EPL

Redknapp Faces Up To His Hardest Challenge Yet

Harry Redknapp, new QPR managerHarry Redknapp must be wondering what he has taken on as he looks at his new QPR squad and the up coming fixtures. The veteran English manager, who took over from Mark Hughes at Loftus Road at the end of November, is a formidable record for turning teams over the years. Look at what he did with Tottenham for example. Sitting in the bottom of the Premiership after a disastrous time under Juande Ramos, Harry left Portsmouth to take over at White Hart Lane and transformed the team into title challengers within 2 years.  He instilled confidence in the team once more and worked with players who had struggled to find form and position such as Gareth Bale which started the revival. His work at Spurs was so impressive that most fans felt he was a certainty for the England manager’s job after the departure of Fabio Capello, only to be surprisingly overlooked in favour of Roy Hodgson. Harry’s confidence took a knock which eventually led to his dismissal from Tottenham due to a poor end to the season, but his qualities as a manager made it only a matter of time before he resurfaced at another club.

When the call came from QPR owner Tony Fernandes, Harry jumped at the chance, despite contractual negotiations being underway with the Ukrainian Football Federation over their top job, the national manager’s position. But Harry favoured a return to the Premiership rather than a 1,000 mile journey to the former Soviet Republic. However his new challenge could quite easily be the hardest one Harry has ever faced. With QPR rooted to the bottom of the Premiership with only 4 points in the first 13 games, Harry took over the club on the 24th November for the match against Manchester Untied. Harry decided to sit in the stands for this match and let caretakers Mark Bowen and Eddie Niedzwiecki, he watched as his new side were dispatched 3-1 by a rampant United team and highlight the various problems that exist at Queens Park Rangers.

Task in Hand - new boss, Harry Redknapp
Task in Hand – new boss, Harry Redknapp

A team lacking in confidence, desperate for direction and tactical awareness on the pitch, a squad heavy with over paid new signings unable to gel or adapt to life in the Premiership, with disgruntled players and ego’s off the pitch, Harry was facing up to a spider-web of problems to solve. The legacy that Mark Hughes had created was starting to look more like a nightmare. Hughes, for all his managerial skills and abilities had foolishly spent heavily over the summer bringing in a host of new players in a desperate attempt to completely revamp his squad and remove all reminders from the Neil Warnock era. Wranock had left Loftus Road in January 2012 with the team struggling in the league, but what he had done was build a strong team of grafters who would fight for each point. Although not technically gifted nor exciting to watch, his approached worked in the first few months of the season  job but ultimately struggled in the few months before his sacking, due to injuries, suspensions, fitness and lack of creativity in the final third. Hughes scrapped that philosophy as soon as he arrived and deemed several players as no longer needed.

Mark Hughes struggled to change QPR's fortunes
Mark Hughes struggled to change QPR’s fortunes

Over the summer he brought in a host of big name players – goalkeepers Robert Green and Julio Cesar, defenders Jose Bosingwa, Nedum Onuoha, Ryan Nelson, Fabio, midfielders Park Ji-Sung, Esteban Granero, Junior Hoilett, Samba Diakité and strikers Bobby Zamora, Djibril Cissé and Andrew Johnson in an attempt to turn the fortunes of the club around but still struggled to do so. After a poor end to last season and an even poorer start to this season, Fernandes could support Hughes no longer and dispatched with his services. Harry was an easy choice for the owner and with the a pedigree for turning things around, he was confident that Harry was the best choice too. After three games in charge, Harry has halted the clubs losing streak but has yet been able to get his first three points, managing only 3 draws so far. Saturday’s 2-2 draw with relegation candidates Reading was probably Harry’s best chance, and now faces a tough next 5 games against sides in the top half of the table.

One of Hughes many signing, Park Ji Sung
One of Hughes many signing, Park Ji Sung

Redknapp knows he has the squad capable of turning the season around and will likely have to rely on them as transfer funds in January are likely to be limited. Harry may be able to bring in some players on loan and may look towards the US for an injection of fresh talent. As the MLS season finishes and is not due to restart until March, players like Tim Cahill, Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane are all looking for short-term loans to keep their fitness levels up. Redknapp knows all these players well having managed Keane before at Tottenham and has seen Donovan and Keane up close during their time at Everton. All three would offer a new dimension to the team and with experience in the league all ready, would be able to adapt with ease. Regardless of what Redknapp decides, he has a job on his hands to change the fortunes of the club. He needs to take his talented squad and get them to play together quickly. His approach is likely to be focused on the basics first, creating a solid spine to the team and a tight defense. If he can stop the goals being conceded, Redknapp and his coaches Jordan and Allen, will then work with his strikers to give them back the confidence they need to start scoring again. If he can manage this, it will be only a matter of time before QPR start to climb up the table once again.

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