An impressive recruitment drive that’s seen the likes of Esteban Granero and Julio Cesar come to Loftus Road, has led some observers to tout Hughes’ men for a mid-table finish.
But the realities of what constitute a successful season for the R’s, lie simply in their need to avoid relegation. Whatever happens this term, as long as they avoid dropping out of the riches of the Premier League, it must be consigned as a success. Otherwise, this could be one rollercoaster ride that comes to a very nasty end indeed.
There’s no doubt that on paper, QPR now possess a squad that should at least be making a decent shot at survival. The now possesses a Champions League winning goalkeeper in Julio Cesar. The duo of Park Ji-Sung and Jose Bosingwa are both players who have excelled at the very top and the likes of Andy Johnson, Bobby Zamora and Djibril Cisse are all more than capable of scoring goals in this league. Throw in the likes of Adel Taarabt, Alejandro Faurlin and Junior Hoilett and you can understand why some may feel safety is something of a banker at Loftus Road. A little short at the back perhaps, but Hughes doesn’t possess a bad squad at all.
Whether he can them all to gel and play cohesively for the rest of the term is a different matter, but there’s still no guarantees of Premier League safety- bigger and better teams have succumbed to the trap door of English football’s top tier and QPR are no different.
The question mark that appears to be hanging over the West London club, however, is more of what happens if they do end up slipping back into the Championship. QPR did an awful lot of business during the summer and on paper, you’d feel as if the books were relatively balanced. They brought 11 players in but shipped out 13 before the window slammed shut. But although the wage bill is now bereft of the likes of Peter Ramage and Danny Shittu it now beholds the likes of Esteban Granero and Julio Cesar.
Indeed, Tony Fernandes’ intense recruitment drive since January has been perceived in many quarters to be a high risk, heavily invested game of chance. Throw money at the team in an attempt to secure the desperately needed status of Premier League football in the short-term and reap the rewards of fiscal benefits in the long-run. Of course, it is not that simple. But the stakes still remain high, whatever way you look at it.
The crux of the issue revolves far more around the expenditure on wages, than it does on transfer fees, which even then is hard to gauge without the publishing of the most recent accounts. QPR have hardly gone on some irresponsible summer spend. The realms of the undisclosed fee make it a bit more difficult to judge exactly how much they’ve spent, but the majority of their business has been on free transfers and loan deals. Considering their most expensive acquisition was that of Granero for an initial £6.5million (rising to £9million with add-ons), they’ve not done badly at all.
But the issue resides more with the money paid out in the realm of wages, singing on fees and clauses in these new contracts. Again, making judgments upon accounts that we’ve yet to see is perhaps foolish, but even basic speculation suggests that maybe some risk has been taken with Fernandes’ approach.
Because in terms of revenue streams, you would imagine that QPR are putting a lot of eggs in the bag of the lucrative television money they receive from being in the Premier League. A very rough estimate would suggest that the latest TV money would be worth at least £40million as a basic figure- quite the boost to the club’s coffers. Because when you consider they have an average Loftus Road attendance of around 17,000, the revenue certainly isn’t coming from matchday income.
One figure people seem to like to bash QPR round the head with, was their last published accounts figure in which wages accounted for an astonishing 183% of revenue. What some kept forgetting is that the books are always for the year before- which would be QPR’s promotion winning season. This doesn’t account for the new television money or the bonuses and activated clauses that were triggered as a result of promotion. But it’s still an alarming figure.
Furthermore in August of last year and January, when Fernandes had to spend big to keep the club afloat, there is evidence to suggest that the clubs recruitment drive this year might not necessarily be bulletproof. The likes of Joey Barton, Djibril Cisse and Bobby Zamora et al were widely reported to have no relegation clauses built into their extremely lucrative contracts. Some may argue that may have been the only way to attract them to a club that was still in real danger of relegation, but it represents an undeniably reckless strategy if true. If the latest batch of signings – you would have thought the likes of Cesar would be at least – earning within the £50k to £70k mark are without similar clauses, they could be in real trouble if they go down.
The notion is that QPR would be forced to sell these players at an outrageously cheap rate, if not for free, should they go down. And considering most came in on free transfers or for a pittance, then that’s not a problem. But many of these players are at the wrong end of 20 and getting rid of players like Zamora and Wright-Philips, who are on those sort of wages, could be tough. We’ve seen before with Winston Bogarde and more recently Wayne Bridge that not every player will happily give up their pay packet. Even the Premier League parachute payments would struggle to cover QPR if they had to pay those sort of wages in the Championship.
Tony Fernandes is no mug of a businessman and he recently stated:
“We’re not panic-buying; we’re not spending beyond our means; and we’re certainly not throwing money away like some are reporting.
“We’ve got a very strict and precise business plan in place at this club and any deal we do for a player is well within our budget.”
Whether that is media spin or good, honest, business acumen, all will be revealed in good time. Fernandes’ plans for the future are bold and if Hughes can keep the team up this year, securing the financial stability they need, there’s no reason why they can’t achieve their goals. But in the meantime, they simply cannot afford to move back own into the Championship. QPR fans know all too well the pain of financial disarray. Only if they do succumb to relegation, will we truly see the logic in the last 12 months worth of boardroom decisions.
How do you feel about QPR’s chances for the new season? Are you confident that Fernandes is managing the club well or do you fear the ramifications of relegation? Let me know what you think on Twitter: follow @samuel_antrobus and bat me your views.