A View From The Stands
Rather understandably I have been left disappointed by the start of this Premier League season, and while being an advocate of Mark Hughes previously, I am now of the opinion that his time has manager should come to an end.
When Hughes took the helm at Loftus Road it was under a degree of controversy, given the swift dismissal of Neil Warnock, by chairman Tony Fernandes. While I am a firm advocate of what Warnock did for Queens Park Rangers, I think this decision was required to further our bid for safety - even if the manner of his departure somewhat left a bitter taste.
The performances were steadily declining, culminating in a disastrous display against Milton Keynes Dons - to his credit Heidar Helguson came off the bench to display more effort than his colleagues combined to salvage a replay for the beleaguered Premier League side.
The second reason was also justifiable in his departure, his inability to attract the right calibre of player to the football club. Bobby Zamora and Nedum Onuoha had been linked for a prolonged period with little success in persuading them - upon Hughes` appointment they were straight in the door.
That extra pulling power to snare the likes of Djibril Cissé, Samba Diakité and several others saved us that season, where Warnock`s charges were running out of ideas and in truth faith in their boss judging by performances leading into the Milton Keynes debacle.
After a quite frankly ridiculous roller coaster ride at the Etihad Stadium, Hughes ironically vowed that his club would not become embroiled again. A self-confidence that is often construed as egotistical clap-trap further prompted disdain from those in favour of Warnock/ in disapproval of Hughes.
Very few criticised the summer captures, if a little light on the defensive side. It seemed experienced had arrived in the guise of Ryan Nelsen, Andrew Johnson and Park Ji Sung, and exciting prospects in Esteban Granero and Junior Hoilett to compliment an improving squad.
In truth Rangers only lost Taye Taiwo and Paddy Kenny - nothing too earth-shattering and replaced them with an improving Armand Traoré, some who would say was better than Taiwo if a little injury prone, and a world-class 'keeper in Julio Cesar. Few complaints there and some form surely to build on.
Cue day one in the Premier League, tempered expectancy but expectancy nevertheless against a Swansea City side that finished the season in tepid fashion under the guidance of a new boss in Michael Laudrup - who had not had staggering success in his managerial career to date, rather in stark contrast to a glittering playing career.
BOSH - a result that would knock everyone for six. Dusted off as a freak result, this was rather the sign of things to come in terms of expectancy not being met and issues from the very opening day not being addressed and allowed to fester.
Hughes contends that Rangers have had a couple of blips in the season - I would contend that those blips have been the positives themselves. A good point against Chelsea and in isolation some good football - but the reality that Rangers were in the bottom three without a win was going straight over the heads of many within the club.
It`s not just myth or superstition that has blighted QPR, 'getting the monkey off their back` - it seemed that noises within the club was after that win everything would be hunky dory - which as we know is no way to approach the Premier League, especially when placed so precariously over the trap door.
Games came and went, showing up for 15 minutes at a time and then wilting and crumbling easier than a mid-table team at the end of a campaign. Some would say that players are often looking to the beaches, our players have seemingly not returned from them as yet.
Speaking frankly, I saw enough from our side to suggest they were fighting for Hughes, they wanted to repay faith shown in them as talent and the first win - albeit not keeping us afloat alone would prompt a bit more self-confidence and at least help the players.
The delusional nature of the post match press conference at Stoke had me more worried than ever about the direction in which things were moving. Granero, a talented Spaniard, had clearly lost heart in the encounter being forced out wide and three years after signing Adel Taarabt continued to carry the football club.
Stoke scored with the simplest of chances created by more defensive indiscipline and inability to defend a set-piece. That far post set-piece could be true of just about every goal QPR have conceded this season, causing more worry and raising more questions about what is actually done in training. Apparently I wasn`t wearing my spectacles that day, because we dominated and deserved more.
At Stoke the flame that had burned for Hughes within the squad was flickering, and it was altogether extinguished against Southampton to my mind. The squad looks as flat as I have seen it in many years, and wherever you apportion the blame is irrelevant, corrective action must be taken.
Hughes himself used words to the effect that he`s doing everything in his power and cannot understand the reasoning as to why things aren`t working. The art of problem solving is to establish your problems first - some supporters could give Hughes a list as long as their arm on the simplistic stance that could be taken to rectify these issues.
Under Iain Dowie, Rangers were analytical to the point of forgetting what they were analysing in the first place and this problem seems to be rearing its head again. With extra staff, technology, strategies, coaching reports, sports science etc, it seems that QPR have analysed beyond the simplicities of defending set-pieces and keeping the ball in key areas.
There have been many occasions in the past where I have gone to a ground and thought that if we concede a goal we`re fairly much dead in the water. Away at Middlesbrough a few years ago Barry Robson scored a penalty that rather deflated everyone; fans, players, manager, everyone - that feeling re-emerged inside me with a vengeance against Southampton.
As mentioned, Hughes is a man to whom I was willing to give time. His attitude has always maintained professional, the players he`s signed have been no-one I`d have disagreed with personally from the outset and the way we finished the season last time out rather earned him the time to get things right this season.
Repeatedly saying the same things week in; week out , little response from the players, in fact quite the opposite if Southampton is anything to go by, had me questioning my judgement of Hughes and indeed my trust in him - and this is also reflecting badly on chairman Tony Fernandes, who had virtually staked his future with Hughes in the nature of his appointment and continued backing.
Southampton was Hughes` 'Milton Keynes` moment - the players had stopped playing for him. Only that loveable rogue Jamie Mackie continued to display that same amount of effort that makes him a firm fans` favourite - that became all the more noticeable when he stuck out like a sore thumb among the others that floundered around him.
The players seem to be wallowing in self-pity - it`s not going right and they don`t know why. They need guidance and direction and in truth, judging by the season so far, Hughes is not giving them the guidance required - that arm round the shoulder, that hairdryer treatment, or above all that motivation and organisation to get out there, take pride in the shirt and play as a team - the very basic and bedrock of a paying supporter`s expectations.
I did mention via Twitter that Fernandes should hold a meeting with Hughes and ask what he is going to do in order to rectify the situation. If 'buy more players` or 'keep going and we`ll get there` was on the agenda, I`d sack him on the spot - which is something I believe Mr Fernandes has to seriously consider.
I am not a supporter that is going to boo or kick up a fuss about a managerial departure - I`m not going to protest or berate anyone via Twitter. I just want to have pride in my football club again - that pride that I felt at the end of last season has gone, and it has left me questioning why I go to football, seemingly blindly week in; week out.
This feeling is something that a football supporter should never have to carry around with him while his wallet becomes threadbare (along with his hairline I might add). I just want that pride to return, and if that means getting Shaun Derry, Clint Hill and Jamie Mackie in the side and perhaps taking some of that 'class` or 'skill` out of the set-up then so be it.
The worst thing out of the whole debacle is that it has caused us to resent the players, the management, the chairman but worst of all each other and the club. Pride is diminishing and following QPR blindly into the abyss is not something I would crave unless the pride is there that we gave it our all.
Sadly at this stage we seem to be slipping away without a whimper - while we bemoan last week`s unluckiness and unfortunateness and look ahead with ill-advised confidence to the next 'big test` on the horizon without so much as an iota of organisation, plan or worst of all desire - that`s the biggest kicker in this whole sorry affair.