A crisis is unfolding in West London, which is threatening the very survival of an institution that has stood firm through many tremors and potential disasters over the past few decades. Yet this is not the BBC that this refers to, but Queen’s Park Rangers.
On Saturday, the R’s equalled the Premier League record for the most games without a win from the start of the season dismally set by Swindon Town back in 1991. They could yet claim this dubious crown.
For the wannabe statisticians out there, this atrocious series of results came to an end against, yes, you guessed it…QPR ! The Robins even did the double over the R’s that season, the Superhoops contributing two of their paltry five wins all year.
The 1-1 draw with Aston Villa put paid to the flawed belief that Harry Redknapp taking over as manager would immediately solve all the deep-rooted problems at Rangers. His arrival has steadied the ship a little, but it continues to slowly sink.
Chronic shortages upfront caused Jamie Mackie, who is fast becoming the very heartbeat of the side, to play the entire 90 minutes despite having run himself into the ground in the first-half. It was his header that cancelled out Brett Holman’s early opener, which was the Villains’ only notable effort throughout the game. Despite the imbalance of chances, Paul Lambert’s side emerged with a draw.
To Villa a point was not ideal, but a positive result away from home. For QPR, failure to grab a deserved three points places inexorable pressure on the next three games. This coming weekend Rangers travel north to face Wigan Athletic. Neighbours Fulham visit Loftus Road on December 15, while a daunting trip to Newcastle United awaits on the weekend before Christmas.
Should the Mayan calendar be correct, the world will have ended the day before: yet banking on this could be called “irresponsible” at the very least.
With regards to possible solutions, there was not a great deal more Redknapp could have done at the weekend, besides altering his misguided substitution, which saw Esteban Granero replaced by Ji-Sung Park, who unsurprisingly offered little once again.
Chances were squandered, notably by Park and Shaun Wright-Phillips, who had his best game in the blue and white hoops, while the woodwork also kept out the diminutive winger. Late on, Clint Hill’s header came off the bar.
Besides the baffling decision to leave Djibril Cisse on the bench and bring on the South Korean followed by Junior Hoilett, who was even less effective, Redknapp has worked miracles already in getting the side to show a bit of spirit and slightly less fragility.
However, the R’s could have all the spiritual and mental riches in the world, but there is one currency they simply do not possess and that is wins. Victories drive success in football and the inability to achieve them only results in failure.
Perhaps the most disappointing aspect remains the inability of so many to play at the tempo others manage to achieve with consummate ease in the Premier League. Counter-attacks are too slow, passing is always pedestrian and shots from distance, besides the speculative efforts of Adel Taarabt, are almost non-existent.
Given time, Redknapp could bring about the sort of revival a handful of supporters are unrealistically expecting him to. He does not have time, however. Results must come immediately, and the gap cannot be allowed to get any bigger. Without two victories during December, Rangers can wave goodbye to top flight football, most likely for an extremely long time.
The club is geared to operate in a Premier League environment. It has big ambitions, an astronomical wage bill, and a boss that will not stay to pick up the pieces if everything collapses around him.
Dramatic words such as this are not meant to idly spread fear. Redknapp, for his part, was realistic and candid after the clash with Villa, saying that if a significant improvement cannot be made over the next four weeks, there is little point splashing the cash in January. He is right.
Sadly the former Tottenham Hotspur gaffer will not be receiving a Portsmouth-style windfall. He has entered a sort of footballing purgatory at QPR, where Redknapp is being punished for the sins of his father, if you will, in the shape of Hughes’ misguided signings.
One crumb of comfort is that there is a precedent for the battle facing the R’s, albeit a far less extreme one. In the midst of managerial turmoil and a bleak struggle for survival last year, a team capable of felling some of the division’s biggest names on home turf emerged and achieved its great escape.
Now is the time to bottle this “Blitz spirit” and take a long swig ahead of the Wigan game, which will decide whether QPR replace Swindon in the record books, and could go a long way towards defining the remainder of the season.