"Nothing focuses the mind like a hanging." - Samuel Johnson
Hovering dangerously close to relegation, Queens Park Rangers made a dramatic statement to their supporters in the January transfer window, securing a host of signings as they battle for Premier League survival.
In just three short weeks, the new manager and executive team moved quickly to secure a range of top quality players, overhauling key weaknesses and bringing new hope to Hoops fans who have been praying for action to keep the backsliding club from going over a cliff.
Headlined by Bobby Zamora and Djibril Cisse, the new arrivals to Loftus Road have fans buzzing despite the team's lowly position in the league. Hughes has added talent and experience with an emphasis on scoring goals and getting more physical players in. The reinforcements boost the struggling club's fortunes, delivering improvements throughout the starting eleven as the R's enter the most important part of their season. There will surely be bumps in the road to come, but the renewal gives the Hoops' faithful reason for optimism once again.
Here's a recap of QPR's unusually busy January transfer window:
Federico Macheda (Loan)
The Manchester United starlet was an early loan capture, and has appeared several times since coming down to London. He remains an enigma, arriving with the caché of a bright young star while plodding around the pitch and delivering little of the lauded reputation that preceded him. Aside from a few decent crosses against MK Dons, he's shown nothing exceptional in his play here and looks to be more a product of the United hype machine than its training ground. With the pecking order once again reshuffled, his playing time may mirror that of Jason Puncheon's brief, forgettable loan spell at QPR.
Taye Taiwo (Loan)
The former Marseille and AC Milan left back will bring pace and a dominant free kick ability to solidify the R's defence. Along with upgrading the back line, he will remove Joey Barton's atrocious service from set pieces and actually restore some danger from dead ball situations. Getting him on loan is a massive coup for the club and a huge boost in talent and profile for this little club from W12. Taiwo's arrival also frees up Armand Traore to move to another spot on the pitch. Traore has been deft in attack for the club when given the chance and would excel as a winger, serving as a natural outlet for Taiwo's quick outside movement.
Nedum Onuoha (£3m Fee)
A solid bit of business for an underutilized young player with enormous upside. He's signed to a long-term deal, and is an upgrade over Danny Gabbidon who has had some chancy moments at the back this season. The athletic centre-back can play a variety of positions and will be a good partner for Anton Ferdinand in the middle of the line. That versatility will be a key attribute to a team that has seen its share of lengthy injuries, and the long term prospects of a defender with his pace and ability are very positive. Whatever window he arrived in, this would be a good signing; coming now is another great addition to an area that needed improvement.
Samba Diakite (Loan/Option)
The Mali international and former Nancy midfielder will be in the mix to partner with Joey Barton in central midfield. He brings quickness and passing skill to the position, which is an upgrade over the aging Shaun Derry. Whether he shares time with Akos Buzaky remains to be seen, but with the Hungarian's history of fitness issues, Diakite will be a regular contributor for the remainder of the season. He is the example of Hughes' transfer philosophy - signed on a loan deal with an option to buy in the summer, should QPR avoid the drop. The club has a history of handing out burdensome contracts that later handicap them from staying fluid in the transfer market, and the tactic of delaying a commitment here is sound policy. Whether Diakite develops into a long term player or not, he represents a good upgrade at the position and gives Hughes more options in selecting his teams.
Bobby Zamora (£4.5m Fee)
Another Hughes favourite from his Fulham days, Zamora was the last one in and may prove to be one of the difference makers for QPR. He is a great setup man, better at creating goals up than scoring them, but he will add depth to the strike force that Hughes needs. He's not the prolific, dazzling goal machine fans were hoping for, but he brings a useful ability to get in front of goal and lay off passes to his teammates that QPR need right now. Though his skill set closely resembles those of on-the-books fan favourite Heidar Helguson, he will hold the ball up and can work his way into dangerous areas, adding some physicality and balance to Cisse, his new partner in Hughes' 4-4-2. QPR may come to regret the length of the deal - which will carry Zamora into his mid-thirties - but for the next few years they've developed a goal scoring unit at the club in rapid succession.
