The departure of Neil Warnock has shocked many QPR fans, who consider his dismissal to be an unjust, knee-jerk decision, based solely on their recent slump in form. Remember of course that it was Warnock who, within just over a year in charge, transformed the club from relegation contenders to clear winners of the Championship; the 4 point margin over runners-up Norwich didn’t do them justice for their scintillating football that year. However, Tony Fernandes’ reasoning behind the sacking is understandable, especially considering his ambitious nature and high expectations for the future of the club – Mark Hughes’ appointment as manager will at least help to soften the blows for fans feeling disheartened by Warnock’s departure and, should he be successful, they will soon relinquish their disappointment at Fernandes’ bold move.
Timing of the Dismissal
Clearly, the timing of Warnock’s sacking shows Tony Fernandes’ lack of faith in him to buy quality players, perhaps in part because of the mediocre recent performances of summer acquisitions like Barton and Young, who, considering their previous EPL experience, should be performing significantly better. Fernandes will feel that Warnock had his chance to spend wisely, and just failed to bring in the players to build a team easily capable of avoiding relegation, which Fernandes clearly feels is a realistic target for his team. Warnock will argue that, due to the change of ownership in the summer, he had little time to properly assess potential signings, and therefore had to make quick decisions on players. But Warnock failed to get the most out of players like Faurlin and Wright-Phillips, who have shown glimpses of their true ability at times this season, despite priding himself on his motivational skills, and his refusal to play Adel Taarabt regularly, the club’s most creative player, was a mistake, no matter how frustrating Warnock may have found him.
It was important for Fernandes to have a replacement waiting in the wings, a manager with Premier League pedigree, and in Mark Hughes he has found that man. With money to spend, Hughes will be determined to prove a point to Man City and Sheikh Mansour, who lost faith with him after Hughes’ failure to bring instant success to the club. Hughes’ highly ambitious personality is just what Fernandes is looking for to build the club, and Hughes will finally have the time and financial backing needed to help Rangers progress and become a force in the EPL over the next few years.
The impact of a new manager
There is a well-held belief that stability, patience and consistency are key to the progression of any club, but there are some exceptions to this rule. Sunderland’s decision to replace Steve Bruce with Martin O’Neill has proved to be a masterstroke by owner Ellis Shore, with 4 wins in 6 EPL games for the Black Cats coinciding with O’Neill’s return to management; without the change, they may well have been sucked into the relegation zone, and so Shore’s risk has proved pivotal in the club’s climb up the table. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Blackburn continue to stick with Steve Kean, regardless of his appalling record (W12 D12 L24 in all competitions). All evidence suggests the benefits sacking Kean would bring to the club, but unless he is, Blackburn could well be relegated come May, despite a squad of superior ability over the likes of Wigan, Norwich and Bolton; patience is not always the answer.
Fernandes clearly didn’t want to wait until QPR were destined for the drop before sacking Warnock (not that that would’ve necessarily happened), and his bravery will benefit Rangers in the long-term. Warnock has often been criticized for his poor tactical awareness and inability to adapt to opposition changes, but, with Hughes in charge, QPR will almost certainly become a more tactically flexible, and therefore better, team. Fernandes will surely be hoping for a more positive approach to games under Hughes – Warnock’s defensive 4-5-1 formation at home has contributed considerably to the lack of goals at Loftus Road this season.
Hughes to establish QPR in the EPL
Hughes is unlikely to replicate O’Neill’s astonishing instant turnaround at Sunderland, but, with some tactical changes and new faces, a goalscorer in particular, along with the morale boost his presence will give the players, QPR will be able to move away from the relegation zone, consolidate their place in the EPL, and build towards a better and brighter future for the club. It is unfortunate Warnock was sacked, especially after his excellent transformation of the club in the Championship, but Hughes is a manager who has the reputation and ability to grant Tony Fernandes’ wish to become a household name in the Premier League.