Saturday 20 January 2018

Mutiny in the air but this ship is sinking fast

Richard Sadlier

Richard Sadlier

After one particularly lacklustre training session, a manager I know brought the players together to hammer them for their morning's work. He covered most areas you would expect a man in his position to cover. Everything from the warm-up to their appearance was criticised. That level of performance would not be tolerated again, he said, and the players knew it. But just as they thought they had heard all they were going to hear, things took a bizarre twist.

He chose to berate them for their recent good behaviour on a mid-season trip. They had been taken to another part of England for a three-day break and not one player stepped out of line. This infuriated the manager and he let them know why. Nobody broke a curfew, nobody missed training, nobody got drunk. There were no issues with the police and no dealings with prostitutes. He listed many other elements that were missing from the trip, and told them of his worry for their season on the back of it. How could they expect to succeed if they were all so squeaky clean and afraid to take risks?

It made no sense to any of them then, and it still makes very little sense to me now, but that manager would be pleased with the actions of the QPR players recently and would be full of optimism for their chances of survival. Three unnamed players from their squad spoke to the media last week about a five-day trip to Dubai they had together last month. They spoke about bar bills that ran into the tens of thousands for one night. They described it as more of a holiday camp than a training camp and painted a very bleak outlook for the remainder of the season. "What sort of club allows a team with 17 points and only two wins all season go and do this? It's impossible to survive like that and so this club isn't going to survive."

But perhaps more damning were the reports of divisions and tensions within the squad. Not every player will see their wages cut if the club is relegated, but those who will are beginning to resent those who won't. The players questioned the attitude of some of their team-mates and described a dressing room that is far from united. "The foreign players are in one section and the English players in another."

Summer departures are apparently already being spoken about. "There's a feeling from some of us that other players don't give a shit, that they're just here for the money." It is hard to imagine a worse scenario for a club in QPR's position.

Redknapp dismissed the allegations when they were put to him. "If it happened they must have done something I didn't see. I don't believe what you're saying. I can't see it." He said the trip had been a success and the players worked harder than any group he had been away with before.

He confirmed he had stayed with his wife for the duration of the trip in a different hotel to the rest of the travelling party, a decision the players claimed had particular significance in how the trip went. "Some of us think that if the manager had been in the same hotel he could have controlled what was going on."

The fact that they leaked this information to the media spoke volumes, but their problems go way beyond dressing room ill-discipline.

QPR is a club in total disarray. Figures released last week showed the shocking state of the club's finances and it is not overstating matters to say relegation could put the club in a position from which it may never recover. Their wage bill

doubled last season from the previous season, and factor in the spending done during the last two transfer windows and a policy of recklessness becomes clear. It's a high-risk strategy that looks doomed to fail.

Unless relegation is avoided, the club will be left with a high-earning squad of poor performers and be heavily in debt. A ground as small as Loftus Road will always limit the generation of new income so climbing out of this hole will be almost impossible.

The owner still speaks about his long-term ambitions for the club but it's their policy of spending that will ultimately bring them down. Promotion to the Premier League is seen as a windfall in normal circumstances but not at a club that behaves in this way. Events in Dubai were entirely consistent with the chaotic running of the club.

Finger-pointing is inevitable in dressing rooms that are failing but success will not be achieved if it continues. Blaming one another is not going to help but it's hard to single out anyone at this stage.

They're on the path to self-destruction and it has been a collective effort.

Irish Independent

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