With Harry Redknapp now gone and relegation looming, Queens Park Rangers look more familiar than ever.
I have little patience for Queens Park Rangers these days. Not that I dislike them (at least not in some tribalistic fan way); I have zero reasons to wish any malice towards the club or their wonderful, undying sea of supporters. I’d even rate Loftus Road as one of the premier venues of English football. But, over the last eight or so years, the cabinet of executives at QPR have repeatedly lampooned their way into the bewildering zeitgeist of financial football foolery. I’ve spent most of that time laughing at them. But unbridled flippancy can only extend so far before I start to feel as if I’m being trolled in sport’s single most extravagant piece of performance satire. That’s how I feel towards QPR’s search for supremacy.
Oddly enough, I did find myself uniquely pulling for them at one point in their tumultuous journey. This came immediately after seeing Mat Hodgson’s 2011 documentary entitled The Four Year Plan — chronicling QPR’s trek to the Premier League from 2007-11. The majority of my sympathy undoubtedly stemmed from the arrival halfway through the film of now-Vice-Chairman Amit Bhatia, who seemed as genuine and level-headed of a person as was roaming the halls of Loftus Road at the cursed time (at least in relation to then-owners-turned-Simpsons-characters Bernie Ecclestone and Flavio Briatore). As Bhatia spread thoughtfulness through the club, I momentarily bought in to the plight: a chance to save one of London’s most storied football clubs.
Before Bhatia was given the keys to the castle, Ecclestone and Briatore had steered the club into complete disarray (which is interesting considering they originally had “saved” the club from administration when they first bought-in). The contingent disgracefully hire-and-fired 11 QPR managers from 2007-to-2010 before landing on the well-traveled Neil Warnock, who eventually won them promotion in 2011. Within three months of that promotion, the Formula One duo sold their majority shares to Malaysian Air Asia director Tony Fernandes. Perhaps, under Fernandes and Bhatia, the club could return to its rightful owners: the people.
But, in truth, I was bamboozled by even entertaining such an idea. Just like the millions of QPR fans have been over the last decade. There is no cavalry — there never was. This is, and has always been, a sinking ship. After two seasons in the top-flight, QPR experienced another relegation in 2013.
Still, somehow, they’re in the Premier League right now. They may be a chronic yo-yo club at this point — but they’re in the show nonetheless. After a season in the Championship, manager Harry Redknapp was able to bring the Hoops straight back to up (although his initial hire in November 2012 failed to inspire enough to escape relegation), which says a lot about the Englishman’s acumen, and maybe even a little about the board’s improved decision-making. But alas, a summers-worth of the same old, disappointing transfer business has highlighted a tragic post-promotion campaign.
Even with Redknapp — the perennial PL navigator — pointing the way, QPR currently sit 19th in the PL. And though their home form has resulted in five victories and four draws, their away form has been legendarily poor. Twenty-three matches in, and the Hoops have yet to pick up a single away point. Which is to say that, until they pick up an away point, we’re all looking at one of the worst sides to ever grace the heralded plane of the PL.
Of course, this horrid season was always going to lead to a job shuffle. The big one came on Tuesday when Harry Redknapp resigned from his post, strangely, due to an on-going knee problem.
“Sadly I need immediate surgery on my knee which is going to stop me from doing my job in the coming weeks. It means I won’t be able to be out on the training pitch everyday, and if I can’t give 100%, I feel it’s better for someone else to take over the reins.”
It’s a bizarre and conspicuous circumstance considering the state of QPR’s season (his job surely could’ve been under fire regardless, though on January 19th Fernandes insisted Redknapp’s job was safe), but eggshells should always be walked on when health is involved. Redknapp’s choice should be respected, but maybe with slight measure of suspicion. The question remains, who will be his replacement? And more importantly, with January now gone, will it even matter?
The club was initially put in the hands of coaches Les Ferdinand and Chris Ramsey following Redknapp’s departure, although that has somewhat changed. On Wednesday, QPR announced that Ferdinand had been appointed Director of Football, while the first-team will now be run on an interim-basis by Ramsey and Kevin Bond. Additionally, coaches Glenn Hoddle and Joe Jordan have also been relieved.
As far as a long-term replacement, Fernandes has revealed that the club have three interested candidates, whom they’ll be interviewing. The favorite right now looks to be former Tottenham boss Tim Sherwood, who worked alongside both Ferdinand and Ramsey at White Hart Lane.
It’s actually quite necessary — even poetic — that there’s a club like QPR in the Premier League. While Roman Abramovich and Sheik Mansour dug deep enough to accelerate their clubs’ rocket to the summit, QPR have become nothing more than a blinding cautionary tale. Spending money is only a perceived risk when the governing parties don’t know what they’re doing. And in Rangers’ case, it’s been a motherload of cluelessness and a whole lot of money to be clueless with.
Unlike Fernandes and his successors, Abramovich and the Mansour learned how to conjoin their wallets with their intellects. They realized that the only way forward wasn’t only through a stock of resources, but also a staff of reasonable, educated minds. Abramovich hires well; and even when he doesn’t, he corrects the mistakes. Mansour has used his money to secure elite managers in addition to great minds like Txiki Begiristain and Patrick Vieira to run the club’s footballing operations. QPR, well, did I tell you about the 11 managers in three years? Yeah, thought so.
So, when the boardroom is cancerous, the football tends to be as well. On the pitch, the powers at QPR have ultimately created a haven for the overrated and overpriced pseudo-star. Be it the aging has-been, or the wayward journeyman, or, most-and-worst of all, the uninspired brat, they’ve offered asylum for them all. They haven’t been aware of it, of course. They believe they’ve only ever made the smart, obvious decisions. Taking fliers on Jose Bosingwa, Djibril Cisse, Adel Taarabt, and Benoit Assou-Ekotto — that’s how you become the next Enron FC, not the next City. Relying on the hard work of notable non-hard workers is always going to be a recipe for the drop.
The hope (and let me know if you’ve heard this one before) is that things are finally ready to change at QPR. Fernandes believes he’s the one to do it, though he’s failed so far. The sole bright spot of their campaign has been the full-realization of Charlie Austin, who not only represents the unexpected league-wide surge of prominent English forwards but also QPR’s possible recognition of a new route to success. Upon promoting Ferdinand to director of football, Fernandes revealed a strict, new growing strategy at QPR: “To develop a philosophy of buying young, hungry players.”
It’s a refreshing thought — that much is irrefutable. But it’s quite sickening to know that it’s taken them this long to introduce a “philosophy” that stems from their heads rather than their crotches.