Is Mark Hughes’ QPR Spending Spree Courageous, Ambitious, Foolish or Mad?

Queens Park Rangers’ transfer dealings, successful or otherwise, have raised a number of eyebrows. The seemingly short-term policy of bringing in ‘experience’ and bloating their squad looks odd to say the least.

QPR can consider themselves fortunate to still be in the Premier League given the events at Stoke versus Bolton on the final day of last season. Had referee Chris Foy deemed Jon Walters’ Lofthouse-esque barge on Bolton keeper Adam Bogdan a foul, Rangers would be plying their trade in the Championship right now.

This season is crucial for QPR as Tony Fernandes hopes that his side can establish themselves as a Premiership outfit. But for a certain Leslie Mark Hughes, the fate of Queens Park Rangers could potentially make or break his managerial career.

Hughes’ managerial star shone brightly when he nearly took Wales to their first major tournament since 1958, narrowly failing to qualify for Euro 2004.  Hughes’ win percentage for Wales was 29.27%, emerging victorious in 12 of the 41 games he was in charge.  Crucially though Hughes made Wales tough to beat, securing 14 draws during his tenure.

He further burnished his reputation with a relatively successful spell at Blackburn Rovers.  Hughes took over in 2004, steered Rovers away from the relegation zone and guided them to their first FA Cup Semi Final in 40 years.  The season after he took Blackburn to a top six finish securing UEFA Cup qualification.  In 147 league games, Hughes’ win percentage was 39.46% winning 58 matches and drawing 38 of them.  That said, Blackburn finished bottom of the disciplinary table in each of Hughes’ seasons in charge of the club.  The issue of discipline is interesting to note given QPR’s problems with it last season, most spectacularly demonstrated with Joey Barton’s red card against Man City.

Hughes’ big break arrived on the 4th of June 2008 when he was appointed as the head coach of Manchester City.  Rumours of interest from Chelsea swirled after the sacking of Avram Grant but it was blue half of Manchester who came in for him.  However the situation changed for Hughes on the 1st of September after the Abu Dhabi Investment Group bought the club from former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.  With the spotlight firmly on Hughes, he took City to 10th in his first full season and at the beginning of the 2009-2010 campaign, Sparky’s team started brightly obtaining a number of good results including a notable 4-2 win over Arsenal.  However in October, City began a run of seven successive draws (a joint Premiership record), which effectively ended their title push and led to Hughes’ dismissal on the 19th of December 2009.  Hughes’ win percentage in the league at City came to 40%, in 55 games he won 22 of them and drew 13.  Whether or not Hughes was dealt with harshly he did make a lasting contribution to the club by acquiring City’s most important signing, Vincent Kompany, as well as securing deals for Robinho (thus demonstrating that City can compete for the top players) and Carlos Tevez (effectively getting one over neighbours Manchester United).

Hughes returned to management at Craven Cottage in 2010 succeeding Roy Hodgson as Fulham manager.   The Cottagers finished a creditable 8th and managed to make Europa League qualifying, oddly enough, via the Fair Play League.  Hughes was in charge for 38 league games and his win percentage 28.95% winning 11 games and drawing 16.

It can be argued that Hughes’ star began to wane after his sacking at City but perhaps what really made his career stall was his decision to leave Fulham after just one season.  Upon his resignation Hughes stated, “As a young, ambitious manager I wish to move on and further my experiences”.  Rumours circulated that he was after the Villa job, made vacant by Gerard Houllier’s departure, but that opportunity didn’t come to pass.  It was speculated that the manner of Sparky’s departure from Fulham didn’t endear him to the powers that be at Aston Villa.

Given Hughes’ reasons for leaving Fulham his decision to return to QPR, on the surface, is surprising.   However if we look deeper it does make sense as no manager will want to stay out of the game too long for fear of being placed in the footballing wilderness.  Take the example of Rafa Benitez who, at the time of writing, hasn’t been in a managerial position since his ill-fated stint at Inter.  The longer one is out of the game the harder it is to get back in.

It may not have been his first choice and it certainly is a risk but Hughes has decided to begin his managerial rehabilitation at QPR.  No doubt he’s keen to ensure that QPR finish as high up the table as possible but signing a two and a half year contract hardly suggests that he’s looking to build a legacy.  The length of the deal protects QPR too from dishing a substantial payout should things go awry but going by the current approach and strategy there seems to be an air of short-termism pervading the Hoops’ dreams.

