HARRY STRIKES – FOR A DE­FENDER

Rangers add Ful­ham’s Hughes to haul of for­wards

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Jamie Holt

TRANS­FER dead­line day wouldn’t be the same with­out a splurge on strik­ers by Harry Red­knapp and this Jan­uary was no dif­fer­ent.

But while the sign­ings of Kevin Doyle, Modibo Maïga and Will Keane pro­vide some much­needed threat for goal-shy QPR, Aaron Hughes’ un­der­stated ar­rival looks like a smart move from the R’s boss.

There’s no doubt that Red­knapp was search­ing for goals in the Jan­uary sales, much like last win­ter when he splashed out £8mil­lion for Loïc Rémy in a bid to stave of rel­e­ga­tion from the Premier League.

It did not work. Now aim­ing to bounce back first time, a lack of goals re­mains their main worry.

Be­fore this week­end Rangers’ 36 goals from 28 Cham­pi­onship matches was the low­est of any side in the top eight.

At the back, they have con­ceded just 20 goals – a record only matched by League One Wolves and Jose Mour­inho’s Chelsea in the top four di­vi­sions.

But when a ver­sa­tile de­fender with 88 caps for North­ern Ire­land and 16 years of topflight ex­pe­ri­ence was avail­able on a free trans­fer, Red­knapp moved in.

“When he likes a player he does his best to get them in for the club,” said Hughes, who has signed un­til the end of the sea­son from Premier League strug­glers Ful­ham.

“That’s some­thing that played a part, I’m look­ing for­ward to work­ing with him and work­ing with this squad. Harry’s very ex­pe­ri­enced and he’s got an eye for play­ers, he’s been in­volved with trans­fers and dead­line days for a long time.

Manic

“The first cou­ple of days were manic. I was straight in and then it was the game against Burn­ley the next day. It was OK, it was more just the fact it was all done so quickly. There was cer­tainly no time to waste, it was a de­ci­sion that had to be made very quickly. “I re­ported for train­ing at Ful­ham as nor­mal on Thurs­day morn­ing and by Thurs­day evening

ev­ery- thing had pretty much been agreed.

“I then came in on Fri­day to get things sorted and it was re­ally busy, it was a busy day for the club. It’s the first time I’ve been in­volved in any­thing like that.”

Hughes, 34, has also never been in­volvd in the Cham­pi­onship, hav­ing only played in the top flight with New­cas­tle, As­ton Villa and Ful­ham.

But he has no doubt that QPR will be back at the top next sea­son – even if he isn’t there.

“My deal lasts un­til the end of the sea­son, and I’m not re­ally think­ing be­yond that and be­yond play­ing as many games as pos­si­ble,” he added.

“There were no con­cerns from me about drop­ping down a divi­sion. Look­ing at this squad it can com­pete in the Premier League now.

“As much as it is, it doesn’t feel like this is a Cham­pi­onship side. We’re push­ing for pro­mo­tion and it was an easy de­ci­sion for me to come here.

Pro­mo­tion is the aim, that’s what we’ve set out to do and it’s up to the play­ers to push for it in the sec­ond half of the sea­son.

Dream

“Train­ing has been ex­cel­lent, the play­ers here are of real Premier League qual­ity and hope­fully I can add to that.

“The de­fence has been great so far, and I’m not ex­pect­ing to come straight into the side but I’m hop­ing I can add some­thing and play more foot­ball.”

Hughes’ six and a half years at Ful­ham took him to the 2010 Europa League fi­nal, where Atletico Madrid ended the dream.

More re­cently, though, it’s been lows at Craven Cot­tage as new boss Rene Meu­len­steen tries to ex­tend their 13 years away in the top flight.

So what if the two west Lon­don clubs swap places next sea­son?

“I’ve not re­ally thought that,” he con­tin­ued. “I hope we go up and Ful­ham stay up. That would be ideal. If Ful­ham go down it would be a real shame.

“It’s dis­ap­point­ing to leave but that’s foot­ball. I spent a good six years there, a cou­ple of which were re­ally suc­cess­ful. I’m pretty sad to be leav­ing but I hope they stay up. If you look at their squad they have got enough to do it.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

NEW BOYS: Modibo Maïga and Kevin Doyle, inset, start life at QPR with goals

VER­SA­TILE: Aaron Hughes

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