Tony Fernandes was forced to sack Mark Hughes by QPR board
Fernandes had fought to keep Hughes in his job but met strong opposition from Kamarudin Bin Meranun — who held talks with Hughes earlier this week — and Ruben Emir Gnanalingam. Amit Bhatia, the fourth QPR shareholder, is thought to have been less vociferous than the other two in trying to force Hughes out but agreed with the decision.
Fernandes was persuaded after Harry Redknapp, who took his seat in the Old Trafford directors’ box, set QPR a deadline of Saturday to make up their minds. Redknapp insisted that otherwise he would accept an offer to become the new coach of Ukraine.
That ultimatum, the pressure from supporters calling for a change, and a fear that QPR might fail to attract another high-calibre manager led to the decision. Redknapp has not yet signed his two-and-a-half year contract, thought to be worth around £3million a season with a seven-figure bonus should he manage to escape relegation.
He will not be given significant transfer funds to spend in the January window but will be allowed to recall Joey Barton from his loan spell at Marseilles should he wish.
Redknapp will push the club to make a renewed offer for Tottenham defender Michael Dawson but will be told to sell players to make the funds available. QPR failed to persuade Dawson to sign in August after agreeing a £9million deal with Spurs. The move broke down over personal terms.
“I don’t see us spending,” Redknapp said yesterday. “Twelve players were brought in in the summer so I think QPR have basically spent their money. You can’t keep spending.” He will, however, be able to push for loan deals and can try to move some players on. A new striker and central defender are his priorities.
The 65 year-old explained why he had accepted the post despite QPR being bottom of the Premier League. “I wanted to get back into football. It’s a big challenge but it’s Premier League football,” he said. “At the start of the week I was ready to take the job in Ukraine. I really fancied it. It was almost a done deal. I’ve not even signed my contract yet, it’s been a bit hectic.”
Redknapp is expected bring in his usual backroom staff of Kevin Bond and Joe Jordan but Hughes’ assistants Mark Bowen and Eddie Niedzwiecki, who took charge of the team yesterday, have not been told they are leaving.
Redknapp called on QPR’s underperforming squad to show more fight than in recent weeks. “The players have to be at it. The buck stops with them,” he said. “There are some good players here and they really need to step up and start performing.”
Fernandes stayed away from London this week while his fellow shareholders — most notably Kamarundin — held a series of meetings. Kamarundin was at Old Trafford with QPR chief executive Philip Beard, who had been the first to express concern with Hughes.
Hughes was summoned to meet Kamarundin at Loftus Road on Tuesday and was asked whether he could improve results. Although he was not given any reassurance, Hughes left the meeting believing he would be given more time.
Two meetings with the first-team squad followed to clear the air, the most recent on Thursday evening, only hours before Hughes was dismissed. Both meetings were constructive, with players accepting that they had underperformed but also that they needed more time.
Hughes had agreed to ditch Jose Bosingwa, Esteban Granero and Junior Hoilett from the team he would have selected for yesterday’s game and to reinstate some of the old guard of Jamie Mackie, Shaun Derry and Clint Hill, along with Nedum Onuoha. They are not better footballers but they are battle. With QPR in a scrap, Hughes had to concede that things needed to change, including his management. The QPR board, who complained about Hughes’ communication skills, feared that he might be unable to do that.
There is, however, a bewildered mood at the club. Hughes did not lose the dressing room. There was no player revolt. He could not be accused of failing to work hard enough, that his teams were underprepared or that the coaching was unprofessional. QPR have advanced hugely in the past few months, particularly away from the pitch, and that has mostly been down to Hughes.
All the necessary systems were in place, including medical expertise and scouting network, and he was overseeing impressive plans for a new training ground and new stadium.
It looked like Hughes had neglected the football but he had not. Much criticism has centred on his signings but the summer spending came in at less than £14million. half what Southampton spent. The wage bill rose significantly but some of the older players acquired were there only on a short-term basis and precisely because they could stave off the possibility of relegation.