After Queen’s Park Rangers were finally relegated at the Madejski Stadium, it looked as though the cameras, reporters and tabloids would turn their attentions elsewhere. For the story was over: Rangers had sleepwalked into the Championship, squandering vast sums of money in the process, and a private disintegration was about to begin.
Except this is QPR, where no crisis can ever be as bad as it seems, only worse, and any disaster must be followed by an immediate aftershock, perhaps even two or three.
Gaffe-prone Stephane Mbia, perhaps inspired by the example set by Jose Bosingwa in December, apparently decided on Monday that it was his turn to embarrass the club. He stands accused of sending a message via Twitter to midfielder Joey Barton, sent on loan to Marseille as part of Mbia penning a two-year deal with the R’s last summer.
Sent from his official account, the tweet asked Barton if he would “rechange your seat with me”, prompting a storm of anger from fans disgusted by his alleged treachery. Both Mbia and the club have strenuously and very publicly denied that the Frenchman was responsible for the message, but in reality it matters little whether he was or not.
The latest debacle only serves to highlight the urgent need for an immediate and drastic squad overhaul. For once, Rangers must be ruthless, precise and professional. Although they will have no problem in offloading saleable assets such as Loic Remy and Adel Taarabt, it is not the wheat but the chaff that is a problem.
However, which self-respecting outfit would take on Bosingwa, who twice this season has demonstrated utter contempt for the fans, his manager and the shirt he wears ?
What about Junior Hoilett ? A young, hungry, future star when he arrived, after a year spent flattering to deceive he is now as jaded and tainted as his fellow has-beens.
Unsurprisingly, rumours concerning goalkeeper Julio Cesar have surfaced already, with manager Harry Redknapp positively encouraging potential suitors to bid for him. In the style of the agents he claims to despise, Redknapp said: “Julio is a player for a top club, a top Italian team, a top Spanish team or a top Premier League team.”
Question marks remain over the boss himself. With no serious interest emerging from international footballing giants such as Austria, he appears to be staying put for now. Nevertheless, with it an all-but-accepted fact that Redknapp was brought in to manage the R’s in the Premier League, he will surely jump at the first offer that comes his way. Come mid-October, when QPR are struggling in mid-table, as they inevitably will be, the gaffer may well see his chance to escape and suffer limited reputation damage.
Uncertainty over the players and manager aside, it seems that owner Tony Fernandes is equally unhappy, having claimed that he has been “exploited” since taking charge. Few would argue with this assertion, given the casual manner in which former boss Mark Hughes blew his hard-earned cash on an inept, disloyal, uncaring rabble.
Add this to the “reluctant” spending of ¬£20million by Redknapp, most of which on the hugely disappointing Christopher Samba, and Fernandes’ anger is understandable. Not one to ever keep his thoughts to himself, R’s supporters would of course be the first to know if Fernandes wanted out, because it would be up on Twitter in seconds.
Similarly to Redknapp, with second-tier commercial opportunities rather limited and a pre-season tour of Asia effectively ruled out, will he be quite as enthused next season ? Trips to Barnsley, Ipswich Town and Blackpool are not quite as attractive as money-spinning ‘Super Sunday’ clashes with Manchester United or Chelsea, after all.
Based on current guesswork by journalists, pronouncements from players and vicious rumours, only a handful of the current squad will be around for the brave new dawn. Stalwarts such as Shaun Derry, Clint Hill and Jamie Mackie will most likely stay, along with the likes of Robert Green, Jay Bothroyd, Nedum Onuoha and Jermaine Jenas.
Nothing more than a respectable finish should be expected, and planned for, by the club hierarchy: big spending and big promises have only served to humiliate QPR. Fernandes has essentially spent the last two seasons learning on the job, and to his credit, he has admitted making several mistakes and tried to put things right.
With all of his endeavours now having failed, Rangers must go back to basics. Sort out the squad unity, sign proven Championship players, and prepare for hardship.
One of the biggest problems last year was that Hughes did not forge a team or a squad. His house was built on sand, with no foundations or plans. The players he recruited expected an easy ride and to live off their reputations. In the end, when faced with a crisis, Champions League winner’s medals were useless.
Rather than a mantra of “buy now, ask questions later”, the motto for Fernandes should be “if you build it, they will come”. This is the only way forward for QPR.