x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Queens Park Rangers have bought only failure in their survival spending spree

QPR bought the wrong players for the wrong reasons, lost track of their identity and will lose their Premier League status, writes Richard Jolly.

Queens Park Rangers coach Harry Redknapp shows the strain against Everton.
Queens Park Rangers coach Harry Redknapp shows the strain against Everton.

It is the phrase that has been deployed to deny three of the five clubs, Blackburn Rovers, Chelsea and Manchester City, to win the Premier League much credit. It is likely to be heard again when big spenders like Paris Saint Germain or Anzhi Makhachkala prosper. They have bought success, their critics will say.

Queens Park Rangers have done something else altogether. They have bought failure: abject, embarrassing, expensive failure.

With a wage bill that must rank among the top seven in the Premier League and despite spending more than £20 million (Dh112.5m) in transfer fees in January alone, they are 10 points from safety with five games to go. They cannot admit it publicly, but they are down.

Money was supposed to propel them upwards. Instead, it is an ever-present issue in their ignominious fall. Manager Harry Redknapp admitted on Saturday that QPR could struggle to sell many of their players. Quite simply, they are paid too much for anyone else to take them.

Along with QPR's lamentable results this season, it highlights their awful record in the transfer market, particularly under Mark Hughes.

Above and beyond that, however, it shows that while handing out overly-generous contracts with misplaced largesse, a seemingly cash-rich club attempted to construct a team with a bankrupt philosophy.

Because football is still about identity. Clubs have an identity, rooted in community, history and their unique characteristics - something Sunderland overlooked when they appointed Paolo Di Canio - but so do teams.

In the days when it is rarer that 11 local lads run out to represent their boyhood club, the challenge is for managers to find common denominators and motivating factors in a group of disparate individuals.

It is easiest at the challengers, where some combination of the finest players, managers and facilities, the biggest fanbases and pay packets and the chance to win honours gives them an obvious appeal. Look across the rest of the Premier League, however, and there are plenty of policies at work.

Aston Villa's young players may hail from Vienna and Kinshasa as well as Birmingham, but they are bound to the club by the opportunity Paul Lambert has afforded them, giving a generation a chance.

With his former employers, Norwich City, Lambert also enabled his players to reach territory they had never charted before. Lower-league footballers were given a shot at the Premier League, just as they have been at Swansea, Southampton and Reading over the past couple of years.

Most, even in Reagin's relegation campaign, have responded.

Managers such as Brendan Rodgers, Michael Laudrup and Roberto Martinez appeal to the ideals with passing philosophies. Others prioritise team spirit, looking for a tight-knit group whose character is an insurance policy; Everton are a prime example.

Sometimes the unifying factor is language, whether for Wigan Athletic's Spanish speakers or Newcastle United's French connection; at others, it is a charismatic or caring leader, one who inspires loyalty: think of Martin O'Neill at his peak.

Now and again a manager thrives by giving a creative talent complete freedom and persuading the rest of the team to work for him, as Fulham have for Dimitar Berbatov.

Yet none apply at QPR. They are united only in their bulging bank balances.

QPR enjoyed the reflected glory of signing players from glamorous clubs with silverware-studded CVs. They ignored the reality that, in differing cases, their pace, stamina and drive are in decline. There are reasons why their recruits no longer breathe the more rarefied air of the elite. They signed the wrong players. The players joined for the wrong motives: money.

The sadder tales are of those whose careers seemed on the up. Liverpool, Everton and Newcastle expressed an interest in Junior Hoilett. He chose the best payers, QPR, which should be a salutary warning to other emerging players in similar situations.

But, more often than not, however, QPR simply signed the most famous player available. Not for them the expert scouting of canny buyers like Swansea and West Bromwich Albion, who often take footballers to new heights.

Perhaps the club's decision-makers were blinded by stardust but many of their fans were not. The notion supporters want big names is often incorrect. The one QPR player celebrated in song in Saturday's defeat at Everton was Andros Townsend, the 21-year-old winger, borrowed from Tottenham Hotspur and probably the worst-paid player in the team.

A real crowd favourite is Jamie Mackie, bought from Plymouth Argyle and a wholehearted trier who gives the impression that he understands QPR - the old QPR, anyway - and is grateful to be there. There is real appreciation for Shaun Derry and Clint Hill, those other veterans of their promotion campaign. Neither is a superstar. Both are grounded characters.

Amid the influx of the supposedly illustrious, QPR actually needed more Mackies, Derrys and Hills. Instead, they thought the short cut to success lay with Park Ji-sung, Jose Bosingwa and Julio Cesar.

They approached English Premier League football with tactics more suited to Indian Premier League cricket, assuming celebrity was a guarantee of performance and ignoring the identity of the team Neil Warnock took up. And so QPR will be rebranded again, as a Championship club with a colossal wage bill and a group of costly failures.



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