Chris Ramsey piece

October 1, 2015

I thought it was worth posting in response to some of the most common questions/comments about a piece I did for West London Sport on Chris Ramsey and his job at QPR. (Link here for anyone who wants to read it)

First of all, thanks for all the comments. I’m very much a news man and generally prefer to stick to that. Opinion pieces are not really my thing but, whether they agree or not, people are always very kind when I do them. I appreciate it.

Many have asked what I was getting at by making the point several times that Ramsey’s face doesn’t fit. Several have also argued that his face would fit perfectly fine if he got results.

That’s true of course, and there was/is certainly a willingness to give him a chance. But for various reasons, some managers get cut more slack than others.

Because of his lack of managerial experience, the circumstances of his appointment and the fact that he is a friend of the director of football who appointed him, I don’t believe Ramsey has as much breathing space as others might.

I’d compare it to a few years ago, when at various times Rangers were looking for a new manager and Sean O’Driscoll’s name was among those being discussed behind the scenes.

I like O’Driscoll and think he’s an excellent manager. But this was not that long after Ian Holloway had made his mark at QPR, so I felt a manager so lacking in charisma in comparison would be up against it from the start. His face wouldn’t fit.

I think there are also comparisons to be made with Iain Dowie, who I thought was just what Rangers needed at the time he was appointed and who, by the way, was proved right in everything he said to the owners during his acrimonious time at the club.

Sure, there was a willingness to give him a chance. But the surprise and dubiousness at his appointment meant that he, like Ramsey, needed results quickly.

As for other responses, some have just involved continuing to list the names in the current squad. There’s not a lot I can say to that really that I haven’t already said.

In a sense it was me asking the question of the fantasy-football players as I call them, perhaps unfairly. I think it’s they who need to justify their opinion of what Ramsey should be achieving, given the big-time players and managers QPR have had in recent years and how things panned out.

Plus, I did suggest that Ramsey might not be the right person if the expectation is to get the best out of the squad as it currently looks. The piece was less about his ability to do the job than what the job itself actually is.

In terms of Ramsey’s team selections and his supposed refusal to change things: As I say in the piece, the most popular change would seem to involve 4-4-2 with Alejandro Faurlin in a two-man midfield – something successive managers have been reluctant to go with, and with good reason.

Other players Ramsey has been criticised for not selecting have been injured or at least not fit enough. Ben Gladwin (I think Rangers could do with him at the moment) and Sandro being prime examples.

On Karl Henry. He’s not playing well at the moment and in the fickle world of football he’s now public enemy number one for some and the root cause of many of Rangers’ problems.

Say what you like about Henry, he has done his best and performed for the last two Rangers managers when others have let them and the club down very badly.

Ramsey knows all about Sandro – he worked with him at Tottenham – and for a number of solid reasons is absolutely right to show Henry as much loyalty as possible and only make a change with a very heavy heart indeed. He’d go down in my estimation massively if he did otherwise.

Finally, the difference between coaching and management – which I do acknowledge – is an issue many have strong views on.

Here’s the thing: managers fail and get sacked all the time. They drop like flies every season. If they previously had a background in coaching, though, it can be conveniently filed under ‘coach not manager’.

Also, the changing structure of clubs means the traditional role of the manager is changing too. Rangers have a director of football in Les Ferdinand and Ramsey is head coach. That said, man-management and various other managerial skills are still required in that role.

Can a coach ever succeed as a manager? Some have asked me on Twitter if there are any examples at all of this happening.

Well, Don Howe as head coach did an absolutely brilliant job at QPR.

I’ll stop there before I upset the Gerry Francis fans by attempting to correct his version of Rangers history!


A decade, not just four years, of papering over the cracks

May 13, 2015

My first blog in ages. Mercifully for you, I rarely have the time.

Down but probably not out

I’ve never been one for doomsday scenarios when it comes to QPR. By that I mean that over the course of the 16 years I’ve covered the club, I’ve encountered people at various stages who would have you believe the end is nigh. There have been difficult times during those years, but the extent of Rangers’ financial plight – or at least its impact on the playing side – was massively overstated bar a spell in 2006 when the Monaco-based investors stopped funding the club.

More recently, just as there was the last time Rangers went down, there has been plenty of speculation about the possible financial implications of relegation. My view has always been that QPR are much more likely to face spiritual ruin, through what will evolve into an extremely aggressive rebranding, rather than financial ruin under the current owners, who have access to a truly staggering supply of money.

But no amount of money is infinite, so a meltdown of some kind cannot be ruled out completely while the fecklessness and shambolic decision-making continues.

And at the turn of this year, I felt that if the wheels were to start coming off at QPR, 2015 might be the year.

This was for two reasons: the prospect of relegation back to the Championship – financially worse off, despite two spells in the Premier League – and the Old Oak situation, which is likely to become clearer in the coming months.

Anyone who’s had the misfortune to be subjected to my thoughts on QPR may know that I have always said a lucrative Canary Wharf-style redevelopment is central to the owners’ motives – I wrote this after Rangers’ last relegation, some time before the Old Oak plans were unveiled, when there was speculation about how said owners would react to the club doing down.


By the way, I should add that there are some at QPR who have never liked my Canary Wharf comparison and insist the proposed regeneration would be more comparable to that of the Olympic Park.

Anyway, Rangers’ fate therefore depends largely on events off the pitch as well as on it.

‘As it stands’

On the pitch, everything points to some very challenging times ahead. I know when I say this, there are those on Twitter who aren’t exactly fans of my work who will jump up and down saying I predicted that Rangers would be relegated from the Championship the last time they went down.

This is based on a remark I made on Twitter two years ago. Let me explain a bit about that and why it’s relevant to the current situation.

