QPR exclusive: Ferdinand warns Rangers must learn from West Ham mistakes
Hoops legend says Mark Hughes’s side must conquer the ‘fear’ of playing in front of their own fans, if they are to avoid relegation
Les Ferdinand has more reason than most to know that no team is ever ‘too good to go down’.
It is a phrase reeled out at just about this stage of every season, usually by a manager, fan or pundit who is adamant that their club, deep in the relegation mire, has the right calibre of player to drag itself out of trouble.
It is an act of defiance when the reality of results suggests that the team is indeed hurtling south at an alarming rate – yet there have been plenty of examples to disprove the theory.
In 2009, Newcastle United’s 16-year Premier League stay ended when they were relegated – a team containing such talent as Michael Owen, Damien Duff and Nicky Butt lost 1-0 to Aston Villa to make the drop into the Championship.
Six years previously, a West Ham team parading the likes of Michael Carrick, Joe Cole, David James and Jermain Defoe approached the final weeks of the 2002-03 season locked in a struggle for survival with Bolton Wanderers.
Despite not winning a home game until mid-January, the consensus was that the Hammers’ quality would ultimately be enough to keep them up.
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In January of that year, boss Glenn Roeder turned to former Rangers hero Ferdinand – alongside Leeds United midfielder Lee Bowyer – to boost his team’s chances.
It didn’t work. Roeder was taken ill with a brain tumour, and West Ham’s season fell apart. Trevor Brooking took over, but a 2-2 draw at Birmingham City on the final day of the season sent the Hammers down.
Ferdinand knows that no team has a divine right to stay up – least of all his old side QPR, whose team of internationals sits just two places above the drop zone.
Mark Hughes has stopped just short of uttering those dreaded words, insisting instead: “I have every confidence in the quality of players that I have in the club now that we can [stay up].”
But big names count for nothing, says Ferdinand, if they are gripped by the fear of failure.
“When I went to West Ham everything was fine during training, but the first game I played in it was apparent that there was a real lack of confidence on the pitch,” Ferdinand tells London24.com.
“It wasn’t a problem in training, it was only during the game. No-one wanted to make a mistake in front of their own supporters. There was fear in their play.
“Most of those players went on to have successful careers. If you had mentioned those names at the start of the season, you wouldn’t have put them in the relegation category. It was a great side.
“I don’t believe any team is too good to go down. If you don’t apply yourself correctly in each and every game, you aren’t going to win games. Names on paper don’t win games. If you don’t apply yourself correctly, you run the risk of being relegated, it doesn’t matter who you are.”
Terror clearly choked West Ham in 2003, and Ferdinand can see similar symptoms at Loftus Road this season. To beat that fear, Ferdinand says, a team needs character – and the former Rangers front-man believes that the Rs do at least have a manager with character in abundance.
Ferdinand believes Hughes is the perfect man to keep them up – but only if he can get his players to perform in front of their own fans.
“It’s just about having the belief to get out on the pitch and play the football that you know you can play. Home form is imperative for staying up, and QPR’s hasn’t been quite right this season,” adds Ferdinand.
“The good thing is that they have brought in a number of players in January, and they might not feel the same fear as the players who have been there for most of the season.
“They are players who have come from teams who are winning games, and their job is to swing round the rest of the players who are struggling.
“I know Mark Hughes, his teams, what he’s done and how he’s achieved it. He’s got a coaching staff who will work tirelessly until the end of the season to make sure that the team don’t get relegated.
“It’s going to be tough. I said at the start of the season that if they finish one place above the relegation zone, that will be a good season for them. That’s still the case.”
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