Eye Witness Assessment: Yet More Short-Termism From Redknapp and QPR
Lucky Charlie Austin. Youthful rejection at the hands of Saturday’s opponents and Hull City medicals aside, he was the one Queen’s Park Rangers player yet to be labelled with a question mark as to his reputation at the Madejski Stadium on Saturday.
For this is a flawed squad that Harry Redknapp has assembled and while there is far more backbone than that displayed by the miscreant class of 2012-3, doubts surround the team nonetheless – queries that have hastened in volume in recent weeks.
Rangers had until recently disproved many pre-season commentators who saw the up and coming likes of Watford and Derby County as safer bets to do well this Championship season as well as the fellow relegated but, on the surface of things, more stable Wigan Athletic and Reading. A tough-minded, gnarled approach has won the team points while the paucity of effort we saw in the Premier League season is now a memory.
But the Championship has a habit of dragging a team down to its level and a run of one win in five has reminded us of the shortcomings of some of this squad even if there is no need to panic just yet.
Take Robert Green – excellent so far but surely still bristling from the meltdown moment to end all meltdown moments in Rustenberg three and a half years ago. Confidence jolted, the goalkeeper suffered a series of follow up errors for West ham before finding himself a weekly number two to Júlio César.
Take Joey Barton – probably the best player on the pitch on Saturday, keeping deep but as vigorous in the tackle as we remember him and the author of a glorious free kick that bent away excruciatingly from the fingertips of the otherwise marvellous Alex McCarthy, a fellow contender for an England recall along with Green. Not so much ‘well documented’ as emblazoned on billboards and subject to a protracted worldwide marketing campaign, Barton’s travails are known to all of us.
Take Richard Dunne – a defender whose sheer poise and nous surprised me when I first saw him play in the flesh a few years ago, but still beset by oil tanker comparisons and likened to Eric the Eel when pace is the matter being discussed.
Take Benoît Assou-Ekotto, often the first name mentioned when it has come to discussion of underrated Premier League players down the years but avowedly indifferent to the sport and now deemed surplus to requirements by André Villas-Boas.
Take Niko Kranjčar, a languid presence capable of rapid bursts of devastation and yet perhaps overly fattened by the milk and honey of Portsmouth before making way for Gareth Bale too often at Spurs and suffering a false start amid the Champions League climes of Kyiv’s Olimpiyskiy Stadium. Both of Redknapp’s former Tottenham charges are but 29 years of age – no age at all to be slumming it in the lower divisions – the Croat didn’t even start here.
Nedum Onuoha? An intelligent centre back who uses the ball well but too often a substitute in his Manchester City days – as he was here before an injury put paid to Dunne’s afternoon early on. Danny Simpson? A slow slide down the leagues is the fate of many a Manchester United youngster – remember Grant Brebner, Giuliano Maiorana, Ben Thornley, Chris Casper and Terry Cooke?
Shaun Wright-Phillips? Once seen setting up Didier Drogba with a peach of a cross on this ground but now struggling to recover from an ankle injury sustained last April and deemed unworthy of a place on the bench against the Royals? Take Matt Phillips, struggling to recapture the form of his early Blackpool days after a year blighted by injury and an oddly unimpressive loan stint at Sheffield United back in the day.
Gary O’Neil? A thinking man’s footballer who is perhaps one of the tidiest players you can imagine but one who has never really pushed on from his involvement in Portsmouth’s tainted glory years and who is associated with Middlesbrough’s decline and the offences to football of the as yet unfinished Sam Allardyce era at West Ham.
The whole still works of course and Clint Hill has stuck with the club through the zaniness of recent times, Junior Hoilett showed more than a few glimpses of what he can on Saturday (an early rasper will have showered McCarthy in splinters) and as for Jermaine Jenas – has there ever been a less exciting player? No – solidity was needed and ‘Arry has shaped the unit exactly as it should have been after the disrespect shown by your Bosingwas and Rémys.
A few thrillion quid helps of course and perhaps we’d be casting less doubt as to the skills of these guys if they were big enough to operate at a level more suited to them than as part of the turkey shoot much of this season will prove to be. Redknapp is an engagingly sporting interviewee and Saturday was no exception and I’m sure he’s a top man to have a pint with but he’d do well as a CEO of a financial management company or investment bank given his obvious preference for the short term. QPR will go close but those flaws might come to trouble them.