Mark Hughes' scattergun approach leaves holes in Queen's Park Rangers' morale

The Weekend Dossier

For a team featuring five former Champions League finalists Queen's Park Rangers' results this season have been surprising. Mark Hughes' team have taken two points from 18, sit firmly in the relegation zone, and with their next three opponents being West Bromwich Albion (away), Everton (home) and Arsenal (away), could reach November still seeking a win.

Click here to see our graphic of the QPR squad since the were awarded promotion to the Premier League

Given the obvious quality in the squad their travails seems perplexing, but the answer is easy to find. Rangers have been dogged by chronic instability off the pitch for some years, though Neil Warnock still somehow managed to haul them back into the top flight 16 months ago. Since then the unrest has spread to the pitch.

When Stephane Mbia made his league debut during Monday's night's home defeat to West Ham he wore the No 40. It should have been 45, as that is how many players QPR have used in the 44 matches since returning to the top flight. The clubs promoted with them, Norwich and Swansea, have used 33 and 31 players respectively in that time. Newcastle United and West Bromwich Albion, promoted the previous season and still prospering, each used 37 players in their first two full seasons back in the top flight. Like QPR, all four clubs changed managers in this period.

QPR's scattergun selection process is partly explained by last year's takeover saga. When Tony Fernandes bought the club there was only a fortnight left to the end of the transfer window. Starved of funds by Bernie Ecclestone and Flavio Briatore, Warnock had been forced to strengthen his Championship-winning squad with free transfers and cast-offs such as Jay Bothroyd and Danny Gabbidon. An opening day 4-0 home defeat to Bolton highlighted the improbability of that squad surviving. When Fernandes took over Warnock signed who he could, bringing in players such as Joey Barton and Shaun Wright-Phillips. As his then-coach Keith Curle revealed in these pages yesterday, the need for haste meant they were not able to check out players' characters as thoroughly as they would like. Add the higher salaries of the new recruits and the seeds of dressing-room discontent had been sown. Nevertheless, Warnock kept the team outside the bottom three and went into January hoping to make a more measured dip into the transfer window. Instead Fernandes replaced him with Hughes.

Now the pick-and-mix selection policy went into overdrive. In the 24 matches under his command Hughes has deployed a staggering 35 players. Back in 1980-81 Aston Villa won the 42-match league title with 14.

Injuries have not helped, but every club suffers from them. Suspensions have been another problem, Samba Diakité's sending off on Monday was QPR's 10th red card since returning to the Premier League.

In attempting to upgrade a team that survived last season on goal difference, Hughes signed a dozen new players taking his spending to around £30m and pushing the wage bill to dangerous levels for a club with an average gate of 17,000, especially as few have much sell-on value.

Hughes has done his best to trim the squad with several players feeling forced out after being told to train with the youngsters and to report to the training ground at inconvenient times. Nevertheless, even with DJ Campbell becoming the fifth player loaned out yesterday he still has 28 senior players. And if the squad has been reduced the wage bill has not, as inherited players have demanded a measure of parity with new signings.

There are only 11 players in a team so even with pay rises and a busy treatment room there are a lot of disgruntled footballers at the club and the training ground is understood to be an unhappy place. Barton may be across the Channel but disruptive influences remain and some surprising names are said to be among the malcontents.

In the boardroom, with Fernandes and chief executive Phil Beard still learning about the football industry, the likes of Kia Joorabchian have had unusual influence. Since he is Hughes' adviser the manager still has time, but he needs results soon because Rangers simply cannot afford to be relegated. QPR have become, probably to Hughes' surprise, his most demanding challenge as a manager.

Rangers' medal men: Champions League

QPR's Champions League finalists:

Djibril Cissé (Liverpool, 2005), Park ji-Sung (Man Utd, 2009 & 2011), Julio Cesar (Internazionale, 2010), Fabio da Silva (Man United, 2011), Jose Bosingwa (Chelsea, 2012)

Five Asides

1. Who needs host countries for football tournaments?

Last year these pages considered printing a spoof April Fool story claiming the group stages of 2022 World Cup would be played in various countries around the world, with the teams only travelling to Qatar for the knock-out games to alleviate the effects of the heat. Now it appears the Uefa president, Michel Platini, (who infamously voted for Qatar) is set upon a similar structure for the 2020 European Championship. Football: too crazy to lampoon.

2. Harsh on Hodgson that conversation was leaked

One of the great things about London is that it is possible for such recognisable figures as Seb Coe, Roy Hodgson and Ken Livingstone to travel on the underground without being unduly pestered. What a pity some greedy co-traveller, unburdened by scruples, has cashed in on the England manager's preparedness to engage with the public. The subsequent coverage has done the newspaper trade no credit either.

3. Vacancy: Manager of club with loyal, clueless owners

It is hard to tell whether the Blackburn Rovers job is a good one, or a bad one. Clearly the people running Rovers, in India and Lancashire, have no idea what they are doing, but equally, their steadfastness to Steve Kean shows they are not the type to fire a manager as soon as the going gets tough. One thing is certain, there will be no shortage of applicants for a post which could easily be a ticket to the Premier League.

4. FA target coaches in latest money-making scheme

The Football Association are keen to promote their Licensed Coaches Club, an admirable idea which encourages grassroots coaches to keep up-to-date and makes it easier for clubs and schools to check qualifications. Some coaches, however, feel the £12-a-year club is a money-making venture and the £12 further charge for completing a mandatory online safeguarding children course every three years does nothing to dispel that notion.

5. Preston's pride is mocked by Risdale's presence

How can Preston North End retain Peter Ridsdale as chairman of football? Ridsdale, now on his fifth club in a variety of capacities, has been disqualified from being a company director for seven-and-a-half years. The Insolvency Service found £347,000 of fees went into a personal account instead of those of a company he ran which then went bust owing £440,000 in unpaid taxes? Apart from 'Proud' Preston's inability to see the shame of the situation there can hardly be a clearer case of someone who should fail the Football League's fit-and-proper person test.

Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
peopleDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Life and Style
Sony Computer Entertainment President and Group CEO Andrew House, executive in charge of Sony Network Entertainment, introduces PlayStation Now
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
tvReview: Top Gear team flee Patagonia as Christmas special reaches its climax in the style of Butch and Sundance
Ashley Barnes of Burnley scores their second goal
footballMan City vs Burnley match report
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca alongside Harrison Ford's Han Solo in 'Star Wars'
Arts and Entertainment
Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
Arts and Entertainment
Tracy Emin's 1998 piece 'My Bed' on display at Christie's
artOne expert claims she did not
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Arts and Entertainment
Catherine (Sarah Lancashire) in Happy Valley ((C) Red Productions/Ben Blackall)
Arts and Entertainment
Clueless? Locked-door mysteries are the ultimate manifestation of the cerebral detective story
booksAs a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Robin van Persie is blocked by Hugo Lloris
footballTottenham vs Manchester United match report
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?