By Liam Twomey
In spite of Tony Fernandes' almost weekly public announcements of support on Twitter, the only surprising thing about QPR's sacking of Mark Hughes was the fact that he outlasted Roberto Di Matteo.
The Italian won the Champions League and the FA Cup in the time that it took Hughes to win five Premier League matches. That Chelsea swung the axe first is just as indicative of the impressive optimism and patience of Fernandes as it is the unbridled ruthlessness of Roman Abramovich.
Saturday's alarmingly comprehensive defeat at home to Southampton was always likely to be the last straw. QPR were limp and lethargic, outplayed and outclassed by a team who many expect will be playing their football back in the Championship next year, while Hughes looked on helplessly.
The fans had begun to turn en masse, with high-profile banners on display at Loftus Road pleading for Harry Redknapp to take over. Now Hughes has gone to nurse what is left of his battered reputation and it is Redknapp who has been chosen as his successor.
Due to his status as self-styled media darling and the man who took Tottenham from the bottom of the Premier League to the Champions League and who "should have got the England job", there appears little opposition to the idea that Redknapp is exactly what the Rs need in their moment of crisis. In reality, however, there are significant grounds for caution.
The former Spurs boss is renowned for his man-management skills - and rightly so. At White Hart Lane he coaxed out Emmanuel Adebayor's most consistent football since his days at Arsenal, got one more stellar year of service from Luka Modric before his inevitable departure to Real Madrid and his economical use of Ledley King extended the inspirational defender's injury-plagued career by at least two years.
Such aptitude for motivation and ego-massaging will be crucial at QPR, as he takes on a dressing room consisting of overpaid veterans of questionable hunger and fitness and talented youngsters who appear to lack the experience or perspective to deal with such a dire situation.
Fernandes will also almost certainly back his new man in the January transfer window – which is just as well, as Redknapp is not the sort of manager to come in and be content to work with what he has. Those who spend their way into trouble usually look to spend their way out of it and, if the new boss recognises the urgent need for defensive reinforcements, he can be confident that funds will be there.
Assuming control of a club at the wrong end of the table will be nothing new to Redknapp, who inherited relegation scraps with Southampton and Portsmouth and also took over at Tottenham with the club bottom of the Premier League in October 2008. His Saints struggle ended in a drop to the Championship, while at Pompey he masterminded a miraculous escape.
QPR, however, pose a very different challenge to any that he has faced before. The club's scattergun and woefully misguided transfer policy has made west London rivals Chelsea look prudent and meticulous in comparison and they now find themselves deep in the relegation mire with a squad still searching for the merest hint of a unity of purpose or spirit.
Redknapp is quite capable of restoring their shattered confidence but that alone may not be enough. This team, sneeringly labelled "Queens Park Strangers" by less friendly observers, need a coach who can forge coherence out of chaos. Redknapp is no tactical luddite – as his willingness to experiment with wing-backs at Spurs last season highlights – but his skills in this area are undoubtedly limited.
His penchant for expansive, attacking football may also be a bad fit for QPR at this juncture. Spurs gained legions of neutral admirers for their pace and ambition under his guidance but Rafael van der Vaart's admission in November 2010 that the team rarely practised set-pieces and that the dressing room clipboard did nothing except gather dust does not give the impression of a manager who possesses the knowledge or will to tighten up the second leakiest defence in the league.
Redknapp's pedigree and popularity will almost certainly ensure that any such doubts are pushed to the periphery of Fernandes' mind as he plans for life after Hughes. But QPR fans should temper their relief with the knowledge that the world of football rarely offers a quick fix.
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