November 23, 2012

LONDON (AP) -- Mark Hughes' uneasy 10-month spell at Queens Park Rangers came to end on Friday when he was fired by the Premier League's last-place team, possibly paving the way for Harry Redknapp to return to English football as a replacement.

Hughes became the second Premier League manager to be sacked this week - after Roberto Di Matteo at Chelsea on Wednesday - with the team without a victory this campaign and on just four points from 12 games.

"Mark has shown integrity and professionalism throughout his time here, but ultimately the circumstances we find ourselves in have left the board of directors with very little choice but to make a change,'' QPR said in a statement.

Redknapp is the massive favorite with some British bookmakers to replace Hughes, having done little to dampen fevered speculation at the weekend. Redknapp was fired by Tottenham in June, despite leading the club to a fourth-place finish last season, and had been in talks with Ukraine's football federation about taking over the national team.

Hughes' future at Loftus Road was left in the balance after Saturday's abject 3-1 loss to Southampton, a result that led to fans turning on the former Manchester United and Barcelona striker.

"Maybe it's a watershed moment because we can't get any lower,'' a despondent Hughes said.

Tellingly, QPR owner Tony Fernandes refused to defend Hughes last weekend, as he has done stridently in recent weeks. Only last Friday, Fernandes posted a Twitter message responding to calls for Hughes' departure, saying: "Won't be happening. For the one millionth time. Hahaha. Stability.''

"This decision has been taken after careful consideration by the board of directors, following numerous meetings over the last few days,'' QPR said. "The board will now be working actively to put a new managerial structure in place as soon as possible.''

Assistant coaches Mark Bowen and Eddie Niedzwiecki will take charge of QPR's match at Manchester United in the Premier League on Saturday.

Hughes managed to keep QPR in England's lucrative top league thanks to a strong finish to last season and attempted to revitalize the squad by signing 11 players in the offseason, including Park Ji-sung from Manchester United, Jose Bosingwa from Chelsea and Julio Cesar from Inter Milan.

Getting so many new players to gel has been his major problem, while the team has the joint-worst scoring record in the division and one of its leakiest defenses, too.

Since leaving Tottenham, Redknapp has taken on a non-paid advisory role at third-tier Bournemouth and become a television pundit with the BBC.

Ukraine said this week the national team had opened talks with the 65-year-old Redknapp about filling the coaching position left vacant by Oleg Blokhin's departure in September. However, those negotiations could well be over, with QPR widely expect to announce Redknapp as its new manager as early as this weekend.

Hughes had a year and a half left on his contract with QPR.

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