When Mark Hughes was manager and QPR were in danger of going down – they of course ended up staying up on the final day – there was a belief within the club that if the worse happened, they would simply “do a Newcastle”. By that they meant keeping the bulk of the squad and storming the Championship with players who were, certainly on paper, too good for that level.

Based on the toxic atmosphere in the dressing room at that time, which has since become well documented, I was absolutely convinced that approach would see Rangers fall straight through to League One, and I still believe they would have finished bottom of the Championship the following season had they gone down under Hughes.

A year on from that final-day survival, this time with Harry Redknapp as manager, again there was a belief inside the club that they could “do a Newcastle” and bounce straight back. It was this specific view I was responding to when I replied to a tweet by saying that as it stood Rangers were absolutely certain to go down. And they were.

I also added to those who pressed me on the issue that I might well revise that view a week or two later following planned discussions between Redknapp and the board.

Redknapp’s finest hour

Many QPR fans dislike Redknapp intensely and blame him for this shambles of a season. And rightly so.

But, say what you like about him, he is an experienced football man who understood Rangers were heading for disaster under the “do a Newcastle” strategy and he managed to persuade the powers-that-be significant changes needed to be made or another relegation was on the cards.

In many ways things swung too far in Redknapp’s direction over the course of last season and beyond. He wasn’t kept in check and that had negative repercussions.

However, forget Wembley or any of his better signings, Redknapp’s greatest achievement as QPR manager occurred off the pitch, in important meetings after relegation. There, he succeeded where Hughes would have meekly failed had relegation happened 12 months earlier.


I still get plenty of stick for the “as it stands” tweet and it’s mostly good natured. But it ignores the fact that in the following days and weeks:

    • The club stepped back from its original post-relegation strategy and Redknapp was given the green light to make crucial changes
    • Original plans for ticket prices were amended following consultation with fans groups, who played a blinder. Never underestimate how these things have a huge impact on the vibe around Loftus Road and its effect on the team and results
    • A pre-season trip to South Korea was also scrapped. I had always put the relegation in large part down to a foolish and ego-driven pre-season tour of Asia, which Hughes did not want and which had a seriously detrimental impact on the early part of the season
    • Steve Cotterill was replaced by Steve McClaren

Given all that, my “as it stands” comment soon became obsolete.

Incidentally, when asked a few weeks later for my prediction for the coming season, I said play-offs.

For those who like me to be wrong, privately I thought the most likely outcome would be that Rangers would totally bomb in the play-offs and a hugely unpopular Redknapp would leave under a cloud, leading to some serious soul-searching about where the club went from there.

Obviously I couldn’t have been more wrong. I do think though that QPR would be in a healthier position now had that soul-searching happened last summer rather than this. But try telling that to the thousands of fans who experienced that last-minute Zamora goal – few football fans will ever taste something like that.

Be careful what you wish for

So why is a debate that took place two years ago relevant now? Because this time around, there isn’t a manager who isn’t on-message with the owners’ vision for the following season, so the roadmap being drawn up is for keeps.

That isn’t a criticism of Chris Ramsey, Les Ferdinand or indeed the owners. It’s a fact based largely on the situation Rangers are in. There’s simply less room for disagreement this time. The realities of another relegation and Financial Fair Play to a large extent dictate where they go from here.

Their basic approach, which is to batten down the hatches and prepare for a season in which Rangers will do well to finish mid-table, is exactly the right one. It should be seen as a positive thing and a sign of sense prevailing – or least having a chance to prevail.

And if some smart decisions are made, it could be the platform for Rangers to rebuild and rebuild properly this time.

But it’s fraught with danger.

Ramsey and Ferdinand have done some good things. But they have also played behind-the-scenes politics on the important issue of the club’s youngsters, convincing Tony Fernandes there’s a potential harvest approaching when there is in fact at least a few more years of drought.

This had the effect of undermining Redknapp’s position and strengthening theirs as Fernandes sought a new direction and a new message to fans, with the ‘lessons learned’ mantra having been seen for the hollow nonsense it was.

With fans now calling for youngsters rather than big-name signings, Fernandes has new platitudes to trot out.

Youngsters playing was what Tony wanted all along, by the way. While he was locked in a cupboard for four years as his egomaniac twin brother insisted on the opposite approach.

Without being too critical of young players and making this blog even more long-winded than it’s becoming, here’s a sobering thought as QPR head back to the Championship: Fulham have one of the best academies and some of the best young players in the country and they almost got relegated – and that was with a seasoned striker in Ross McCormack.

That highlights what could lie ahead for a club that’s convinced itself Redknapp refused to give talented youngsters a chance, despite his track record showing the exact opposite. Few managers are more enthusiastic about blooding youngsters if they’re in any way good enough.

For Rangers, simply having youngsters who can see out a loan spell at lower-division clubs has been an important step in the right direction in recent years. That’s how bad things had got. Steve Gallen has done brilliantly with what he’s had.

Show me your list and I’ll show you mine

As well as looking to their youngsters, Rangers know they will need to buy sensibly from League clubs – something they should have been doing anyway.

Fernandes’ factually-ropey narrative of the last few years is that he was taken for a ride by certain people, mainly agents, and that he has learned lessons. But with a director of football with no experience of the area of the transfer market that Rangers will need to deal in, doesn’t that mean they are again at risk of being steered by agents?

No, Fernandes insists. When I asked him about this potential issue some time ago, he gleefully pointed out that the club has a list of players in the Championship and League One they might pursue.

Herein lies the major problem. The chairman doesn’t understand football and is far too easily swayed by things he finds impressive. Everyone at all levels of the game has a long list of players. Everyone. It means nothing.

