Redknapp and Fernandes Should join Hughes in Taking the Blame at QPR
Gallows humour was in plentiful supply at the Madejski Stadium on Sunday, in a rubber that would have rivalled the dodo itself in its deadness. But, amid the good natured acceptance of a fate well deserved, the unfurling of one banner in particular indicated where Queen’s Park Rangers fans feel the blame lies.
Although the match was nowhere near half as bad as the preordained scribblings of the nation’s press would have us believe, I did spend a fair proportion of the afternoon attempting to decipher the exact wording of the anti-Mark Hughes message inscribed on to a decidedly grubby looking bed sheet.
QPR fans can be excused their lack of energy in failing to hold the banner properly aloft but was their half-hearted attempt to apportion blame due to the stable door having been left ajar, the effect of the ale selection in the Reading’s station boozer, The Three Guineas or a tacit admittance that their chosen fall guy isn’t any more to blame than anyone else.
There almost seemed to be an embarrassed twitching behind the sentiment – who after all is most at fault? ‘Not Tony Fernandes – he may withdraw all the funds if we slag him off! Not ‘Arry Redknapp – he’s a miracle worker! Not Barclays Bank for over generously supplying us with a £15 million loan in February. Not us – for failing to voice caution given the example of Portsmouth?’ – Who CAN we blame? – Mark Hughes – he’ll do!’
The Welshman’s record at Loftus Road was indeed far from scintillating. A 3-1 defeat to Southampton in November signalled his exit, with the team bottom of the table on a miserable four points. 11 players joined Rangers during the 2012-13 section of his stewardship and their combined impact has been negligible.
Take Robert Green, discarded after a single game in favour of the Brazilian Júlio César. Take Park Ji-Sung – the man who according to pundits ‘always plays well in the big games’. Take José Bosingwa, an overpaid Chelsea misfit , although not a man who should be condemned for being caught laughing.
In all, £24.5 million was frittered away even if Stéphane Mbia and Esteban Granero, among the most expensive of Hughes’ acquisitions, have shown promise in patches – yesterday in Reading, both displayed at least a modicum of commitment to the cause as they busied themselves shamefacedly in the midfield mire.
The memory of a successful fight against relegation quickly faded as the club endured horror show after horror show – from the moment a Michu inspired Swansea came to the Bush and plundered a 5-0 win on the first day, these were the ingredients of nightmares.
Without question, Hughes had to go – his lofty hauteur making him few friends in west London – but that should have been the cue for a dramatic change of strategy. Instead, with the golden fleece that is the new Premier league television deal glimmering six months way in the distance, Tony Fernandes pressed the panic button.
Relegation and debt follow trail in Harry Redknapp’s wake as remoras do a shark – with so far only Tottenham Hotspur avoiding this ignominy. But, with the press pack still hurting from their hero’s failure to land the England job last Summer, he was fair whisked into the position of QPR manager.
Never mind the catastrophic legacy at Portsmouth, the unseemly signings of stars well beyond that club’s true means, the close shaves with Her Majesty’s Revenue Collectors and the tendency to throw good money after bad. This was a ‘Red Adair’ moment – Harry’s man management abilities could keep the club up and all trouble could be forgotten
In came a jaw-dropping litany of arrivals – including Christopher Samba from Anzhi for £12.5 million and Loïc Rémy from Marseille for roughly two thirds that – all in a whirlwind of a January that saw a stolen 1-0 victory at Chelsea paper over the cracks temporarily.
But as things stand, Redknapp’s win percentage is the worst in Queen’s Park Rangers’ top flight history – 19% – lower than Gerry Francis, lower than Ray Wilkins and lower than – yes, you guessed it – Mark Hughes.
Despite occasional all guns blazing moments including a keystone cops reverse in a six pointer at the Villa, results have steadily become more miserable – with a 2-0 capitulation to Stoke the nadir – unless that is, you count an abysmal thrashing by MK Dons – that’s Milton Keynes Dons – in the FA Cup.
The bare truth on the evidence of yesterday is that Rangers are in no better a position than they were when Hughes left. Of the XI, only the ever willing Clint Hill and, going forward, the lively Armand Traore stood out.
