Shot-shy Rangers need to front up

QPR FanZoner Chris King has his say on the club’s alarming slide down the Championship table as automatic promotion now seems unlikely.

Killer blow | Charlton Athletic midfielder Johnnie Jackson nets a last-minute winner against Queens Park Rangers. (Image | BBC)
Killer blow | Charlton Athletic midfielder Johnnie Jackson nets a last-minute winner against Queens Park Rangers. (Image | BBC)

Queens Park Rangers slumped to their third defeat on the bounce against relegation-threatened Charlton Athletic on Saturday, dealing a major blow to their hopes of a Premier League return at the first time of asking.

Not even the emergency loan signing of West Ham United winger Ravel Morrison could inspire the insipid Rs, who have not won since top scorer Charlie Austin netted the winner against Bolton Wanderers last month, and promptly left the field with a shoulder injury.

Owner Tony Fernandes, who has sanctioned a succession of questionable transfer market forays by manager Harry Redknapp, tweeted last week: “Time for Harry and the boys to stand up and be counted. As owners we have done all that was asked.”

While Rangers dominated possession at The Valley, with 67 per cent to Charlton’s 33 per cent, attacking players including Morrison, Kevin Doyle, Modibo Maïga, Junior Hoilett and Will Keane could not manage a single shot on target.

Patience is not a virtue often found among football supporters, who tend to make rash judgements and call for knee-jerk reactions when their team so much as concedes a goal.

However, it appears as though even Redknapp himself is fairly nonchalant about where the Superhoops end up this season. Perhaps he fancies a crack at the Ukraine job after all.

The signing of Maïga smacked of desperation: a player that scored just three times in 31 games for West Ham, while Brazilian loan signing Guilherme Dellatorre will almost certainly never feature for the Rs.

“It would be unfair not to praise Redknapp for turning the club from a basket case into a side able to at least try and chase promotion”

Fernandes brutally disposed of Neil Warnock, who had taken QPR into the top flight the previous season, after a run of eight games within a win back in January 2012. Three of these were against Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool.

Redknapp is without a victory in four matches, in a far-inferior division, and has presided over a steady slump from the top of the Championship to fourth, and a team that has picked up just one point this month.

Finishing in the play-off places would not be a problem, were Rangers able to beat any of the sides around them. So far, the Superhoops’ only top-six conquest has been a 1-0 win over Derby County at Loftus Road.

At this point, it would be deeply unfair not to praise Redknapp for turning the club from a basket case at the end of last season into a side able to at least try and chase promotion, with a spine that it so sorely lacked in May.

Nonetheless, as many pundits have been so quick to point out, with the Rs’ financial muscle, the sheer size of the squad (31 players that have either made appearances or been included in the squad on more than one occasion), and the on-paper calibre of those available to the manager, to be so far off the pace set by Leicester City is a little embarrassing.

Despite bringing in four strikers on transfer deadline day, QPR have only scored 37 goals in 31 matches, a pitiful return that entirely undoes the excellent performances put in by the defence, which has only conceded 25 times, the best record in the division.

Watching Rangers earlier this season was a particularly unrewarding affair, with achingly slow, monotonous football yielding a succession of 1-0 victories that gave the impression of the Superhoops as some sort of Chelsea for the Championship, eking out narrow wins while boring their fans to death.

It became fodder for jokes between supporters that a bet on the Rs to squeeze past their opponents by a single goal would pay out every week, and until the departure of Steve McClaren at the end of September, this was largely the case.

With the former England boss on the coaching staff, QPR picked up seven wins, five of them 1-0 victories, and two draws. In the nine games that followed, Rangers won four and lost two. The following nine matches saw the Rs pick up five victories and suffer two defeats.

There have been injuries, in further defence of Redknapp, most devastatingly to Austin, but also the losses of Danny Simpson, Matt Phillips and Alejandro Faurlin, which would render any side less able to compete.

However, the players brought in by Redknapp, particularly in midfield, journeymen such as Gary O’Neil, Yossi Benayoun and Karl Henry, have added almost nothing to the squad’s strength in depth, thereby rendering the numbers argument somewhat pointless.

At time such as this, fans, like the players, chairman, board and manager, are expected to dig deep, shout louder, work harder and keep the faith. Yet this is becomingly increasingly difficult in the face of the overwhelming reality, which is that the Rs will be a Championship side next season.

Having gone through relegation to the then-Division Two, administration, a play-off final defeat against Cardiff City, the destructive ownership of Flavio Briatore and Bernie Ecclestone and Mark Hughes’ near-decimation of the club, in just over a decade, being unable to achieve promotion hardly registers as an issue on its own.

This time around, however, it is the financial consequences of failure on the pitch that strike fear into the hearts of QPR fans, who know only too well that a team in the second tier of English football cannot afford to keep paying out what it does in wages and agents’ fees.

Have your say | Tweet the author | @chriskking

Originally published on TEAMtalk on Wednesday February 26 2014.


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