Les on the spot

Regardless of Fernandes’ reasons for appointing a club legend to the crucial role of director of football – without a proper procedure to find the right person for QPR rather than indulge the chairman’s latest whim, needless to say – Ferdinand as Johnny-on-the-spot means business, has really got his teeth into the role and is serious about improving the club.

He could yet turn out to be brilliant and his lack of experience in some areas needn’t be a problem, as part of his role involves bringing the right people in and overseeing their work. He is keen to appoint a chief scout/head of recruitment, for example.


But the main lesson that needs to be learned from the Rangers debacle is that there is so much more to getting things right than signing good players and having a good manager. And QPR have had good managers, despite how they may have come to be perceived.

Fernandes spoke of “culture” when he brought Ferdinand in. He has no real idea what club culture means, he just knows the fans are talking about it. A handful of people who understand the inner workings of QPR and the issues at play have been using the word culture for years, it’s only recently that it’s caught on.

At Rangers, that culture is unfortunately one of shoddiness and a lack of professionalism and pride in the club as an institution. And that stems from the top.

Ferdinand saw this immediately and saw that the starting point for addressing this cultural problem would be for the chairman to change the way he conducts himself, particularly on Twitter.

But Fernandes wasn’t having any of that and Ferdinand was duly slapped down. Culture’s great as a buzzword, but that’s as far as it goes, it seems.

If Ferdinand isn’t allowed to change the fundamental reasons QPR is a circus, it’s hard to see how he can do his very important job without being compromised.

Fernandes rejects any suggestion that his social media activity is linked to the club’s problems, or that his star-struck behaviour has contributed to a series of players under-performing for QPR when they have performed well elsewhere. So do many fans. I know from experience that a great many totally dismiss any suggestion the current mess on the pitch is not only caused by events off it, but caused by events that occurred a decade ago.

It’s a 2005 thing

Something happened to QPR in 2005 that changed the face of the club. The fall-out from Gianni Paladini’s boardroom coup and his subsequent purging of much of what made the club tick is the single biggest reason for the years of chaos and instability that Rangers, once a respected club, is now synonymous with.

This chaos was well documented under Flavio Briatore (eventually – it took a while for that particular media bandwagon to gain some momentum), but only because he and Bernie Ecclestone had a higher profile than Paladini and the previous de-facto owner, Antonio Caliendo.

It was often said the Briatore-led takeover of 2007 led to QPR losing its soul. My mantra during that era was “It’s a 2005 thing, not a 2007 thing”, and the same applies now. Fernandes has been a disaster since becoming chairman in 2011 but in many ways he is not the cause of QPR’s problems, he’s a product of them. It’s a 2005 thing, not a 2007 or 2011 thing.

Above, I suggested that the big lesson to be learned is that there is so much more to being successful than having good players. It’s why I said with complete confidence that Rangers’ big-name signings would flop.

The current mentality is more or less what Paladini called “The Italian Way”. Broadly speaking that approach sees doing deals and getting players as all that all really matters – everything else is just window dressing and is dispensable.

Briatore and Fernandes have both since made noises about building, sustainability, culture and numerous other buzzwords. And in fairness, some of what Fernandes has talked about doing he would genuinely like to if he could only get beyond the endless firefighting needed because of his previous short-term firefighting – a cycle QPR just can’t escape.

But fundamentally, since 2005 the club has remained in the trap of believing that if they could just get this player, or that manager, the tide will turn. Classic “Italian Way” thinking. Rangers just can’t shake it off.

No standards = no chance

Over time, it’s become the majority rather than derided view that Rangers weren’t equipped to make big-name signings, were signing the wrong characters and were being foolish. That debate’s finished, it’s time to move it on a step.

Signing the right characters is important. I’ve argued that more than anyone. But – and this is where the real soul-searching comes in – it’s not just about type of characters the club bring in, it’s about what kind of club they walk into.

Sadly the answer to this question is a large part of the reason why so many signings that seemed fantastic on paper have been so dismal. Some have been “bad eggs”, but for some the fire has simply gone out. And the brutal truth is that it’s gone out for a reason.

It’s not just about whether they’re “bad eggs”.

What kind of club are they joining when they join QPR?

What kind of standards are imposed?

Who reminds them of their duty as QPR players?

What happens if they let the club down?

What sense do they get of the history and tradition of the club and its importance?

What happens if they bring the club into disrepute?

And, based on the answers to all those, what do they think of QPR compared to their previous clubs?

The answers not only explain the performances on the pitch over a long period of time, they’re also linked to the Paladini purge I’ve referred to. And they’re linked to the way the current chairman conducts himself too.

This view is sometimes dismissed as harking back to the days when QPR weren’t so cash-rich. It’s not that, because the rot set in during the two years before the billionaires arrived.

Other clubs that came in to money had people at the door to welcome new owners or investors, to tell them about the club and what it stood for, and that’s been reflected in how those clubs have managed to build. Because of the Paladini purge, QPR didn’t have this. Subsequent owners inherited a club that had been torn apart, was down on itself and had no credible ethos or sense of direction.

The fallout means that, 10 years on, there’s a chairman talking about culture without really knowing what he’s talking about, unable to put his finger on why it’s gone wrong despite all that’s been thrown at the project.

I’ve taken some stick for being dismissive of Rangers’ chances of making their money work for them. But while a club can spend enough and paper over their shortcomings enough to eventually get it right in the Championship, which Rangers have now done twice, the Premier League is a different kettle of fish.

For all their money, QPR simply cannot compete with medium-sized clubs who have what Rangers had before the Paladini purge; spirit, a coherent plan, pride in itself, high standards – and most of all, decision makers and other influencers who live, breath and love their club and have its best interests at heart.

That’s the culture players and managers who join those clubs are expected to buy into. It’s a world away from the culture at QPR.

