BARKING UP THE WRONG TREE : A QPR DISSECTION

by on April 17, 2014

BARKING UP THE WRONG TREE : A QPR DISSECTION

qpr

EASTER 2014

The signs were there when the mighty R’s rocketed to the top of the Championship last September with the tightest defence imaginable playing the most unappealing unattractive football… imaginable. We all knew it couldn’t last – that a team couldn’t win a long-haul tournament in such faint-hearted fashion, and with a ‘goals for’ column missing in action plus a single unproven striker as our only viable up-front option, the method was clearly unsustainable. And so, as maligned Schteve McClaren was prized away all smiles to the midlands, training ground fallibility was exposed, the unraveling slowly began, and revisionist brolly wally theories were swiftly written.

Harry Redknapp’s unfortunate gammy peg presumably means that, for him, a cold damp training facility is a place not regularly frequented. Which coaching staff exactly do what backstage at Loftus Road is something of a mystery in fact, but Harry’s side-kicks certainly haven’t helped him out much. “The name’s Bond – err… Kevin… Bond”, ‘Big’ Joe Jordan?, Carl ’strong & conditioned’ Serrant? I’m in the dark…

 

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The buzzword in W12 seemed to be ‘caution’. Left to his own devices, Redknapp’s un-Redknapp-like team selections, given the plethora of choices at his disposal, have been largely incomprehensible, unfathomable – never picking the same eleven twice and ranging from either ultra defensive (6 of them at home to a weak Blackpool side), or packed in midfield with uncreative dullards (Henry, O’Neil) passing only laterally, through to intermittent fanciful assortments containing four wide men paired with the likes of invisible Jenas and teacher’s pet Carroll (a man presumably in possession of compromising HR smudges locked away in his home safe) left in charge to hold up the middle on their own. A positive yet balanced side on sheet was a rare thing to see. ‘Harry’s hunches’ (or senior moments) were what one came to expect instead which, by law of average, occasionally fused but mostly appeared like the acts of a desperately out of touch, out of style, old-school football dinosaur. Pipe & Slippers.

The biggest disappointment though, especially as fitness regimes & tactical routines became a matter of delegation, was the absence of motivational man-management – skills which we were led to believe would come as standard, Redknapp’s absolute forté. Harry may look like a bulldog chewing a wasp but, it transpires, without any verifiable canine growl. It’s difficult to remember a single crowd-lifting blood & guts production, apart from a short-lived reaction (to one of the lowest-of-the-low white flag surrenders ever seen up at Hillsborough) during a home performance against Wigan, where through sheer bloody-minded will, the collective ground out a result – a proper never say die backs-to-the-wall communal effort the likes of which have rarely been seen in Shepherd’s Bush since a certain Neil Warnock was in residence. Old ’Arry had finally barked his bark but fallen short of a full-on bite because only a matter of days later, the unjustifiable caution and familiar apathy returned against Blackpool and down at comfortable seaside retirement hang-out Bournemouth… While Burnley escaped…

 

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Presumably to protect the walking wounded, QPR resolved to ease into most of their games for 2014 after the half time whistle had sounded. I could go on about the sedentary starts and individual effort levels, lack of general urgency (Assou-Ekotto), the undetectable canny creative nous or precise surgical incisions in & around the box, the crab-like sideways moves or stumbling heads-down excursions into countless cul-de-sacs (take a bow Junior Hoilett), short wasted corners, aimless crosses and strike-less strikers (stand up Keane, Johnson, Doyle, Maïga, Zamora) – but, suffice it to say, not once was any opponent given a right good spanking this season – one which our group of talented expensive experienced ex-premiership professionals ‘should’ deliver on a fairly regular basis. Barnsley, Doncaster, Yeovil, Huddersfield, Charlton “Where are you”?… “Let’s be ‘aving you”!…

 

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“Money will buy you a pretty good dog, but it won’t buy the wag of his tail.”
—Unknown

