Monday, 19 November 2012

Hughes Hopes for United Visit


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A number of great players have found the move to managerial road paved with few yellow bricks, but the more harsher side of the game, where fans praise can be seldom found and their fury frequently vented at their dug out. At times with such venom that it makes those in football management grow tougher skins than the average person, and reliant on real self belief to get through those lower moments. On occasion with obstinacy, when the writing is on the wall, to quote one of the games most weary cliche's. As in the case of Queens Park rangers Mark Hughes at the moment, as there is little on the horizon to suggest the mood in the dressing room will improve. Or that results will reverse all of a sudden and become consecutive wins. 

A scenario which afflicts the ambiance at Loftus Road and the club as Hughes surely this week faces the end of his role at the club, after only eleventh months in charge. Unless, of course, there is some interplanetary collusion and that luck can be reversed in order to satisfy the baying fans. As well as their ambitious Chairman Tony Fernandes, who has moved from strongly backing his manager weeks ago, to some more recent lukewarm social media comments on Twitter. All of which hints at meetings this week to address a club in freefall with only four points from twelve games, and a home loss to rival relegation candidates Southampton at the weekend, which has nailed QPR to the bottom of the Premier League. 

Whether any manager can mount a survival challenge at this stage is the usual talk in the build-up to Christmas, as the Directors of struggling clubs get nervous and seek remedies to save their season. More importantly their finances by securing a battle hardened replacement to rally a much need fight back at QPR, as the nerves must be jangling given the fanfare which accompanied the arrival of Hughes to the club as replacement for sacked Neil Warnock. Who despite securing survival last season for the clubs wealthy investors - or benefactors a more accurate description – he was handed his marching orders for the new man. 

Although at the time of Hughes appointment last January the logic was not that clear to see either given the club was in that yo-yo category where survival is always the first priority, and the beautiful football second, and any long term plans in a distant third. So in choosing Hughes the statement of intent was not that obvious based on the former Manchester United strikers career in the dug out - with a year at Fulham ending acrimoniously, and the promise at Manchester City far from fulfilled, with the four years at Blackburn the only barometer that with time Hughes can weather any storm - and even bring success. But time was just what he never had in West London – and now even less so - given QPR are winless so far this season. 

Therefore a trip to his alma mater, Old Trafford, will be Hughes reward should he survive the disquiet within the club’s boardroom over the next seven days. 

A trip up the M6 that could not come at a worse time for the Welshman, most pundits seem to think. Although the recipe used at Norwich on Saturday proved that Manchester United are beatable, even in the Premier League, as long as the opposition game plan is right as manager Chris Hughton will attest. So it will be interesting to see if Hughes can give his team some of that “Sparky-ness” that made him so revered at United, and subsequently led to a move to Barcelona alongside Gary Lineker, followed by a loan period at Bayern Munich. Before he made his way back to United in 1988 and started to gather silverware under the new manager of the day, Sir Alex Ferguson. 

Indeed it was Hughes aggressive and competitive style that won him man plaudits in the English football, which was also mixed with a deft touch and vision that made him such a feature for The Reds over those winning years. Until the arrival of Andy Cole from Newcastle and the ever increasing struts from a Leeds United recruit, named Eric Cantona. 

Although often under scrutiny from the referees for his physicality on the pitch, off the field Mark Hughes is surprisingly soft spoken, and at times visibly shy in front of cameras. Which maybe a reason that sustained success at management level has been harder to find. Or indeed, blessed with such talent himself, there is a failure to understand that other mere mortals cannot perhaps do what he could in match situations. Or a lack of competitive zeal and hunger for success given the millionaire contracts in place these days. 

If so, he would not be alone as even Pele proved less successful at football management, as did Sir Bobby Charlton, Bobby Robson, Marcello Lippi, Osvaldo Ardiles, John Barnes, Johan Neeskens or Lotthar Matthaus. Or more recently, Diego Maradona. 

In fact that transition from the field to leading teams from the front, and then enjoying some success, is a much shorter list, and ironically populated with names that boast less glorious playing careers. The likes of Jose Mourinho being one of the more obvious, along with Sir Alex Ferguson, Guus Hiddink, Joachim Loew or Arsene Wenger. All of whom enjoyed no discript playing careers but when it came leading other footballers, and devising tactics, they found their niche, in fact Ferguson found a knighthood. 

The list of those who were outstanding both and off the football pitch is an even short list with Franz Beckenbauer, Johan Cruyff, Pep Guardiola, Vicente del Bosque or Kenny Dalglish amongst the more easily remembered. 

Mark Hughes has time on his side, and like Ferguson, may make the management breakthrough later in his career given the right opportunity. 

Unless it starts this weekend against Manchester United and QPR’s fortunes turnaround. 

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