Mark Hughes is determined to build a legacy at Queen’s Park Rangers after replacing Neil Warnock as the club’s manager. Hughes is targeting a place in the Europa League next year, if he is successful in avoiding relegation this season.
Hughes, who will be joined by Mark Bowen as assistant manager, Eddie Niedzwiecki as first-team coach and the goalkeeping coach Kevin Hitchcock, signed a two-and-a-half-year contract at Loftus Road on Tuesday. But the Welshman has a long-term vision for the club and is prepared to take up to five years to achieve it. He will be backed financially by Tony Fernandes, QPR’s majority owner, who wants to build a training ground within 12 months and plans to take the club into a 35,000 or 40,000-seater stadium in no more than four years’ time.
Highly placed sources at the club confirmed that Fernandes is prepared to back the 48-year-old Hughes with sizeable funds. One said: “It is not that there is a war chest of a set amount of millions, more that if Mark Hughes can attract big names then the owner will support him substantially. Survival this season is the obvious priority and then he will target a top-half finish next year and if that means it takes QPR to near the European places then that is great.”
Warnock was sacked after the club’s slide to 17th place after a run of just 2 points from the last possible 24, and the club’s welcome statement pointed to Hughes’s record in his previous posts of signing and handling high-profile players including Manchester City’s Nigel de Jong and Vincent Kompany and Blackburn Rovers’s Chris Samba. Top of Hughes’s shopping list will be Aston Villa’s Darren Bent, Bobby Zamora, Samba, Alex, Niko Kranjar and Junior Hoilett, are also among his targets.
“It’s a great feeling to be back in football and to be the manager of QPR,” Hughes said. “I’m fully aware of the challenge in the short and long term and I am genuinely excited about the ambition of the owners. Nobody can doubt the history of this great football club and the passion of its fantastically loyal supporters. Now the immediate priority is to consolidate our place in the Premier League, but beyond that the future is very bright and fills me with great enthusiasm.” Before meeting his squad at QPR’s West London training ground, Hughes said: “I’m delighted, I’m a football person and this is what I do.”
Fernandes said: “Mark has a proven track record in the Premier League, bringing a wealth of experience at both club and international level. He has a great passion to achieve as a manager and has already been hugely successful in his career. His ambitions match those of the board and we are delighted to have him at the helm.”
Philip Beard, the QPR chief executive, said: “Having spoken at length with Mark, I know he is brimming with enthusiasm and anticipation about the challenge of taking QPR forward and I believe he is the perfect choice to deliver the success we all desire.”
The club confirmed that Hughes will take full charge of training today and said in a statement: “Mark has built a reputation as one of Britain’s most admired managers, with success at both club and international level. He has a proven track record in the transfer market, recruiting the likes of Kompany, De Jong, Moussa Dembele and Samba to the Premier League. In his five years in charge of Wales, Hughes turned around the fortunes of the national side, before being appointed Blackburn Rovers boss in September 2004. He guided Rovers to seventh place in the 2007-08 Premier League campaign before moving to Manchester City at the start of the following season. His spell in Manchester ended in December 2009, however, when he was controversially replaced by Roberto Mancini despite City sitting pretty in sixth place in the top flight. Fulham was next, where he exceeded all expectations with an eighth-place finish and Europa League qualification through the Fair Play League.”
Jamie Jackson – The Guardian