by Jack Howes
Queens Park Rangers, this summer and especially during the last fortnight or so have been going a little bit crazy. Like my six year old self who would get too excited trying to recreate the previous week’s episode of Gladiators, they have seemingly gone off the rails a bit.
They currently have a first team squad of 33 players, have signed 26 players (including those signed on loan) since they got promoted at the end of the 2010/11 season, are being linked with increasingly high calibre, albeit old players and are bringing about an increasing sense of incredulity from fans of other clubs. On and off the pitch, do QPR really have a long-term plan here aside from throwing money will nilly at whatever player briefly takes Mark Hughes’ fancy?
On the pitch, you can just about see what Hughes is trying to create. At Blackburn, he moulded a ‘physical’ (i.e they committed lots of fouls and had Paul Dickov, Lucas Neill and W**kershire’s very own Robbie Savage in their squad) side that despite having Savage in midfield was able to pass the ball solidly. The likes of Tugay, Craig Bellamy, Brad Friedel in goal and a young David Bentley added class to an otherwise workmanlike side.
At Man City, Fulham and now at QPR he has followed a similar blueprint. At City he bought Nigel De Jong, Joleon Lescott, Gareth Barry, Bellamy, Emmanuel Adebayor, all strong players who made City a tough side that could play a bit. At Fulham he left before he could do much with the squad, but at QPR he’s signed the likes of Samba Diakite, Bobby Zamora, Park Ji-Sung, even Ryan Nelsen. Physical strength, aggressive tackling, solidity in possession and the obligatory pathetic refusal to shake the opposing manager’s hand after a match are hallmarks of a Hughes side.
On paper, QPR look decent. Cisse and Zamora offer pace and strength up front, Hoilett and Taarabt have pace and trickery, Diakite, Park and even Shaun Derry are solid defensive midfielders while Onuoha, Bosingwa and Fabio are decent enough in defence. But against Swansea they were awful, wide open to the counter attack and appalling defensively. Swansea scored five and could have scored more. It was an embarrassing display. It’s no good having talent and strength in your side if you have no idea of tactics or how to defend.
Hughes has tended to be at his best signing players when he has little money to spend. At Blackburn he was superb in the transfer market. The likes of Ryan Nelsen, Christopher Samba, Morten Gamst Pedersen, Bentley and others were signed for next to nothing. At Man City when he literally had more money than he knew what to do with, spending £30m on Robinho and £17m on Jo was bad. The signings of Wayne Bridge, Roque Santa Cruz and even Adebayor were so bad City are still paying clubs to take those players away.
At QPR though, the transfer policy appears to be in utter chaos. They have a first team squad that’s far too big and a bunch of players on high wages who are no nearer the first team than Gail Platt is from winning the Miss World sash. There appears to be little planning or long-term thinking, and instead far too much panic, short-termism and metaphorical burning of bank notes.
An example of this is how in the summer they signed Rob Green on a free transfer for £50k a week. Green’s a decent keeper but prone to errors. On his debut against Swansea on Saturday, he duly made an error for the first Swansea goal. There wasn’t a lot though he could have done against the four other Swansea goals that flew past him as ugly red shirt after ugly red shirt descended on the QPR goal, meeting pathetic resistance from the QPR defence and midfield.
Now after one game, the Super Hoops look set to sign Inter Milan keeper Julio Cesar. Cesar may have won the Champions League two years ago but he’s 33, been himself prone to errors recently and won’t be signing for the side that finished 17th in the Premier League unless he’s being paid a fair old amount. Rob Green after one bad game is set to be paid fifty grand a week to fulfil the onerous task of sitting on a substitutes bench once or twice a week whilst doing a couple of hours training every day. Good life if you can get it.
Also this week they’ve been linked with Michael Dawson and Ricardo Carvalho. Both are excellent players. But Dawson is injury prone and can struggle against fast, nippy strikers while Carvalho is close to retirement and lost any pace he had a long time ago. And if they’re so keen to improve their defence, why are they doing it now and not six weeks ago?
Also the age of the players they’re signing is worrying. The likes of Bosingwa, Nelsen, Andy Johnson, Park, Cisse, Zamora, Wright-Phillips, Luke Young and Kieron Dyer are all on the downside of their careers, were at their peak of their careers four or five years ago and have little resale value. They’re throwing money around akin to a monkey flinging its own faeces around, especially on wages. How else do you explain Junior Hoilett signing for QPR when Spurs, Liverpool and Champions League qualifiers Borussia Monchengladbach were interested in his services?
Signing veteran players on what must be large contracts was understandable last season, with QPR desperate to stay up in the top flight and a new owner keen to show he had what it takes to successfully run a Premier League club. But the scale of the spending this summer on wages is worrying.
It’s not transfer fees that financially take clubs to the cleaners. It’s wages. What has led Portsmouth to the brink of liquidation wasn’t paying Liverpool £12m for Peter Crouch but John Utaka being paid £80,000 a week and Tal Ben Haim getting £36,000 a week. That is what will surely cripple QPR unless they stay in the Premier League and/or continue to have Fernandes and super-duper rich shareholder Amit Bhatia pumping money in.
QPR have too many players, a wage bill far too high for a club that has the smallest stadium in the Premier League and barely avoided relegation last season and a chaotic, ad hoc transfer policy. The phrase ‘long-term’ appears to be anathema to the people who run the club. The players they have though are talented enough to keep QPR in the Premier League.
They have to perform, because otherwise the club, on and off the pitch, will be in big, big trouble.