Belfast Telegraph

Hughes prepared for QPR backlash

Stoke boss Mark Hughes is ready to meet the QPR boo-boys head on when he goes back to Loftus Road on Saturday for the first time since his sacking 18 months ago.

Hughes managed to keep Rangers in the Barclays Premier League after taking over from Neil Warnock in January 2012, albeit by the narrowest of margins on the final day of the campaign as they lost to champions Manchester City in an afternoon of high drama at the Etihad Stadium and Bolton failed to beat Stoke.

The Welshman, though, could not build from there, despite a large number of high-profile summer signings.

After a humiliating 5-0 home defeat by Swansea on the opening day of the 2012/2013 season and a run of 12 league matches without a victory, Hughes was sacked in November 2012 and replaced by Harry Redknapp, who could not keep the club in the top flight, but did secure a swift return after a last-minute victory in the 2014 Sky Bet Championship play-off final at Wembley.

Hughes is in little doubt there will be some QPR supporters only too happy to vent their frustrations at him as Redknapp's side look to put last weekend's 4-0 defeat at Manchester United out of their system.

"It was a difficult period, without a doubt ( the toughest time of my managerial career)," said Hughes, who took over at the Britannia Stadium from Tony Pulis in the summer of 2013 and guided the Potters to ninth place last season.

"We made changes that we thought were for the right reasons, would enhance the club and allow the club to be stronger for the future, but sometimes it does not come off and you have to hold your hands up,"

"On paper the new players were very good, but the combination and dynamic of the changing room just didn't work, sometimes you cannot envisage that happening until you bring the group together.

"The feeling is maybe too many came in at the same time, but there was always going to be a big turnover. I just wanted to try to increase the quality.

"Unfortunately when you don't win games, and any issues within the group or that they had with me or the staff, then that will manifest itself in poorer performances, which is what happened.

"But at the end of the day, we are judged on results and at the beginning of that second season, they were not good enough, so I lost my job, I accept that.

"I felt we could have turned it around, there were still plenty of games left and good players at the club."

Hughes added: "The impression I get is it (reception) will not be a great one, which is understandable, because since that time a lot has been said, I have not said a great deal about it, I don't think I need to.

"It was a difficult time for everybody. We were all trying to make the club successful, none of us wanted to damage the club, but it did not work for me in that opening part of the season.

"QPR fans will remember that time as it was not great for anyone connected with the club, and if they feel they need to vent their frustrations at me, and I will take it on my shoulders.

"Fair play, Harry got them back up last year and I wish them well."

Stoke won at Manchester City before the international break, only to then be beaten at home by Leicester.

Hughes is expecting a response from both sides.

"I watched them last week (at Manchester United) and they will have been disappointed with their performance," he said.

"They will want to bounce back and at home with the support they get from the ground it will be a difficult fixture, but we have enough ability to go there and get a positive result."

Midfielder Marko Arnautovic (foot) and winger Jon Walters (calf) are doubts, but Stephen Ireland should be in contention following a rib muscle injury.

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