Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Thoughts on Mark Hughes

When you have two teams in early November who have not yet won a League game play each other, you think one side will take the bull by the horns and win the game given the opposition is as bad as you have been.

Watching the QPR game on Sunday afternoon however, you had two sides who have forgotten how to win a game.  Not without trying though, Reading were given a 4 goal head start against Arsenal during a League Cup tie and yet they failed to see the game out losing 7-5 in extra time.

Yet Reading have played some good stuff, they are full of tenacious individuals who you feel would throw themselves under the bus for Brian McDermott, who is not in a position of untenable pressure.  The expectations at Reading are more realistic than the tenants of Loftus Road.

For some reason, the owner of QPR, Tony Fernandes believes that the Hoops can be the next big noise in London and on a European stage.  Yet this is a side who four years ago were in the Championship - sacking managers left right and centre and until Neil Warnock was employed did the side get the much needed stability and eventual Championship title triumph resulting in a return to the Premier League.

In the first season back QPR suffered with these expectations, Warnock was deemed to be surplus to requirements.  Adel Taarabt who was talismanic during the the title campaign, was found out by Premier League's better defences and his own attitude problems did not help.

Now QPR have had a revolving door policy to talent, if we can find someone who is available and on paper you will be replaced.  Robert Green left West Ham hoping for a more lucrative contract, which he was given, yet is now warming the bench due to the signing of Julio Cesar from Inter Milan.  Tough choice to pick between a Champions League winner or an England international flop, although Cesar has been anything but solid lately, twice flapping at crosses/shots that led to conceding crucial goals.

However, for me the problem stems with the management.  Mark Hughes is the atypical mercenary manager, he has never stuck out a job.  His longest job was his first, when he managed Wales during 1999-2004 and nearly led them to qualifying for a major tournament for the first time since 1958 when he managed such talent as Ryan Giggs, Craig Bellamy, Robbie Savage yet he did not see them through.

Next was Blackburn Rovers where he led them to their best Premier League finish of 7th in 2007-08 (a position they have never returned to), and yet here was the first inklings of people's impression of Hughes changing. Every season he was in charge at Ewood Park, Rovers finished bottom of the fair play league.  A position QPR are sitting in now, as they have a player sent off every other game.  The red card away at Arsenal cost them a point, although Hughes is always quick to blame the referee.  When neutral observers would state that when you are bottom the rub of the green is never there for you.

Hughes left Blackburn for Manchester City during the summer of 2008 and was in charge until December 2009, when he was sacked for Roberto Mancini.  Hughes was in place when the money from the Saudis arrived and he signed players who are very much the spine of Mancini's side - Gareth Barry, Carlos Tevez, Joleon Lescott and he made the decision to start Joe Hart over Shay Given.  So perhaps the most influence Hughes has had is over another side to this day.

Next he joined Fulham in July 2010 after seven months of unemployment, he left Fulham after just one season although he gained them European qualification saying he wanted to further his experience. This upset Mohammed Al-Fayed, who judged Hughes to be a flop and a strange man.

The judgement of Hughes' managerial style is the same accusation that was levelled at Glenn Hoddle, a brilliantly gifted footballing individual capable of anything on the football field in terms of skill and invention; yet he is unable to shepherd similar youthful talent.  Remember QPR were very nearly relegated at the end of last season, even though they were sitting somewhat comfortably when Hughes replaced Warnock in January of this year.

The inability to communicate with players leads to a manager signing too many players, unable to get consistency in terms of selection and performance from his side.  You can imagine Hughes becoming bullish and frustrated with his players who are unable to fulfil the simplest tasks, remember the stories of Hoddle showing off his ability to pinpoint passes of 60 yards onto someone's toe or scoring ridiculous free-kicks.

Hughes own personal ability and ambition has never been in doubt, yet his unique way of communicating or lack thereof renders his head definitely on the block and probably two or three games away from the billionaire owner losing his patience and getting a better, more high profile manager in.  Hughes joined QPR because the money was good, and the players would sign for big pay cheques.  Maybe he is learning that it is hard to motivate lesser than good players who are being paid handsomely.

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