Mark Hughes, QPR and the “a” word

The thing with Mark Hughes is that we don’t really know why he left Fulham. There were various comments after the event mentioning a lack of ambition, which loosely translated seemed to mean “Fulham wouldn’t pony up £15m for Pablo Osvaldo”.  Hughes had a ‘get out’ day in his contract and (out of nowhere, it seemed) used that clause to escape SW6. Presumably he thought he’d get the Aston Villa job, but (somewhat inexplicably) that went to Alex McLeish instead.

So while it’s fun to have a dig at Hughes I suspect in the cold light of day he had his reasons and wasn’t helped by the identity of his agent (although nobody held a gun to his head and forced him to work with Joorabchian), whose presence has the effect of lending Hughes the vague odour of shiftiness that makes him both hard to warm to and even hard to trust.

Few Fulham fans warmed to Mark Hughes, but we did, I think, respect him. He had a toughness, a ‘big time’ feel about him that said that people weren’t going to mess about with. While he was at Fulham, Fulham were a serious team. We don’t know the degree to which the players took over and ran the team – that was another rumour – but outwardly Hughes’ time here didn’t do him any harm.

Until he left us. At which point he had a problem. Having spouted all this gumph about ambition it became clear that there were few avenues for this ambition to be realised. Villa looked elsewhere, so did Chelsea (he was hoping for that, too, right?). He’s not getting Man City again, United might have been on the radar in the distant future (and may still be if he can put together a fairly staggering run of success between now and whenever SAF calls it a day), but Liverpool, Everton, Spurs… then before you know it you’re among Fulham’s direct rivals. Ambition? Maybe, but not very well thought through.

QPR are in that awkward position of having unproven wealth. Their chairman has talked a good game but the league is littered with wealthy owners who haven’t quite realised how much money they’re expected to waste in the name of competing. This is presumably what Hughes and Joorabchian have been assessing, “give us £30m or we’re not interested” being the supposed demand.

Good luck to them. We might want Rangers to implode but who can say that the Premier League has been poorer for their presence? That 6-0 victory goes straight into the Fulham vaults as one of our great afternoons. We won’t be able to do that again if they’re relegated.

An ideal situation would see Hughes come in, do a decent job (but not too decent) and allow us to enjoy some proper derby football for years to come. QPR *and* Mark Hughes?  It’d be immense fun! Let’s hope it happens.

61 thoughts on “Mark Hughes, QPR and the “a” word

  1. My initial reaction to this was a sort of ‘finally’ moment for Hughes. Perhaps he’s been busy behind the scenes working to get a job, but you cant show any ambition at all if you’re unemployed, right?
    I think they may suit each other. To me, nothing says ambition like 12 managers in 5 years and I think Hughes will relish the chance to climb, once more, to the lofty heights of mid-table safety.
    I’ll put my guess on the table now. If he is confirmed as manager, he’ll be gone before the start of the 2013/14 season. 18 months should give him enough time to convince everyone he hasn’t been turned into a total a-hole by Joorabchian.

  2. I dont really know what to think of Hughes. As you said, no-one really warmed to him at Fulham and he left us to try to get an upper mid table job that was not there.

    The underlying thing is the fact he ran away from rebuilding Fulham. In came Jol, and after a period of uncertainty we look like a new team with new life in it. Jol has transformed the way Fulham play to a far larger extent than Hughes ever did, and did so on a budget. Hughes was wanting to spend £18m on Osvaldo, which was obviously never going to happen.

    In the end, Fulham have come out stronger since our 1 year caretaker manager moved on. The squad is being rejuvenated and this will continue as we find a new direction.

    How will Hughes cope at QPR? On paper this is a sensible move which would seem to guarantee QPR’s survival, but these things are never straight forward. What if all the ego’s at the club get too much (Hughes, Kia, Barton, Taraabt, Fernandes)? What if the money never materialises? Early talk of Samba, Bent and Drogba seems laughable, so they could be the new Blackburn. Plus, Hughes does not have a second half of the season for which his team to improve.

    Fulham are sort of in a win-win position – If QPR stay up we get a fun local rivalry where they will never been bigger than us (unlike chelsea). If they go down, we can all laugh and point to the man with the ambition.