Mr cash cow Tony Fernandes, granted a wide berth for his social exuberance and hands-on chumminess, has to accept ultimate responsibility for what’s occurred. Fernandes has made a series of poor appointments – managers, coaches, technical & C-level directors – people who are far too willing to just splash his large wad for speculative quick-fix, short cut results. Philip Beard, as MD, acts like a kid in a sweet shop during transfer windows while instant-repair Redknapp, who to be fair inherited a disastrously fractured squad of mentally weak characters plus over the hill has-beens, after something of a clear-out fell into exactly the same trap as his predecessor. Yes – the self-confessed ‘eye off ball’ Mark Hughes has much to answer for having initially compiled that catastrophic train wreck, egged on by crass ambition from upon high.

Harry Redknapp will most likely retire from football management at the end of the season. Broken, those Bloodhound jowls have drooped a little further ever since being overlooked for the exalted national position. Another disparate demoralised collection will have been left in his wake, half of them washed up, crocked or heading for their own coaching courses and Sky comm boxes. The rest – after loan – returning home tails between legs, leaving us with what? The new stadium – who knows how that will progress and more worryingly, how such regularly dull & passionless displays can possibly attract the kind of numbers required to fill it. Fernandes needs to take a very close look at responsibly run clubs like Southampton, WBA or Leicester City to understand why he needs stability before growth, youth over mercenary, and controlled PR rather than the Twitter ramblings of a desperate-to-be-loved but, frankly, hapless football novice. At the moment, something more akin to the Vincent Tan template is rendering my beloved club a shambles, sniggered at by others & hurtling towards financial disaster. QPR were once respected, everyone’s favourite second team, ‘the thinking man’s team’.

 

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Since April, after Leicester & Burnley had done a runner before anyone really looked up, a play-off place for Rangers has been virtually assured. Late season dismal displays really mattered little assuming just a few more points could be gathered here & there – all serving to render the final run in a mere waiting game, devoid of incentive and resulting in the kind of momentum malaise which, by the law of sod, will no doubt come back to bite us straight in the arse. (If only Bloodhound’s gnashers had bitten a few backsides along the way, Burnley might have been arrested in time).

Call me old fashioned but I do not delight in the play-off system. The three teams that finish in the top three in a system that promotes three teams should be the three that get promoted in a long-form league competition. They are, by default, the three most worthy teams. Am I making myself clear? The team that sneaks into 6th on the back of a bit of late form suddenly potentially propelled into a whole new world which they are not really prepared for makes a mockery of 46 games spread over 8/9 months, formulated by two transfer periods, incoming and outgoing managers & staff, squad rotation, injury battles, hard-fought rain-soaked away November draws, late surges, last minute goals, the levelling of fortune against misfortune, suspensions and so on. More to the point, this mini knock-out design which is supposed to keep interest alive right until the last game has in fact killed our campaign 6-8 games prematurely while R’s supporters twiddle their thumbs waiting for the inevitable to arrive, pontificating about their big Wembley ‘day out’ (the most patronising of phrases) before finally arriving at those most cut-throat of encounters come mid-May. Had QPR been fighting for a consequential third place spot, with serious competition from at least two bright clubs playing with fire in their bellies – McClaren’s re-envigorated Derby & Uwe Rösler’s neu-clinical Wigan – we would certainly have been witnessing a proper dogfight right up until the last minute of the final fixture. Grrrrr…

 

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Championship or Premier League?

Much has been written about the aged, the injury prone, the old-pals loanees, bulging wage packets, and the missing youth. Many will be repairing creaking joints and patching up the knees to concentrate on a true passion – Golf. A few will be desperately unlucky, or lucky, having given their all… again (Clint Hill). Whatever happens, like English cricket, a new era beckons; reconstruction, long-term planning, modern coaching, contemporary concepts, younger fitter minds & muscles. Is the premier league the place to begin this process? Or do we scrap around in the championship rehearsing and fine-tuning against the likes of Bolton, Watford & Middlesborough?

