HARRY STRIKES – FOR A DEFENDER
Rangers add Fulham’s Hughes to haul of forwards
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.
“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.
“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.”
NEW BOYS: Modibo Maïga and Kevin Doyle, inset, start life at QPR with goals
VERSATILE: Aaron Hughes