We are nearly one quarter of the way through the current Premier League season and I’m reminded of the immortal words of Mark Hughes almost daily – uttered after a nail-biting climax to the 2011/12 season which saw us retain our Premier League status courtesy of Stoke beating Bolton on the final day. Hughes vowed that QPR would never be in the same situation they had found themselves in last season ever again so long as he was our manager. I bet Hughes regrets uttering every single one of those not-so-wise words now !
This close season was uneventful l – no new manager or Board for starters – but seemed to promise so much. Hughes went on, what appeared to be, an exciting spending spree and then took his players to the Far East. The excitement that greeted the squad wherever they travelled was beamed back to us loyal fans so we could feel the love – it certainly whet my appetite for the coming season.
And so like many, if not most QPR fans, I headed to Loftus Road for the opening game of the season full of hope and with a great sense of anticipation. And was very rudely awakened as I watched in disbelief and utter horror as the new-look Rangers capitulated horribly against Swansea. The warning bells were ringing loudly come 5.00pm and Hughes’ promise of May 2012 already looked premature at best !
Now, at the end of an October which sees us with 3 points on the board – and those from 3 draws, not even from a win – and rooted firmly to the bottom of the table – I have to be honest and admit that I am at a loss as to know what has gone wrong and how it can become right ? I have tried so hard to be positive and patient, but I am getting very tired of being an optimist.
I believe in our squad – how can any sensible R’s fan not do so ? Yes, we missed out on a centre-back of the quality of Michael Dawson in the August transfer window; but in the brief time Mbia has featured (and I will refrain from discussing what I really think about his act of incomprehensible stupidity against Arsenal !!!); I believe we have the makings of a fine centre-back. His partnership with Nelsen has just got started – and was looking good until he spoiled it by depriving himself – and us – of his presence in the team for the first three games in November.
In midfield, Esteban Granero has been a revelation. He is a very intelligent player. He has settled in to life in the English Premier League and is working very hard and very effectively. A few more goals, like the goal he poached against West Brom and tried to poach against Arsenal, and I think he will prove to be a most important part of our team. My only gripe is why Alejandro Faurlin, now returned to fitness after his ACL injury last season, isn’t featuring with Granero in midfield ?
I know that Diakite is another important player for us, particularly effective in the defensive midfield position and have heard the argument that Faurlin, Diakite and Granero can’t feature together in our midfield. But I have to ask – why not ? Play Diakite in the defensive midfield role and have Granero and Faurlin bossing the centre of midfield – how delicious would that be ? And how effective ? It is not like Ji-Sung Park has dominated after all ! He has disappointed me and does not seem to offer as much as the tireless, effective and clever Argentine. But I’m not the gaffer, so I guess I don’t really get to choose!
Zamora started the season brightly, but has disappointed me of late – is it me or does he seem lazy ? But Junior Hoilett has worked tirelessly, for the most part, and tries hard. He is prepared to run at defences and try to carve out openings – even if he isn’t always successful. I am unsure about the rumours surrounding Cisse – has his form dipped because he is getting a divorce ?! But when he does make an appearance, at least Cisse runs (even if he does usually run into an offside position !), which is more than I can honestly say about Bobby Zamora !
I was shocked that Rob Green was side-lined after one game in between the sticks for us – albeit a nightmare debut, he really isn’t all that bad ! But I can see why Julio Cesar has been preferred since he signed for us late in August. His heroics against Arsenal were certainly evidence of the quality of the Brazilian keeper and I think that all Rangers fans – let alone the Rangers defence (!) – have greater confidence in Cesar than in Green.
So – with a squad like we’ve got now, how can this mess have happened ? We’ve been unlucky with injuries – Andy Johnson was looking really good till he did his ACL against Chelsea, for example. That we have not had a settled defence all season – partly due to those horrific injuries which all came at once in September – definitely has not helped our cause. The latest enforced change in defence after Mbia’s red card against Arsenal could be quite damaging in itself.
We are told that the new players have to get used to each other – have to gel. Is that a valid reason for our appalling start to the season ? Or is it Mark Hughes himself ? I am not in the “sack him” corner – I believe that he is involved in so much more than just building a first team worthy of the Premier League. There is so much going on behind the scenes to help improve our Club that he has been, or is, involved in: the improvement to the training ground whilst we wait for our new training ground to be built; the search for a site for a new home ground; the Youth set-up; introducing Mike Rigg to the staff.
We do not need change now – it would not be helpful to our long-term future. The Club needs a period of stability, however hard this moment is, as we rebuild after years of mismanagement from top to bottom throughout the Club. What would we do should, say, Redknapp was to come in and temporarily turn our performances on the pitch around, only to have a poor run next season which sees us in a similar, lowly position in the league ? Sack him too ? And then the next manager who doesn’t get a season off to a successful start ? It’s a knee-jerk reaction to the pain of seeing us bottom of the league and without a win to our name.
I don’t like our situation one bit. As I have already noted, I am losing patience and finding it really hard to be positive. But – and this is a big but (!) – I really do believe that we need to be patient and trust that all will turn out to be well in the end – that Hughes’ words won’t come back to haunt him (and us) in the final reckoning next May.
If we pick up points in November, our league position will change dramatically for the better. We will all start feeling happier and more confident – fans and players alike – and I will not feel so tired trying to be optimistic all the time ! And until then ? I will take a deep breath and try to think happy thoughts – about Granero running our midfield and Cesar guarding our goal so effectively – players we only dreamed of seeing in the hooped shirts of QPR a few years ago when we were filling buckets with coins to be able to buy players or hearing about alleged “guns in Boardrooms” !
Sandy Lerman aka @ sandyhoops (also known on vitalQPR as sandyl)