What lies ahead?

Going forward, Old Oak remains the key issue. More on that another time. On the pitch, Ramsey, who is due to be confirmed as manager in the next week or so, will face some tough months. His appointment won’t please everyone, but it will at least give Rangers some continuity.

With Ferdinand in place, Rangers paving the way for Tim Sherwood (Ramsey, despite his initial role, was earmarked as Sherwood’s assistant) only to not appoint him made things tricky. Taking Ramsey out of the picture too would make things downright messy at a time when things are messy enough.

As for Fernandes, a number of factors mean it now make senses for him to stand aside, either formally or informally, for the time being at least.

The ball has already been rolling in that respect, with Ruben Gnanalingam, who despite his lower profile is very much the main man in financial terms, having an increasingly prominent role behind the scenes.

File photo dated 13/04/2013 of Queens Park Rangers' Chairman Tony Fernandes.

These things are almost always determined by events, and the events of the last few years speak for themselves.

Plus, there is a potential event on the horizon which I think could seriously undermine Fernandes’ credibility even among the many fans who still believe in him, and that is the possibility of QPR’s academy being downgraded to Category Three status.

The current status was determined largely on the basis of the club giving various assurances and outlining ambitious future plans (fans aren’t the only ones given the spiel).

But their bluster may not be enough to get them through a re-audit which was due to take place this month, although it has been deferred. If it’s delayed long enough, say until September, it may be that Rangers are simply allocated Category Two fixtures for next season and therefore buy themselves more time.

Otherwise, a drop to Category Three, which would see QPR’s youngsters in the same league as the likes of Leyton Orient and Southend, after four years of Fernandes’ grand promises, would be difficult even for him to explain away.

He could try, perhaps arguing that progress has been made on plans for a training ground at Warren Farm and therefore that a short-term step backwards is unimportant because possible Category One status is closer.

But it could be a tough sell, even for Fernandes, the ultimate salesman, given that he has placed so much emphasis on building the academy, made so many promises about it that have bought him time and goodwill and given him a bigger-picture narrative to sell to fans, enabling him to constantly deflect criticism despite the shambles that’s occurred on his watch.

In any case, with QPR preparing to batten down those hatches, and accepting that this relegation is more damaging than the previous one, Fernandes’ frontman role as hype generator and face and voice of the club’s owners has perhaps simply run its course.

Given the events of the last four years and the challenges that lie ahead, the quieter approach favoured by Ferdinand and Gnanalingam is called for now. 

NB: I should add that in 2005 Rangers were already dealing with serious problems, so certain issues in fact date back further than that. It’s also the case that Paladini invested in 2004 after others had merely talked a good game, and that this money, followed by that of the Monaco-based investors he brought on board, kept the club stay above water. However, in 2005, a year after promotion, having replaced the previous board from the Chris Wright era and consolidated in the Championship, there were certainly challenges but also a genuine platform from which to build and get Rangers on a solid footing. So the events of that year were very significant and the consequences stark. 

Huge losses is old news – what happens next is important

March 6, 2014

The publishing of QPR’s accounts, which show an annual loss of £65.4m, taking the net debt to just over £177m, tells its own story about the state of the club under its Malaysian owners, fronted by Tony Fernandes.

Fernandes, belatedly, has his fair share of detractors, and they’ll have their pound of flesh today, mostly with the benefit of hindsight, as was the case when it eventually became trendy to poke fun at the previously lauded Flavio Briatore.

Anyone unfortunate enough to follow me on Twitter, or worse know me personally, will know what my thoughts have been since the early days of Fernandes’ chairmanship. That debate is done and dusted. Things have moved on.

There has been plenty of speculation about the financial picture at Rangers and the owners’ motives.

Last April, I suggested this could be explained by the fact that even the huge losses being incurred would be dwarfed by the potential income from moving QPR to a Canary Wharf-style redevelopment, and the club subsequently revealed their plans for a move to Old Oak.

For me the real issue is now not the losses, which are and will continue to be huge.

The key question at this stage is I think this: Can those who have presided over such a debacle, who made Rangers a template for how not to run a Premier League club, be trusted with something as important as the sale of QPR’s home, and the creation of a new one while safeguarding Rangers’ long-term interests and integrity?

For some, probably the majority, the answer will be yes. And I suspect that further down the line anyone within the various fans groups who dares express any misgivings will be shouted down.

But all objective, rational evidence based on the last two and a half years suggests alarm bells should be ringing out there.

In fact, given what’s occurred before now, and the massive difference between Fernandes’ fluffy rhetoric and what has actually happened, I’m always surprised at the absolute certainty with which many talk about a new stadium and training ground – often as if they already exist.

The words ‘Warren Farm’ seem to have taken on almost mythical significance as the answer to all QPR’s problems. And I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen and heard Warren Farm and the planned new stadium offered as enough proof that Rangers are in good hands.

I saw a message on a Rangers forum a while ago, where what seemed like a very fair-minded poster said they’d feel better once the first brick is laid at Warren Farm or a new stadium. I think that’s a very balanced and well advised position to take.

Of course, any criticism of Fernandes provokes an angry reaction from some and this will probably be no different.

A common, and totally inaccurate, perception is that Fernandes put his money where his mouth is and was simply let down by the villain of the piece, Mark Hughes.

It just didn’t happen like that. Fernandes was the driver, not the nervous passenger, and the great irony is that the popular notion that he in some way had his ‘pants taken down’ – a term coined by Harry Redknapp – would actually be a better way of describing what’s occurred under the current manager than the previous one.

More recently, Fernandes has found himself between a rock and a hard place.