      1. For real. QPR missed out on tons of great history:

        – Ibsen publishes “A Doll’s House”
        – Edison demonstrates incandescent lighting to the public for the first time
        – California ratifies its state consitution
        – Various battles in the Anglo-Zulu war are fought

        – France annexes Tahiti
        – James Garfield wins the Presidency
        – The first successful shipment of frozen mutton from Australia arrives in London aboard the SS Strathleven.

        – End of the First Boer War
        – Kansas bans the sale of alcoholic beverages
        – James Garfield takes office in March, is shot by an assassin in July, and dies of an infected wound in September
        – Founding of Kinshasa, Newcastle FC, and Minto, North Dakota (pop. 604)

  3. Perverse football fan logic is pulling my poor brain asunder.

    I enjoy disliking QPR. I enjoy disliking Hughes. I want them to fail. Them failing together would be even funnier than the sum of their hilarious parts.

    But if they fail, the fun goes away because they’ll be in the Championship once again; out of sight, out of mind.

    Football fans are idiots.

  4. Hughes got you into Europe and left because you lacked ambition. His ambition is being matched by that of the QPR board and owners. Selling points will be survival in the prem which will be based on a significant transfer kitty, establish ourselves as a prem team and move to a new stadium along with a new training facility and youth academy.

    Fulham may flirt with Europe every now and again and have become a decent competitive prem team, but there is no doubt that your ambition is stifled by limited resources and a class of residents who will not allow you to develop craven cottage. At this moment in time, there are significantly different visions for the future at both our clubs and I sincerely believe that our vision is far more ambitious than Fulham’s.

    A final point… while playing against you is a derby, our rivals have always been, are and always will be Chelsea.

    Good luck for the rest of the season

    1. Yes but where do you fit on Chelsea’s list of priorities?

      Don’t get me wrong, we love playing against them, too, but *they* don’t see it as a big thing at all.

      Equally, good luck with your ambitions, but it’s all a bit far off isn’t it? Where in or around London are you going to put all that?

      PS we are extending to 30k. It’s not going to change the world but it’s not insignficant either.

      1. I don’t think we are Chelsea’s biggest priority, but I think we left our mark on them this season, just as you did to us. But they will get their chance to put that right, as we will with you!

        In terms of relocating… my understanding is that the new site for the training facilities and youth academy have been identified, and with regard to the new stadium, again my understanding is it will be in or around the developing area of white city.

        And you’re right, it is a bit far offish, but these ambitions and plans will bring our club into the 21st century and will enable any future investment to keep encouraging ambition.

        You can’t deny that things have changed at QPR and the future is looking brighter. I did think that Warnock’s sacking was harsh and I would have stuck with him to the end of the season, however I do see Hughes’s appointment as another step up for an ambitious club.

        1. Fair enough. Hopefully Fernandes has the money to put where his mouth is and this isn’t another Carson Yeung.

          Ultimately QPR are more or less on the same footing as us, Charlton, Watford probably. If you can get up, stay up and build all those things then like us you might be able to buck historical trends and stick around a while, but MAF has already dropped £200m plus to keep us at this level – if Fernandes going to do that? He has to, and more besides if he wants to go further than we have.

          Fulham’s recent form has been a best case scenario, the fruits of having the right manager at the right time and a chairman who’s prepared to lose money. A lot of things had to go right for us to get where we are today (which sounds grander than it’s meant to) and I honestly don’t know that it’s obviously replicable without really throwing the kitchen sink at the project. Again, can Fernandes do this? (Are the Mittals still involved? That, I suppose, would be a game changer).

          1. As far as I’m concerned, the worst case scenario would be that Tony Fernandes and Lakshmi Mittal invest in the team, new stadium, new training facilities and a new youth academy, and with that investment, increase the worth and value of the club and sell it on! That is the worth case scenario, and as far as I’m concerned that is not a bad case! (By the way, The Mittals own 38% and Fernandes 61%, so yes the Mittals are still involved! Lakshmi Mittals son in law; Amit Bhatia is our Vice Chairman and a QPR fan).

            They are business men and again as a worst case scenario, they could be treating this as a business venture, but just like our previous owners (Tango and Cash) who wrote off our debt and significantly increased the value and worth of our club, these business men will be looking to make a profit and that can only be matched by the ambition the club are showing. It’s very clear and obvious for everyone to see.

