Mark Hughes has set about business quite sensibly at QPR following their hare’em scare’em relegation avoidance in the last-day madness of the triumphant Etihad, so far bashfully turning down owner Manuel Fernandes’ offer of a fruitful expenditure in favour of the settled summer that fatefully evaded Neil Warnock last year.
The Welshman has utilised his links with Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United to acquire the midfield energy and experience of Park Ji-Sung and the youthful quality of left-back Fabio, Junior Hoilett brings his skilful wing-play from Blackburn, Samba Diakhite has built on his impressive loan spell towards the end of last season by making his move permanent, while striker Andy Johnson, goalkeeper Robert Green and defender Ryan Nelson will all contribute to a top-level familiar spine.
Arguably against the logic that Hughes has surveyed so far however, is the news that the club has handed the treatment-table regular Kieron Dyer, a player who has completed just one game in two seasons, a new one year extension to his contract. Dyer managed just 3 minutes against Bolton Wanderers on the opening day of last season before he was ruled out for the rest of the campaign with injury, but Hughes’s faith in the seemingly finished midfielder has shown no sign of dying out, especially with his continued presence in a squad containing nine strikers, facing a stiff whittling down to fit in the 25-man regulations.
If Hughes can find room in the squad for 33 year-old Dyer who brings experience to the fore if not a reliable degree of fitness, he played just 33 times in 4 years for West Ham, then he may be tempted to pluck a hole for the Manchester cast-off Owen Hargreaves, the forgotten man of English football following his own abysmal record with injuries, a place in the squad after a short spell training with the Loftus Road squad. Hargreaves was a surprise signing for eventual champions Manchester City last summer after neighbours United’s patience with his constant problems with tendonitis, a condition that saw him make just four appearances in 3 years following an impressive debut year, ebbed away to a bitter conclusion.
The combative midfielder made just two appearances in his one year stint at Eastlands after impressing Roberto Mancini and the City management team with a series of gymnasium rehabilitation videos, but he will have a chance to convince Hughes with a more orthodox method of one-to-one training in order to prove that he is worth just one more chance in the Premier League to finally realise the potential he promised as England’s player of the year during the Germany World Cup season of 2006.
There will a very small minority of people who begrudge such an honest, laborious individual like Hargreaves one last shot at what the natural progression of his career promised, but the more rational conclusion would be to urge Hargreaves to finally realise that his legs simply cannot stand the demands of professional football and that the natural solution would be to familiarise himself with retirement, just like Tottenham’s Ledley King who has recently buckled to the weakness of his knees, no matter how sad that might be.
Hargreaves is not in the position of King however, he does not have the cult-hero status or the legacy the English defender picked up during an eleven year stint at Tottenham Hotspur which sometimes saw him play beyond the demands of everyday training. Hargreaves is the forgotten man of English football, unlike King who has resonated in Premier League diction as a consummate defender for as far as the mind can stretch back. In contrast, Hargreaves is the perma-crock, the constantly injured midfielder, just like Dyer, and he is unlikely to hang his boots up until he can make a significant impact on that perception.
It is Mark Hughes’ remit to make a competitive squad at QPR in order to make a better fist of the Premier League campaign, and he is doing that slowly with a stream of sensible signings, yet dabbling with Hargreaves and Dyer represents two huge gambles and one that will suit the player more than anything, they have one final chance to turn themselves into something resembling the King.