QPR: Can They Avoid All The Drama?

That has to be the goal for this season - that they're nowhere near relegation as Tony Fernandes tries to make a long-term plan that involved moving from Loftus Road...

Last Updated: 13/08/12 at 15:27 Post Comment

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Last season:

Premier League 17th; FA Cup Fourth round; Carling Cup Second round

Manager Mark Hughes (since January 2012) Odds on being first out of his job 12-1 (joint fourth) Transfers in Rob Green (West Ham), Andrew Johnson (Fulham), Junior Hoilett (Blackburn), Samba Diakite (Nancy), Ryan Nelsen (Tottenham), Fabio da Silva (Manchester United, loan) Park Ji-sung (Manchester United)

Transfers out Fitz Hall (Watford), Heidar Helguson (Cardiff), Paddy Kenny (Leeds)

They were only in the supporting roles but QPR's part in May's last-day drama will not be forgotten quickly. Their tussle with Bolton to avoid relegation, entwined with Manchester City's pursuit of the title, served up a ridiculously tense finale. If Mark Hughes and Tony Ferdandes have one ambition, it is that there will be no repeat in 2012-13.

Rangers fans will feel they should not have been in that position last season. When he stayed on the pitch Djibril Cisse showed the kind of form after his January move that could have been enough to guarantee survival had he not been sent off every time he failed to score. Talking of red cards, there is the question of what to do about Joey Barton, a troubled and troubling individual whose conduct at Eastlands attracted a similarly eye-catching ban.

But Park Ji-Sung and, on loan, Fabio da Silva from Manchester United are the most prominent of a series of signings designed to ensure the Rs are in the middle of the table. They are not quickly going to return to the status they enjoyed in 1992-93 - that of London's top side - but Fernandes's ambitions have no specific limit. He wants a new ground but in Rangers' traditional neighbourhood (okay, they originally played as far north as Queens Park) to tap into a large latent support. He has engaged with the support in a way that eluded Flavio Briatore and friends, who seemed unprepared for the game's realities.

Hughes remains a manager with much to prove, and an ego that bruises surprisingly easily for someone who put himself about as a player. Then again, he went down too easily at times under perceived challenges and since moving into the dug-out he has shown a tendency to blame others for his sides' failings. At Blackburn, for instance, it was referees' and the media's fault that his dirty team were punished and reviled for being dirty; at Manchester City he demanded the kind of credit given to Harry Redknapp for saving Spurs from two points after eight games despite the Eastlands club making no discernible advance on their achievements under Sven-Goran Eriksson.

Still, Hughes and the other January arrivals - Cisse, Bobby Zamora and Samba Diakite - did enough to achieve survival and it was mystifying that they came so close to the drop. Only Neil Warnock, surely, would dispute that the Rs were improved under their new manager.

As luck with have it, QPR's first two games are against the sides they came up with under Warnock a year ago, Swansea and Norwich. Given the widespread perception that this pair have been badly weakened by the loss of their promotion-winning managers, it is important for Hughes that his team do well from these games - especially as matches against Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham follow.

QPR should be looking at a mid-table finish but while it will not bother him, I have never found Hughes entirely convincing. It would not be a surprise if he finds himself holding more self-justifying press conferences - and that was a trait in Warnock, too, that did not seem to get a ringing endorsement from Fernandes.

Philip Cornwall

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