I’LL BEAT THE DROP

Mark Hughes promises to focus on short-term challenge of survival after being confirmed as manager of struggling QPR

NEW Queens Park Rangers manager Mark Hughes insists the club cannot afford to look beyond preserving their Premier League status despite the ambitious plans of owner Tony Fernandes.

Hughes’ appointment as Neil Warnock’s successor was confirmed yesterday and the former Fulham and Manchester City boss will take charge of the team for the first time against Newcastle at he Sports Direct Arena on Sunday.

Rangers, who have lost eight of their last 12 matches, could find themselves in the bottom three by then and Hughes admits avoiding an instant return to the Championship is the priority.

“I’m fully aware of the challenge in the short and long term and I am genuinely excited about the ambition of the owners,” said Hughes.

“Nobody can doubt the history of this great football club and the passion of its fantastically loyal supporters.

“Now the immediate priority is to consolidate our place in the Barclays Premier League, but beyond that, the future is very bright and fills me with great enthusiasm.”

In November Fernandes (inset) told City A.M. it was his belief that he could make the club “more popular than Liverpool within 10 years” and outlined his determination to build a new 40,000-seater stadium in west London.

Those dreams might seem fanciful in light of his side’s alarming slide down the table, but the Malaysian entrepreneur, who also owns the airline AirAsia and Formula One team Caterham, believes he has hired the man to ensure his vision for the club becomes a reality.

“Mark has a proven track record in the Premier League, bringing a wealth of experience at both club and international level.

“He has a great passion to achieve as a manager and has already been hugely successful in his career.

“His ambitions match those of the board and we are delighted to have him at the helm.”

The thoughts of Hughes and Fernandes will now quickly turn to what remains of the January transfer window with the new incumbent of the Loftus Road hotseat expected to be handed upwards of £20m in order to strengthen his squad.

QPR have already seen a bid for Fulham striker Andy Johnson rejected this month while Blackburn duo Christopher Samba and Junior Hoilett are also thought to be on Hughes’ radar.

TO DO LIST | HUGHES’S PRIORITIES

1. Buy a striker
Converting possession and chances into goals has been the recurring problem for Rangers on their top-flight return, and investing the Fernandes millions into a solution could decide how long it lasts.

2. Turn Loftus Road into a fortress
QPR’s alarming drop down the table has been underpinned by an inability to beat teams on their home turf (except a nine-man Chelsea side). That has to change if they are to avoid the dreaded drop.

3. Coax the best out of Adel Taarabt
The Moroccan marvel has struggled to reproduce last year’s electrifying form this term. If Hughes can unlock Taarabt’s potential he has a match-winner on his hands.