Early Doors

The writing’s on the wall for Hughes

Early Doors

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You might say the writing was on the wall for Mark Hughes on Saturday, but more accurately it was in the stands, printed onto white paper with black felt-tip pen. A distinctly home-made effort, but one which spelled out a clear message: 'Harry come and save us.'

It rarely ends well when supporters spill over into such naked rebellion, and this was a moment to match the Aston Villa banner, directed at David O'Leary, that read, 'We're not fickle, we just don't like you', or that famous shot of an enraged Geordie belting out "you don't know what you're doing" at Sam Allardyce.

When hostility grows to such a degree, it's probably only Venky's who are going to stand by their man. Maybe QPR fans need to dress a chicken up in a cape or hire a plane to fly over their next home game in an attempt to force Tony Fernandes over the edge.

Whether symptomatic of the views of the majority or not, such protests are taken as outward manifestations of widespread discontent, and at times on Saturday, as QPR lost 3-1 at home to Southampton, Loftus Road appeared to be on the brink of rebellion. Chants of "Hughes out" were heard as disgruntled fans targeted the under-performing but over-remunerated players with accusations that "you're only here for the money".

Fans metres away from Hughes began to assume faces contorted with fury and started jabbing fingers enthusiastically as the dugout acted as a kind of Perspex safe room for the Rangers manager, cocooning him in a flimsy plastic cage. And who could blame them really? On an afternoon when QPR needed their best performance of the season, Hughes oversaw their worst.

He made no attempt to disguise it either. "I can understand totally the frustration of the fans and they're well within their rights to say that [players are just in it for the money, but I can assure them that's not the case," Hughes said. "Everyone is working really hard to turn this around but we just didn't function as a team. It was an enigma. It was a real puzzle in terms of why we produced what we produced.

"I have to look at the makeup of the team because [the Southampton match] can't be allowed to pass without changes being made in terms of personnel. We have to look at who we've got and get the balance right."

A 3-1 home defeat to a fluid but undeniably flaky Southampton side was pretty much unforgivable. Is there any coming back from it? Perhaps not, with reports claiming that Fernandes will have to quell a civil war in the boardroom if he is to keep his man in place. After all, it wasn't dubbed 'El Sackico' for nothing, was it?

Though he is not a particularly likeable personality, Early Doors has always been an advocate of Hughes the manager. He did excellent jobs with Wales, Blackburn and Fulham, while his spell at Manchester City was ultimately rather inconclusive. As track records go it's more Linford Christie than Mark Lewis-Francis.

But it is November 19 and QPR are still waiting for their first win of the season. Entire pop careers have been made and then destroyed by X-Factor without three points going to Rangers; the last time they won a match, Jimmy Savile was a bona fide national treasure.

It is 12 games without a win and the current record is held by Swindon, who had to wait 15 games for a victory in the 1993-94 season. At least they had the excuse of being a genuinely rubbish team though. The inexplicable thing about QPR is that in theory they are actually quite good.

It just makes for a more damning indictment of Hughes that he has at his disposal players of the quality of Julio Cesar, Esteban Granero, Adel Taarabt, Junior Hoilett and Bobby Zamora, all of whom are certainly too good to be fighting a long and hard battle against relegation. The pace of change was probably too quick this summer as QPR assembled nearly a whole new starting XI, but the timeframe for the 'bedding-in process' excuse has now expired.

Given the vast amount they have spent on wages, there will be real concern about the state of the club's finances should they be relegated. They cannot wait forever for a turnaround in form and ED accepts change is now almost inevitable.

Harry Redknapp - ever the manager's manager - refused to admit he wanted the job on Match of the Day on Saturday night, but after watching that banner fluttering in the breeze he didn't exactly rule it out either. He would be the obvious choice, his famed rescue of a Juande Ramos-damaged Tottenham that had collected just two points from eight games - did Harry ever mention that? - making a strong case for his restorative powers.

He gets players playing for him and the fans would clearly rally round him: two very important considerations for a club apparently lacking any kind of morale, and one which at the weekend saw striker Djibril Cisse challenge a Twitter critic - or "big man" as the French striker called the keyboard warrior who told him he "couldn't hit a cow's arse with a banjo" - to come down to the training ground to sort things out face to face. And by sort things out ED doesn't imagine Cisse meant having a friendly discussion over a cappuccino.

Perhaps Hughes will work things out. After all, fan rebellion doesn't always end in revolution, just ask the United fan who hung a banner in 1989 reading: 'Three years of excuses and it's still crap. Ta ra Fergie.'

But boardrooms are no longer havens of patience. Fernandes seems less trigger-happy than most, but a bleak 90 minutes at Loftus Road and a stark banner may just have made change inevitable.

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QUEST OF THE DAY, IF NOT THE YEAR: They say footballers are devoid of nobility, but they didn't count on Reading defender Sean Morrison. Today the 21-year-old begins a mission that will lift up the nation, truly inspire a generation and make us dream again. Ladies and gentlemen, Early Doors introduces you to #cerealquest.

Time to let the man himself explain, via his deeply entertaining Twitter account: "Decided i'm going to go through every cereal EVER made & give an in depth analysis & ratings on each 1,quest 2 find the greatest cereal!

"This needs to be done properly! Who the cereal best suits, what time of day does it best react to the palate! #cerealquest

"Fair test must be applied! 1. Same type of milk! (semi-skimmed) 2. same bowl & spoon! NOTE TO SELF, must not be biased towards old favs!

"A lot of people already trying to sway my decisions before iv'e started! THIS is going to be the greatest experiment mankind has witnessed!"

It truly is. Godspeed, Sean. Early Doors supports you on this noble quest to finally answer the age-old question that has stumped humanity for so long: just what is the greatest breakfast cereal? May your quest be fruitful and rewarding. Mankind depends on its success.

Oh, and surely the answer is Grape-nuts?

STAT OF THE DAY: This weekend there wasn't a single 0-0 draw in the Premier League, Championship, League One, League Two, Conference, Conference South, Conference North, SPL, Scottish First Division, Scottish Second Division or Scottish Third Division. Is that a record? It's too early for Doors to work it out, answers on a postcard please.

COMING UP: West Ham and Stoke will probably supply the goalless draw that has eluded us so far in this round of fixtures, but still follow it live with us from 8pm tonight. Before then, Jan Molby files his latest column and we publish our Premier League and European Teams of the Week. Oh, and you can catch up with all the highlights from the weekend too.

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