QPR will look to spend a lot of money this summer. That’s for certain. What remains to be seen is how they go about spending it.
Rangers’ transfer policy if promoted will go a long way to shaping their fortunes in the next few years. Like their ticket-pricing policy, it will also reveal whether the owners care about the club’s long-term interests or are just out to make a splash and enjoy themselves.
Conventional wisdom is that most clubs need to spend big if they’re to survive in the top division. Maybe that’s right, but unless you’re signing players of genuine top quality – which in the short-term probably won’t be an option for QPR – I don’t think there’s any need to start hurling the sterling simply to have a competitive squad. In fact, that’s the last thing Rangers should do.
For any club outside the top five or six, the potential to waste a vast amount of money is huge. This is because they usually cannot afford and/or attract the best, so get drawn into paying way over the odds for lesser players.
I believe the sensible approach for a promoted side like Rangers is to broadly look to do four things:
1st. Add some solid Premier League experience. The three relegated clubs are the best starting points. Exploit their predicament – others have done it to QPR in the past.
2nd. Plan for the future. Try to pick up the top clubs’ very best youngsters who’ll need to move to get regular football.
3rd. Look for pace. In every position. Pace, pace and more pace. Rangers currently lack it, and won’t stand a chance in the Premier League without it. Lots of it.
4th (and most important). Cherry-pick the best of the Championship. This should be the cornerstone of QPR’s transfer policy. The gulf between the top two divisions is massive – everyone knows that – and so is the list of players who’ll look like world beaters in the second tier but aren’t good enough to step up. Even so, you cannot go wrong by signing the best players from the division below, who have the specific attributes to play in the Premier League. Everton did it with Cahill and Lescott. Birmingham did it with Roger Johnson and Scott Dann. Others have done it. It’s a transfer policy that works.
In the short-term at least, QPR will have limited appeal to the best players – whatever mind-numbing wages they offer. Yes, many footballers are largely interested in money. But the best ones care more about their career. This is something the Briatore-led regime have found while trying to buy success, and probably believe will change as soon as they own a Premier League club. It won’t.
As a respected person in the game said to me after the 2007 takeover, when Rangers were being touted as future Champions Leaguers and linked with all sorts of big signings: “Good players want good clubs, not lesser clubs with money.” Except he didn’t use the word lesser.
Harsh – and based largely on the absolute battering the club’s once-good reputation had taken in the previous couple of years – but I have to say a very accurate comment.
A sensible transfer policy and sensible ticket-pricing will be needed to re-establish QPR as a good, medium-sized club with a certain charm, solid support, good facilities, and a good reputation in the game. A club that’s attractive to players who care about more than their wage packet.
Neil Warnock has taken the club forward in that respect, although there is still a long way to go. But it is achievable and, given the wealth and status of the owners, from there the possibilities for Rangers really are endless.
The issue, perhaps, is that they have a manager and a board who are all about the short-term. In Warnock’s case, his approaching retirement means he wants a good crack at the Premier League. The board, you can be sure, will be like kids in a sweetshop and will lash money around like there’s no tomorrow – something I sense many supporters will be happy about.
Even so, based on the kind of transfer policy I think QPR ought to have, below I’ve listed some players I reckon should be in their thoughts this summer. Most are young players who possibly aren’t yet ready for regular Premier League football but would be worth signing for the future.
It’s not a definitive list. There’s only one centre-back, and Warnock will definitely need more than that. Neither am I saying all of them should be signed. They’re just ideas.
I’ve also stuck to players whose names are generally out there already. There are other, lesser-known youngsters from the biggest clubs who’ll cause a stampede should they become available in the coming months. But I’ve not gone there.
I’m sure many will disagree with my choices and have suggestions of their own. Feel free to chip in.