Djibril Cisse (£4m Fee)
The other big signing of the transfer window for QPR is former Liverpool and Lazio striker Djibril Cisse. He slots in as exactly what the club needs - a strong, aggressive forward player with a knack for scoring goals. The R's have scored just twenty two goals in as many league games and recurring injury and performance problems have plagued current strikers Jay Bothroyd and DJ Campbell. The 30-year-old finisher was surplus to requirements at the Serie A side and his availability did not go unnoticed by Hughes, who said of him:
"He's a huge threat to opposition's defences. He's got great pace, power and movement and that's something we will hopefully benefit from.
"His goal record is there for everyone to see. He's scored goals wherever he's played. His record speaks for itself."
Cisse commented on his motivations to come to the club, saying:
"When I talked to the manager, he spoke highly of the club and where he wants to take it over the next few years. He wanted to sign me at Manchester City and now I am finally here with him at QPR.
He wanted to achieve big things here - that was all I needed to hear from him. I have unfinished business here in England."
With his track record of goal scoring, Cisse will be an instant boost to the Hoop's lacklustre striking options and will feature prominently in the campaign to stave off relegation.
Matthew Connolly, Bradley Orr, Martin Rowlands, Peter Vaagan-Moen
The transition up from the Championship is not without casualties, as former Warnock stalwarts and part-time players alike are being shown the door. The deck clearing is a necessary if unpleasant part of the business, and Hughes' lack of prior attachment to the players makes the cutting a bit easier for the club as it looks to start fresh. The players heading out are better off finding regular time rather than waiting for an injury to thrust them into a starting role, but their roles in QPR's promotion are not easily forgotten. Rowlands made over 200 appearances for the team during their long slog through the lower leagues. Connolly has been loaned to Reading, offering a glimmer of hope that he may one day return with more experience under his belt. Orr was a key part of the promotion campaign last year, and now moves on to another relegation fight, signing a two and a half year deal at Blackburn.
The distance created by the African Cup of Nations postponed direct interaction between the Hughes and the temperamental player, but Taarabt made noises from abroad that he was eager to get back and get to work under the new regime. Hopefully the restart with a new coach will cultivate Adel's talents and produce a repeat of last year's creative, attacking prowess. Taarabt and former boss Neil Warnock had their differences, and Warnock's refusal to coddle the midfielder fed the malcontent's bus fare more than his goal tally. He will have a fresh start with Hughes, who doesn't appear to put much stock in reputations, focusing instead on what the player can do on the pitch. Whether that mentality will work with this particular player is a key question, as he thinks quite a bit of himself and naturally assumes everyone around him must as well. When he returns, he'll find a dressing room with more talent and two new strikers unlikely to be phased by his past achievements. If Taarabt can overcome his sense of superiority and Hughes can motivate him to get with the program, his revival might be the best transaction for QPR this window. They sorely need a creative midfield to manage the transitional game and build up attacks. If he continues to show little and complain more, there is now enough talent around the team that he can be left on the periphery until the club is ready to jettison the complicated relationship in the summer.
Overall the quality and breadth of the signings is positive news for supporters, who sat through the last transfer window staring at Bosman names and the leavings of other outfit's trainer's room connected with their club. This time around, QPR spent around £12 million pounds to rebuild their strike force and add a defender, and managed to score a top quality left back and a very good midfielder on loan. The transformation of the business mentality to make the right deals and not throw crazy money after players is a good indicator of the sensibility of the management's balanced approach. The new faces signal that the club's leadership is ready to back up its ambition with funds and strengthen a side that badly needs it.
The complete cast of new characters probably won't debut until the weekend clash at Wolves, but expect a re-energized and eager team to make the trip to Villa Wednesday night. Come on you R'sss!