QPR's Wealth Of Experience Finally Tells...

...and 'wealth' is very much the buzzword for QPR's promotion. As Daniel Storey explains, when it mattered most Harry Redknapp's QPR finally got value from their experienced squad...

Last Updated: 25/05/14 at 10:35 Post Comment

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A play-off final victory to epitomise Queens Park Rangers' season, Harry Redknapp's side staying resolute before eventually, almost inevitably, finding a way through. Theirs may not be a popular promotion, but football pays no lip service to preferences. Redknapp, Tony Fernandes, players, staff and supporters will care not a jot - Rangers are back where their owner believes they belong.

The reasons for which many will remain cynical regarding QPR's promotion are evident. In March, the club posted a £65.4million loss for the year ending May 2013. Football League rules limit teams to a loss of £8m, and the club would have been handed a transfer embargo had the final at Wembley ended in defeat. They are still likely to face a large financial punishment for losses accrued during the 2012/13 season. Those figures do not have to be published until the end of the year, but anyone that thinks that QPR have managed to come under the £8m level should be sectioned under the Mental Health Act.

The bloated nature of Harry Redknapp's squad also raises questions of integrity. A total of 651 international caps shared between the players used this season is a startling statistic, but not as astounding as the figure of 4,264 Premier League appearances - only Manchester United in England's top four divisions can boast more. That overused (but still pertinent) statistic of a wage bill higher than Atletico Madrid and Borussia Dortmund's is frankly obscene for a club that should be living within its means in the second tier. There are plenty that consider this to have been a season of economic duplicity.

Despite their comparative riches (or at least financial extravagance), this has not been a season of great achievement at Loftus Road. QPR were clear pre-season title favourites, and yet before Saturday's final had won just half of their league matches, their total of 60 goals in 46 Championship games less that all but one of the other sides in the top half of the division.

However, despite the misgivings over their financial irresponsibility, it would be churlish not to congratulate QPR on their Wembley success. Bobby Zamora may have scored with his side's first shot on target, and this was a smash-and-grab style victory, but as has been so often repeated this season, football is not a beauty contest. At the end of the season the end takes total precedence over the means, and in a play-off final only the result is king.

Whilst Derby may count themselves unfortunate to have tasted defeat on such an illustrious occasion, QPR's defensive resolve owed very little to luck. The match was understandably cagey during the first half, with Derby's George Thorne the stand-out performer in central midfield. The forced substitution of Niko Kranjcar perhaps the most notable incident of the match until, on the hour mark, the momentum seemed to shift Derby's way.

When fouls reach a certain level of cynicism they gain a degree of humour, and Gary O'Neil's 'challenge' on Johnny Russell firmly fell into that camp. If there was any doubt regarding the validity of the red card he received from referee Lee Mason, it was extinguished when O'Neil was interviewed after the match. "I thought he'd score if I left him, so I did it for the best of the team and thankfully it worked out." Top marks for honesty, but it's a lot easier to be honest in victory.

Redknapp may have bemoaned the decision with reference to the "last man" principle, but no such words appear in the Laws of the Game - QPR's manager presumably isn't concerned with such technicalities. The celebrations of Derby supporters at O'Neil's dismissal at the time seemed slightly cheap and premature - half an hour later those suspicions were proved right.

Down to ten men, QPR gave what they give best, a battling performance to ensure that they ensured the best possible chance of success. Rather than panicking, Redknapp brought on Karl Henry to bolster the midfield in place of Clint Hill, moving Armand Traore into a wing-back role on the left-hand side. It was a sharp tactical move, giving Rangers solidity whilst also allowing Joey Barton to drift further forward with Henry providing cover.

At last QPR felt the benefit of their overwhelming experience. Whilst Derby's players seemed to grow impatient in front of goal, Man of the Match Richard Dunne was largely able to ward off the danger through the positional understanding accrued through 373 Premier League games - that's more that 19 times the number of Derby's starting line-up combined. Even when shots eventually rained in on goal, Robert Green was impeccable. Another international, the goalkeeper dealt flawlessly with everything demanded of him.

And then, the killer blow. With Derby's young side (their average age was 22.4 compared to QPR's 29.5) seemingly ready to wait for full-time and additional instructions from their manager, a limp clearance from Richard Keogh in his own area allowed Bobby Zamora to pounce and send Rangers' supporters into elation.

Redknapp himself admitted that the goal was a surprise. "We were just trying to hold it out with ten men," the manager conceded after the final whistle, and he could not have been blamed for such an approach. The relevant conclusion is that it was defensive excellence that allowed the unlikely to become reality, and for that the manager and players should be applauded.

A word too for Joey Barton. I am more than happy to admit to disliking Barton given his past misdemeanours, but it would be remiss not to mention that when the final whistle blew and QPR's players and staff swarmed in celebration, Barton could be seen consoling Derby's devastated players one by one. Like Andrew Flintoff reassuring an obviously distressed Brett Lee in the aftermath of the 2005 Ashes, it is in these moments (rather than in winning goals) that true sportsmanship is demonstrated. Barton also admitted in his post-match interview that Derby had deserved the victory and promotion - one doesn't need to like Barton to admire such honesty and respect.

QPR's place in the Premier League will not be universally saluted, and there are valid reasons for such an opinion, but this is a club now provided with an opportunity to redress the fiscal insanity of the previous three years. Rather than chase the predictable ageing signings of the recent past, owner and club could instead use this summer to endeavour to build a more sustainable future.

Whether Fernandes and Redknapp attempt such stability is a different matter entirely. At the time of writing QPR are the favourites to sign Rio Ferdinand - sometimes people just never learn.

Daniel Storey - Follow him on Twitter.

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