Having listened to Redknapp’s view that another relegation loomed (a view I absolutely shared and would stand by) unless the board piped down and let him steer the ship, what was Fernandes to do when the manager and short-term strategy he was tied to demanded yet more players be brought in? Stop backing him mid-season?

And so the nonsense, in the shape of Yossi Benayoun and others, has continued, and Rangers, as many fans have observed, don’t look that much different to the overpaid rabble that shamed the club last season.

The bottom line though is that Fernandes, as chairman, is responsible for this. I’ve always believed his unwavering popularity meant he’d have to get through a few managers and maybe one or two CEOs before this became the accepted view, though.

There is an alternative view to the one that says Fernandes has put his money in, backed the club to the hilt, and is basically a fantastic chairman the club are incredibly lucky to have.

It goes like this…

QPR were promoted to the Premier League – the culmination of a lot of factors and hard work that preceded the then owners and even the owners before them. This included fans collecting money in buckets to help the club.

Tony Fernandes inherited that promoted club. He wasn’t involved in the process of getting Rangers to that stage.

With promotion comes a massive financial reward – a huge influx of money clubs can still benefit from even if they go down.

In QPR’s case, that money has gone – and then some, because Rangers are actually worse off for their spell in the top division.

That money, that hard-earned potentially once-in-a-generation (at best) opportunity, was the club’s. It belonged to QPR. And it’s gone. It was wasted by someone with no previous involvement in the Rangers story. That’s the harsh reality.

I know that alternative version won’t go down well with some, especially those who simply blame Hughes.

It should also be acknowledged that although Fernandes inherited a promoted club, it wasn’t a strong one in terms of infrastructure, and many of the issues his board have faced would be a challenge for anyone.

And it could be argued that the pot of gold isn’t gone forever, because an immediate return to the Premier League is still possible.

But for Rangers, having spent so obscenely, to be banking on Charlie Austin’s return and a team largely of loan signings to save them from the financial implications of failing to get promoted, is inexcusable. Questions must surely be asked even if they end up scraping home.

Fernandes insisted he’d be “the first to go” – his own words – if his appointment of Hughes ended in failure. It did.

But he didn’t go, largely because the fans didn’t want him to.

Will that change in light of the new financial figures, or even if Rangers fail to go back up? Probably not.

That shows just how effective Fernandes’ interaction with fans on Twitter and in person has been, because that’s what’s sustaining him in terms of support – he certainly can’t rely on his record as chairman.

And while it’s easy to be cynical about this, the so-called ‘£20 fans’ dismissed by Briatore are entitled to cut what is a very decent man some serious slack when he is seen to treat them with respect.

That said, the most important way of respecting the fans isn’t by holding court on Twitter or in the pubs of Shepherd’s Bush, it’s by running their club properly and carefully.

If that principle is applied, Fernandes’ position arguably became untenable long ago.

Tiger Feet 5: Your help needed for a wonderful cause

February 20, 2014

I don’t get time to update this blog much these days. In fact I’ve barely done so in between the last two years’ Tiger Feet walks. When I posted about them before the response was fantastic and I know it’s a cause that’s become close to many QPR fans’ hearts. 

Well, Tiger Feet 5 takes place on Saturday, when some of us will walk from Loftus Road to The Valley, where QPR play Charlton.

For those who don’t know, this sponsored walk raises money for the QPR Tiger Cubs – a team for children with Down’s syndrome.

I’ve come across a few people who were under the impression that Tiger Feet was my idea. It wasn’t! The idea came from my friend and former BBC colleague James Doe (also creator of the hugely popular Non-League Day) and was inspired by the fact that our friend Chris Charles, who also worked at the BBC with us, has a daughter with Down’s.

My only involvement has been to agree it was a good idea when James suggested it and to turn up on the walks. That’s it. James and Chris approached QPR’s Community Trust and between them they organised a walk to Crystal Palace in 2010. There have since been walks to Watford, Tottenham and Arsenal.

Since the relatively small number of us walked to Selhust, the event has grown every year and this weekend the group will be bigger than ever. And this time there are also QPR FC staff walking as well as the usual Tiger Feet stalwarts from the Community Trust.

Because of that, the event has been publicised this year more than ever and I very much doubt anyone reading this won’t now be aware of Saturday’s walk.

If you’re able to sponsor us – perhaps you’ve been meaning to get round to it and haven’t – I really can’t overstate how much it would be appreciated and how much of a difference your money would make.

I can vouch for the fantastic work the QPR In The Community Trust, led by the brilliant Andy Evans, do, and also for the positive impact donations to Tiger Feet in recent years have made.

It really does so much in terms of developing the kids’ social skills and confidence, and it’s invaluable to their parents too.

Past money raised means the Trust has been able expand from one to three training sessions a week, while paying for new kit and the hiring of venues.

And it’s about more than football. The financial support has also led to the introduction of educational workshops. including cooking and street dancing.

So if you’re able to spare some money for this truly fantastic cause, it would be greatly appreciated. You can sponsor us by clicking here.

You can also read a previous West London Sport article by Chris about Tiger Feet by  clicking here or click here to read his blog about the Tiger Cubs from 2010 on the BBC Sport website, which includes a video of the kids in action.

QPR’s staff list – don’t be fooled

June 13, 2013

I had a glance at a couple of messageboard threads today and noticed some discussion about the current staff list on the QPR website.

Several people noticed that the list of academy coaches is sizeable – which is in keeping with the new academy structure clubs are encouraged to have.

In comparison, the number of names listed under scouting is small – smaller for example than the club’s media team.

I’ve written about the shortcomings of Rangers’ scouting set-up for many years and those shortcomings still exist, but the number of names listed under scouting isn’t a reflection of the size of the scouting team.

Like most clubs, Rangers have a number of scouts that are involved to differing degrees.

