Warnock needs to tread carefully

Neil Warnock has brought some sanity to the QPR madhouse, but the notion that he’s not spent much money is pure lunacy.

Since taking over at a club that had spent a staggering amount on players only to be battling against relegation, Warnock has been able to revamp the squad as the big spending at Rangers has continued.

I know the suggestion that Rangers are big-spending is disputed. There’s a simple way of settling this one. Look at the accounts.

Much of the owners’ massive spending has been on wages and other expenses that are still part of the overall playing budget. There have been, for example, loan fees and on-loan players’ wages, some of which have been truly head-spinning.

But even if you insist on looking at only transfer fees, their spending has still been lavish.

In their early days, I despaired when I heard that they “wouldn’t go mad” with their spending, because if seven-figure sums for the likes of Fitz Hall, Damien Delaney, and to a lesser extent Rowan Vine, wasn’t seen as mad, the following years were bound to be problematic.

Mikele Leigertwood cost almost as much (money well spent had his heart not been set on being a midfielder, in my view), while significant fees were also paid for Ephraim, Connolly, Buzsaky, Cook, Routledge and Helguson. Even the likes of Agyemang and Borrowdale were acquired for much more than they were worth.

While most clubs of similar stature were facing some pretty harsh financial realities, this is big spending.

To those who say Warnock himself hasn’t spent big, first take Paddy Kenny. QPR have suggested the fee for him was only £750,000. Even so, how many other Championship clubs signed a goalkeeper last summer for anything like that?  

Warnock has made nine other significant signings. To most other Championship sides, £500,000 – the fee agreed for Mackie and Orr before the latter effectively signed in exchange for Damion Stewart  – is not a small amount of  money. But at QPR, it’s been regularly thrown around like confetti. Then of course there’s Taarabt – another seven-figure signing to add to the list.

Throw in Rub Hulse and Tommy Smith – two players who were on the bench until recently – and you had a summer of big spending. You also had another transfer window when QPR were, once again, the busiest club.

Then there’s the argument that that’s all that’s in the past. What matters is this window, and Warnock clearly isn’t being backed at this crucial moment.

Well, assuming you accept that yet more signings would be helpful at this time, that it’s right for a club to sign several players in every transfer window, that Rangers need to spend more to avoid falling away in a division not exactly packed with quality, and that Warnock has a right to expect this on top of his previous spending, then there’s no reason to be alarmed. The window has been open a matter of days, and Warnock has already signed a player.

Will he sign more? Of course he will. This is QPR we’re talking about – the club that simply cannot stop signing players.

During every transfer window there’s discontent out there at the owners’ alleged reluctance to spend, followed by signings that are greeted with joy, followed about three weeks later by questions about whether the board are ever going to spend some money. And so it goes on.

As I mentioned in a previous blog, the board told Warnock some time ago that they would rather not make more significant signings before the summer, when they hope to be in the Premier League and then plan to take their spending to another level. But recent history suggests they won’t stick to that, and I expect more signings.

Of course, some may be loans. But they cost money too and if the trend continues, they will be loans well out of the reach of most Championship clubs.

The idea that QPR “cannot afford” Kyle Naughton should also be seen in context. This seems to have caused a stir, and I’d compare it to the outcry when Ian Holloway was told he could not sign striker Peter Thompson from Linfield a few years back, which was greeted on messageboards as proof that hard-up QPR “couldn’t even afford a postman”.

The reality was that Rangers had already spent a fair bit and were over-budget, and were not willing to spend more on an unproven player in addition to other signings that hadn’t worked out. To suggest QPR couldn’t afford the guy was disingenuous, and it’s a similar story now.

Rangers made their choice of two promising Tottenham full-backs by signing Kyle Walker, with Naughton later joining Leicester. It would have been very QPR to later go back for Naughton, but unfortunately for them he joined a club that now also have mega-rich owners and intend to spend massively. Being pushed out by Leicester doesn’t make QPR reluctant to spend. Rangers had a good innings as the Championship’s richest and biggest-spending club, and Leicester have now taken on that mantle.

Of course, Warnock won’t want other clubs believing that Rangers will pay over the odds for players. And, like most managers, he will constantly want his bosses to give him more money.

But everyone in football knows how ready Rangers are to throw money around. And, closer to home, he needs to be careful. As well as sanity, he has also brought some unity to QPR. But it hangs by a thread. His recent comments could be taken as a message that all is not well, that he’s been misled in some way, and that the supposedly tight-fisted board are at it again. In fact, that he might even walk.

Nothing could be further from the truth, and I don’t think for a second that Warnock – who knows he’s in a fortunate position – is looking to give that impression. But his words can easily be misinterpreted and feed the perception that he’s been misled or starved of funds in some way. And that perception could cause tension in the stands at the very time when Loftus Road should be rocking.  

So in my book, any benefits from Warnock making out he’s not spent much are outweighed by the confusion and tension it could cause. He shouldn’t go there – not least because what he’s suggesting simply isn’t accurate.

I like Warnock and think he’s doing a good job. I’ve got a lot of time for him, and none for the QPR board because of their lamentable running of the club. But on the charge of failing to back him, they really have no case to answer.

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3 Responses to Warnock needs to tread carefully

  1. daveB says:

    I’d agree Rangers have spent Dave and that Warnock has been backed but I’m not sure it’s that much more than anyone else. Middlesbrough spent £10million in the summer plus huge wages on Boyd. Cardiff spent £5million on Chopra, £1million on Whittingham and many more. Leicester spent plenty even before Sven came in and Hull have just spent a few million already in this window, Norwich and Bristol City are not shy in spending either and then you even have Popmey spending plenty on Lawrence so I don’t think Warnock is wrong to suggest that QPR are not the biggest spenders. It’s also a way of taking pressure off his team and trying to make sure he gets a few quid to spend this window.

    Personally I was against us spending too much in this window as we have plenty of quality and it makes little sense to spend millions on championship players then possibly have to replace them in 4 months time but the injuiries to Mackie and Agyemang plus Walker going back to Spurs means we will need to add a few new players, probably on loan to make sure we don’t mess this up.

  2. Hi Dave. I’ve seen the £10m Boro thing a lot and am not sure where it comes from. Cardiff didn’t spend that much on Chopra and Whittingham and even if they had, Rangers’ overall spending outstrips that. Yes other clubs spend sometimes too, that’s inevitable, but Rangers’ spending has been consistent over a longer period.

    They’ll add players I’m sure, but I still think the bigger risk for Rangers at this stage is an influx of players, not a shortage of them. Mackie being injured is a blow, but that kind of setback is why someone like Tommy Smith was signed. There are other options too. At other clubs if a key player breaks their leg it’s terrible luck and can wreck a season. Rangers can and will just go and get someone else.

  3. daveB says:

    I thought Chopra cost a few million. I think Boro spent quite a lot. They paid around £3.5million for Scott Mcdonald last year, 500k on Lee Miller, £1million on Barry Robson then you had Nicky Bailey, Wilo Flood and a few others, it all adds up. Like us that was a lot of money on sod all really. I do agree we have spent and spent a lot on very little especially before Warnock came in but I’d say we’re now down from the top spenders to the 5th or 6th in our league especially now Hull and Leicester are starting to go for it.

    I’d agree Smith or Ephraim could comfortably cover for Mackie, I just think they’ll need an extra body or two in reserve should anything happen to those guys and the idea of Leon Clarke ever playing again is a worry, he’s Warnocks Eric Sabin without the goal. The cover we do have all seem to be from the Matthew Rose school of fitness at the moment.

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