Why shopaholics QPR must learn when to put away the wallet
Is Rangers’ relentless player recruitment damaging their long-term ambitions?
Rarely has there been a summer of such feverish excitement at Loftus Road, but if QPR are to achieve their long-term ambitions under Tony Fernandes they must avoid a repeat of short-term mistakes.
Since Fernandes took over as chairman 11 months ago, Rangers’ progress off the pitch has been astonishingly quick. A new training ground at Warren Farm has been secured, as have new facilities for the youth set-up, while news is expected of progress in the club’s search for a new stadium within the next two months.
It is a time of wall-to-wall optimism. The Rangers revolution. Yet the memories of last season, when QPR came within a whisker of relegation, serve as a reminder that they must get things right on the pitch too.
There were many factors behind QPR’s brush with an unthinkable return to the Championship. Among the most prominent was the fact that a remarkable 17 players arrived at the club between pre-season and February 1.
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Rangers’ failure ever to build momentum came from the fact that first under Neil Warnock in August, and then under Mark Hughes in January, a whole new batch of players was integrated into the side. The result was a disjointed mess of a team which only found its feet in the nick of time in the final weeks of the season.
Having escaped the drop so narrowly, it could reasonably have been assumed that the following months would be a time of consolidation, yet exactly the opposite appears to be happening.
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Certainly there is a clear determination both from Hughes and from the board to avoid another relegation fight, and with that in mind QPR began their transfer activity within weeks of the 2011-12 season finishing, with the aim of completing most of their business in time for this week’s pre-season tour of Asia.
But the fact remains that the arrival of Ji-Sung Park last week was QPR’s sixth signing of the summer, following Rob Green, Ryan Nelsen and Andy Johnson on free transfers, Fabio Da Silva on loan and the completion of Samba Diakite’s move from Nancy. Staggeringly, Park is the 22nd player to arrive in a year.
It is hard to argue with the wisdom of Park’s signing. Indeed, in a commercial sense it is a move of genius, the South Korean arriving as Fernandes seeks to establish the QPR brand in the Far East. In Park, Hughes has landed a versatile player with four Premier League titles and a Champions League winners’ medal.
Johnson’s signing, however, raises questions. An experienced Premier League player Johnson certainly is, but he is also one who managed only 17 goals in the last three seasons of his time at Fulham.
Hughes also opted for experience in the shape of Green (32) and Nelsen (34). Such wise heads may help Rangers avoid another struggle next season, but what of their long-term prospects, of building for the future?
Hughes will argue that all three were free transfers, but that is to ignore the impact on the wage bill.
He could also suggest with some validity that squad depth is a vital component to a club’s survival bid, perhaps the deciding factor in their fate, and one which Rangers lacked last season.
But equally crucial is continuity, stability, evolution rather than revolution. That is what Fernandes wants long term, but repeating the same level of frenzied transfer activity every six months is to embark on an endless cycle of regeneration which never produces a base for long-term success.
Yet there is more to come. Fernandes has promised ‘two or three more new players’. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that come the opening day of the season, QPR’s list of new faces will have stretched to double figures.
Does this bode well for the new campaign? It would be a surprise if there is a repeat of last season’s trauma. But does throwing money at the transfer window and players into the squad guarantee improvement?
The evidence of last season suggests it does not.
It is remarkable how quickly many of last year’s signings faded. DJ Campbell will leave the club this summer, Luke Young will probably follow, and Joey Barton misses the first 12 games of next season.
Bobby Zamora, Nedum Onuoha, Anton Ferdinand and Jay Bothroyd all ranked as qualified – rather than outright - successes. Only two: Diakite and Djibril Cisse, thrived at their new club.
Yet now the cycle is being repeated. Hughes has a month to bed his players in, less than that with any more new faces. QPR cannot afford to make too many more adjustments to the side which developed such strong character and spirit in the nerve-wracking days of April and May.
The Rangers revolution is underway and nothing is going to stop it. Apart, perhaps, from a failure to learn from their previous mistakes.
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