Queens Park Rangers fans will no doubt be wondering where their season has gone. Last August, Mark Hughes was aiming for a top half finish in the Premier League, and at the time, the target seemed reasonable, if a little optimistic, considering the influx of players of decent pedigree in the summer, and the large financial investment from the clubs owners, that provided a signal of intent in West London.
But come January, and things had gone horribly wrong. Hughes was axed, and Harry Redknapp replaced him in a bid to make the best out of a bad situation. But with just six fixtures remaining in the current Premier League season and a seven point gap between Rangers and safety, it seems their draw against Wigan at the weekend has all but confirmed they will be playing Championship football come August.
Whenever a team gets relegated, there is always scope for other clubs to pinch their best players, as financial restrictions for the year ahead combined with personal demands of top-flight football quickly becomes a harsh reality for the board and management staff. Of course, this process is not unusual, but what may be rather unprecedented this season is the sheer size of the potential exodus that could take place at Loftus Road.
Will the vast number of potential outgoing transfers have a serious effect on the club’s return to second tier football, and furthermore, will it prove to be QPR’s ruin? Is it yet another case of a recently promoted club biting off more than it can chew, and eventually paying the ultimate price?
What is for certain is that Redknapp’s key January signings will not be hanging around for long. Christopher Samba, despite an atrocious display against Fulham a few weekends ago, has been a solid and consistent performer for QPR, at the heart of a backline that is all in all, rather weak and underwhelming. He may not have reached the dizzy heights that he did at Blackburn during his short tenure in West London, but can you really expect an established top flight footballer, whom commanded a £12.5million fee in January, and is reportedly on 100k per week, to spend a season in the Championship, for the sake of a club that he is quite frankly a mercenary for?
It’s a similar story for Loic Remy, QPR’s other big January signing, who has been crucial during their now doomed relegation scrap. The French striker has found the net five times in seven appearances, and you could argue that it’s due to the pressure and desperation at Loftus Road for vital goals, but it takes real quality and class to adapt to the Premier League so quickly, and just in case there were any doubters, the 26 year old’s sensational striker against Wigan confirms his ability and potential. Finding a consistent striker is no easy feat in the modern game, and I have no doubt that Remy will be in hot demand come the summer.
Perhaps it’s no secret that these players will be on the move; it is most likely that a relegation clause is written into their contracts, and similarly, both Samba and Remy are probably playing as much to market themselves to other Premier League clubs as they are concerned with keeping QPR in the top flight, but even the more permanent and long-standing members of the Rangers roster will most likely also be heading for the exit door come the summer.
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At the start of the season, 26 of the club’s 33 players had been bought since their promotion in 2011, with the vast majority of them being first-team regulars at their former clubs. The likes of Junior Hoilett, Anton Ferdinand, Robert Green and Nedum Onuoha may have had lacklustre seasons, but based on their former record and history of form, it seems unlikely that there will be no interest from other Premier League teams. Furthermore, Adel Taarabt has been at the club for some time, but he’s already had his coming-of-age season in the Championship, and his five goals and four assists this year is more than enough in my opinion to convince other clubs to buy – it is not long ago since it was rumoured the Barcelona scouting team were running the rule over the inconsistent attacking midfielder.
Similarly, the likes of Julio Cesar, Jose Bosingwa, Esteban Granero, Stephan M’bia and Park Ji-Sung have all joined QPR from elite European clubs, and for their preceding teams won league titles, domestic cup tournaments, and even the Champions League, in addition to being in some cases, established internationals; Cesar has 67 caps for Brazil, and is in contention for being their first choice keeper – there’s no way he will accept playing in the Championship in the run up to the 2014 World Cup on his home soil.
But the large-scale exodus will not even stop at just the QPR players, as I find it hard to believe that Harry Redknapp, despite his comments suggesting otherwise, will be hanging around for too long next season. The Premier League looks set for a managerial merry-go-round, with speculation over the futures, either for positive or negative reasons, over the jobs of David Moyes, Roberto Mancini, Arsene Wenger, Michael Laudrup, Roberto Martinez, Tony Pulis and Alan Pardew, in addition to the well known vacancy at Chelsea come the summer.
Redknapp is a proven top flight manager, who’s had successful spells at three different clubs, and has shown himself capable of operating at either end of the table, gearing towards a variety of aims from avoiding relegation to challenging for a Champions League spot. It is not long ago since he was the public’s first choice candidate for the England job, and there will be plenty of chairmen who would take the opportunity to sign the QPR boss with both hands.
In some ways it seems unfair, as many of the players I have mentioned are directly responsible in my opinion for some of QPR’s woeful performances by quite frankly not showing their class or enough enthusiasm and desire. But come the end of the season, the mass departures will leave just a handful of players behind – the likes of Jamie Mackie, Shaun Derry and Clint Hill.
So will it leave the club in financial ruin? The club’s recent accounts show that debt has risen from £56million to £89million, and furthermore the wage bill now stands at £58.5million – 90% of the club’s revenue. Club chairman Tony Fernandes has aggressively responded to suggestions over the club’s monetary situation, replying angrily to criticism from fans on Twitter last week; “Glad you know my finances. Some of you guys crack me up. If you can read the balance sheet of QPR it is in a fantastic position. If u need lessons on accounts happy to teach you.”
But you get a sense of ‘one doth protest too much’ about Fernandes’ words. Perhaps their financial situation will not be catastrophic, as a number of their outgoing players have considerable resale value, all be it probably for less than the club initially bought them for. But the financial pressures put on the club, through the restricted revenues of the Championship, can often lead to pressure on the pitch to get results, despite the roster being sufficiently weakened in quality.
Similarly, the board may have substantial funds between them, but investing heavily in a Championship club is seriously bad business, considering it takes just a roster of decent players, a talented manager and thorough organisation to generate any team into promotion contenders. It’s the most turbulent and unpredictable divisor in English football, and it makes little sense to simply throw money at it.
It’s exactly the trap that the likes of Blackburn and Wolves have fallen into this season, and have furthermore crippled Sheffield United, Sheffield Wednesday, Leeds United, Birmingham, Middlesbrough and Charlton Athletic’s chances of returning to the top flight, and I fear QPR will share a similar fate.
QPR are a walking, talking, glowing example of how money does not buy success, and how it can eventually lead to a downward spiral.