsson, who signed a new four-year contract on Friday, believes the club should set their standards high after a fourth successive home win at the Hawthorns.
“Our squad is by far the best we’ve had in my four years here at least,” he said. “We finished 10th last year and you always want to push on.
“You always want to perform better, and I see that as a realistic target, but it is important not to look too far ahead, set targets along the way, first focusing on the 40-point mark.
“Last season we were up there fighting for it. We didn’t go all the way to the top eight last year but if we keep performing like this, who knows where the season could take us.”
If QPR keep performing like this, the only way is down for Hughes.