As we speed our way towards the ‘business-end’ of the season things are getting even tighter at the bottom of the Barclay’s Premier League. When you think back to all the relegation battles that have come down to the final day of a season you remember how tense, emotional and important those 90 minutes of football become; seconds away from survival, a goal away from going down – it is nerve-racking for a manger and his players, but it is even worse for fans who have eyes on the game and ears pricked up intensely listening for the latest scores via the nearest fan with a transistor radio (now iPhone) glued to their head. After another weekend of controversy and change at the bottom of the table, it is anyone’s guess who will stay up out of a possible five, but things are not looking good for QPR.
QPR exited January with not only a new manager to boost the team, but some nice big-name signings, and all of a sudden many looked at QPR and thought of the classic football cliché ‘too good to go down’. The likes of Taye Taiwo, Bobby Zamora and Djibril Cisse gave every QPR fan the hope that they would survive this season. Mark Hughes arrival galvanized the QPR faithful and dared them to dream even bigger than just survival. The more realistic QPR fans knew there was a long way to go as a big name manager and a few players doesn’t mean anything and after this weekend’s loss, optimism has well and truly dwindled as relegation starts to look a distinct possibility.
When you are at the bottom it can seem like everything is against you; QPR’s 2-1 defeat away to Bolton over the weekend is a classic example of this; after an encouraging start, QPR managed to almost score the opening goal of the match after Clint Hill’s header crossed the line, but the ball was bundled out and the goal wasn’t given. Bolton went on to score shortly afterwards, before going on to win the game. The result was overshadowed by cries for video technology yet again, but more importantly for QPR, it was a big 3 points to have lost to fellow relegation rivals and a damaging loss for confidence and morale with some tricky games fast approaching.
This was just the latest defeat for QPR, but the clubs form is hardly inspiring; since Hughes took over at Loftus Road QPR have played eight games, winning once, drawing twice and losing five times that include losses to Wolves, Blackburn and now Bolton in big ‘six pointer’ games. QPR still have six of the top seven Premier League teams to play, with Liverpool and Arsenal, along with a difficult trip to Sunderland, the remaining games just for this month.
Realistically you hope when a new manager and players arrive, your club will pick up a couple a wins just because of the new wave of optimism that flows through a club that can galvanizing everyone and temporarily paper over the cracks, but this didn’t happen at QPR. Instead the bad luck kept coming; after the transfer window closed and the club could finally settle down, they ended up losing new striker Djibril Cisse for 3-games after his questionable temperament boiled over and he received a straight red card. How’s your luck Mark Hughes…
I do agree Mark Hughes was a good appointment, but I do questioning the sacking of Warnock – which manager would you prefer to have in a relegation battle? My money is firmly on Warnock who has the experience and stomach for such a difficult task. Hughes is a highly rated manager who has good experience, but when was the last time Mark Hughes donned his tin hat and was last seen battling it out in the relegation trenches? The desired affect owner Tony Fernandes felt Hughes and his new signings would have on the team has failed to materialise; it is a risky business trying to buy your way out of trouble.
We all know that new signings need time to settle and making wholesale changes to your team in January is a gamble because players need time to gel and develop an understanding. Could QPR have created a rod for their own back? Quite possibly. Signs of encouragement are there, Cisse has hit 2 goals in the 3 games he has played for the club and generally the quality of the squad is good compared to those around them – just look when QPR celebrated Cisse’s goal against Bolton – Cisse celebrated with Bobby Zamora, Joey Barton and Shaun Wright-Phillips, hardly a poor quartet for any Premier League team, but it about more than just quality.
It is psychologically where relegation battles are won and lost and Mark Hughes now has one hell of a job on his hands to motivate his players. Like anything in life, you can only try your best and when that best isn’t good enough, it is hard to bounce back and have the belief. Where that belief now comes from is a huge question and it is not just the belief to go out and win football matches, it is the belief to go and win football matches by having to beat the best in the land. This is where Hughes will find out what his men are made of. How many points QPR can get from now until the end of the season is anyone’s guess, it seems the return of the clubs early Premier League success in the early 90’s the fans crave is a long way off. Prepare yourself Rangers fans, it is going to be one hell of a ride between now and May, I hope you’re ready for the fight.