Marsh, Bowles, Venables, McClintock, Tony Currie, Gerry Francis, Trevor Francis, Dave Thomas, Clive Allen, Wegerle, Parker, Wilson, Wilkins, Macca, Sinclair, Sir Les: I’ve spent many many years following QPR – since that other glorious Wembley day out in 1967. I cannot remember a season of paradoxical on-paper success which, in reality, delivered predominantly joyless experiences full of toothless, gormless displays. Last season you could at least correlate similar spinelessness with a league position which befitted it. This year’s incongruous ‘accomplishment’ just illustrates the massive gulf in class between the two leagues, where down in the battlefield of the old second division such output level can provide so little volume.

No doubt if QPR do reach Wembley, I’ll be as sucked in as any fanatic, desperate for victory, frantic to indulge in that elation, to stick two of my fingers up to the opposition followers, although more likely using all of them to hide my face in the hope that averting my gaze will somehow help avoid the crushing despondency of one-off defeat, the injustice of it all, the licking of wounds in the wake of a 9 month grind over several pints in Harlesden on one balmy regrettable evening. But once I’ve calmed down and the cold light of day has dawned, either way, I’ll realise that we have a struggle ahead, a long but ultimately… just maybe… a fruitful one.

 

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1976QPRvLeeds

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9 CommentsAdd yours

  • Bush Ranger - April 20, 2014 Reply

    Absolutely bang on Alan , on every count – A thankfully, truthful account that I myself echo in my own ramblings. Here hoping the the long term future of the R’s is adequately planned for. Deep down, all R’s fans must know this season has not been what QPR is about – regardless of whether promotion is achieved or not.

  • Gareth - April 20, 2014 Reply

    Agree with everything said here! Also this was a joy to read. More!!

  • sirleslie10 - April 21, 2014 Reply

    A really well written piece which gives an accurate description of the R’s performance (or lack of it) this season. Harry once said that he wished he had a team of Jamie Mackies … And then sold him. Sick of watching players with no passion or fight for the club.

  • Matt Waters - April 26, 2014 Reply

    Al, a very well written piece which captures the desperation, helplessness and frustrations of not just R’s fans, but football fans everywhere. Can’t help thinking that Redknapps heart isn’t in it and agree he should go at the end of the season regardless of promotion or not (can’t see it though). Disagree with your thoughts of the play-off system (just imagine actually winning it)! Those pints would taste good!!!

  • Steve - April 27, 2014 Reply

    Great analysis of the season. Exactly how I feel and undoubtedly many others. Whether we go up or not Harry must go. His times up. Give me entertainment.

  • Janik - April 27, 2014 Reply

    “Fernandes needs to take a very close look at responsibly run clubs like Southampton, WBA or Leicester City”

    Southampton – in administration and the 3rd tier of all five years ago. But presumably you meant since the Liebherr takeover. However, even that was sugar-daddy stuff, which would probably have been against the current rules.
    WBA – fair enough.
    Leicester – you what?? They may have had a good team, but they have been living irresponsibly beyond their means in a manner Fernandes would well understand. The only real difference between Leicester and QPR is that their FFP-busting team has gelled this season.

  • Toenex - April 28, 2014 Reply

    So if we do make promotion I guess Alan is likely to be having a ‘Black Celebration’.

  • Kostas Krideras (MADSilencerr) - May 5, 2014 Reply

    Nice article Mr. Wilder! I’d love a promotion though!

  • USA Mark - May 21, 2014 Reply

    The blogger is actually right about Leicester. They stopped the overspending and quit the rash transfers 2 years ago now. The excesses of QPR are far greater and their position far more precarious than Leicester. Leicester are in strong position now with Pearson at the helm. Watch and see how they approach promotion.

    As for QPR you may go up Saturday, but I don’t know if it will help long term. Best of luck.

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