There was a small piece of news from Queen’s Park Rangers on Wednesday that was barely news – but the reaction it provoked spoke volumes about the tense mood around the club.
Josh Laurent, a 19-year-old midfielder, joined Brentford for an undisclosed fee. But QPR supporters reacted as if Charlie Austin had been sold rather than a young prospect who had not kicked on as everyone hoped.
It was a sign, for the fans, that the club was failing to be committed to its young players. The only home grown talent to feature this season was a mere 12 minutes from Max Ehmer in September. For the QPR fans it was another gripe.
The over-the-top reaction to the Laurent sale did not go unnoticed at the club as they head for a home game against Manchester United on Saturday and with serious doubts over whether Harry Redknapp will remain in charge.
These are difficult times at QPR. Again. The focus has once more switched to Redknapp. It always does switch to the manager in football, which is not always a good thing or fair. The manager is the one who carries the can, becomes the focus of the discontent, needs to be sacked.
QPR have not won enough games. They sit in the bottom three but there is one game that Redknapp has been adept at which has grated – the blame game. Just see what happened to Neil Warnock at Crystal Palace. It was always someone else’s fault. It wore the club down.
Redknapp needs to beware of this. But can he change? He has continually talked about the deficiencies of his squad. But it is his squad and it is one that would appear to have received enough investment to avoid relegation this season.
So it could be that Redknapp loses his job should QPR lose to United but, if he does, the tipping point was surely reached last weekend. Defeat away to Burnley after an FA Cup exit to League One Sheffield United was 10th in a row for QPR – an unwanted Premier League record – and afterwards Redknapp, again, was full of excuses.
He spoke of seven or eight players playing in the Championship last year‚ and having finished that season miles behind Burnley and 20 points behind Leicester.
But whose fault is that? Redknapp was in charge last season and QPR scraped promotion, fortunately, via the play-offs when they were probably the best-resourced club in the division. And Burnley were the worst.
It was no one else but Redknapp who decided to sign Rio Ferdinand in the summer, indicated he would be the defensive lynchpin in a new 3-5-2 formation, and then dump him.
It was Redknapp who signed Jordon Mutch – and does not play him – the injury-prone Sandro and it was the manager who has chosen to play Eduardo Vargas, Mauricio Isla and Leroy Fer out of position.
Around ¬£40million was spent in transfer and loan fees. A lot more than Burnley. A lot more than Leicester.
Redknapp has claimed he has only two strikers in Austin and Bobby Zamora – but there is also Vargas and now Mauro Zarate. Redknapp has brought in 21 players since he succeeded Mark Hughes.
There is disgruntlement among the supporters at the manager’s tactics and team selections and formations and that, too, has filtered itself through to the club.
And it is a club that knows the financial implications of being relegated back to the Championship – with the threat of fines and not complying with the Football League rules – are horrendous.
Chairman Tony Fernandes weighed up making a change last month but stuck with Redknapp. As the Chief Executive of the airline Air Asia he is, of course, and rightly, completely pre-occupied in dealing with the crash of Flight 8501 in the Java Sea off Singapore with the loss of 162 lives.
But he is not the only decision-maker at QPR. There are other owners – Ruben Emir Gnanalingam, Kamarudin Bin Meranun and Amit Bhatia, the son-in-law of the steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal.
Between them they have to decide one thing: is Redknapp the man to keep QPR up? They have to decide if his heart is still in it. He said he would quit had they not got promoted and gives the impression of a man eyeing the exit door. Maybe that is unfair. But it is how he looks.
It is not all his fault. His coaching staff is large and experienced – Glenn Hoddle, Joe Jordan, Kevin Bond – but the chemistry does not look right. The owners are also to blame. They have talked up the team’s prospects, promised a new training ground – but not a sod has been turned yet – and highlighted the desire to promote the academy.
Will Redknapp survive this weekend? No one can say for sure. And that speaks volumes. Tim Sherwood is waiting-in-the-wings and already has Chris Ramsey and Les Ferdinand, his assistants at Tottenham Hotspur. At QPR Ferdinand is the Head of Football Operations (a title Redknapp has claimed is “stupid” by the way).
QPR want Redknapp to turn it around. Of course they do. But they also want him to stop the blame game – and start winning some games instead. He is a good talker. Now is the time for him to talk a good game and get a team that plays one.
Jason Burt – The Telegraph