Scouting is a fluid business, with many people in the game used on an informal basis, perhaps while they’re in between jobs. Others work on a more formal and regular basis.

These people work well below the radar and are usually never named by clubs.

I say usually because QPR in fact have tended to publicise the appointment of scouts in recent years in a way other clubs wouldn’t dream of doing.

This is largely because Rangers have been aware of criticism of their almost non-existent scouting set-up and wanted to show they do actually have scouts. Or at least a scout.

So there’s nothing unusual about only the chief scouts or equivalent being listed by the club. That’s pretty standard practice and isn’t the sum total of Rangers’ scouting set-up.

I think the more important thing about that staff list is that Paul Furlong stands out among the academy coaches as being the only former QPR player.

In my view that list should include several ex-Rangers players with an understanding of the club, and I’m afraid the fact that isn’t the case is an indication of what’s wrong at QPR at the moment.

Many will argue the omission of ‘QPR people’, especially away from first-team level, has nothing to do with how the team performs on a Saturday afternoon.

I strongly disagree with that view and have argued for a long time that there is a direct link between the absence of such people – especially in the boardroom – and the shoddy performances we see on the pitch despite the credentials of some under-performing players.

Just as importantly, with many competing for jobs in football, I believe the club should prioritise and look to give a break to guys who’ve served Rangers with distinction. Other clubs do so as a matter of course and QPR used to. If you can’t rely on ‘your’ club to give you a foot in the door, who can you look to?

When Rangers were looking to expand their team of coaches, I asked those involved if they would be keen to recruit former QPR players, and if not why not.

Furlong was already coaching at the club on a non-contract basis and was retained, but straightaway the impression I got was that Rangers were not overly keen on people with a past association with QPR – which is actually typical of recruitment right through the club.

I thought that was a shame, because I know a number of former Rangers players with coaching ability and potential who care about the club deeply and would jump at the chance to work with the youngsters there.

I also thought it was strange in light of the fact that Mike Rigg, who was technical director at the time, spoke privately about the need to develop youngsters with what he called ‘the QPR DNA’.

In my view an opportunity to do exactly that was missed when the club presided over the biggest influx of staff I can recall. I think that’s a real shame. Perhaps others will disagree.

Incidentally, one of those listed under scouting, Kevin Cruickshank, is leaving Rangers to join Mark Hughes at Stoke – a move that has been on the cards for some time.

Understandably given the disastrous signings during Hughes’ time as manager, the story I did today about Cruickshank’s departure was greeted with a few not-so-kind comments on Twitter about him and his contribution during his short time at the club.

In fairness, the role of scouting co-ordinator shouldn’t be confused with that of a chief scout.

The co-ordinator is exactly that. It tends to be a more logistical role, managing a team of scouts and communicating with the manager.

How effective Cruickshank was in the role, I couldn’t tell you. But pinning Rangers’ dismal transfer dealings on the man is a tad harsh!

End-of-season ratings

June 3, 2013

Well, what a season that was. For me, it started with being derided for suggesting QPR were in very poor shape despite their hype and big spending, and would again just about manage to stay up. It ended with me being derided by some for believing Rangers would stay up.

Yes, it turned out to be a worse season for the club than even I expected. And that’s saying something.

I don’t update this blog much these days – this is my first post of the year – but having started some end-of-season player ratings for West London Sport and then decided not to publish them after all, I thought I’d finish them off, add ratings for the managers, and publish them here instead.

So here you go. Feel free to tell me what complete sense I talk.

Speaking of which, thanks for the comments, good and bad, on Twitter and the like during the season. It’s appreciated.


Robert Green: 5
QPR’s long-standing ‘he’s played for such and such, so he must be good’ transfer policy was summed up by their signing of Green. He’s played for England, so he must be good, right? Wrong. There’s a reason Green has never been bought by a top club and has spent part of his career out of the Premier League. Many clubs have looked at him closely and decided that, actually, he’s not that good. He’s a decent shot stopper, but all professional keepers are. His all-round game, especially his footwork, leaves a lot to be desired and was evident right from the start at QPR, with mistakes in pre-season and when the campaign started disastrously against Swansea. Should be a decent enough keeper in the Championship though.

Julio Cesar: 5
Another CV-based signing. Cesar has played at the very highest level but is past his best. Loves a Hollywood save, so will always have days when things go his way and he has a blinder. He had a spell of such games in the middle of the season, which attracted some interest from Arsenal – hence the Gunners being linked with him more recently. Overall though, his performances have been poor and he shouldn’t have been signed. And an often-overlooked factor in QPR’s defensive woes has been poor communication from the keeper.

Jose Bosingwa: 4
Like Mark Hughes, Bosingwa is a convenient pantomime villain that detracts from the real reasons for Rangers’ decline – irresponsible ownership. He has been rightly criticised, but the bottom line is that if you’re daft enough sign Jose Bosingwa you end up with a defensive liability with a questionable attitude. It’s as simple as that.

Ryan Nelsen: 7
A signing for which the unpopular Hughes received little credit. Looked a spent force before joining Rangers and eyebrows were raised at the decision by Hughes, who managed him at Blackburn, to offer him a one-year deal. In the end, Nelsen’s consistency and professionalism meant his early departure for Toronto was a huge disappointment.

Clint Hill: 6
Out of his depth at times, but Hill’s obvious commitment and honesty meant he was rightly named player of the year. Formed an excellent partnership with Nelsen, although both players were able to look good because the rest of the team was set up to protect their lack of pace, which meant Rangers were ineffective at the other end of the pitch.

Anton Ferdinand: 4
Another player avoided by sensible clubs who knew his best attribute is his surname. Ferdinand’s performances have been as dismal as Neil Warnock’s excuses for signing him. Ferdinand could actually be a decent option next season though, because like many players hyped up by Rangers as top-class signings, he has long been nothing more than an average Championship-standard centre-back.

