Neil Warnock was unexpectedly fired last night as manager of Queens Park Rangers. Owner Tony Fernandes, who only bought the club in August, sacked the veteran boss a day after watching Rangers snatch a late draw at League One side MK Dons in the FA Cup third round on Saturday.
Mark Hughes is favourite to take over as Fernandes wants a 'big name' and his advisor, Kia Joorabchian, is flying back from Brazil overnight with a view to speaking to Fernandes. A somewhat surprising partnership of Gianfranco Zola and Ray Wilkins, who managed QPR between 1994-96, is also being discussed. In a statement, Rangers said after a run of "poor form" which had "seen us slip alarmingly" they had acted as part of a "commitment to retain their Premier League status."
An eight-match winless run, in which one point has been taken from the last 18, has dropped QPR to 17th in the table, one place and one point above the relegation zone. However, those six matches included 1-0 defeats at Arsenal and Liverpool, and a 2-0 loss at home to Manchester United.
At no stage this season have QPR been in the relegation zone and there have been no calls for Warnock's head from Rangers' fans.
"I'm disappointed because I think we've been playing well, but a lot of things haven't gone our way in recent games," said Warnock last night. "I'd like to have had to chance to strengthen the team in the transfer window and show what I can do with a few new players."
Warnock has had to operate with last season's Championship winners plus a few recruits added in great haste after the takeover in the final days of the August window.
Chief among those was Joey Barton, but the troubled former England midfielder has been a mixed success, as exemplified by his last match, when he scored against Norwich, then was sent off for a headbutt. Warnock said he left with "a great sense of pride." He arrived 22 months ago with the club embroiled in a fight to avoid relegation to League One. He then reshaped the side and won the title, returning QPR to the top flight for the first time since 1996.
However, the ownership of Bernie Ecclestone and Flavio Briatore did not permit much investment during the summer and QPR began the season with a 4-0 home defeat to Bolton. The owners then sold to another F1 magnate, Fernandes, enabling Warnock to bring in Barton, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Anton Ferdinand, Luke Young and Armand Traore. Fernandes is understood to be unhappy with their quality which has made him reluctant to release more funds. (© Independent News Service)