If Robert Green had little directly to deal with, the yawning acres that greeted Reading’s attackers whenever possession was regained told of a general unwillingness to track back while perhaps the worst selection of final balls I have yet seen contributed to this lack of shape.
Adel Taarabt is a mercurial customer of course and if he can occasionally turn it on, on the balance of his two Premier league years, my unpopular prediction of the winter of 2011 has now been proved right. Simply appalling on the day, his tendency to go to ground exacerbated his utter ineffectiveness – possession was continually wasted and speculative attempts skied.
Ditto, Rémy – quite possibly considered a ‘success’ by QPR fans after netting 5 in 8 matches. That’s still well over a million pounds per goal and here, he was as wasteful as the Moroccan – languid and uninterested against a defence that should surely have been there for the taking – had there been any spirit at all within the red shirted opposition, that is.
Such unwillingness to perspire blood is shameful of course as was the defensive incompetence of full backs Traore and Bosingwa, the half-assed attempts oto hold one’s position of Nedum Onuoha and the elbows and shoves of a Jay Bothroyd ever obsessed with personal battles.
So it’s the players’ fault right? Absolutely – rumours have emerged in the wake of the R’s relegation that the divide in the camp rivals the Great Rift valley and that wage differentials have become too much to withstand for huge swathes of the squad – Michael Moruzzi’s recent post saw one commenter remark that Samba – absent yesterday – was ‘only’ on £65k a week – well that’s all right then isn’t it?
But it’s not just the players and it certainly isn’t just Hughes – what of Redknapp? Apart from the financials, what has become of his much heralded powers of motivation? In a cruelly tough division, QPR are without question the least organised team I’ve seen this year and I’ve spent a whole nine months watching Reading.
With Rémy and Taarabt ambling forward like greedy kids in a playground, listlessly picking out hooped shirts and serving up full 90 minute version of the last rites, where was their leader? It’s as if he had the speeches prepared already, the excuses primed.
It’s Redknapp who poured oil on the fire with that £21.5 million’s worth of January cheques, not including undisclosed fees, and it’s Redknapp who left Jamie Mackie – one of the few men willing to put in an honest shift – on the bench yesterday before bringing him on when it was all too late.
Plus it’s Redknapp who has done nothing to provide salve for the wage bill – the true, unreported and disputed element of the catastrophe that QPR are facing. For sure, that 25 players have another year of their contract to run may be a direct consequence of the Hughes era, although again, far from the fault of that one man alone; but Rémy and Samba have another four years’ each on their deals – deals sure to be gold plated indeed, whatever hair splitting arguments Rangers fans can provide.
For therein lies the rub of the matter – that loan from Barclays provides the first evidence that Fernandes might be losing patience – how could he not? – unless he realises himself the deep responsibility he must also take for this catalogue of despair.
The comments section afoot Moruzzi’s plain-talking account of QPR’s travails used the excuse of the vast wealth of Fernandes and the Mittal family to provide an overarching excuse for the profligacy. If a rich man wants to spunk £50,000 on a Fabergé egg, he can – so why can’t men with unrivalled wealth enjoy the hobby of running a football club?
Because a hobby ceases to be fun when a Joey Barton you have paid handsomely starts biting the hand that feeds, when the men you delegate to persuade you to pay the wages of Andy Johnson and Junior Hoilett and ask you to line the pockets of Rob Green, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Bobby Zamora, despite fleeting appearances.
I doubt that Tony Fernandes and the Mittals got where they were through thoughtless overspending and if parachute payments sound exciting, remember that they are split over several seasons and remember that QPR’s wage bill for 2013-14 is likely to more than swallow them up.
This past week has seen Portsmouth fans finally wrest control of the club after a half decade struggle – and the solace they found in a full house on a bright Spring afternoon against Sheffield United is perhaps the best evidence that football isn’t only about winning.
For if QPR fans will have any gumption, any decency and any intelligence, they’ll build on the good natured spirit their travelling support displayed yesterday, call for an end to the whole farrago, stop blaming Mark Hughes, put Redknapp out on his ear, and politely request that Fernandes take his business elsewhere. That might leave them free to start afresh with a sustainable future and with a manager willing to live within his means – a Gareth Ainsworth perhaps?
…and I haven’t even mentioned Djibril Cissé