            Alex…. with regard “taking a lot more than £30m to turn you into an ‘ambitious’ team”, I do not believe that you do not see that as a stepping stone, and a clear statement of intent from an ambitious club. Let’s see what the transfer window brings in and where we are in May. From there, I think you along with all of us QPR fans will see more and more progress made at the club!

    2. I guess you just have to hope that Fernandes has the money to back the big statements and that Hughes will not run off at the first sign of a genuinely big job.

      Its going to take a lot more than £30m to turn you into an ‘ambitious’ team.

    1. I don’t understand that comment when your venture in Europe brought you some of Craven cottages finest and most memorable nights!

      1. The first European run was truly incredible, that is true. We enjoyed some incredible nights on the continent and at Craven Cottage, so doing it again in the right manner would be perfect.

        Unfortunately with Hughes we had the sense that it still wasn’t quite his team, nor Hodgson’s, so was only just starting to gel towards the end of the season and we didn’t want that disrupting pre-season with Europe.

        Combine that with the feeling we all had that Hughes was going to run away, as he did, and we did all we could to avoid European competition. We even got to say goodbye to Gera even earlier by getting him sent off.

  5. The problem QPR have got is that Hughes will sell his own granny to get the Spurs job next season when Harry takes on the national job by virtue of being the only English manager to win any major trophy.

      1. I was sat next to the Technical Area on Saturday against Charlton, and Chris Powell was in great form bantering with the Fulham fans. He came over well and enjoyed quite a few laughs with us, despite being a Manager for an opposing team! Not an easy thing to achieve I would imagine.

    1. I think Arry’s more focused on trying to stay out of jail than getting the England job. Doesn’t his tax evasion trial start soon?

  6. Sean, the memorable European nights were with Hodgson as manager, not Hughes.

    Interesting times for West London football – all three Prem clubs seeking to expand.

      1. no no no. Hodgson got us into Europe for the 08/09 season and we went all the way to the final.

        We got into Europe this season because of the fair play standings under Hughes (really under Hodgson – Hughes just didn’t ahve time to undo that side of our squad’s character). We had hughes for one season, half of which was awful, half fantastic.

          1. And as the story goes, we didn’t turn it around until the team (Hodgson’s men) had a sit down with Hughes and they had a nice chat about how they wanted to play. It was from that time the Whites started to really play again.

            In that sense, Hodgson drove us to that dance twice.

  7. QPR fan here,

    Must say that I’m looking forward to your visit to Loftus Rd.

    Have to admit that I’m as pleased as punch at the way things are going at Rangers. Hughes as manager, fantastic chairman, extremely wealthy and ambitious board, new training ground in Ealing (to be announced next month) and a proposed future move to a stadium in Shepherds Bush.

    In regards to Hughes wanting the Spurs job, Spurs won’t qualify for the Champions League and will end up selling their best players. Onwards and Upwards!!

  8. I hope MAF is steadfast in not selling any of our players to Hughes unless he pays way over the board. Any player that decides to leave for more money at QPR will permanently tarnish his Fulham legacy in my opinion.

    Also, everyone keeps saying Hughes got us into Europe. He had nothing to do with it.

  9. If the people in charge of Rangers really have a long-term `project’ (as appears to be the term for these things in football) then good for them if they deliver on it and false hopes and vanity-driven nonsense if they don’t. There’s been so much of the latter from so many owners all over the country in the modern era that scepticism has to be the default position. Most of us started that way with MAF too, so you never know.

    Failure to walk the talk will be evident within a few years, if applicable. However, delivery of a new stadium, a fanbase to fill it and team to encourage all those extra attendees will take very much longer, even if they pull out all the stops. Thus to experience the exciting future Hughes claims to be looking forward to, he will need to renew his contract way beyond 2.5 years. (Move the decimal point a place and subtract to taste. Not by much IMO.).

    The bloke may be a cold fish, but he’s a competent manager, and with his retinue and all, plus some cash to splash, stands a fair chance of meeting the immediate need. All the rest is to be taken with multiple pinches of salt.

  10. I think it was on the Guardian Podcast this week that said Hughes’ managerial record reads like a success story in reverse: National Side (Wales), Old Club, Big Success, Tiny Club, etc..

    All in all, it will be nice to meet and beat him again.

