Mark Hughes: The Most Deluded Man in Football?
It's not gone Sparky's way at QPR, as James Bruce notes...
A quick glance at Queens Park Rangers chairman Tony Fernandes' Twitter bio reveals that the internationally renowned entrepreneur describes himself as a dreamer.
Check his timeline and you will usually find him urging QPR supporters for patience, the message usually being Ã¢ÂÂkeep calm, we will come good.Ã¢ÂÂ
It will seem all too familiar to fans, who, with more than a quarter of the season played and still no wins, are left wondering when Fernandes will wake up and bring the nightmare reign of Mark Hughes to an end.
The problem with the influx of wealthy outsiders into the gameÃ¢ÂÂs highest positions is that they are not footballing men. They do not have the knowledge and understanding of the sport that past owners had, and rely heavily on advisers whose motives do not always match up with their own or those of the fans.
Despite spending the summer assembling a team of mercenaries akin to the latest Expendables blockbuster, Fernandes must be scratching his head wondering where it went wrong. On 19 November 2011, Neil Warnock's QPR won 3-2 at Stoke to go ninth in the table; on 10 November 2012, Stoke beat Hughes's side 1-0 Ã¢ÂÂ only the Potters' second win in 18 games Ã¢ÂÂ to leave QPR rock-bottom.
Fernandes is the latest in a line of foreign owners to be disappointed by Hughes, and it is hard not to feel a tinge of sympathy towards the Malaysian (as much sympathy as one can have for a multimillionaire).
I got your back: Fernandes and Hughes
Hughes spent an astonishing total of ÃÂ£272.75 million in just 18 months at Manchester City, failing to get anywhere near the best out of big name signings such as Emmanuel Adebayor (ÃÂ£25m), Carlos Tevez (ÃÂ£25.5m), Joleon Lescott (ÃÂ£22m), and Craig Bellamy (ÃÂ£14m); and wasting big money on flops such as Robinho (ÃÂ£32.5m), Jo (ÃÂ£18m), and Roque Santa Cruz (ÃÂ£17.5m). After a spell of just two wins in 11 league games he was sacked in December 2009. His replacement Roberto Mancini has since won the Premier League and FA Cup with many of the same players that Hughes had at his disposal.
In summer 2010, Fulham owner Mohammed al Fayed gave him another chance to manage a Europe-chasing Premier League club, but after less than 11 months Hughes repaid him by resigning. Heavily linked with the vacant Aston Villa job, Hughes stated: Ã¢ÂÂas a young, ambitious manager I wish to move on to further my experiencesÃ¢ÂÂ Ã¢ÂÂ leaving a bemused al Fayed to describe Hughes as Ã¢ÂÂa strange manÃ¢ÂÂ.
Fifty Shades of Grey Area: The loving touch wouldn't last
A year later Hughes was presiding over West London rivals QPR in a relegation dogfight, while Fulham finished in the top half of the table.
It wouldnÃ¢ÂÂt be the last statement to come back to haunt Hughes. After avoiding relegation in May 2012 by just one point he uttered the now infamous line Ã¢ÂÂWeÃ¢ÂÂll never be in this situation again while IÃ¢ÂÂm the managerÃ¢ÂÂ.
Indeed not, at the present rate. Already five points behind 17th-placed Aston Villa, QPR have gained just four points from 11 games; extrapolating that form over the season, they would finish on 14 points. Many QPR fans would now happily settle for a "situation" in which they achieve survival come next May.
Watching his post-match interview after being held at home by Reading two weekends ago, you'd think the Welshman's side had just come off the pitch at Old Trafford Ã¢ÂÂ not at home against a newly-promoted club who hadn't won a game all season and were recovering from a draining 120 minutes of midweek madness against Arsenal in which they had conceded seven goals.
Ã¢ÂÂTeams arenÃ¢ÂÂt going to allow us to play our expansive game and pass and move,Ã¢ÂÂ Hughes complained. Newsflash: no team will allow you to make them look like chumps. If you are unable to assert your style of play at home against one of the weakest sides in the division, perhaps it's not the right style of play, or perhaps you're in the wrong league.
"Stop TACKLING us!!"
Ã¢ÂÂThe key is that first win," insisted Hughes. "Once we get that, things will settle down and we can play our football.Ã¢ÂÂ This seems to suggest there is a benevolent PandoraÃ¢ÂÂs box just waiting to be opened at Loftus Road, and upon the reception of three whole points a dazzling new QPR will whizz up the table with Barcelona-style flair in possession and take their rightful place challenging for a Champions League spot.
For anybody still believing the fantasy that Hughes is a great footballing scholar, a Welsh Pep Guardiola: his rough-and-ready Blackburn side finished rock bottom of the disciplinary table all four seasons he was in charge; last season his captain was Joey Barton. He is by no means a purist. This is just the latest smokescreen to distract fans and Fernandes from unsatisfactory performances and results.
There have been arrogant managers before Hughes Ã¢ÂÂ great ones too, like Brian Clough and Jose Mourinho. They get away with it by coming across as charismatic, inspiring and likeable. Hughes is not in that league, in character or success: he has twice failed to get anywhere near the best out of two expensively assembled teams. His greatest achievement to date is leading Blackburn Rovers to the FA Cup semi-finals.
Fernandes certainly wants to believe the hype, confidently outlining plans last week for a new 45,000-capacity stadium stating Ã¢ÂÂif we are playing good football and have a good stadium, people will comeÃ¢ÂÂ.
It remains to be seen how long QPR remain at Loftus Road but Hughes, who turned 49 this month, surely wonÃ¢ÂÂt be there by the time he turns 50. The question is how many more dreamers like Fernandes will welcome the Welshman and leave their club at the whim of his unique blend of arrogance, overspending and dangerous delusions of grandeur.
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