Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink remains without a win as the Queens Park Rangers manager after his side squandered all three points late on against Huddersfield Town.
The former Burton Albion boss, who was expected to inspire an upturn in the Rs’ fortunes, has struggled to combat a number of familiar failings that will take more than a few weeks to iron out.
Rangers still lack defensive solidity, even with the good form of Grant Hall, while Clint Hill’s return against Huddersfield underlines just how desperate the search for leadership and reliability has become.
Charlie Austin’s continued absence renders QPR largely toothless up front, with Matt Phillips preferred in the central striker role against the Terriers to Sebastian Polter, whose goal nine minutes from time ought to have won the game.
The unceremonious ejection of Chris Ramsey, who was clearly struggling with the magnitude of the role, and his replacement by Neil Warnock, followed by Hasselbaink, was interpreted by some fans as a sure-fire solution to the problems at the club.
However, all his appointment has thus far yielded is a notable switch in style and emphasis towards greater pressing and a higher tempo, which have been sorely lacking for years.
Whether or not Austin stays, Hasselbaink ought to find room for Tjaronn Chery and Polter, who has been ostracised for whatever reason since his arrival in the summer, but is arguably QPR’s best backup striking option.
Jay Emmanuel-Thomas cannot guarantee fitness or goals, but the return of Jamie Mackie should ease the Rs’ woes on the flanks, where Junior Hoilett has done more to assert his credentials in recent weeks than Phillips.
Despite the negativity among some supporters, five matches without a win does not constitute a crisis, and lying 10 points off the play-offs in mid-table heading into 2016 is a relatively solid place to be, especially considering pre-season expectations.
Chris Ramsey was a convenient foil for Les Ferdinand
The problem for Hasselbaink could be that he can do very little about Rangers’ biggest shortcoming: the director of football, Les Ferdinand.
Appointing an extremely well respected former player was a smart move by Tony Fernandes, as it deflected attention away from his role in the club’s recent financial woes and mismanagement.
Yet Ferdinand is inexperienced, the very same charge that was levelled against Chris Ramsey, and the players brought in over the summer were wholly, it appears, down to him. Despite this, Ramsey was blamed entirely, a convenient foil for Ferdinand.
Expectations are undoubtedly too high at Loftus Road; the ludicrous volte-face after the Rs surprisingly hung on to Austin and Philips gave the “project” lauded all the way up to August no chance of succeeding.
Where Fernandes ought to be encouraging the new manager, who has the potential to be extremely successful at QPR, he cannot resist encouraging Hasselbaink to hit the ground running, even though this does not help at all.
This in turn leads to unrealistic ideas in the stands about what Rangers ought to achieve this year: before the first game kicked off, most fans were steadfast in their belief that a mid-table finish would be something for the club to build on, and not disappointing at all.
Ambition is all well and good, but wholesale change where it is needed should be the priority. The reason Hasselbaink was able to go to Burton and perform so impressively is that the club is well organised, sensibly run and sees value in taking small steps.
By swapping this for the shambles that is QPR, Hasselbaink has taken a major gamble; the club should not do the same.
The January transfer window is an opportunity to strengthen, perhaps with sensible, targeted loan signings, not rush around with a shopping trolley as in previous years. But few would bet against the latter.
- Hull City (H) Friday 1 January [score prediction 1-1]
- Nottingham Forest (A) Saturday 9 January [score prediction 2-0]
- Blackburn Rovers (A) Tuesday 12 January [score prediction 0-1]
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