With the greatest respect and humility it is time to have a quiet word – if quiet is possible - in the ear of the QPR manager Neil Warnock.
The January transfer window is open, QPR is, after a decent start to life in the Premership, nestling just a single point above the dreadful drop zone. A serious question now has to be asked, even though it was Warnock who almost single-handedly dragged the club out of the Championship despite malign interference by the then owners Bernie Ecclestone and Flavio Briatore.
Lest there be any doubt QPR fans retain both admiration and support for Warnock and remember that even at the 6-0 debacle at Craven Cottage we still sang: “There is only one Neil Warnock.” That has not changed nor will it. The problem is that QPR are in danger of becoming a “nearly” club – nearly good enough to get a draw with Manchester City, nearly good enough to beat West Brom and nearly good enough to get points against Norwich – twice.
The serious question is whether Neil Warnock is about to place too much emphasis on being able to buy his way out of trouble in the January sales, in the search for the new. By definition the players you get in the winter transfer window are surplus to someone else’s requirements and might not be better than those you have already. At a pivotal time in the season there is also the danger that new arrivals, if there are too many of them, will cause disruption and distraction for some of the crucial weeks ahead.
The serious question is whether Neil Warnock is about to place too much emphasis on being able to buy his way out of trouble in the January sales, in the search for the new.
Neither Swansea nor Norwich have flooded their teams with hordes of new arrivals and they have managed to lodge themselves in mid-table security despite being behind QPR in last season’s championship.
Look what Martin O’Neill has done at Sunderland with the same old crew.
Of course Warnock may pull off another magic trick and attract new talent without destablising the team. Frederico Macheda, on loan from Manchester United, looked strong, fast and purposeful in his first 10 minutes on the Loftus Road pitch against Norwich. The trouble is that the first influx of new talent, despite the big name profiles with fancy salaries to match, haven’t exactly set the world alight.
Warnock shows signs of being addicted to the new and shiny while forcing members of the existing team to the margins or worse. The record shows that Shaun-Wright Phillips despite attractive mazy runs has still failed to score a single goal- apart from a legitimate strike that was wrongly ruled offside. Jay Bothroyd, probably hired because of the spectacular goal he scored for Cardiff against QPR last season, has produced nothing like it in the Premiership and has yet to open his tally. Jason Puncheon has returned to Southampton after a couple of minor and inconsequential substitute appearances. Kieron Dyer? Well everyone knew that was a bit of a punt. The Premiership’s unluckiest player lasted just six minutes in the opening game and is now out for the rest of the season. At least QPR has had the decency to stand by him beyond the obligations of contract.
Meanwhile there was not even a squad number for Hogan Ephraim, Clint Hill was gone but had to be recalled from loan, and what do you make of how Tommy Smith has been treated? He scored a brilliant winning goal against Everton – and where would QPR be now without those three points – but he has since been exiled to bit substitute parts usually in the last few minutes of games when the score-line is already against The Hoops.
There were always doubts about whether Joey Barton really is a reformed character. Talented certainly but a lot of his passing has been wayward at best and unfortunate that he should celebrate his first goal for QPR by, to put it at its very mildest, deciding to place himself in the way of danger by agreeing to Tango with Bradley Johnston of Norwich. Danny Gabbidon? Probably worth his corn but the only unambiguous successes of the new era so far are Anton Ferdinand, Luke Young and Armand Traore.
No man could have done more than Warnock to try to channel the obvious talent of the egotistical, eccentric Taarabt, the player who did more than any other to win promotion for the R’s.
And then again what about the mercurial Adel Taarabt?
No man could have done more than Warnock to try to channel the obvious talent of the egotistical, eccentric Taarabt, the player who did more than any other to win promotion for the R’s. Yet after making a poor fist of his first games in the Premiership, getting the bus at halftime during the Fulham game and “losing his passport” and going AWOL after a Morocco international, Warnock seemed to give up on Taarabt. Not clever. Taarabt’s recent, rather belated re-introduction to the team has led to some impressive performances with the promise of more to come, just in time to mark his disappearance by the end of the month to Qatar if not Paris St Germain.
No QPR fan will turn down Andy Johnson or Alex from Chelsea but Neil Warnock has to sit down quietly and work out his best survival squad and stick with them. And that squad should be made up of a judicious mixture of old and new – and that mixture should include Smith, Akos Buzsaky, possibly even Ephraim but certainly 34-year-old Heidar Helguson without whose goals QPR might be as good as relegated already.
It’s not too late to turn things round but the time for excuses of all kinds is rapidly running out. The danger is that QPR will become known as the talented team with a tremendous manager in Neil Warnock and a splendid owner in Tony Fernandez which ever so nearly survived in the Premier League.
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