|Hughes faces fans' wrath as real culprits slope off into the night|
Mon 12th Nov 2012 23:51 by Lewis Jones
In May Lewis Jones reported for LFW from the Britannia Stadium as Stoke helped secure QPR’s survival with a draw against Bolton. On Saturday he returned to see if the R’s have made the most of their reprieve.
Cast your minds back. Back to that ‘moment’ at the end of last season when it hit home that QPR had achieved their unlikely survival. We all have our individual memory of when it sunk in.
It could have been on the train back from Manchester, at home watching the game live or many weeks later when the real euphoria of that incredible final day really hit home.
Mine came in quite a unique environment: a deserted gangway at the Britannia Stadium following Bolton’s inability to save themselves from relegation. I was in Stoke, not out of choice (who is?), but for work purposes as I was allocated that game for that week’s schedule.
The feeling surrounding QPR’s achievement was a warm one, a genuine excitement about what was to come. A summer of positive signs followed; money was invested and the squad improved. Yet as 1500 hardy Rs fans flocked out of the Britannia on Saturday - angry, cold and despondent - not one of them would have agreed that this is what they expected from a second season back in the big-time.
I was up in the main stand again, covering Rangers’ latest away day horror show, and following the game I wandered down the gangway where I had my ‘moment’ back in May, and tried to comprehend how things at this football club have moved so backward, in such a short space of time.
As the man at the helm, Mark Hughes is the fall guy and, to a certain extent, rightly so too. It’s the nature of the football manager beast. This is his team now, and in this results-based day and age, he is the one to carry the can in the current state of affairs. But whilst the world and his wife call for Tony Fernandes to wield the axe, it seems to me that the main reason for our plight has yet to really take the flack it deserves: the playing squad.
Don’t ask me how, or why, the thought came into my head, but the best way to express the way in which I feel about a large majority of our squad and the way in which they treat the football club, can be exemplified through my first sexual encounter. Please, stay with me on this one.
QPR fans, and arguably the coaching staff too, have played the part of the woman and the QPR players the man. We all remember our first time. Much is expected of the man. Away from the bedroom the relationship seems right; there is chemistry there, plenty of quality in the building, etc…. We men have all been there; we talk the talk, promise the world, and pretend to know what we’re doing. Then the moment of truth comes.
We fumble around, without a clue about what goes where, but still pretend we’re the kings of love making. We go out with a whimper. In truth, the end result is pretty appalling, yet we’re not overly bothered. We’re just in it for ourselves. We want to scamper off as quickly as possible and tell the world about our achievement. Whilst this goes on, the woman feels unsatisfied, let-down, and probably quite angry. Yet they still come back for more. And the process is repeated, week after week.
Ring any bells? Jose? Djibril? Bobby? Shaun?
The example is hugely tongue in cheek, and perhaps not a great one, but the basis is there. When the shit hits the fan a large chunk of this QPR team simply don't want to go that extra mile.
For 58 minutes on Saturday, they played like a team and quelled the threat of Stoke brilliantly. The three in midfield dominated the ball, there was creativity in the final third, and, most importantly, Rangers were able to deal with the physicality of the Potters. Remember, Stoke were booed off by their own fans at half-time.
Then, they switched off. Ferdinand lost a header, three men failed to react as quick as Charlie Adam, and bang, we were undeservedly behind. Again.
The shit had firmly hit the fan. QPR now had to fight. To battle. To show some bollocks and be brave. Adel Taarabt apart, the white flag was raised and subsequently covered in faeces.
I'd say the last 25 minutes of the game was one of the lowest moments this club has faced in a very long time on a football pitch. Where was the drive? The urgency? The bravery to go get the ball? The desire to win 50-50 challenges? To push high up the pitch as a team? To lay siege to the Stoke goal? Have they not seen the league table? It’s been 11 games, guys - 11 bloody games.
There was no response. Not one ball into the box. No surging runs. No pressure. No bravery. Just a contingent of players, who couldn’t wait to get down that tunnel. I didn’t realise Jose Bosingwa could run 100m in five seconds, did you? His rush back to the dressing room was as quick as he’d moved all day.
Unfortunately, Hughes is not a manager to publicly criticise or single out anyone that isn't pulling their weight. Not once has he mentioned names when bemoaning the week’s latest defensive mishap or lack of desire. Stephane Mbia even received a Sparky handshake in public when his sending off cost us a result at Arsenal.
Footballers, especially at the top level, are an egotistical bunch. They thrive on adulation. But like any sportsman, criticism hurts - anything to knock them off their pedestal, naturally will start a fire deep within. It's this fire that QPR need more than ever at the moment.
All this arrogant talk about not really deserving to be where we are in the league has to stop. The league table rarely lies. Only one Premier League side, namely Blackburn Rovers in the 1996/1997 season, have survived relegation after winning just four points from their first 11 matches. Face up. Get angry. Throw something. We’re in a battle. A scrap. Stand up and be counted.
My big fear is that Hughes, as hinted by Mark Bowen on the brilliant QPR Podcast interview, has already administered a fair few rollickings’ behind the scenes, but in most parts, it has obviously fallen on deaf ears.
Not everyone is guilty, granted. Adel Taarabt is a case in example and Hughes’ decision to publically criticise the Moroccan has worked wonders. Since coming back into the side, Taarabt has played the best football of his career in my opinion. He has a hunger and work-rate that we have never seen before and an angry look in his eyes. Whatever Hughes has said to him, has obviously worked. That's good management, and a sign that Hughes has the ability to light a fire.
Thus far, with the so-called bigger names in the dressing room private criticism hasn't worked, so maybe it's time for Hughes to angry in the public domain. There is a gamble that he could lose the dressing room altogether, which would be just typical of modern day footballers, but, in truth, Hughes has little to lose now.
The club being winless and bottom of the league obviously doesn't stoke the fire enough in their bellies. Neither does the fact that QPR fans pay good money to travel around the country to see them deliver one half arsed performance after another. Perhaps if their egos are lowered a peg or two in public, then they will go and show the world why they have achieved such great things in football pre-QPR.
Rangers are in the shit, and it's going to take some pretty big bollocks to get us out of it.
Light the fire, Mark. Before it’s too late.
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Pictures – Action Images