Fans View – Michael Hann’s recent article for the Guardian:
Back when Harry Redknapp was appointed Queen’s Park Rangers manager in November 2012, I said on the Guardian’s Football Weekly podcast that I wasn’t overjoyed about him coming in to the club I support.
Rangers would still be relegated, I predicted, we’d just do it more expensively. It was one of the rare predictions I’ve made that was right. You won’t be surprised, then, to hear I’m not sorry he’s gone.
Redknapp’s reign has been a shambles, to be frank. There have been a preposterous number of signings, at a total cost reputed to be ¬£58m, both on permanent deals and on loans, most of whom have been anonymous at best, and shocking at worst.
The club wasted ¬£12.5m on buying Christopher Samba from Anzhi Makhachkala in the January transfer window two years ago, to be rewarded with performances that redefined the word “ineffectual” (why Anzhi paid the same fee to bring him back at the end of the season is one of those mysteries that has one wondering quite what the deal was all about).
This season’s big peculiarity has been Jordon Mutch – bought last summer for ¬£5.5m, given 11 games, none of them in his preferred position as an attacking central midfielder, then discarded for ¬£4.75m to Crystal Palace, because – as the chairman tweeted – he was “not in the manager’s plans”.
If he wasn’t in the manager’s plans, why did the manager buy him in the first place? Presumably because last summer he was in the manager’s plans.
Redknapp intended to play a 3-5-2 based around Rio Ferdinand in central defence. The only problem with the one that was widely foreseen by everyone except Ferdinand and Redknapp: that the former Manchester United captain was no longer up to being the linchpin of a Premier League defence, certainly when those alongside him were not of the highest class.
Both Ferdinand and 3-5-2 were discarded before we had to put on jumpers to go to matches, leaving Redknapp with a selection quandary – that he didn’t have the right players in midfield for any other formation.
Rangers have had a glut of No.10’s – Leroy Fer, Niko Kranjcar, the now departed Mutch, the ostracised Adel Taarabt – but played a system without No.10’s, and with central players out of position on the wings.
Nor did the defenders: he’d got rid of the one true right-back, Danny Simpson, and replaced him with a wing-back, Mauricio Isla, who often looks lost in a flat-back four.
Rangers’ fans haven’t been happy with Redknapp for most of his tenure, and there’s going to be a fair amount of “ding dong the witch is dead” over the next few days. Though the club won promotion via the play-offs last season, it was hardly the triumphal procession it should have been, given the resources at his disposal.
The football was usually pretty dreadful, especially away from home. At times the atmosphere got poisonous as a result, with the loss at Charlton a nadir, Rangers performing woefully in front of a large travelling support that seemed to spend more time squabbling among themselves about whether it was appropriate to let the team know exactly how bad they were rather than watching the game.
And yet, last summer, there was a certain amount of optimism. Rangers had Charlie Austin to bang in goals, and most of the new signings appeared to be the kind of players Rangers needed – young and talented, with re-sale value, rather than old lags cashing in one last time. So what’s gone wrong?
The answer can’t just be that Redknapp didn’t know what he was doing, though that did often seem to be the case as he tinkered with formations and failed to address defensive and attacking shortcomings in favour of piling up midfielders.
Two successive managers with good records have come to Loftus Road and failed; they’ve bought youngish players who’ve looked good and done well elsewhere but failed in West London.
Mark Hughes brought in Stephane Mbia, Esteban Granero and Junior Hoilett; Redknapp brought in Austin (his one great success), Matt Phillips, Steven Caulker, Mutch and Leroy Fer. But still Rangers have struggled. The club has taken good managers and players and turned them into dross, giving them the footballing anti-Midas touch.
Last time Rangers were in the Premier League it was apparently all Hughes’s fault the team was a disgrace, and that he’s been found out as a manager. Well, he’s done all right at Stoke, hasn’t he? And Mutch will now doubtless go on to shine for Palace.
The obvious conclusion from the last few years is that there is a deep-seated problem with the culture, whereby failure is tolerated. Possibly the reason, in many fans’ eyes, is that the club doesn’t seem to be central to the ambitions of Tony Fernandes and the consortium that owns Rangers.
Just look at the bungled announcement of its intention to build a new ground at Old Oak Common in North-West London (bungled because the owner of a chunk of the site, Car Giant, made plain it wanted to develop the land itself, without a football stadium, thank you very much).
Or the signing of Ji-Sung Park, another of the underwhelming blasts from the past who’ve come to Loftus Road, pocketed their pay and not performed but acted as a useful marketing tool for Fernandes’s Air Asia. Building a strong football club seems to be somewhere down the list of priorities.
QPR is a club without any sense of vision. For all of Fernandes’s boasts about long-term strategies, still no spade has gone into the earth on the promised new training facilities.
The youth system has failed to produce a first-team regular inwell, I really don’t know how long. I can’t remember one – that’s how long it is.
Fernandes inherited a ton of these problems – Rangers have been a club that overpaid mediocre players for some years, and under the previous regime of Flavio Briatore and Bernie Ecclestone, the fact that Patrick Agyemang arrived for home games in his Bentley was seen by fans as the symbol of that stupidity.
But he has solved none of them and added more – internal debt of ¬£170m, which would leave them bankrupt if Fernandes and his friends decided to pull out and demand repayment, plus two bank loans totalling ¬£42m.
And after all that, QPR are still in the same position they were when Fernandes took over – pootling along at the foot of the Premier League. You don’t hear his name sung very often at games anymore, and the mood of the message boards has shifted.
Harry Redknapp did not do a good job at QPR. But the question remains: could anyone succeed at this cursed club?