Divisions between QPR players made demise
of Mark Hughes inevitable
With wages greater than turnover, relegation would be catastrophic
Mark Hughes was preparing to take training at QPR’s Harlington training ground this morning when there was a knock on the door.
When it opened, to reveal chief executive Phil Beard and Kamarundin Bin Meranun, a significant shareholder, the Welshman knew his time was up.
It was a shock. Despite the growing speculation over his future, and the changing tone of chairman Tony Fernandes’s tweets, Hughes anticipated taking his team to Old Trafford today. Reports that he had been asked to resign this week and refused are wrong. But for the club’s powerbrokers last week’s home defeat to Southampton was the final straw.
Since Fernandes took over in August 2011, QPR’s wage bill has mushroomed to levels that are unsustainable outside the top flight and hard to finance inside it. In the immediate aftermath of his buying out Flavio Briatore and Bernie Ecclestone, wages of £60-70,000 a week were agreed to persuade players such as Joey Barton and Shaun Wright-Phillips to join a newly-promoted club. Another wave was sanctioned in January including Bobby Zamora and Djibril Cissé for a combined £9m. In the summer he invested again, taking Hughes’s net transfer spending to £23m with a wage bill to match after players including Adel Taarabt were given new contracts.
With Loftus Road holding less than 19,000, wages may well be in excess of 100 per cent of turnover. Relegation would thus be catastrophic; survival would provide access to TV income expected to be worth £5bn to the Premier League next year.
Hughes took over in January after Kia Joorabchian, his adviser, made contact with Fernandes, originally to negotiate the proposed transfer of another client, Chelsea’s Alex, for then-manager Neil Warnock. QPR failed to land Alex, but did bring in Hughes, who had been out of work since leaving Fulham seven months earlier.
He inherited a split dressing-room with members of the Championship-winning team resenting the salaries being paid to the newcomers, especially as some did not seem to be earning them. It was so divided one of the players warned Hughes early on it was “the worst he had ever experienced”. Nevertheless, Warnock had managed to stay outside the relegation zone; Hughes maintained that status, just, surviving on the final day after Bolton let slip a winning position at Stoke.
Hughes promised the club would not struggle again and spent heavily in the summer, but that only added to the dressing-room factions despite several players, notably Barton, being forced out. Also breeding discontent were the antiquated training facilities – owned by Imperial College and still used by students. Hughes and his staff, having been at Manchester City, were shocked and regarded them as “30 years out of date”. On one pitch the floodlights even face the wrong way.
The tense atmosphere was reflected in performances. The season began with a dire 5-0 home defeat to Swansea City after which Hughes, in an act of panic or decisiveness depending on interpretation, dropped Rob Green for another new signing, Julio Cesar.
Training-ground disputes continued, with the fractious mood betrayed by a surfeit of red cards – nine so far in 2012. Hughes felt his marquee signing Ji-Sung Park, wanted for his experience and Fernandes for his marketing potential, had performed poorly, but the captain was not alone; Hughes used 35 players in his first 24 matches, but whatever the combination results did not improve. Finally, Fernandes, who had been supportive in a one-hour conference call just a week ago, felt he had to act.
Latest in Sport
Mario Balotelli to Liverpool: The best memes as the internet reacts to imminent £16m transfer
Sami Khedira to Arsenal? Arsene Wenger reveals the Gunners are still in the market for defensive midfielder
Paul Scholes: Manchester United need five experienced players who can turn round a desperate situation
Manchester United transfer news: Louis van Gaal tried and failed to sign German stars Thomas Muller and Marco Reus this summer
Tracey Emin: My Life In A Column
- 1 Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
- 2 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
- 3 A third of employers never check job applicants' qualifications, survey finds
- 4 James Foley beheading: Fox news presenter Megyn Kelly annoyed by Ferguson update during broadcast about murdered journalist
- 5 Paul Scholes: Manchester United need five experienced players who can turn round a desperate situation
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Crisis? What crisis? A visiting US doctor gives the NHS a rave review
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Scottish Independence Referendum: Salmond described as 'arrogant, ambitious and dishonest' by Scottish women