  11. What I find really fascinating is the amount of passion this appointment has stirred amongst Fulham fans. As far as I am concerned he has played a very small part in Fulham’s history, he was clearly unhappy at being at the club and was subsequently detached from the fans and the culture of the place. I think he did an ok job by the end of the season and left as he could not face the prospect of rebuilding a team/club which he felt he could only do by spending big money. Jol is starting to prove him wrong on that count. I don’t feel anything for him as a manager, I am just glad we are shot of him and his 9 coaches. I just didn’t trust him as a person.

  12. I still believe that Hughes never had a chance of managing Fulham this season. I believe that MAF had settled on Jol as his man the previous summer and, once Jol became free of his European entanglements, MAF refused to countenance Hughes’s efforts to spend so as to force him to leave. I don’t see Hughes’ leaving us as part of a great master plan for Hughes. I easily see where it was part of a great master plan for Al Fayed. Why? Because Jol was available for MAF, while no job was available for Hughes.

    It is interesting that “the players dictated our style of play” is one of the many “as the story goes” items. So is “18m quid for Osvaldo.” The supporters decide which of these “stories” to believe and, to a man — with one or two exceptions — the stories they believe are those that put Hughes in a bad light. I believe he did a good job with us — especially during the period where our two fit strikers were named Kamara and E. Johnson — and I believe we’d be doing better now with him in charge than we are with Jol, although I’m beginning to enjoy what Jol has put together.

    I think he’ll keep Rangers up this year. Of course, I thought Colin would keep them up as well — not because they’re so good, but because Norwich, Wigan, and Blackburn are so dire. It seems, however, that Hughes will be our 21st century Panto villain, while Roy Hodgson — who left us in the lurch at the 11th hour with an aging squad — will continue to be the hero. You just can’t measure the importance of waving to the supporters with a big smile from time to time.

    1. Goodness, talk about underselling Roy’s legacy? Do you remember 2007? What about Hamburg?

      (Also Norwich are doing really well this season)

    2. I wrote “as the story goes” because it is just that: a story. During his tenure (and even before) I was a big supporter of Sparky. I don’t think he’s a bad manager at all, I just don’t like the way he left. I think that’s what’s riling up fans so much… the guy who dissed us on the way out is joining up our derby rivals.

      Nobody knows what goes on behind closed doors, however I personally don’t believe that MAF cut him off to make room for Jol for this simple reason: why would Jol spend six months waiting around for FFC after leaving Ajax? Surely he didn’t just wait around because he loves London so much? But who knows, maybe that is what happened. Life is weird.

      I too think we’d be better under Sparky now but that’s only because he’d have a full summer transfer to play in and continuity is always better than a revolving door. I just hope we hold onto Shrek for as long as we can so we can start getting some regularity in our results again.

  13. Goodness, I don’t remember saying anything about what he did as manager, or his legacy — rather how he left us LATE in the summer. But your responses DO illustrate my part wonderfully. Roy will always be about Hamburg and the Great Escape and never about (a) leaving when he said he was quite happy and (b) poaching Konchesky when he said he wouldn’t raid our players. Just as Hughes will never be about us leading us to the second highest finish in our history, and doing so with much more attractive football. Similarly, Roy will never be slated for leaving us for more money, while Hughes will be slated for leaving us for six months of unemployment.

    This is down to the fact that the supporters found Roy loveable and fun and found Hughes arrogant and unlikeable — rather like panto casting, really.

    1. “It seems, however, that Hughes will be our 21st century Panto villain, while Roy Hodgson — who left us in the lurch at the 11th hour with an aging squad — will continue to be the hero. You just can’t measure the importance of waving to the supporters with a big smile from time to time.”

      How would you read that?

    2. Don, Roy joined Liverpool on July 1st. That’s hardly late: just ask Aston Villa fans about Martin O’Neill. What exacerbated our situation was the whole legalese stuff with Jol and Ajax.

      And considering what we got in return for PK, and his subsequent career, I’d hardly say he poached him.

      FWIW, if anyone can find the audio, I went on record on World Football Daily (remember that show? Sigh…) right after the Europa League Final in saying that Hodgson would leave us that summer.

      1. For the record, I’m sure Sir Roy will get a mixed reception when he makes his return later this half of the season. He hasn’t been back to the cottage for a league match since he left!

  14. Time is a great healer when it come to rejection and in the cold light of day, Mark Hughes, Fulham and the ‘a’ word seem to maybe make a bit more sense these days
    When looking back at his Man City experience, he was given the best job in football with a rough brief to spare no expense to create a club capable of competing with the cream of Europe. 

