QPR: Can 'Arry Survive To Spend In January?

After a costly failure in 2012/13, QPR and Harry Redknapp are back for another crack at the top flight. Will 'Arry need to rely on more Fleet Steet paeans to his mistreated genius?

Last Updated: 04/08/14 at 10:38 Post Comment

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LAST SEASON
Championship
4th, 80pts, +16 GD FA Cup 3rd round League Cup 2nd round Top league scorer Charlie Austin 17 Bookings 71, 15th lowest in Championship (plus five red cards)

Manager Harry Redknapp (since November 2012; age 67) Odds on being first out of his job 5-1 (2nd favourite)

Players in Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United, free), Steven Caulker (Cardiff, £8m)

Players out Yossi Benayoun (Maccabi Haifa, undisc), Aaron Hughes (Brighton), Tom Hitchcock (MK Dons), Stephane Mbia, Andrew Johnson, Luke Young, Hogan Ephraim, Angelo Balanta, (all released)

Club turnover in 2012-13 £61m, 18th

Wage bill in 2012-13 £78m, 7th

Dramatic play-offs are hardly rare - Rotherham needed penalties to beat Orient in League One in May and in 2012 Ricardo Vaz Te won West Ham the Championship final in the 87th minute. But the double QPR pulled off, with 90th-minute goals to win both the semi against Wigan and the final against Derby, was about as rare as Jamie Redknapp doing a Fredo from the Godfather and taking sides against the family in public.

Redknapp senior was 5-1 against second favourite to be the first Premier League manager out of his job when the bookies' odds used in these previews were compiled; he was probably shorter than 1-5 to be the next Championship manager out of his job when Wigan were ahead on aggregate in the second leg of the play-off semi-final with less than 20 minutes to go. First Charlie Austin turned a 1-0 deficit to Wigan into a 2-1 win, then - on that rarest of days, one when Steve McClaren cuts a sympathetic figure - Bobby Zamora grabbed the £120m chance at Wembley against Derby.

The reactions from Harry Redknapp and Tony Fernandes after those matches said it all. Desperation to get straight back out of the Championship is not unusual but in QPR's case, after being relegated in 2013 with the Premier League's seventh highest wage bill way in excess of the 18th highest turnover, the choice may well have been between promotion and implosion.

Football is not a conventional business; it is hard-nosed and sentimental, awash with cash and beset with penury. Money no longer talks, it shouts, it screams, it does a bad Jonathan Pearce impression, so throughout these previews you will find statistics related to clubs' financial performance, focusing on income and wage expenditure. Alas, accounts do not have to be filed until long after a season finishes so you are always working behind the times: the figures here are for financial years ending in 2013. But they always give a fair indication of where a club ranks compared to its peers; and in QPR's case they remind you of quite how far Fernandes had been prepared to back his managers when the club were last in the Premier League. The side that were relegated had the seventh highest wage bill with the 18th highest turnover, and the former figure exceeded the latter by £17m.

Though Harry Redknapp took over a side winless in November 2012, he was indulged with the £20m spend on Christophe Samba and Loic Remy, plus the wages for Yun Suk-young and Jermaine Jenas. A lot of the puzzlement surrounded £12m Samba, but while Jenas was signed from Spurs his previous six games had been on loan with Nottingham Forest - and five of those were as a sub. Not good enough to start in the Championship but the right man for a Premier League survival fight?

While QPR shed Samba and Remy (on loan), among many others, after relegation, the squad that contested the Championship was boosted by the arrival of the top scorer of a direct rival, Charlie Austin from Burnley, and a typically motley collection of Harry signings: Danny Simpson, Richard Dunne, Karl Henry, Gary O'Neil, Matt Phillips...

They got the job done, just, after some increasingly hairy Harry quotations - remember the "bad fortnight" that lasted almost two months. The former England-manager-to-be was surprised by Burnley's surge just as his side lost form. Now the question is whether he can achieve what he failed to do two seasons ago and keep QPR up, along with his reputation.

He will attempt this with the help of Rio Ferdinand and Steven Caulker, at least. Say what you like about Harry - and many outside his media fan club have - but he is still able to sign decent players, persuading them to accept terms or persuading an owner to pay their terms, or some combination. Whatever happens with Remy, Rangers' wage bill will be out of proportion again but the TV rights increase will certainly help. Tactically, Redknapp's self-deprecation masks a flexibility that could have reaped richer rewards at Tottenham in 2012 had he maintained higher levels of concentration (assign blame for the distractions according to taste).

Rangers kick off at home to Hull, one of the sides who replaced them in the Premier League a year ago, a game followed by the televised return to White Hart Lane for Redknapp, then the visit of Sunderland. After the international break, there are two more TV games: away to Manchester United and at home to Stoke, before a trip to Southampton. Every side will have a tricky patch and perhaps the four games from mid-October, when a home date against Aston Villa is the only respite from matches against last season's top three, looks to be QPR's.

That is round about the time of year when owners have to decide whether a manager is the right man to utilise the January transfer window. If QPR are once again in trouble then Fernandes will have a decision to make. What will happen to Rangers if they go down? Fernandes is committed but not crazy, giving the Caterham Formula One team a decent chance before selling up this season. But how many more times will he be prepared to endure the Championship? Not too many managers get to be relegated from the top flight with the same club twice.

We will not know Rangers' wage bill this season until the spring of 2016, but Fernandes does not have wait for the accounts to arrive at Companies House. If Redknapp's judgment on Ferdinand proves awry, if the transfer policy generally does not offer a decent level of security, then the manager's friends in Fleet Street will have to prepare more paeans to his mistreated genius.

Philip Cornwall

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