Hughes’ approaches for 30-something players like Ricardo Carvalho and Júlio César demonstrates Sparky’s desire to get proven quality to stiffen up the QPR squad.  It also underlines to the current owner and other possible suitors that he still has the stardust and the ability to bring in famous names.  Tony Fernandes should be given his dues though for backing his manager.  Hughes’ recruitment policy, signing the likes of Park Ji-Sung, José Bosingwa, Robert Green, Ryan Nelson and Andy Johnson smacks of a desire to get things right quickly.  In terms of resale value there’s practically none with that group of players and the wage bill will be substantial but then again Premiership survival is the one and only goal.  The vision is unashamedly short-termist.

Hughes has assembled a group of experienced players who can play in different formations, offer tactical flexibility, and can trust them to execute his plans.   Coupled with the players that he recruited last January, Hughes is looking for his remodeled side to spark quickly.    He noted concerns about whether the team can gel or not stating “there’s always that (getting the new signings to settle in quickly) when you bring a number of players in.  But it’s negated somewhat when they’re quality players.”

Getting QPR to start quickly is vital for Hughes as in the past it’s taken his previous sides time to adapt to his preferred systems and tactics and time is a commodity Rangers feel they don’t have.  Whilst it may seem a safe bet to bring in experience, the strategy being pursued by Hughes is arguably the riskiest of his career.  By bringing in a great number of experienced Premiership players, a tactic he employed at City, he needs QPR to fire and move up the table rapidly to give them breathing space so that by the time January transfer window arrives QPR can recruit and sell personnel in a place of stability.

For Hughes the risks and rewards are quite clear.  Should he become embroiled in a relegation battle, fail to keep his squad happy and ultimately take them down or is shown the door; the damage to Hughes’ reputation will be huge.  There was sympathy for the way he was treated at City but his departure from Fulham did leave somewhat of a sour taste.  If Sparky cannot ensure safety for QPR, comfortable safety, then he may find himself in the wilderness for a prolonged period of time.  He simply cannot afford for QPR to experience a re-run of the form that nearly got them relegated last season.

However if Hughes can push QPR up the table and ensure a strong finish, a good cup run wouldn’t hurt either, then Sparky would have successfully put himself back in the centre of the managerial map.  Hughes could argue, quite convincingly, to QPR or any other club that he and his backroom staff have the ability to take any side to the next level and build strong foundations.

To be fair to Hughes he has shown that he is a capable manager.   His achievements at Wales, Blackburn and to a lesser extent Man City and Fulham shouldn’t be scoffed at.  He’s made astute signings most notably: Vincent Kompany, Christopher Samba, Ryan Nelsen (for Blackburn), Roque Santa Cruz (for Blackburn), Mousa Dembélé and Pablo Zabaleta.  At QPR Hughes has had to deal with a number of big issues, none bigger than the Anton Ferdinand-John Terry racism saga and the Joey Barton farce which he has managed as well as anyone could have expected given the circumstances.

On the flip side there are some issues that still need to be addressed.  His relationship with Robinho wasn’t ideal bringing into question whether he can handle big name stars.  Hughes’ ability to handle big budgets also has to be queried.  His expenditure at City was wasteful over-paying for the likes of Nigel De Jong and Joleon Lescott whilst the signings of Wayne Bridge, Emmanuel Adebayor and Roque Santa Cruz have proved to be poor.  As mentioned earlier, discipline is an area Sparky must tackle and his dealings with other managers can leave a bit to be desired with handshakes being an area he can work on!

Call Hughes’ QPR gamble courageous, ambitious, foolish or just plain mad but he’s rolled the dice and is hoping that his bet comes good.  He certainly gives off the air of a man who has something to prove.  Perhaps he sees this opportunity to put any lingering questions to rest and a springboard to bigger and better things.  We shouldn’t begrudge Hughes the desire to manage a bigger club and if things go well both QPR and Hughes will have gained from the relationship. Hughes though is gambling with his reputation in the hope of achieving big results.  As a footballer Mark Hughes garnered a reputation for scoring spectacular goals, if he can execute his plan at QPR as well as he can strike a volley then he may be on the way to resurrecting his managerial career.

22 thoughts on “Is Mark Hughes’ QPR Spending Spree Courageous, Ambitious, Foolish or Mad?”

  1. The last time Hughes went on a spending spree it was at City and we all know how that worked out. I think it might happen to him again except that this timeit might happen sooner if QPR are closeto the relegation zone by January I can see the owner firing him.

  2. QPR spending beyond ludicrous they will never get their investment chance for Europe small stadium.i agree Hughes will be sacked.

