Redknapp: from Champions League to Championship

David Cameron. Gerard Pique’s apparent fascination with Breaking Bad. The weather. Garth Crooks’ team of the week. The state of Syria. Shark attacks. Thatcherism. David Bowie’s cat.

If you hadn’t guessed already (why wouldn’t you?), they’re all excuses Harry Redknapp didn’t think of to justify QPR’s relegation from the Premier League this season.

Last Sunday’s snoozy stalemate against Reading was enough to confirm both sides’ places in the Championship next season on the kind of afternoon Marilyn Manson would have enjoyed.  A day later Redknapp, two years left on his contract, pledged his future to the club amid speculation of a premature departure from Loftus Road.

But the beleaguered 66-year-old will wonder where it has all gone wrong over the last 18 months. Early last year he seemed a shoo-in to replace Fabio Capello as England manager, only for the Italian to resign just hours after Redknapp was cleared of cheating the public revenue alongside former chairman Milan Mandaric. Roy Hodgson got the nod instead.

Then his Tottenham Hotspur side finished fourth, missing out on a Champions League play-off by way of Chelsea’s continent-conquering campaign. Spurs gave him the boot after a new contract was not agreed.

Perhaps taking the Ukraine job would have been easier. But picturing Redknapp sipping Kompot in Kiev is like John Prescott realising his dreams* and emulating Baryshnikov – i.e. never going to happen (hopefully). Now he faces his greatest challenge yet – turning this bulging, underperforming and overpaid squad into promotion material at the first time of asking.  

Tony Fernandes has given his backing to both Mark Hughes and Redknapp this season, but now the summer months will be spent clearing up the expensive mistakes made by all three. You won’t hear too much blame aimed towards Redknapp in all of this, partially because the man himself has kindly apportioned it for us.

“I would be lying if I said there weren't splits in the camp here," he said. "That has been obvious for everyone to see all year. It has been a big problem, I think."

Hughes made several poor signings and paid the price, while Fernandes’ misguided generosity at the negotiation table has created a squad plagued with nonchalance and imbalance.

But Redknapp should know better - after all, financial mistakes almost cost Portsmouth their existence. In January he splashed over £20 million on Christopher Samba and Loic Remy alone, while the arrival of Jermaine Jenas from former club Spurs won’t have gone without cost. We’re still scratching our heads as to why these squad-harmony tactics didn’t work.

Now Redknapp must wield the knife. "We've got to come up with a couple of right players with the good players we already have,” the flustered R’s chief admitted last week. “The ones we want to keep – I'm sure we'll keep them. The silly thing about this game is quite often the ones you want to keep are the ones who want to go and the ones you'd like to let go they don't want to go."

In other words, good players want to leave underperforming clubs, and those on astronomical wages don’t. Julio Cesar, Djibril Cisse, Joey Barton and Remy are almost certain to leave, while question marks will hover over Samba just months after his arrival from Anzhi Makhachkala. Esteban Granero, Samba Diakite and Stephane Mbia are all unlikely to fancy a stint in English football’s second tier.

Andros Townsend and Fabio will return to parent clubs Tottenham and Manchester United respectively once their loan deals expire. The signings of Robert Green, Jose Bosingwa and Park Ji-Sung have proved ill-fated mistakes the club may not be able to rectify. Junior Hoilett has failed to fulfil his sparkling promise.

Essentially it may leave the west Londoners with a similar core to that which saw them promoted to the top flight so impressively two years ago (although at what damage to the club’s finances remains to be seen). Shaun Derry, Clint Hill and Jamie Mackie are likely to prove pivotal once again but Adel Taarabt’s short-term future too will fall under scrutiny (after netting a dazzling 19 league goals in that promotion campaign).

Luke Young, Nedum Onuoha and Anton Ferdinand could form the basis of a reasonable Championship back four, while the experience and quality of Jenas, Bobby Zamora and Andy Johnson provide a worthy case for optimism.

Worryingly but perhaps not surprisingly, however, Redknapp is already discussing incomings rather than the inevitable exits. Fernandes may have an estimated net worth of almost £400m but even he won’t be considering handing over the chequebook without a few sales first.

This is not the first club Redknapp has taken to the Championship, having failed to keep Southampton up in similar circumstances eight seasons ago. There he remained at St Mary’s until December before resigning and returning to Portsmouth days later.

This time, for all his excuses, he has failed here too. Granted, circumstances were far from ideal upon his arrival but five months with a transfer window should have at least been enough for him to improve Rangers beyond previous recognition. Twenty-two league games and four wins later, no such thing happened.

Unlike Reading, QPR are not equipped for an immediate return to the second tier. Redknapp has recognised that the road ahead is a rocky one: one need only cast glances towards Blackburn and Wolves this season to confirm that.

And now he will have to make the best of an uncertain summer, perhaps adding one or two faces when the hazy futures of certain divisive characters are resolved.

But in the words of our man himself, he’s not a f**king wheeler-dealer now is he? *May not be John Prescott’s lifelong ambition.

Topics

SHARES
comments