By Wayne Veysey | Chief Correspondent
It had long been one of football's worst kept secrets that Harry Redknapp had been lined up by QPR if Mark Hughes could not redress the club's disastrous start to the season.
The board finally pushed the button for Hughes to disappear down the club’s well-used managerial trapdoor shortly before training last Friday.
With bookmakers refusing to take bets on the identity of the new manager, Tony Fernandes took to Twitter to deliver his latest, and final, verdict of the Hughes reign.
The second of the majority owner's two Tweets commanded most attention, with Fernandes hinting that the views of the fans, who "come first" and "are the most important constituents of the club", had played a part in the decision to axe Hughes.
But, it was the first that demonstrated that the sticking plaster appointment of Redknapp and his coaching staff would not mean sacrificing the long-term model put in place over the last six months by Mike Rigg, the QPR technical director who has a long association with Hughes.
"Though we have a change the long term vision of the club remains and much good work has already been done and will continue," explained Fernandes on the medium he favours to keep R’s fans in the loop.
The Malaysia-based owner was referring to the foundations that have been laid behind the scenes overhauling a set-up that Rigg told Goal.com last month "needed to be dragged kicking and screaming out of the dark ages".
Rigg has established a scouting team at Loftus Road virtually from scratch, revamped the sports science and medical departments, and completely refurbished the academy, where the full-time staff has grown from two to 22 in the last three months.
In short, a League One or League Two-style structure has been transformed into one on a par with Premier League or leading Championship clubs.
Hughes was a driving force in the behind-the-scenes overhaul but was unable to benefit from it, as the board feared that unless a change at the top was made, the club would miss out on the re-negotiated Premier League broadcasting deal, worth a minimum of £60m to each club from next season.
The spotlight has been firmly fixed on QPR’s summer recruitment policy, with critics claiming the club overspent on players closer to the end of their careers than the start.
A myth has developed that the club spent mega-bucks on transfers and wages in the last window. This should be detonated once and for all. They did not.
The club who retained Premier League status on the final day of last season spent £13.8million on 12 players. Five were free transfers. The biggest signings were 25-year-old midfielder Esteban Granero, who cost £3.8million from Real Madrid, and 22-year-old Junior Hoilett, for whom QPR agreed a settlement fee with Blackburn Rovers of £3m rising to £4m. Both were highly coveted by leading clubs, in England and on the Continent.
As for the salaries, they are not outlandish for a club with mid-table pretensions. No QPR player earns more than £70,000-a-week. The majority have a basic of around a third or quarter of that sum.
Moreover, the R’s released 15 players, mostly relics from their days in the second tier, and re-negotiated eight contracts.
“If we wanted to bring in players who were a lot younger, we wouldn’t have spent £13m-£14m,” said Rigg. “We would have spent £30-£40m. You tell me where you can buy good quality players on reasonable wages who understand the Premier League and have got Premier League experience. It doesn’t happen.
“The strategy behind it was to improve the quality in various positions that we were weak in and where the squad needed to be strengthened. The key was age and experience. Before, we had very little Premier League experience or top-level experience.”
No-one at QPR is denying that the signings have underperformed. So far. Or, that the squad has failed to gel. Yet.
But they point to extenuating circumstances; the late August signings who missed pre-season and the start of the new campaign; the injuries to Bobby Zamora, Andy Johnson, Armand Traore, Jose Bosingwa; Samba Diakite’s personal problems; Stephane Mbia’s crucial red card late in the Arsenal defeat that was followed by a three-match suspension. “Everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong,” said one senior source.
QPR identified the centre-forward and centre-back positions as the main priorities at the start of the summer but failed to land their two top summer targets, Olivier Giroud and Brazil defender Dede, who plays for Vasco de Gama.
The club did a lot of leg work for the deals, which both reached an advanced stage, but Giroud chose the greater glamour of Arsenal, while Dede opted to remain in Brazil.
Mbia was recruited at the last minute after the club cooled on Michael Dawson but the versatile Cameroonian is regarded as more of a midfield anchorman than a centre-half.
Senior club figures are happy with the business they did, but as Hughes’ dismissal demonstrates, the results have not borne fruit.
The board prevaricated over axing the former Fulham, Manchester City and Blackburn boss, having put so much faith in his analytical, long-term approach.
But, at a club where the manager’s shelf life is counted in months, or, even, weeks, rather than years, they felt they had no option but to act.
Unlike Hughes, Redknapp is not a modernist and has no interest in sports science or the brightest star in the academy.
But, as he prepares to take charge for his first match in charge, at Sunderland on Tuesday night, the club hope his talismanic qualities can overturn one of the worst starts to a season in Premier League history.
Four points from 13 matches, as Redknapp has been keen to stress, leaves QPR at the back of the starting grid.
There will be limited room for manoeuvre in January, with a few loan deals of proven Premier League performers to beef up the spine of the team the most likely outcome. “Some of the players have not performed but we have exceptional players,” the source said.
If Redknapp keeps QPR up, he will deserve the 'Houdini' moniker.