  3. The situation reminds me of Bruce at Sunderland last season, he couldn’t get the squad to gel in time to save his job. It’ll be interesting to see if Hughes can do any better.

  4. What spending spree? I can’t understand this media led frenzy about QPR spending. So far this summer there has been a engligable net spend on transfer fees, with many players being cleared out, some of which were relatively high earners.

    Accepted the wages of around 40-50k for some of the new signings ar higher than most bottom half teams will pay its close enought o budget sonsidering the lack of fees paid. Compare that to the oodles of cash spent by the majority of the premiership and I really can’t understand the plethora of articles from stupid or uninformed journalists and bloggers who jump on this bandwagon of complete and utter rubbish.

  5. Bloating squad? 15 players out, 8 in. Of the 8 in 4 on a free, 1 loan, 1 out of contract (comp to be paid) have actually bought 2 players, net spend £1.5m how is this a spending spree? West ham have spent £19m Cheslea £90+m. Sorry to bring some facts to the conversation, but there is too much rubbish being spoken get the facts!

  6. There is no spending spree. 8 signings in the window to date, 6 of them free transfers. Only GBP6.5m spent. Meanwhile, 14 players have left the club. The premise of this article is nonsense.

    1. QPR has gotten a few players in on free transfers, but they must be spending a ton of wages to keep Ji-Sung Park, Jose Bosingwa, Junior Hoilett, Rob Green, Fabio, Andy Johnson, Djibiril Cisse and Samba Diakite happy.

      Mark Hughes may have spent £6.5m so far this summer, but he spent £23 million last season. And this summer window isn’t over yet, with rumored buys of Ricardo Carvalho, Michael Dawson, Julio Cesar, Jermain Defoe and Jermaine Jenas on the horizon.

      And even after all of those new signings, the team still plays like sh*te.

      The Gaffer

  7. Sky money more than covers the wages.

    Players cleared out where on inflated wages by the previous inept regime plus the sales of Kenny, Smith, Connolly cover the cost of the Park signing

    Again, do your homework

  8. Ha ha. Call yourself “The Gaffer”!? That implies you know something about football. Instead of just making numbers up why don’t you do what real journalists do and investigate? Where did Hughes spend £23 million last season? I could name 10 teams that have spent millions more than QPR including West Ham, Sunderland & Southampton. You think all these players are going to be playing for free?

    Sunderland have spent the best part of £30 million on 2 players. How much will Adam Johnson be getting paid? Oh I know, nothing right!? He’s just doing it for the love of the game. Looks like QPR are likely to turn down Dawson because of his terms and he’s likely to join Sunderland. That must be because he’s going to accept moving from London and agree worse terms than QPR are willing to offer. Makes perfect sense!

    Instead of allowing your “journalists” to write lazy pieces with little or no research or you spouting on about QPR’s wage bill, why don’t you write about things like how these wages have got so inflated by the likes of Chelsea, Man Utd and Man City’s spending? Chelsea have spent £100 million this year alone. Surely that’s more news worthy than this rubbish?

    1. Les, looks like lazy research from you. Here’s the £23 million that Mark Hughes and QPR spent last season:

      Djibril Cisse £4.4 million
      Samba Diakite £352,000
      Bobby Zamora £5.1 million
      Nedum Onuoha £4.1 million
      Shaun Wright-Phillips £3.9 million
      Armand Traore £1.1 million
      Luke Young £990,000
      Anton Ferdinand £990,000
      DJ Campbell £1.7 million

      The Gaffer

  9. Well in your first post you said that Mark Hughes had spent £23 million and he didn’t. Now you’re changing what you said. Pretty lazy really.

    Also, you appear to have just made up a bunch of transfer fees based on media speculation. As QPR didn’t disclose the fees for Cisse and Wright-Phillips for instance there is no way of knowing how much was spent.

    Don’t want to be too pedantic but DJ Campbell was £1.2 million. Not sure how you know what was spent on the Diakite loan either as that wasn’t disclosed.

    I could point you to a number of different sources with different numbers to the ones you allege to be accurate, most of which are speculation. As I said above, investigate some real football stories, not this constant nonsense about “moneybags” QPR.

    “Looks like lazy research from you”

    I’m not the one claiming to be a football journalist. That’s you. Anyone can do a search on Google and make some stuff up.

