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The missing Spark

Rangers must stick by Hughes, says Jeff, however the season goes

Jeff Stelling - Jeff Stelling Posted 12th January 2012 view comments

There will be a lot of Championship managers out there feeling a little more uneasy about their own position now that Neil Warnock is without a job.

Warnock is a master manager at that level and I'm sure that won't be lost on a number of chairmen and boards with Premier League aspirations.

I've been acquainted with Neil for a long time and I'm a big admirer of his, so he has my sympathy after being sacked by QPR this week.

Back making his Mark: Hughes has been out of the game for too long, says Jeff

Back making his Mark: Hughes has been out of the game for too long, says Jeff

I'm sure he won't take any consolation from the fact that he survived at the club for longer than any of the 13 previous incumbents in the last five years (including caretakers)!

The likes of John Gregory, Iain Dowie, Paolo Sousa, Jim Magilton and Paul Hart are among those to give it a go at Rangers but it is starting to look like the ultimate impossible job.


Neil did a fabulous job taking QPR up last year but has been unlucky in two key ways - the timing of the new owners coming in and the timing of his dismissal.

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Tony Fernandes became the new majority owner of QPR just when the summer transfer window was about to be bolted closed, so he had to go out and buy players that he may not have bought had he been given a little more time.

Not all of those signings have come off but Joey Barton and Anton Ferdinand certainly haven't done badly, while Armand Traore has done ok.

I don't think he bought badly by any means but he bought hurriedly, that's for sure. Had he been given the leisure of buying players in this transfer window with the confidence and the backing of the owner behind him, it could have been a very different set of purchases.

But despite that we've still seen what QPR can do. They've thumped Wolves away, won at Stoke and out-battled Chelsea at Loftus Road. For the record, they also put in a fantastic performance against Manchester City, albeit a losing one.

I know QPR have now gone eight games without a win, but perhaps Tony Fernandes should have looked at the sides beneath his own. Have any of those clubs panicked and sacked their manager?

If he had given Neil another month and sufficient funds, I'm convinced we'd be looking at a different QPR.

Fernandes (who would be well advised to make decisions in the privacy of the boardroom rather than drop huge, unsubtle hints on social networking sites) might also have looked at their upcoming league fixtures: away to Newcastle in their next game, then Wigan at home, Aston Villa away, Wolves at home, Blackburn away, Fulham at home, Everton at home, Bolton away.

These are games that could have yielded a lorry-load of points for him and Rangers.

It makes me think - yet again - that a Championship manager has more job security if he gets to the play-offs and loses than if takes his side up because you are rarely given the time or the tools to do the job of keeping your side in the Premier League.

Blackpool did stick with Ian Holloway (another manager who QPR dispatched years ago) when they were relegated and they've got every chance of coming straight back up because he's still a terrific manager.

I asked this question on last week's Soccer Saturday: 'If QPR do go down, is their manager a failure?' To my mind, the answer is no.

Anyway, for now at least, we have lost one of the game's fantastic characters.

Neil is 63 now but I hope this week's events don't convince him to give up management full-time because he's still got much too much to offer. Plus he speaks as he sees it, which I find refreshing.

He may be too forthright for certain players - I'm certain there have been some who have been reluctant to go to QPR because Neil was the manager. Not everyone responds to his style of management.

But there are plenty of others who have responded. Who would have thought, for example, that Heidar Helguson or Paddy Kenny would have had such successful seasons?

One thing's for sure - I wouldn't want to be in the opposition dug-out in any game when Neil was in charge of QPR!


Any Rangers players who didn't fancy Neil Warnock are in for one heck of a shock because Mark Hughes is no soft touch either!

Mark has been in the Champions League studio on a number of occasions and while he may be softly-spoken outwardly and is a perfect gent, there is a fierce streak in him.

Mark is a driven individual who is desperate for success and I know he feels he has been out of the game for too long.

It's great to see him back but I just hope that the chairman, having made this decision, decides that he will stick by Mark whatever happens this season.

I think Mark's track record is good without being littered with the trophies that would make it exceptional. His Blackburn side had a reputation for playing the game in a 'Mark Hughes manner' - they were very combative and, on occasions, perhaps overstepped the line.

It wasn't quite a case of 'win or be damned' but that was what the club needed at the time because he didn't have huge financial backing.

Again, I thought he did very well at Manchester City; he was just unfortunate that when the new owners came in, he wasn't their man and he lost his job in pretty disgraceful circumstances.

But he kept his dignity and I admired him for that. City played some fantastic football under him. Remember his last game, that 4-3 home win over Sunderland? Fulham started slowly under his guidance but I felt he did a good job there too.

That's all water under the bridge. His priorities now are to find a central defender and someone who is prolific up front as quickly as possible because on-loan Federico Macheda doesn't appear to be the answer.

It won't be easy to find a striker of the highest calibre in the January transfer window, that's for sure, but perhaps he could do worse than look down the road at Fernando Torres.

On second thoughts...!


Catch Jeff and the boys on Gillette Soccer Saturday at 12pm this Saturday on Sky Sports News HD, channel 405.

Comments (3)

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Brendan Cosgrave (Aston Villa fan) says...

I know Neil Warnock is tough as old boots but it must be soul destroying to keep creating these durable teams and then not been able to see how far he take them

Posted 09:16 13th January 2012

Robert Blakey (Queens Park Rangers fan) says...

A well-balanced article which just about sums up how I view the sacking of Neil Warnock. I was shocked when I heard the news and think that he has been harshly treated. If he had the funds earlier I don't think he would signed Dyer, Gabbidon or Bothroyd. Then in late August he had to rush round like a "Bargain Hunt" contestant to bring in better players. We will never know, of course, but I feel that Neil would have kept us up. I miss him from Rangers as much as I miss Jeff Stelling on Countdown.

Posted 15:40 12th January 2012

Ray Higgy (Sheffield United fan) says...

I Find Mark HUGHES appointment rather amusing, His managerial career is a lot to be desired...... His winning percentage at every club he has managed is around 45% not a fantastic winning % is it ?..... I would be rather worried ifg i was a

Posted 14:40 12th January 2012

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