France Under-21 midfielder in the Patrick Vieira mould. Tall, physical player who also has good technical ability. A great prospect, a good age (22) and has top-flight experience with Blackburn. Would cost a lot, not least because he has four years left on his contract, but is worth pursuing – especially if Blackburn go down. Rangers absolutely have to get a strong, dynamic, technically-gifted central midfielder of this type. It’s a must in the modern game. Every Premier League club has one, or wants one.
Turned down QPR to join Wolves as the Briatore-led takeover of Rangers was being completed in 2007. Mikele Leigertwood was later brought in instead. Would have been an excellent signing, as he’s proved with his performances in midfield for Wolves in both the Championship and Premier League. Can also play at right-back. A very good player with top-flight experience. Recently signed a new contract, but well worth trying for if Wolves don’t stay up.
Would be a good – and highly likely – signing if Wolves go down. Is currently there on loan from Tottenham with a view to a possible permanent move in the summer. Combative midfielder with a great attitude. Can play centrally or on the left.
Like Kyle Walker, was a youngster at Sheffield United during Warnock’s time there, and has since joined Tottenham. Warnock wanted him when he was unable to get Walker back from Spurs, but lost out to Leicester. An obvious target for next season if Rangers go up and Leicester don’t. Arguably a better prospect than Walker, although he is a long way behind him at the moment.
Another defender currently on loan at Leicester, in this case from Chelsea. At 19, would be a signing for the future – and he has a big future if some of his performances this season are anything to go by.
Exactly the kind of player QPR, with all their might and supposed ambition for the future, should have snapped up when he was down the road at Wycombe. A host of other clubs were keen on him and believed they were close to getting him before a shock promotion enabled Ian Holloway to offer Premier League football. If Blackpool end up back in the Championship, Rangers should make a bid. Even if it means paying 10 times what they could have got him for a year ago, and even though he has mostly been a substitute this season. Far from the finished article, but worth the investment.
Potentially the complete right-back: strong, quick, defensively sound and good going forward. The only full-back I’ve seen against QPR this season who was not only comfortable being left one-versus-one, but also consistently looked to break out whenever possible because he rightly fancied his chances going forward. Good enough to play at the top level. Rangers should offer him the chance to do so if they go up and Forest don’t. Still only 21.
A player I thought Rangers should have been trying to organise a swap deal for when Forest were looking to sign Lee Camp and Dexter Blackstock. At the time, McGugan was out of favour with Billy Davies. Still has question marks over his attitude, but the ability is there. Again, would be worth a bid if Forest miss out on promotion.
Definitely not one for those who’ve been convinced QPR need a goalscorer – a view I’ve never shared. Has flaws, will frustrate, and age isn’t on his side. But there are few better players for the role of lone forward, which Rangers have employed for most of the last few years. For that reason alone, would be a decent signing that would also add Premier League experience to the squad.
Would be worth a go if Cardiff don’t go up. Been around the block but is probably now at his peak or near it.
A club with filthy-rich owners who are happy to regularly take punts on players (it’s only money after all) should definitely consider taking a punt on Maynard. Has pace, ability and is an excellent finisher. I think he could step up.
A player I’ve always rated. Could be a vital, experienced member of the squad in that all-important first season in the Premier League.
Ditto. A great professional and a West Londoner. Could be for QPR in the Premier League what Paul Furlong was in the Championship.
England Under-21 international who can play in midfield or at centre-back. Great ability, but his progress has been badly hampered by injuries. Missed much of the last couple of seasons for Derby. Even so, as a squad player and possible one for the future, would be worth picking up.
Another good right-back. His Swansea contract is due to expire at the end of the season. Unhappy when possible moves to Blackpool and Fulham didn’t happen.
Quality midfielder who’s done well in the Championship while on loan at Watford and Norwich. Probably the right time for him to step up, but won’t find it easy to establish himself at Arsenal. A real prospect with an excellent footballing brain.
Played under Warnock at Crystal Palace before joining Wigan, where his performances have suggested the move came too soon for him. Bundles of ability though, and the tough time he’s had in the Premier League might even stand him in good stead in the future.