Nedum Onuoha: 6
Uncomfortable but committed at full-back, his performances as a central defender underline that his future lies in that position. Unfortunate for him and the club that personal issues have probably contributed to his QPR career not getting off the ground so far. He may well play a big role next season.

Chris Samba: 5
Half-fit and signed on the basis of his past reputation. Has ability, of that there is no doubt, and while not the signing he was cracked up to be, that he was so disappointing is a surprise. But, having found themselves bottom of the table with a group of overhyped players who were “here for the money” as angry fans pointed out, Rangers going back for a player who previously chose the money on offer in Russia says it all really.

Armand Traore: 5
Talented but brittle. Unlike most of Rangers’ signings, this one made sense – a couple of million to get him from Arsenal was potentially a decent deal. Has ability defensively and going forward, but it’s difficult to see how he can stand up to the slings and arrows of the Championship.

Fabio: 5
Yet another who isn’t as good as his name, club and billing suggest. In fairness he was very impressive in a run of games midway through the season, but overall his time on loan was unremarkable. Unlucky with injuries though.

Tal Ben Haim: 6
Not at home at full-back but gave it a go when he featured there. Wasn’t around long enough to disgrace himself.

Stephane Mbia: 5
Character-wise, is not actually as bad as the mindless ramblings which appeared on his Twitter feed late in the season suggested. Plays with enthusiasm and had the potential to be a gutsy, likeable crowd favourite in a team sorely lacking such players. But the way he was handled summed the club up. After missing out on a number of Hughes’ targets, Rangers brought in Mbia primarily as a centre-back – a position he is more than capable in. But he was always going to need time to adjust to the Premier League. Thrown straight into a struggling team, in the middle of a shambolic defence, playing in front of an uncertain keeper who was himself in a new league and country, Mbia inevitably didn’t hit the ground running. So, in true QPR fashion, he was very quickly switched. In midfield, he did well in a defensive role – he’s either a centre-back or sitting midfielder. But after being deployed as an all-round midfielder – a totally inappropriate role for him – he was woeful.

Shaun Derry: 6
Mostly did well when he featured, but many factors were in his favour. He’s rightly forgiven by the crowd for his shortcomings, which in any case have not been exposed often because of his limited involvement and because of his vast experience. He knows his role and plays it well.

Esteban Granero: 5
Another daft signing who should never have been brought in. He has enough ability and a good enough attitude to be of interest to other clubs, especially in Spain, and has a decent career ahead of him. Ridiculously overhyped in the way only QPR overhype players. A good player, yes. But not cut out for Rangers and was not a star of La Liga either. At 25 he was popular at Real Madrid but had never really established himself as a first-teamer. At best, Rangers were getting a Spanish version of Nicky Butt. And that’s maybe harsh on Butt, who in his time did establish himself at club and international level.

Samba Diakite: 5
Many of the players Rangers took a punt on after missing out on other targets weren’t worth the risk. Diakite was, but for various reasons it hasn’t worked out. It’s best for both parties that he returns to France. A real shame.

Alejandro Faurlin: 5
Rated much higher by fans than successive managers, Faurlin, who has made a good recovery from a knee injury, is effective if given time and space, especially in the final third. When he isn’t, he struggles. Other sides know this – and that he lets opposing players run off his shoulder time and time again. Harry Redknapp, having given him the benefit of the doubt after continually being told how good Faurlin apparently is, lost patience after the MK Dons cup debacle and packed him off to Italy on loan. Those hoping the popular Argentine will re-establish himself next season might well be disappointed. The amount of possession a dominant Rangers side had in the Championship and the space left by teams focused on Adel Taarabt suited Faurlin perfectly. I think it might be different next time around.

Jermaine Jenas: 6
Did okay. Scored a fine goal against Sunderland.

Ji-sung Park: 5
The big question with Park was always how much he had left in his legs. Pretty quickly it was clear that the answer was not a lot, so that was that.

Junior Hoilett: 5
Needless to say, not as good as Rangers made him out to be. But he’s definitely capable of much more than he’s shown. Hoilett is a good young player and was an understandable signing by Hughes. He’s been a major disappointment and looked out of shape before picking up a hamstring injury at Chelsea.

Shaun Wright-Phillips: 5
Another silly signing by Warnock. Past his best and was sussed out by defenders long ago. Was also passionate about playing for Manchester City – as Joey Barton was about Newcastle – and Rangers weren’t savvy enough to be wary of players for whom a move to small-but-rich QPR meant the fire was likely to go out. This failing has been a big factor in the club’s demise.

Andros Townsend: 8
Found wanting during a succession of loan spells below Premier League level, but did very well during his time at QPR, where he flourished under a manager who gave him confidence and knew how to get the best out of him. Quick, direct and always willing to shoot. Did much better than I expected.

Jamie Mackie: 6
Has his shortcomings but works tirelessly, has scored a respectable number of goals in the top flight and has troubled even the best defenders, albeit through sheer persistence alone – just ask the likes of Cole and Evra. That’s more than most QPR players have done. He’s also served the club very well previously. So, given the well documented lack of professionalism of other players, to insult someone like Mackie by even leaving him out of end-of-season games when relegation had already been confirmed sent out the wrong message. He struggled badly at times, especially when asked to play as a lone striker. Big deal.

