After a hectic summer where the revolving door was spinning frantically for players not managers (!), I assess the squad as it looks now with the window shut.
Now the dust has settled on a difficult period of QPR`s recent history, namely the summer transfer window, I thought I`d look at the changes Redknapp has made in personnel in the First Team Squad.
We all knew that the First Team squad, as it was made up in May 2013, was nothing short of a disaster! The on- and off-field problems that haunted us all last season were testament to the disunity and disparity of an unbalanced side filled more with egos than players. Much has been written about the lack of togetherness or the lack of fighting spirit; and the only motivation being for certain players to pick up a very large cheque each week.
The squad was also incredibly large, with some players from the dim and distant past, like Rob Hulse, still on our books as at June 2013! So Harry had a job and a half on his hands – not only to pare the squad ruthlessly if possible – but also to replace those displaced with players of better quality both in footballing ability and character.
Sitting here, at the beginning of September 2013, I can honestly say that, at times in the early days of the summer, I doubted Redknapp could pull off this much-needed culling – but not only has he removed just about every single player he should have; he has also brought in a seemingly excellent band of replacements.
Out have gone: Radek Cerny, DJ Campbell, Djibril Cisse, Chris Samba, Troy Hewitt, Jamie Mackie, Jay Bothroyd, Rob Hulse, Jose Bosingwa, Tal Ben Haim, Anton Ferdinand (all sold or released); along with Stephane Mbia , Esteban Granero, Ji-Sung Park, Shaun Derry, Adel Taarabt, Loic Remy (all loaned either abroad or at home). Michael Harriman and Michael Doughty have also been loaned out – although it could be argued that their loans are for experience rather than as part of the “cull”.
Most certainly Jamie Mackie and Shaun Derry – at least as far as the fans go – were not first choice inclusions in this list of the QPR`s most “unwanted” players. I can certainly understand their personal reasons for leaving although I do hope it is not the last we have seen of Derry. But of the rest, and perhaps this will be somewhat controversial, I would only welcome Loic Remy back should we regain our Premier League status next season. (I am sure that the intention with Remy`s loan deal was that he would be a Rangers player once again, next year, if we were to win promotion this year.)
So why controversial? Because I think Adel Taarabt is past his use-by date at least as far as QPR is concerned and I certainly do not want to see Mbia, Park or Granero back! Granero has talent but I do not think his talent is best-suited to the English game. Taarabt is a luxury I do not think we can afford or we need any longer. We need his type of talent but without all the very weighty baggage he brings with it. We need all 11 men fighting for the same cause at the same time and Taarabt is just too complicated and unreliable to be one of those 11 fighters.
What about the players Harry has brought as replacements? Danny Simpson, Richard Dunne, Karl Henry, Charlie Austin, Gary O`Neil, Mattew Phillips, Tom Carroll, Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Niko Kranjcar have been brought in – the last three on season-long loans, the others either bought or brought in on frees. These players have something quite distinctive about them – six are British and one is a Republic of Ireland international, whilst four have previously experienced promotion to the Premier League, Kranjcar actually having achieved that accolade with Harry Redknapp himself (at Portsmouth). They are a mixture of “young and hungry”, as Fernandes promised, and the much-needed older and wiser “experienced head”. And they have all come to Queens Park Rangers because they want to play for us not because of the promise of an obscene salary!
Reading players and management comments alike I can discern a common thread. At last, when representatives of the Club say that there is a “good spirit” at the Club, that the players “are more of a team”, that they`re “giving everything” to win promotion and they “fight for each other”, I actually believe them! The evidence is clear for us all to see. When we score, all the players swoop down like vultures on their carrion – their joy is palpable. We`ve been grinding out hard-fought, though not necessarily pretty, wins – something we couldn`t do at all last season. The best, however, I believe, is yet to come!
There is, of course, still the loan window which has just opened – perhaps that elusive striker will come in on “emergency loan”. But even if he doesn`t, the business Redknapp has done, clearly with the full support and help of the Board, should be applauded. It couldn`t have been an easy job to remove and replace. And turn QPR back into the Club that we all know and love so well. And maybe that`s why Joey Barton didn`t leave – it`s fun to be playing for (and watching) QPR these days!
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