“One of the things he looked for at the end of the season was to see if there
was an ambition for
Those words were spoken in June 2011. Sixteen months later and it is safe to say that the championships to which Joorabchian referred did not include the version which is sponsored by Npower and currently led by Cardiff City.
Yet, it is where Hughes and
Factor in the expenditure that has been made in recruiting 12 players since Hughes became manager in January and it was inevitable on Friday that, for the first time, his position should become a central theme of QPR’s pre-match press conference ahead of Saturday's trip to West Bromwich Albion.
Hughes predictably handled such questions head on with admirable steel and authority, but the career of a manager who was once regularly seen as a future incumbent at Manchester United or Chelsea is clearly approaching a crossroads. After 13 years in management spread across five different jobs, he can no longer be bracketed among the bright young managers of British football but rather as a seasoned campaigner with a varied – and largely impressive – body of work behind him.
With QPR bottom after six games, Hughes pointed to his past record, defensive injuries and the difficulties of quickly integrating so many new players. He also revealed that he had received support this week in conversations with Tony Fernandes, the club chairman and Amit Bhatia, the vice-chairman, whose family’s company owns 33 per cent of the club.
“We all understand that we are judged on results,” said Hughes. “We are six games into a very long season. We understand what is the requirement at the end of the season. I speak to Tony every week. I have great support, a great relationship with Tony and Amit.
“They understand what is required when you are building a club and a team. They have seen the massive changes we have made to the club in the short space of time we have been here. Not only in terms of personnel, but mentality. There is absolutely no chance of thinking we are too good to go down. At the moment, we are finding it difficult to get performances in line with results. Once we get a few more games under our belt, we will be fine.”
One especially salient point is Hughes’s experience both at
Michael Gray, who played under Hughes at Blackburn, says that it was a result of how hard they were worked in training, both physically and tactically. “I think invariably my teams have always been stronger in the second half of the season,” said Hughes. “That’s a consequence of the work we do on a daily basis. We are a team that builds, grows and evolves.
“I know how to set teams up to win Premier League games, I’ve done that in the past and I’ll do it in the future. We just need a bit of continuity in terms of selection and performance. Once you get a bit of momentum, we will build our season and have a good season.”
A major question mark, however, still relates to the wisdom of QPR’s player recruitment strategy. It has prioritised experience and, while the expenditure on transfer fees might have been relatively moderate, the wage bill has been delivering very limited value for money.
Hughes’s tenure at Manchester City, where he oversaw spending of more than £200 million but only a marginal improvement in results before being sacked, could be considered comparable. The City experience, though, will stand him in good stead for the criticism and scrutiny that will follow if QPR do not move up the table.
“I was at Man City for 18 months and I had pressure every day there, everybody was questioning whether I was going to have a job the next day,” said Hughes. “I’ve had six days of it here. I’m sure I can cope. We will get performances and results. Long-term, I will take this club forward.”