Queen’s Park Rangers were far from convincing in the Premier League last season. Neil Warnock, having achieved his seventh promotion of his career – his third to the top-flight of English football, failed to create a united front at the club with the mass of signings following promotion hindering any momentum the club had built up during their raucous promotion-winning campaign in the Championship. The signings of players in the ilk of Joey Barton and Shaun Wright-Phillips didn’t help his cause either: come January, Warnock’s days were numbered and over the space of three days club chairman Tony Fernandes, who had bought the majority share in the club at the beginning of the season, had fired his man and hired a new one – Mark Hughes.
During Otto Rehhagel’s memorable reign as the manager of Greece, guiding them to the final of Euro 2004 and beating the hosts Portugal, he said this: “I want to make one philosophical statement, please write it down: man needs nothing more than other people.” Mark Hughes certainly utilises his “other people” and when he arrived at Loftus Road, he was soon followed by familiar faces: Nedum Onuoha and Bobby Zamora. Hughes had managed the two at Manchester City & Fulham respectively: their signings was Hughes quickly establishing a presence on the pitch, in the form of trusted players familiar with Hughes’ style, as well as off of it. Arguably, it paid off. Whilst their was no change in QPR’s position from when Hughes replaced Warnock to when the season finished – 17th – it is more than likely that QPR would’ve continued to helplessly spiral if Warnock was not sacked.
If their was a notable difference between the two managerial performances it was the cohesion of the players’ performances: under Warnock it would often seem that individuals were playing football under the identity of a team, whilst under Hughes that identity grew and cohesion developed. Adel Taarabt under Warnock was the favourite child that could misbehave – and did – and still play: Hughes happily dropped him for a few games for the greater good – it led to the Moroccan improving in the tail end of the season.
Still, QPR survived by the skin of their teeth. They had the worst away record in the league and conceded, on average, after just 26 minutes on the road. Yet, Blackburn, Bolton and Wolves all did worse and unfortunately for Hughes’ old mentor, even a last minute defeat on the final day of the season couldn’t drag QPR down.
Mark Hughes has used preseason to do what he does best: buy, give or take a few, the same players, or same type of player, using the same criterion. Since the season ended, QPR have made seven signings. Perhaps of more note, volume-wise, they have released 12 players – 2 of which played 35 games between them in QPR’s leaky defence – and have sold another two: last season’s #1 Paddy Kenny and their top-scorer Heidar Helguson. It’s a full-on transition, happening very quickly. Even last season’s captain Joey Barton has spent preseason elsewhere, namely Fleetwood Town on loan.