Tony Fernandes broke his season long silence this week and blasted his overpaid QPR stars in what is set to be the first move in overhauling the club. The Malaysian businessman, who bought a controlling stake in the club in August 2011, had vowed never to publically slam his players despite their poor form in order to maintain morale and keep the passion alive for the fight against relegation. But now that the fight is over and QPR’s fate has been sealed, the popular owner has pulled off his gloves and come out punching. His scathing attack critizied players in the squad who he felt had not given their all in every game and those who came to the club for the wrong reasons.
Fernandes is within his right to do so, after enduring a season to forget, watching week in week out a team that had enough quality throughout to easily stay in the Premiership but lacked the desire to do so. He has been fully transparent throughout his time as owner and has backed his managers both publically and financially without question. His handling of the Mark Hughes situation has to be admire as most owners would have dismissed the bumbling Welsh manager months before Fernandes did, but the businessman bought into his vision and gave him as much time as possible to execute against it. Only when the situation was getting beyond repair did Fernandes depart with Hughes and install Harry Redknapp in his place, but still has not publically slammed Hughes for putting QPR in the position they were in. Once again Fernandes has backed his manager in Redknapp by committing to him next season, despite the Englishman being unable to stop the rot. Harry has been highly critical of the team he inherited, blasting their lack of professionalism and greed. But now Fernandes and Redknapp must plan for next season in the Championship, which will see them come straight back up. As always BOTN is on hand to offer its advice to the chairman and head coach as they rebuild for the next campaign.
Keep hold of Harry
Fernandes and Redknapp have already discussed the coach staying on for next season and have agreed but nothing in football is definitive so above all else, Fernandes and QPR must keep hold of Harry and prevent his head from being turned by a better opportunity. Redknapp is faithful and loyal to the club and has expressed his desire to remain at Loftus Road but if a job comes up in the Premiership at a club like Everton for instance, you can count that Harry will be on the shortlist. The draw of England’s top league may prove too difficult to ignore as Harry knows that at 66 years old he probably won’t be managing for much longer. Redknapp has had a good managerial career and is a proven master of turning teams around (QPR were a sunk ship when he inherited them) so he will want to end his career on top in the best division in the league. A quick rebound with QPR will give him that but the Championship is considerably harder to get results in than the Premiership, with the teams more evenly balanced so promotion is not a foregone conclusion. Fernandes must keep Redknapp and back him 100% as switching managers even at the start of the season can prove costly.
Trim the fat
The QPR squad is heavily bloated and overpaid, making it one of the biggest and most expensive to run squads in the Premiership. With over 42 players in the first team, all on over inflated wages, trimming the squad down to a manageable number is a must. Fernandes will know what that number looks like but it is likely to be a fifth of what they are currently paying out (premiership wages are historically five times larger than championship ones). Between Fernandes and Redknapp, they need to trim the squad down to a manageable 22 players, give or take a few. Cardiff by example won the league this year with a squad of 28 players and a handful of youth/reserves thrown in from time to time.
QPR’s drastic overall must start at the top with the biggest earners leaving first (Samba, Remy, Julio Cesar, Zamora) hopefully all commanding fees then followed by the players who are surplus to requirements, either for a fee or on a free transfer to get them off the books – Bosingwa, Wright Phillips, Jenas, Barton, Cisse. Finally Redknapp must make decisions on players who may want to stay and play for him but don’t fit into his long term vision for the club – Green, Ganero, Park Ji Sung, Taarabt, Ferdinand. They may be offered the chance to stay but must do so on heavily reduced wages and on Harry’s terms. Rob Green and Anton Ferdinand may opt to do so, but will likely insist on a clause in their contracts to allow them to leave after one season if promotion is not achieved. Once Redknapp is finished he should have trimmed his squad down to 28, with a few others deciding to leave on their own accord.
Keep a strong core group of players
With a now reduced squad and a wage bill that has been cut in half, Redknapp will focus on building a core around a select group of players. These individuals are at QPR to play for the club, not the money which a majority of Hughes signings ended up being. Players like Clint Hill, Shaun Derry, Alejandro Faurlin, Luke Young, Jamie Mackie, Nedum Onouha and Andy Johnson are likely to stay for various reasons, some through a love for the club and others as a sense of loyalty to the fans for getting QPR into this position in the first place. The last three on the list may be harder to hold on to, with Premiership clubs interested in all of them but if Harry can be persuasive then perhaps they will end up staying. But most will have to take a pay cut of some degree as the club looks to slash its costs across the board. With a core intact, Harry can add to this with fringe and youth players like Yun Suk-Young, Max Ehmer and Angelo Balanta as well as some select signings.
Fernandes will make money available to Redknapp that is for sure but how much will depend on who can be sold, what savings can be made and what requirements he has. The Premiership will kick in some money as well in the form of the parachute payments but much of this will go towards paying off player contracts and general running of the club. Redknapp wants to sign players of good character in order to unite a dressing room that was split for most of this campaign due to the irregular levels of pay that some players were on compared to others. He is likely to go back to Tottenham to sign, either permanently or on loan Andros Townsend who spend the last six months at the club on loan and impressed Redknapp. In addition players like Blackburn trio Jordan Rhodes, Grant Hanley and Paul Robinson plus Leeds United’s Stephen Warnock and Ross McCormick could be on Redknapp’s wish list as they all possess the self drive, determination and commitment that he is looking for. Regardless of who he signs, Redknapp will be cautious to avoid a repeat of last season when average players were given star status and the wages to match, which ultimately led to the clubs downfall. It’s unlikely that the club or its fans would survive another fall.
Repay the Fans
Above all else, Fernandes needs to repay the fan. They remained loyal throughout the entire campaign and give their all even if the team on the pitch didn’t. It won’t have been easy to watch this supposed star studded lineup fail so miserably week in week out but the fans stuck through it and will come in their droves again next season as well. Fernandes has already made promises to heavily reduce the cost of tickets down by almost 35% next season. This should go some way to appease the fans but more needs to be done to reward them for their loyalty. They need stability at their club, investment in infrastructure and the promise of a quick return to the Premiership, where they feel they truly belong. Fernandes has been a man of the people so far and will likely look to offer more to the fans in order to keep them on side. But if performances on the park don’t improve before next season, even reducing ticketing costs won’t stop the fans from expressing their anger.
Fernandes, Redknapp and QPR have a huge summer ahead of them as they look to overhaul the first team in preparation for next season’s grueling Championship campaign. If Fernandes and Redknapp can work well together to quickly move on players and secure the ones they need before pre season begins, then QPR will undoubtedly be seen as a challenger for the title. Any delays however could result in a stuttering start to the year and lead to disaster once again for QPR.