Les Ferdinand and Co: Restoring Some Normality at QPR?
It has been a real topsy-turvy couple of years at QPR, to say the least. Ever since Tony Fernandes took the helm at Queens Park Rangers four years ago, the Malaysian businessman really has had some horrific lows and unfortunately for him, very few highs. After a diabolical relegation in 2013, the club promised to learn from mistakes upon their instant return the following year. This certainly wasn’t the case, and it almost seemed as if the club was actively trying to repeat them. Now, sitting in the Championship once more, what lessons really have been learned this time around?
Rangers’ miserable end to what was a horrible season ironically came a year to the day that they were promoted at Wembley, thanks to Bobby Zamora. A lacklustre 5-1 thrashing at the King Power stadium ended the season, and just two weeks after the 6-0 embarrassment at the Etihad which confirmed their fate, the team was pounded by the media, and oh my, did they deserve it.
It certainly wasn’t a ludicrous idea that QPR would drop down another division should they continue to make these criminal errors. And in a piece that I wrote for the site shortly before the relegation, Rangers really were a club in freefall. Everything that had made me fall in love with the club so long ago had been ripped out, the soul had vanished completely. The transfer policy stunk, and the club was being totally mismanaged by everyone in any position of authority. Whilst their intentions were only for the good of the club, Tony Fernandes’ complete inexperience of running a football club was becoming so blindingly obvious that it hurt.
However, for all the disappointment and emotion of last season, it has completely shocked me that the club might have actually learnt this time. It’s almost as if Tony Fernandes has taken a backseat in the running of the club, which might be what they needed. Director of football and ex-Rangers legend, Les Ferdinand, seems to be at the forefront of all business being done by the club, he’s the one calling the shots and posing for pictures with new signings, whilst Fernandes concentrates on his Airasia company.
It’s not just the team that the club wants to rebuild, it’s the staff aswell. Ex-QPR winger Andy Sinton is now club ambassador, Les Ferdinand is director of football and potentially Gerry Francis could be added to the coaching staff if reports are true, Rangers have employed people who actually care about the club, know it’s roots, it’s philosophies and what it stands for. Is it just a crowd pleasing search for nostalgic pleasure? I’d prefer to think not, it’s the perfect way to get the soul of Shepherd’s Bush back.
Chris Ramsey was confirmed as permanent manager just a few days before the last day of the season, and it was important that the club sorted this out, to install some much needed stability which it had so lacked for so long. With departures of Neil Warnock, Mark Hughes and Harry Redknapp since the end of the crazy Briatore era, the last thing QPR needed was another managerial change, and at least Ramsey knew the club and the squad.
Many were certainly skeptical regarding his appointment though, due to his quite poor record since taking over in February. However, he now needs to start with a clean slate. He didn’t have his own team, or his own staff, and he had taken over a sinking ship – it was only ever going to end badly when no additions were made to the squad in January, bar a painfully pointless loan in the form of West Ham’s Mauro Zarate.
Given a chance by the R’s faithful, Ramsey certainly has the potential to succeed. He says it as it is, and he isn’t afraid of admitting his mistakes, which is such a breath of fresh air after three years of Harry Redknapp constantly shifting the blame on others, which was so frustrating to see for the fans. Not only this, but Ramsey has such a glowing reputation within the game as one of the best coaches around. Can he turn these coaching abilities into managerial ones? Who knows. With the help of his pal and colleague Les Ferdinand he certainty has built the foundations for the job ahead.
Something that was always so wrong with Rangers under the Fernandes era was the transfer policy. They became renowned for the over 30 players, and the so called has beens of football. It became a trend that Rangers weren’t proud of that the main factor that players were joining them was for the money. In that relegation season in 2013, astronomical wages were paid to Jose Bosingwa, Stephane Mbia, Estaban Granero and many many more, with the results on the pitch so very infamously disappointing.
Even in the playoff winning season, the only real successful signing was Charlie Austin, who carried the team to promotion and then made sure that they weren’t horrifically embarrassed even more than it was last term. Other signings were short term solutions to what was a long term problem, when you look at Richard Dunne, Karl Henry, Gary O’Neil, amongst others. The Hoops would have been better consolidating in the championship before they went for promotion. That way, the club would have stood a lot better chance at stabilising than they did.
Now though, things may have changed. QPR have made five summer signings so far, starting with Swindon duo, Massimo Luongo and Ben Gladwin- two young midfielders who have come from lower league, and have something to prove. They’re not on huge money, and they’re hungry to succeed – they actually want to play for the club and it’s what has been long awaited for.
These signings were followed by Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, signed on a free from Bristol City, who once more has a lot to prove following his release from the League 1 winners. However, it was the fourth signing that caught my eye the most. Jamie Mackie was resigned from Nottingham Forest, and it was putting a wrong right that needed to be done. It was one of several Harry Redknapp mistakes, and no one loves the club more than Mackie. He gives 110% every game, which is what is needed so desperately in the situation that the club is in.
He was then joined by an unknown German striker Seb Polter from Mainz, which shows that the club might actually have scouts out in Europe looking for talent, rather than just going on agent nudges like they have done in the past. The squad is nowhere near complete, and more players need to be added to Chris Ramsey’s squad.
It was well documented that there was to be a huge clear out at the end of last season, and there was. Brian Murphy, Richard Dunne, Rio Ferdinand, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Bobby Zamora and captain Joey Barton were all ousted, with new contracts offered to Clint Hill, Ale Faurlin and Karl Henry, which the former two accepted, and the latter is still pondering over.
Non-QPR fans may question the decision to offer renewals to 36 year old Clint Hill, and the so unfortunately injury stricken Faurlin. Mr QPR himself Clint Hill will leave an everlasting impression at Loftus Road, and he will no doubt join the coaching staff at QPR when he inevitably hangs up his boots in the next year or two.
The fans have suffered with Faurlin, after three ACL injuries in as many years. On his day he is a superb asset to the team, and one of the best Championship players out there. He also bleeds blue and white, so to see him fit again and playing would satisfy so much of the fan-base. To have three of the 2010/11 championship winning season in the squad this season, Mackie, Hill & Faurlin, is so fantastic to see, and again shows that the club is digging deep into it’s roots to solve this problem.
So what is next for Rangers? With the signings made and some stability being made, mid-table now looks the least we can hope for. If more signings alike are made, and Ravel Morrison possibly signing, then the play-offs might be a realistic goal. The one thing certain is that Rangers will be playing exciting football once more, the squad does resemble the Warnock 2010/11 side rather than the Redknapp 14/15 one- and it’s exciting times. With Les Ferdinand and Chris Ramsey in charge, QPR could finally be returning to the club it was back when they were the underdog like, soul filled club that I fantasised over as a kid.
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