Redknapp rumours start as QPR struggles
As Mark Hughes trudged off down the tunnel following another humiliating loss, a band of frustrated Queens Park Rangers held aloft a banner that read "Harry Come And Save Us."
Is it time for Harry Redknapp, who was fired by Tottenham in June, to come to the rescue of the Premier League's last-place team?
Redknapp did little to dampen speculation late Saturday, when asked on live television about the possibility of him replacing the beleaguered Hughes.
"It wouldn't be fair to comment about it until something happens," he said. "We will wait and see."
Hughes' uneasy 11-month stint at Loftus Road could be ending after fans turned on him following the abject 3-1 loss to fellow struggler Southampton, leaving QPR four points adrift in the standings and the only side still without a win after 12 matches.
Ominously for Hughes, QPR owner Tony Fernandes has seemingly lost the appetite to defend his manager, as he has done stridently in recent weeks.
"I feel gutted," Fernandes wrote on Twitter. "I have put my heart and soul into this with my other shareholders. And done all we can to give support to players and all management. I can only apologise to the QPR fans. We keep fighting."
Fernandes, a Malaysian entrepreneur who is the chief executive of AirAsia and the team principal of Caterham in Formula One, wasn't there on Saturday to see QPR's latest collapse.
Southampton came to west London with the worst away record in the division - five straight defeats - but pierced QPR's porous defence with ease. The score could have been worse for the hosts.
"The team totally underperformed and they have held their hands up and accepted that," Hughes said in an honest assessment. "Maybe it's a watershed moment because we can't get any lower."
It wasn't just Hughes, who is a massive favourite with British bookmakers to be the first manager sacked in the Premier League, that was the target of abuse from QPR fans. The players also received their fair share, with the chant of "only here for the money" resounding out.
Hughes overhauled the squad in the offseason, bringing in the likes of Park Ji-sung from Manchester United, Jose Bosingwa from Chelsea and Julio Cesar from Inter Milan among 11 signings. Esteban Granero, the midfielder signed from Real Madrid, has been one of the few successes.
Gelling so many new players has been Hughes' main problem. He has rarely been able to field the same team, because of injury and with his players having a penchant for getting sent off - nine were red-carded last season and two more have been dismissed so far this campaign.
QPR has also been poor defensively, with 35-year-old New Zealand international Ryan Nelsen attempting to hold up a brittle back four.
The squad has decent strength in depth but Hughes hasn't been able to find the right formula.
"The fans are well within their rights to criticise me," he said. "I can understand the reaction, it was exactly my reaction to that performance. I don't run away from situations or challenges. I came into this with my eyes wide open and it's my intention to see it through."
With the 65-year-old Redknapp lying in wait, he might not have the chance.
Harshly fired by Spurs despite guiding them to a fourth-place finish in the Premier League, he appeared to pay the price for not getting the club back into the Champions League. In normal circumstances, Tottenham would have qualified for the preliminary rounds with fourth place but that was lost when Chelsea won the competition against all odds last season, dropping Spurs into the Europa League.
Redknapp was widely regarded as the leading contender for the England job after Fabio Capello's resignation in February, but was overlooked as Roy Hodgson was hired.
Since leaving Tottenham, Redknapp has taken on a non-paid advisory role at third-tier Bournemouth and become a television pundit with the BBC, where he reacted to QPR's demise and supporter misery on Saturday.
"That was my wife with the banner at QPR - she just wants me out the house," Redknapp quipped.
It's no laughing matter for Hughes, though, as he battles to stay in charge for another week. Next up for QPR - a visit to Manchester United, where Hughes spent 13 years as a player across two spells.
"Let me tell you," Fernandes said in a follow-up tweet, "fans come first. Everyone including me let the fans down.
"Many of us need a hard look at themselves. QPR has amazing fans. They deserve better."