How to undermine and relegate your own club

And so it comes to this; QPR chairman Tony Fernandes sits at the poker table in his underpants, carefully placing the keys to his house on the summit of a large pile of chips.

At the door, a well-dressed man who appears to be made entirely of muscle and knuckles licks his lips expectantly. The definition of insanity, as Albert Einstein once said, is spending approximately 175% of your turnover on wages for monosyllabic young men to fritter away on sports cars and tattoos. Seriously, look it up.

It can be foolish to be judgmental in football, so these next words have been chosen carefully. Almost everything that Fernandes has done since buying QPR has been wrong. It’s as if he’s working his way, page by page, through a playbook entitled, How to Undermine and Relegate Your Own Football Club.

He was wrong to sack Neil Warnock in January, 2012. ‘Colin’ is not a well-loved man, but he was the only man to make sense of the madness that preceded Fernandes’ arrival. When Ian Holloway left the club in 2006 he was replaced by… deep breath… Gary Waddock, John Gregory, Mick Harford, Luigi di Canio, Iain Dowie, Gareth Ainsworth, Paulo Sousa, Ainsworth again, Jim Magilton, Steve Gallen and Mark Bircham, Paul Hart and, finally, Harford again. Not one of them managed the club for more than 50 games and, if you’re wondering why caretaker managers have been included in the list, it’s because sometimes they lasted longer than so-called ‘permanent’ managers. Warnock walked into that chaos and became its master, rising above the lunacy of the former owner Flavio Briatore to quickly build a promotion-winning side. Working under the uncertainty of the Fernandes takeover, he could only add to his squad right at the end of August, thus he was denied the time his new players needed to settle and adjust. QPR were 17th when he was sacked in January 2012. Despite Mark Hughes’ hasty recruitment of Djibril Cisse, Bobby Zamora, Samba Diakite and Nedum Onuoha, that’s exactly where they finished as well.

But it was last summer when things really got out of hand. Signing Brazilian goalkeeper Julio Cesar was a real coup. Signing him just weeks after landing Rob Green was just really odd. There are top half Championship sides who aren’t spending as much on their entire squad as QPR are spending on goalkeepers. In came Jose Bosingwa, who quickly demonstrated how much he cared for the cause by hugging Chelsea’s John Terry when the rest of the squad had been debating whether or not a perfunctory handshake would be a betrayal of their team-mate. Stephane Mbia was so well prepared for his new posting that he thought he was joining Rangers in Glasgow. Ji-Sung Park was described by Fernandes as a signing that would, “wake a few people up,” and he was right. Many of us woke up and said, “They’re paying him how much? But he’s quite obviously past his peak!”

In the weeks leading up to the sacking of Hughes, predictable stories began to leak out of Loftus Road. The dressing room was divided, said reports. Some players were refusing to eat with the other players, claimed others. Cliques had developed and the core of the Warnock squad was disgusted with the new signings and their lack of application. What then is the solution? To spend even more on even more players. And down go those house keys.

The most terrifying aspect of QPR’s spending is that very few of the players have clauses in their contracts to reduce their wages in the increasingly likely event of relegation. There can be no firesale of ‘stars’ as no-one could afford them. If QPR sink into the Championship, they’ll be committed to four more years of frothy-mouthed Champions League level spending.

We’ve seen this before. We saw at Leeds and we saw it at Portsmouth. Foolish owners dropping their keys on the table and praying that their luck turns. This isn’t how football should work. This isn’t how fans should be treated. For their sake only, you hope this last gamble pays out. But to even reach 38 points, QPR will need seven wins from 13 games. So far, they have won just two in 25. It does not bode well.

More in this section


Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox