As the transfer window slammed shut on Thursday night, and the internet went berserk with Peter Odemwingie jokes (even the tired Gazza/chicken/lager references appeared), QPR were left to reflect on a window where Harry Redknapp should be relatively pleased on his January business.
Much has been made of the fee paid for Chris Samba and the reported wages the former Blackburn man is on, but it’s a position that Rangers have failed to fill for the past three windows even before Ryan Nelsen’s departure to Toronto. There’s no question its a massive gamble, shelling out a club record fee, but with it, QPR have a proven Premier League player who’s still the right side of 30, and if helps Rangers stay in this league will be the bedrock of their defence for years to come.
Quite simply put; he’s the monster defender the Loftus Road faithful have been crying out for. Yes, he’s come at a monster price, and with alarm bells ringing to the sound and comparison to what has happened to Harry’s former club Portsmouth. But they were never backed by one of the richest men in the world. And for all Tony Fernandes' good work investment, fans and the media seem to forget that the Mittal family still own a fair stake in the club, and I’m sure they’ve had some say on this record deal.
Of course if Fernandes and Mittals did remove themselves from the Queens Park Rangers picture, and the club were relegated, things could look much bleaker. However, Harry and his decisions in this window were here to prevent that relegation, and signings like Samba go a long way to doing just that. The Congolese wasn’t the only arrival either on Thursday, as highly-rated midfielder Andros Townsend and team-mate Jermaine Jenas also moved to the club from Spurs, adding to the arrival of Loic Remy earlier in the month.
Jenas, if he can stay fit, is someone Harry knows and offers an experienced head in the Rangers midfield, while Townsend adds some youthful exuberance and another threat going forward. Remy of course, as we have already seen gives the Super Hoops the type of goal scorer they’ve been missing all season.
In all then, a decent window for Rangers and Redknapp. I get the feeling he’s have liked to have got one more striker over the line, and possibly would have done if it wasn’t for the shenanigans involving Odemwingie’s trip down the M40, but having completed his shopping list and named his 25-man squad attention now turns to tomorrow’s crunch game at home to Norwich City.
Forgetting the miserable FA Cup exit to MK Dons, 2013 has been so far so good for QPR, but I feel Saturday’s visit of the Canaries is easily Rangers biggest game of the year so far. Earning hard-fought points against Spurs and Manchester City, along with the smash and grab win at Stamford Bridge are all well and good, but it’s these kinds of games the club need to win if they are to get themselves out the relegation scrap they find themselves in.
The bad news is Rangers don’t have the best record against the Norfolk side, going all the way back to 1976 when defeat to Norwich all but ended QPR’s only chance of winning a top-flight title. In recent season’s Rangers have failed to beat the Canaries on the last six occasions, including the 1-1 draw between the teams earlier in the season. On the flipside, the good news is that Chris Hughton’s men are without a league win since mid-December, and have only recorded one victory on the road all season, which suggests it looks like a good time as any to play the men in yellow.
What Rangers will need to do though, is something they’ve failed to do so far in this mini-unbeaten run - and that’s take the game to the opposition. Due to the nature of their opponents, much of the R’s game so far in 2013 has been about soaking-up pressure and trying to expose teams on the break with Taarabt and Remy. Saturday will be different, and the onus will be on Rangers to attack an opposition the Loftus Road crowd believe their team can defeat. This threat has to come from more than just pinning hopes on the Moroccan too, as that game-plan is becoming far too predictable. Harry’s selection will be crucial, as will the effect Granero, Wright-Phillips and Remy have on the game.
It’s the time of season where managers start using ‘Cup Final’ as a cliché to describe every important game. This weekend is just that for Rangers, possibly even more important, and possibly Harry’s biggest game as manager to date. Now with his team playing his way and some shiny new players to boot, fingers crossed 2013’s unbeaten Premier League run continues with three precious points.