  10. Who knew Mark Hughes was making all these signings last Year, 5 months before he took over. Wright phillips, Traore, DJ Campbell, Ferdinand and Luke Young were there from August last year, Hughes only took over in Jan.
    I can see where you get your name from, how many gaffs did you have to make before you got called the gaffer!

  11. And as I said there are numerous “reputable” sources. If you’re just going to that website for your “facts” then everything I said above stands. Try doing some journalism.

    Here are some “reputable” sources that say DJ Campbell didn’t cost £1.7 million. I know which ones I would believe. You know, the ones where journalists investigate a story before publishing it.

    But no, best to go to one online source where they have no idea how much half of those players cost because the fee was undisclosed. Just by putting the word “fact” doesn’t make it so.

    Good to know where you get your “facts” from though.

    1. So your point is that DJ Campbell cost £1.25m instead of £1.7 million? Ok, so QPR still spent £22million last season.

      How much more money is QPR going to spend this coming week? Come back on Saturday and let’s add it up.

      The Gaffer

  12. My point is you’re putting numbers down as “fact” when there is no way of knowing that your source is correct and that it’s quite likely that it’s not. My other points, which you have completely ignored, are that you said Hughes had spent £23 Million which he hasn’t, and there are numerous teams that have spent, and are spending, larger sums than QPR, but for some reason this doesn’t seem relevant to you or your other “journalist”.

    Personally I’d be happy if we signed Dawson as he’s the kind of defender we need and we need another keeper. I suspect we’ll also sign another midfielder, maybe as a loan for a swap for Barton.

  13. Hi guys,

    Quite a lively discussion and to be fair a number of good points that have been raised about relevant spending, comparative expenditure between clubs and the number of players Hughes has let go (though I still think he could shed a striker or two and convince someone to take Barton off his hands). It’ll be interesting what movement is made during the transfer window and check out the comparative spending between clubs harbouring similar ambitions.

    With all the talk of expenditure I just feel we’re overlooking a couple of points in the piece regarding the type of player Hughes is bringing in to QPR (experienced 30-something Premiership players in general though I think Hoilett is a good deal and Fabio too possibly) and his objectives (both for the club and for his career).

    I’ve questioned Hughes’ spending at City and brought up the point about wages at QPR but when it comes to recruitment I’m more concerned on the type of player he’s bringing in and the overall planning over cost. Taking into account QPR’s objectives his spending could be costly or represent good value depending on how things go.

    I just think that Hughes, and I could be wrong, is not viewing himself as the manager of QPR in the long run and is looking to rebuild his reputation and move on leaving behind, potentially, an ageing squad. Granted he could change his transfer approach if QPR is doing well or he sees this job as a long term prospect but his recruitment drive does make one go ‘hmmm’.

    Thariq aka the “Other ‘Journalist'”

  14. Hi Thariq,

    A good thought out response. Thanks.

    The age thing has also been brought up a number of times and is a bit of a misnomer. I think Hughes is trying to get a good mix of youth and experience. The average age of the QPR starting 11 at Norwich was just under 27. Not particularly high really. In fact, when you look at the team 4 of the starters were 23 or under. Of the over 30 players, you have Rob Green at 32, which you could hardly say is over the hill for a keeper. Zamora and Cisse are both 31, but are still looking good enough at Prem level. The only question mark is over Clinton Hill, who is 33. This is probably a season too far for him and I suspect a replacement will come in before the end of the week.

    Again, it’s easy to say “oh look, Hughes has brought in 4 over 30 players”, but how many have left? Helguson, Hall, Gabbidon, Kenny (who is older than Green by the way), Tommy Smith, Lee Cook, Danny Shittu, Fitz Hall and Agyemang that I can think of. So a question for you is, is the current squad anymore “ageing” than it was before Hughes joined? Or is it just media perception and hype because it’s moneybags QPR again? 3 out 4 of those over 30 players Hughes has brought in this transfer window were on a free. It’s not too bad business really, is it?

    I think Bothroyd and Campbell will both be moved on. They were both signed by Warnock under QPR’s previous owners who were unwilling to invest in players as they were looking to sell the club.

    Going back to other clubs, do you thinks teams like Sunderland paying £12 million for Fletcher is good value? QPR have got Johnson, Cisse and Zamora, all of which have played at international level, and will probably play for at least 2 more seasons.

    1. Hi Les,

      Fair points there and I think it’ll be interesting to see the movement in the transfer window. The Julio Cesar deal seems to be on whilst the Carvalho situation looks a to have stalled. There’s talk of Rolando joining on loan which goes against the ‘experienced Premiership Player’ profile and if there’s any substance to the reports then it could be quite interesting deal. I’ll admit I haven’t seen Rolando play that much so I’m not in a position to say if he’ll be a hit or miss.