    This required not only engineering success on the pitch but also transforming a club in terms of squad, facilities, culture, etc – and clearly for a man of his ‘ambition’, not being around to see this through would have really stuck in the throat.
    Being someone who clearly sees himself as a self styled blend of director of football/manager and who likes to leave the day to day football activities to his management team – I’m can see why the ‘fit’ at Fulham maybe wasn’t there.

    As an established premiership club with a good squad, top class training ground & facilities and an established scouting and commercial set up – it is difficult to see how the broad remit of keeping the show on the road would have satisfied a man with ‘unfinished business’ (and given him something to while away those lonely hours pacing around the office in Motspur park)
    Whilst on the face of it QPR may not seem to be a step up in terms of challenge, there is clearly much more than six months of navel gazing at home waiting for a ‘top job’ at play here. 

    There is the challenge of consolidation of premiership status as well improvement required across the club (squad, facilities, ground, commercials, etc). 

    Also, in Tony Fernandez & the Mittals not only is there an immediate offer of significant new investment but potentially much more where that came from.

    If I was a QPR fan I’d be a bit concerned that Hughes is a slow burner rather than a tub thumper and they could soon find themselves in the Championship with the mother of all wage bills, but from the perspective of a less than concerned neighbour it should be fun to watch…

    And fingers crossed we are not in the same situation come next season (!)

  15. I just don’t have a strong reaction to Hughes joining QPR. He wasn’t Fulham, and I sort of feel like he is an ex- girlfriend that you are secretly glad decided to leave you before you had to break up with them for not being the right one- thus no true hard feelings when they end up with someone else.

    Hodgson, rightly or wrongly, felt Fulham, and there were so many narratives that make up our recent history: the great escape, the best finish, the amazing European run. I was gutted when he left. He still feels like “the one that got away”, there is a nostalgia for his time, although I am increasingly pleased with where we are going now.

  16. I would just like to add one thing. Hughes is the only man in the EPL who could handle having both Bellamy and Tevez on the same team. Not only that, he made them play brilliantly together.

    I still hope QPR go down though. Why? Because I just do.

  17. I think Fulham fans are a bit bemused at Sparky’s exit bemoaning ambition for him to turn up at a club which are, at best at the moment, on an equal standing to Fulham.
    I wonder if, had he still be in the job at Fulham, he would have countenanced going to Loftus Road?
    I feel a bit sorry for Warnock – always liked the moaning bastard. I wonder if Hughes will continue his MO of blaming the refs after every poor performance.

  18. Bad Andy, as you said the two clubs at the moment are on an equal footing. However, Rangers have owners with extremely deep pockets, it’s easy to see that QPR have the potential to move forward whilst Fulham stand still.

  19. It’s incredible to see that the appointment of Mark Hughes has generated such feeling and thought for you guys, but I do love the way some of you compare to a break up with a girlfriend! You do know that we have a bigger cock that MAF!

  20. In fact… I think I will try to generate that as a chant when you visit us at Loftus Road!
    “We got bigger cocks then you”

  21. The Evening Standard has Rangers’ Chief Exec. talking of a probable new training ground within a year and the possibility of a 30,000 capacity “mixed use” ground somewhere in the more distant future. Sounds sensible, and if we were in their position it might seem as exciting as it does to Sean and co.

    Fortunately we’re a tad more advanced, while most of the division, and many outside it, are considerably more so, meaning there’s a catchup required before domination of the borough even can occur. Once the stadium is specified, applied for, and built they’ll be able to get cracking on that mission.

    Until then, events on the pitch will need to keep the excitement going. Short-term prospects are good in that regard, since there’s nothing dull about a relegation battle! Once that is won, they can try to return UEFA Cup/Europa League football to Loftus Road for the first time since we tenanted.

    At that stage, Hughes will be back to where he was with Blackburn. No wonder he’s excited.

  22. Hoops – I didn’t say the two clubs were on an equal footing. I said ‘at best’ they are on an equal footing which means only taking the negatives about Fulham and the positives about QPR.
    Personally I think that given Fulham’s long stint in the Premier League, nicer ground and recent European cup final, that they are perceived by everyone outside of Shepherd’s Bush as being more prestigious than QPR. At the moment at least. But then I would.

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