Last week, I was surprised to hear that Tony Fernandes had turned on former QPR boss Neil Warnock, making him a scapegoat for the West Londoners’ woes, as reported by a number of newspapers including The Express. Despite the fact the Yorkshireman lead the club to the promised land of the Premier League and was sacked by Fernandes nearly 18 months ago, the Rangers Chairman has accused Warnock’s signings as being the underlying factor behind the club’s relegation from the Premier League.
Fernandes responded in his usual manner, via his twitter account, by denying that he had made the allegations against his former manager, but whether it is a case of a hyperbolic newspaper story getting out of hand or not, the Malaysian-born business man has certainly been playing the blame-game at Loftus road in the days since their fate was decided following a 0-0 draw with Reading, which summed up both club’s poor seasons.
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But rather than pinning the club’s relegation on the players, managers past and present or even QPR’s apparent lack of infrastructure, I’d suggest Fernandes starts looking closer to home when searching for an answer to Rangers’ failings. The fact is, money is the root of all evil, and Fernandes has overseen the club’s funds splashed around willy-nilly since their ascension to the English top flight two years ago.
Fernandes cited in his criticism of Warnock the free and inward transfers of Luke Young, Armand Traore, Anton Ferdinand, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Joey Barton during the last week of August 2011, but considering only Wright-Phillips has made over 50 appearances for the club in the space of two years, with Young and Barton not even featuring this season, it seems a rather ridiculous notion to blame QPR’s pathetically poor campaign on these five individuals.
Similarly, it is hardly comparative as to what happened afterwards in regards to mistakes in the transfer market. The appointment of Mark Hughes saw the immediate acquisition of Djibril Cisse and Bobby Zamora – two forwards who’ve come up especially short this year, with the former being loaned out in January by Harry Redknapp – followed by bringing in an essentially entirely new starting XI in the summer following QPR’s Premier League survival. Hughes and Fernandes brought in Park Ji-Sung, Esteban Granero, Ryan Nelson, Fabio, Julio Cesar, Robert Green, Andy Johnson, Jose Bosingwa, Junior Hoilett, Samba Diakite and Stephane M’Bia in the same transfer window, all on excessive wage packages.
Surely the wholesale changes, in which Fernandes played a key role in making happen, considering Hughes’ knowledge of a number of these signings, including M’Bia and Cesar, appeared to be non-existent, are more to blame for QPR’s relegation than the handful of Warnock purchases that have spent this year on the most part dwindling in the development squad. Before the inflated cast of new recruits even had time to settle, they already found themselves at the foot of the Premier League table, and it was clear to see that a lack of confidence, co-ordination and familiarity was making the daunting task even harder.
Furthermore, Harry Redknapp recently revealed that upon his arrival, he noticed the formation of awkward cliques in the dressing room, between those purchased during Warnock’s tenure with those brought in during the summer, being granted bigger pay checks and seemingly stepping into first team places at the expense of players who had steered QPR clear of relegation just a matter of months prior.
Not only did it smack of disloyalty from the boardroom to the players, which was no doubt a huge demotivation for those already at the club, but furthermore, Fernandes oversaw the purchase of a group of Premier League mercenaries. It does not take a footballing genius to work out that Jose Bosingwa, a player accused of lacking the right attitude when challenging for Premier League titles and Champions League trophies, will have a rather lackadaisical approach when it comes to a relegation battle.
I have a similar view regarding a lack of motivation for players like Granero, Park and M’Bia, who’ve all had to settle for moving to a middle-order club after playing for European powerhouses and contributing heavily to lifting domestic and continental silverware. A relegation battle is not what they’d signed up for – the party line was that everyone at Loftus Road expected a top half finish – and upon finding themselves amid one, they did not have the right temperament to perform.
But I am afraid that is all you get when your sole motivation for players is money. Excluding the likes of Clint Hill, Shaun Derry and Adel Taraabt, none of the QPR roster have even spent enough time at Rangers to forge a meaningful bond with the club itself or the fans. Why should a group of players, the majority of whom have entered the tail-end of their careers and taken a step down to move to Loftus road, care about the relegation of a club they’ve been at for just a matter of months – especially when they are all sitting pretty on bumper contracts that exceed the market’s norm.
Of course, they will be concerned at a superficial level, as no professional footballer enjoys the experience of playing badly or the prospect of their reputation being damaged, but it is still some way short of the attitude required to come out on top in a relegation scrap – the kind of all-or-nothing, fight to the end, all for one and one for all, mentality that can be witnessed week-in-week-out at Wigan, Norwich and even Reading.
Just as money got QPR into their mess of being hopelessly adrift at the bottom of the Premier League table, it was soon judged as the only solution to get them out of it, working as a justification for current manager Harry Redknapp to bring in even more expensive signings in January, in the form of Christopher Samba and Loic Remy.
They may have been two of QPR’s better performers in the latter half of the season, and indeed the club’s poor form had Redknapp’s hands tied in regards to the need to bring in new recruits, but it is clear from the get-go that both would not see out the full tenure of their contracts should QPR fail to beat the drop. More than anything, it was an opportunity for both players, who were both searching for new homes in the January transfer window, to showcase their abilities to other Premier League clubs and prove their quality in the English top flight, in the mean time picking up a wage package of 75k per week in Remy’s case, and 100k per week in Samba’s case.
At the heart of the catastrophic car-crash which has been QPR’s attempt to become a Premier League club has been the money. It has been the replacement for any sense of infrastructure, natural progress or long-term planning, and it has cost the club two managers, a relegation, a wage bill which has doubled in the space of two years and a now tarnished reputation.
The transfer market will always be the quickest vehicle for change and progress, but the manner in which Fernandes has viewed it, as a quick fix to becoming a top half club and apparent European contenders, was greedy, chaotic, naive and destructive. Money became the solution to every problem, thrown at every player who’d shown a fleeting interest in moving to Loftus Road, but the large wage packages corrupted the professional integrity of the players, and in turn, the soul of the club itself. Money is the root of all evil, and Tony Fernandes been the wallet at Loftus Road.