      I agree about the Warnock-era signings and them being moved on. If Barton moves the Marseille that’ll help a load (not just because of his wages but he takes his circus away from the club too). There was a lot of deadwood that Hughes needed to get rid of in order to make the team his side and granted the side facing Norwich was on the younger side though and in retrospect Hughes may be seeking to get the right amount of experience in there. I think there could be the argument of what quality these experienced players bring. Park or Carvalho’s career experience for example perhaps would bring more to QPR then say Andy Johnson’s (this is a different debate entirely granted).

      The point about the goalkeeping age is valid though I do wonder what Rob Green’s fate would be if Julio Cesar signs on. I suppose it’s situations like this which, rightly or wrongly, raise questions about the transfer policy. Maybe it’s the fact that its QPR and there’s some kind of need from the media/fans/’experts’ to ‘box’ them into a certain category.

      With Tony Fernandes as chairman of QPR (and with Mittal and Bhatia there too) the ‘moneybags’ tag was bound to be applied especially as he seems willing to spend as opposed to the previous lot. Tony’s not afraid to have a few words to the press in general so whatever he says will be interpreted one way or another. In the long run that may not be too helpful to Hughes (or anyone else who is in charge of the side). That said he does seem to be serious about the club, compared with the previous ownership, and is looking to build up QPR.

      Just going off on a slight tangent but I think it’s worth mentioning because of the public persona Fernandes, the attention he attracts and his goals for the club, it’s easy for those with an agenda to label QPR as ‘upstarts’. Not saying that’s fair but it may be motivated by a desire to see QPR kept in their ‘rightful’ place. QPR aren’t the first club to experience this and probably won’t be the last.

      With regards to Steven Fletcher, actually I do think he is a decent player who did a pretty good job at both Burnley and Wolves all things considered. In terms of international experience, Fletcher’s is comparable to Zamora and Johnson in terms of caps. He probably would have won more but I believe there are some issues between him and Scotland manager Craig Levein. He’s probably not as good as Bent or Gyan but if he’s given the service he could do the business especially given Sunderland’s options in the striking position. That said Wolves did get a good price for him and to represent good value he needs to provide a good return. If he scores 15-20 goals or more then the argument can be made that he’s been a successful transfer. As I mentioned I think he’s a decent player and I have a feeling (but this is only my personal view) that he can be good value. If you’re asking about my preference I’d probably go with Cisse, Fletcher, Zamora Johnson in that order but again that’s just my opinion.

      If you had mentioned Adam Johnson though I’d be more inclined to agree with you about questioning his value. I think his time at City wasn’t productive and Mancini’s questioning of Johnson’s application and lifestyle suggests, again just in my opinion, that for all his potential it could still be a risk. Not saying that Fletcher in comparison is an angel but I think that Fletch may be worth the investment.

      More generally I think it is valid to question say the signing of Matt Jarvis at West Ham or Fabio Borini at Liverpool, again they may come good, then again they may not but the price tags will attract some scrutiny. I’m sure there are other examples we could bring up.

      Again it’ll be interesting to see what happens in the transfer window and if there’ll be a flurry of activity. There’ll always be some kind of speculation to stoke the fires, I read something the other day about Joe Cole being a target for QPR, it’s just the nature of the beast. To a degree, apart from the spending at Chelsea and the RVP transfer Man United, it’s not been a hugely spectacular window and as a result (and it’s just a theory) QPR’s acquisitions of the 30+ players caught the eye especially as they are relatively high profile names arguably at the expense of the lower profile players who have been moved on. QPR’s start to the season probably, rightly or wrongly, has kept the lens on them too I believe.

      OK I’ve written a fair bit but again I just want to re-iterate I was looking more at Hughes’ motivations rather than the QPRs. I do appreciate the discussion though, I like talking about footie, happy to hear feedback and listen to different viewpoints.


  15. Wright-Philips, Campbell, Ferdinand, Young and Traore were all signed by Neil Warnock. So when you say “Mark Hughes spent 22m last season” you’re wrong.

    Also, you’re counting Diakite twice; he was on loan last season.

    Then we have the usual “oh but you’re paying big wages” line. The accounts have not been published, so this is pure speculation. Also, in the past week at least 2 players have turned down moves to QPR because they couldn’t agree personal terms, which suggests that the club is not paying exceptionally high wages.

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