Is QPR English football’s next crisis club?

by James Clancy

Harry amended“I don’t think I ever bargained on relegation,” said QPR majority stakeholder Tony Fernandes after last weekend’s 0-0 draw with London rivals Reading confirmed demotion from English football’s top flight for both clubs.

Having spent more than any club in the bottom half of the Premier League table, various different reasons have been cited as being behind The Hoops‘ fall from grace.

Some have said the players have lacked desire and interest in the fight when many of them are on bumper contracts which don’t include get out clauses should the club be relegated. Others have said that the team “did not play as a happy camp” while club captain Clint Hill said this week: “As a team, we haven’t clicked. Ultimately that’s probably what sent us down.

“We let some good players go and importantly, some good characters, when Tony Fernandes came to the club and I think some of those players didn’t get a fair crack of the whip here.”

The man most concerned is of course majority stakeholder Tony Fernandes, whose £50million investment has not paid great dividends.

The Formula One magnate has stated that there could be a difference between the players who he wants to move on and those that actually will move on.

“I don’t think I ever bargained on relegation,” said the 49 year-old this week. “The relegation is heart breaking but it’s not the time to leave. It’s been a disaster here so far but this is a long road.

“My mistake is that I wanted stability. I wanted Neil (Warnock) to be here for a long time. I wanted Mark (Hughes) to stay here a long time and if Harry Redknapp had not been the man available then Mark Hughes might still be here. His sell by date had come though and that was obvious straight after he left, we beat Fulham and we got a boost.

“If we look hard at certain decisions though then we might see there were some bad mistakes made. It may take us a few seasons to get the infrastructure right to get the club back into the Premier League.”

It was suggested to Fernandes that there was a rift in the club because new recruits were on higher wages than players who were already at the club to which the Malaysian Indian entrepreneur stated that all players had been offered new contracts upon promotion from the Championship and that no player was forced to sign a contract.

Fernandes has said that he feels ‘exploited’ by some players at the club because “I think I was naive in thinking that everyone was like me. You have a one-hour discussion with a player and you think, ‘Yes, he’s going to go out there and die for the club’, because that’s what I would do. ” Fernandes also stated that he “would not be taken for a ride anymore.”

One man who always gives his very best is current R’s manager Harry Redknapp who has himself admitted that the London outfit could follow Wolves’ slide through the English football pyramid after the west midland’s side became the first club to suffer relegation from the Premier League and now the Championship in consecutive seasons.

“There is more chance of this squad doing a Wolves than there is of winning the league next season,” said Redknapp, who seems less confident than Fernandes about the prospects for next season at Loftus Road.

“We need to change things round, shift some out – we need to get a few brighter, better players in. The squad we have here now wouldn’t get out of the Championship next season.

“I’ve already begun plans for next season with Tony Fernandes and we are aware that we need to change things around. It won’t be easy though.”

Five years ago, Portsmouth won the FA Cup as a Premier League club considered to be in rude financial and playing health. Pompey now plays its football in League Two having recently come out of administration for a third time in five seasons. Having completed three consecutive seasons in the top flight, Wolves have just suffered consecutive relegations from the Premier League to League One following bizarre decisions at board level. Leeds United played in the semi-final of the 2000-’01 Champions League but are now a mid-table Championship club having spent three seasons in the third tier at the end of the last decade following severe financial travails of their own.

All three of the clubs just mentioned would be considered to be as big as, if not bigger clubs than QPR and certainly clubs possessing much richer history than The Hoops with considerably larger fan bases and stadia. QPR’s Loftus Road can host a mere 18,000 souls – paltry by top level football standards.

QPR are the sort of club who have the budget to finish in the top two in the Championship next season. If the club continues to be run as it has been since Tony Fernandes’ takeover however, then they will very likely be fighting another relegation battle next season. One thing that seems almost certain is that they won’t be in or around mid table. Some hard and uncomfortable questions need to be asked and answered this summer.

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