‘Yes.’ Was the simple reply of QPR’s director of football, Les Ferdinand, when asked in a Mirror interview earlier this week if Rangers can beat the drop. Frankly, Ferdinand is wrong. Granted Mathematically, yes, QPR can stay up. But realistically- it’s not going to happen. The West London side still have away trips to Manchester City and Liverpool in the calendar, and league leaders and local rivals Chelsea still to visit Loftus Road.
At one stage in the season it did look as if QPR would stay up, when they were stringing together consecutive home wins against teams around them; Burnley, Leicester, West Brom and Aston Villa were all beaten at Loftus Road, with encouraging performances against Manchester City and Liverpool on top of that. However, a worrying away form soon became the subject of attention, before Harry Redknapp’s shock decision to leave happened in February, the day after deadline day. Redknapp was replaced by the head of academy, Chris Ramsey, after managing to lead Rangers to their first away victory of the season at Sunderland as interim manager. From then, it has been a steep downfall of loss after loss. As we enter April – QPR haven’t managed a point since the 10th February- ouch.
In a season of few positives, the future looks just about as doomed for QPR. On and off the field, they have been hit with problem after problem since Tony Fernandes took over as chairman in 2011. A miraculous survival under Mark Hughes kept them in the Premier League in 2011/12, but this was overshadowed by a horrifying season the year after, when Harry Redknapp was unable to save them after arriving mid-season. The players that took QPR down, with their dismal and disheartened performances cost the club a whopping £78 Million in wages, higher than Champions League finalists in the same season, Borussia Dortmund. After dropping down to the Championship, the club were expected to walk the division, with the class they had and the money invested. However, this was far from the case. An average season followed, where they came 4th but were outclassed all year by Burnley, Leicester and Derby. They faced the latter in the play-off final in May, where Bobby Zamora scored a last minute winner in a game which potentially should have finished 4 or 5 nil to Derby, if it wasn’t for Rob Green’s heroics.
At the time, QPR fans were ecstatic. Somehow their team had managed to squeeze into the Premier League. But, it wasn’t for the better of the club. Rangers were not ready for the top flight as a footballing team, or as a club behind the scenes. In football terms, Rangers were built up of overpaid over 30’s, and with Harry Redknapp in charge, that wasn’t going to change any time soon. Off the field, Rangers now had a huge fine hanging over the heads from the Football League, after breaching the Financial Fair Play rules in their play-off winning season. Everything has gone wrong this season for the R’s, and it was expected, inevitable, from the very moment that the ball hit the net from Zamora’s boot in May – QPR were doomed.
Chairman Tony Fernandes has no experience in running a football club. No doubts whatsoever that he has only good intentions for the club, but his decision making in the last four years has certainly been questionable. When Harry Redknapp decided to pack it in in February this year, Tim Sherwood seemed to be the obvious choice for Rangers. His old Tottenham pals, Les Ferdinand and Chris Ramsey were already at the club, he knew a lot of the players and he just came across as a typical QPR manager – fiery, passionate and loud, all the things Harry Redknapp was before he lethargically faded out at Loftus Road. But Fernandes, a twitter lover, decided to wait around and take his time. Then, using twitter to make his announcement, told his 954,000 followers that he had found his ‘dream manager’ and it was ‘not who the press were thinking’. The AirAsia owner was then left with egg on his face, when he announced Chris Ramsey as head coach, saying the ‘dream manager’ hadn’t worked out. Instead of trying to be clever and outdo the media, Fernandes could have gone straight in for Tim Sherwood and given it everything with only 3 months left to save his season, and evidently, a hell lot more than that.
Fernandes may well leave at the end of the season, as he hinted on twitter just the other day. If he does, then QPR will go into absolute freefall. Rangers will have to rely on long-time backer, Indian tycoon Lakshmi Mittal to bail them out of a potential £50 Million fine, but who’s to say he won’t follow Fernandes out of the exit door. If so, the Football League have threatened QPR with a straight drop to the conference if they don’t pay up, as they will refuse their entry to the Championship. Whilst this is hugely unlikely to happen, there’s still huge problems encountering QPR.
There will be a huge clearout at the end of this season with up to 11 players reaching the ends of their contracts, and others certain to leave if and when they are relegated. With little money, and few players- the team next season is set to be totally shaken up. One of the few positives to take from Fernandes’ reign though is the positive steps taken with the academy. For a club who hasn’t produced a first team regular from the youth setup in 16 years, things are looking slightly brighter. Richard Langley was the last player to come through the ranks at QPR, as Les Ferdinand admitted. But with Darnell Furlong, son of ex- rangers legend Paul coming through at right-back, and making a fair amount of appearances in the Premier League this year, things look good for the youngster’s future. He’s accompanied by winger Michael Doughty and Ireland U19 representatives Reece Grego-Cox and Ryan Manning who both look ready for first team action soon. Grego-Cox has impressed for the U21’s at Loftus Road, at the tender age of just 18 before making his first team debut just last month.
The club has been transformed into something that it isn’t, but failing in the process. Rangers were always profound for having that bit of spirit and passion, which was matched off the pitch as well as on. The last seen of this QPR was arguably in Fernandes’ first season, when Rangers beat the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool, Spurs and Arsenal all at home to survive. With a team built out of characters and passionate players brought in by Neil Warnock, the spirit alone kept them alive. The likes of Jamie Mackie, Shaun Derry, Paddy Kenny, Heidar Helguson and Clint Hill meant for the underdog spirit to spill out of Loftus Road. Since then, Fernandes and QPR have tried desperately to turn the club into a glamorous team who buys their way into a good league position. Statistically, the trend usually goes that the more money you spend, the better you do in the league – but not with QPR.
Whatever happens now, QPR are a club in the dumps. They’re in freefall. When you look at the likes of Portsmouth and Luton, it wouldn’t be crazy to say that QPR are the next on that list. In fact, it’s more than likely. It’s worrying times for the West London team and their mistakes might just come back to haunt them.