Is Harry Redknapp flogging a dead horse?

Harry Redknapp, QPR managerSome football fans dislike Harry Redknapp, they believe he is overrated and somewhat irresponsible when it comes to spending money. But credit where credit’s due, he’s proved himself as a successful Premier League manager over the course of his career. His recent appointment at Queens Park Rangers however might be a step too far.

At the time, I was very critical of Mark Hughes. I believed he was in over his head, brought in the wrong players, and was generally lacking in ideas. The nickname “Sparkless” seemed appropriate, and it was a theory I bought into. But in hindsight, I feel Hughes was to some extent a patsy for some dismal individual performances – although there is certainly a lack of cohesion at the club, and some of the stories regarding the Welshman’s tenure at Loftus Road have been less than flattering. Rob Green’s recent discussion in the media about how he was hoodwinked into thinking he would be the first choice keeper, not to mention the six players being sent to train with the development squad and effectively transfer-listed despite many only recently signing for QPR are particularly enlightening tales.

So with the appointment of Harry Houdini, the cockney magician – a rather more flattering dubbing than Sparkless (although Redknapp did seem to make Southampton disappear from the top-flight rather unspectacularly in 2005), many QPR fans, as well as those neutral in regards to the Premier League relegation battle and watching from a-far, expected a change in fortune – a bit of enthusiasm put into the lads from the former Portsmouth and Spurs manager. But, has anything really changed? And even if it has, is it all a little bit too late?

QPR have improved under Redknapp, but not by the margin fans had been hoping for. The club are still without a win this season, and sit on the bottom of the table with just eight points, despite half the season nearly gone. I’m not suggesting the players haven’t come a long way since QPR’s 3-1 drubbing at the hands of Southampton in front of their own fans, a game in which the visitors had twice the amount of shots on target, 61% of second half possession and a 65% territorial advantage.

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But considering the club’s recent opposition, despite the fixtures coming at perhaps bad timing bearing in mind Redknapp has had limited time to turn a squad of complete flops into confident performers, the results have not been good enough. Three of Redknapp’s fixtures have been against relegation fellow relegation battlers, and all three have resulted in draws. It’s certainly better than losing, as they may have done under Mark Hughes, but Rangers are now eight points off 18th and have missed their chance to close the gap on those around them.

Furthermore, it’s hard to predict where QPR’s next win will be coming from. The next two matches against Newcastle and Fulham, who have been faltering this season and are topping the mini-league at the bottom of the table, will be their best opportunities to record their first win of the season for the foreseeable future. They won’t face another relegation candidate until they travel to Southampton in March, by which time the whole composition at the foot of the Premier League could have changed, and QPR’s season may already be over.

No doubt QPR fans are holding out to see what bargain signings their transfer wizard manager can conjour in January. Rumours have suggested MLS stars David Beckham and Robbie Keane could be set for a short-term move to West London, Nicolas Anelka could be due a Premier League return and old Pompey buddy Tal Ben Haim has been offered a trial. There is certainly the need for reinforcements. Mulling over the squad, many of the players who at the start of the season appeared to be decent footballers, now seem to be mediocre at best, and many of them below Premier League quality. In my opinion, the likes of Anton Ferdinand, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Armand Traore, Bobby Zamora, Djibril Cisse, Kieron Dyer and Andrew Johnson aren’t good enough, despite the latter three names being the club’s only strikeforce apart from youngster Jamie Mackie (there is a great imbalance in the QPR squad and a real lack of hierarchy in terms of a Starting XI). Furthermore, their more experienced signings in Park Ji Sung, Jose Bosingwa and Stephane M’Bia are yet to reach their full potential.

But even by January, it could all prove to be too late – something Redknapp is well aware of: “It we don’t win a game or two then I wouldn’t ask them to spend any more money. I think it would be unfair to the owners. I wouldn’t tell them to go and spend big money on a couple more players if we’re that far adrift. You’ve got to be realistic.”

The problems at QPR run far deeper than just a manager, although Mark Hughes was at the helm whilst many poor decisions were made, but won’t be simply resolved by the appointment of another one. For a team to go this long in the season without a victory, something is intrinsically wrong – the quality is not there, or if it is, it is not spread evenly throughout the squad. Furthermore, too much pressure was put on the team and Hughes at the start of the year, largely because of their strong finish towards the end of last season. The 5-0 defeat on the opening day of the season to Swansea should have been taken as an indication of things to come.

I share the view of Harry Redknapp – the club have until January to decide their fate. There is no way they will rack up 30 points in the second half of the season. Should they fail to win before the New Year, it will be over for QPR, but even then, I fear Harry Houdini needs a few more magic lessons before he learns how to bring this horse carrcas back to life.

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