Adel Taarabt: 6
Seems to have been written off by many fans as prematurely as he was dubbed a future club legend in the mould of Marsh or Bowles. His attitude has always been woeful – he helped destroy QPR’s season prior to their promotion – and his game was lacking the fundamentals of a Premier League player. But Taarabt has done reasonably well in the top flight, all things considered. The role he played in keeping Rangers up seems to have been forgotten, and even last season at times he performed to a level way above most of his team-mates, although that’s not saying much. Warnock talked a lot about improving Taarabt. Hughes actually did so. It’s ironic that so often in the past R’s fans have worried that a club would come in for Taarabt when there was little chance of that happening. Now, it seems most don’t think he could get a move. Don’t bet on it.

Andrew Johnson: 6
Looked lively before suffering cruciate damage. The injury was a real shame, but Johnson has a history of knee trouble, making the decision to sign him a questionable one.

Bobby Zamora: 5
Another player whose declining fitness and form meant he lost favour at Fulham, who saw Rangers coming prior to Johnson going on a Bosman free transfer and Zamora leaving for a hefty transfer fee.

Jay Bothroyd: 5
Failed to make the most of what will surely be his final chance to make it in the top division. Has good attributes and was an understandable free-transfer signing by Warnock, but he hasn’t delivered.

Djibril Cisse: 5
Wanted out as early as last summer and it showed in his subsequent performances. His goals the previous year kept Rangers up, so on balance he has to be regarded as a worthwhile signing by Hughes.

Loic Remy: 7
A short-term signing to try to keep Rangers up on the understanding a move from Marseille would put Remy in the shop window following doubts about his fitness and ability at the top level. Did more than enough to suggest he is worth a go somewhere else in the Premier League.

The managers

Mark Hughes: 4
Inherited a difficult situation from his predecessor, whose short-term personal ambitions (which matched the club’s perfectly when he was appointed) and diabolical signings meant Rangers were on very shaky foundations despite promotion and having money to burn. But Warnock is also a shrewd man-manager who created a team spirit and a sense of togetherness the fans could buy into, and in these areas Hughes was an unmitigated disaster. Much of the criticism he receives over his signings is wide of the mark and underestimates the effect of the transfer policy set by the owners and the difficulty in attracting the right players to a relatively small club hell-bent on spending big and grabbing the headlines. He was also unfortunate that Johnson and Zamora, who were heading to QPR even before he was appointed, were crocked.

But, having lost control under Manchester City’s ambitious owners, Hughes claimed he had learned lessons and would be stronger in his next job. Instead, he floundered again and was a sitting duck for criticism when an ongoing off-the-pitch shambles inevitably manifested itself in a shambles on the pitch. Mike Rigg, the technical director Hughes brought to Loftus Road, was also a major disappointment whose uncompromising style did not go down well with some. The club became an unhappy and divided place and Hughes was unable to take control of the situation, continuing to put faith in his “meticulous preparation” when a much less scientific approach was needed. And while Hughes is not an arrogant, unpleasant character, his aloof persona makes him seem that way – and the last few decades show that managers in that mould fail at Rangers, whatever their merits. For that reason alone, Hughes should never have been appointed. Ultimately though, he was a big name brought to QPR to spend big on high-profile players from around the world. He did so. With inevitable consequences.

Harry Redknapp: 5
Contended with similar issues to Hughes and was unable to get Rangers out of the mire. Was unfortunate to be without the injured Loic Remy for crucial, winnable games. Overall, however, appointing a high-profile manager and spending £20m on two players was yet another example of Rangers doing pretty much the exact opposite of what they ought to. Redknapp is an outstanding manager – he should arguably be the England manager – but he wasn’t the right man for the situation Rangers were in, and he’s certainly not the right man for the situation they’re going to be in.

Tiger Feet – a great cause worth supporting

October 26, 2012

I don’t update this blog much these days. In fact, I’ve only done so a few times since asking for support for Tiger Feet 3 a year ago.

Then, as always, QPR fans didn’t let me down. So here I am again.

For those who don’t know, the now once-a-season Tiger Feet event is a sponsored walk to raise money for the QPR Tiger Cubs – Rangers’ team for children with Down’s Syndrome – and takes place this weekend, when a group of us will walk from Loftus Road to the Emirates Stadium.

Our previous walks have been from Loftus Road to Selhurst Park, Vicarage Road and White Hart Lane. The direct walk to Arsenal would be shorter than the others, so we’re taking a longer route that will work out at around 10 miles.

The idea of a sponsored walk came from my good mate and QPR fan James Doe and was inspired by the fact that our friend and former BBC colleague Chris Charles’ daughter, Lois, has Down’s.

I’ve come across a few people who think I’m behind the whole thing. I’m not. My only contribution has been to nod my head in agreement that it was a good idea and then turn up on the walks, the previous three of which I’ve found really enjoyable in so many ways.

It was all set up by James, Chris and the QPR Community Trust – whose awe-inspiring work is a credit to the club – with other Rangers fans since becoming involved.

On average, previous walks have raised around £10,000. So far this year’s total stands at a more modest £1,300. It would be great if we could bump that up a bit.

The Tiger Cubs is a truly magnificent cause and without getting all Lenny Henry about it, your money, really and truly, would have a genuine effect on families’ lives.

As well as giving the kids a chance to have fun and develop their confidence and social skills, it’s also a source of support for their parents, which is important too.

Past money raised means the Trust has been able expand from one to three training sessions a week, while paying for new kit and the hiring of venues.

And it’s about more than football. The financial support has also led to the introduction of educational workshops. including cooking and street dancing.

So if you do have a few quid to spare, it would be fantastic and very much appreciated if you could sponsor us by clicking here.

You can also read Chris’ article about Tiger Feet on West London Sport by clicking here or click here to read his blog about the Tiger Cubs from 2010 on the BBC Sport website, which includes a video of the kids in action.

Right, I’m off to put my feet up in preparation for tomorrow and hope one or two people have improved their banter since the last walk.