QPR boss Mark Hughes relishing west London derby against Chelsea
QPR's Mark Hughes admits he relishes derby day, having featured in many clashes between city rivals during his playing career
Mark Hughes admits he is relishing Saturday’s clash between Queens Park Rangers and Chelsea at Loftus Road despite the ongoing Anton Ferdinand-John Terry saga.
The build-up to the west London derby has been dominated by debate surrounding the pre-match handshakes after the Chelsea captain was cleared of racially abusing Ferdinand in this fixture last season back in July.
The QPR manager has vast experience of some of the fiercest matches in Europe, with Hughes playing in Lancashire, Manchester and Merseyside derbies, while also featuring in Spain’s famous El Clásico during his time at Barcelona.
Hughes says he was a relatively placid character off the field, but as a player he thrived under the derby-day pressure, with the striker feeding off the crowds’ vibes.
“I played in quite a few. I’ve played in a Lancashire, Merseyside and Manchester derby – and in El Clásico,” said Hughes.
“I used to enjoy the emotion of the day. I just bought into what the fans were feeling. I fed off the emotion of the emotions of the fans, and I used to really look forward to it. I felt it was just part of me.
“Obviously off the field I was quite quiet and introverted, but on the field, I was a different person, and that was a lot to do with my interaction with my supporters and the opposition supporters.
“I used to love helping my team win against fans that didn’t want me to win. That was part of my make-up.”
Hughes enjoyed the increased pressure of having to beat your local rivals, whether it be a Lancashire derby or an El Clásico.
“I used to like big games. The bigger the better from my point of view – some players get intimidated by that and don’t enjoy the experience – the build-up and all that entails,” said Hughes.
“I wasn’t that type. I used it as a motivator for my own performance. Everybody is different.”
He added: “Obviously the Barcelona-Real Madrid derby is a different profile, but the passion at those games generates a special atmosphere.
“As long as it doesn’t go over the edge of what’s acceptable, I’m all for it. It adds to the occasion.”
Hughes’ squad is almost unrecognisable from the one that avoided relegation on the final day of last season, with the Hoops manager making 11 new signings over the summer as he looks to mould QPR into an established top-flight club.
The new arrivals include foreign stars such as Real Madrid midfielder Esteban Granero and Internazionale shot stopper Júlio Cesar, and both could be set to experience their first Premier League derby against Chelsea.
When asked if QPR’s latest signings would take the edge off the fixture, Hughes said: “I don’t know [if having new players will take the sting out of it]. I want it to be a good game from our point of view.
“I want it to have the intensity that I’d play in that. I’m sure Chelsea will look to fully compete in the game.
“We’re all just waiting for the whistle to blow – so let’s get on with it.”