Redknapp: QPR players are just not good enough
QPR 0 Stoke City 2
Mark Hughes insisted at the end of last season that never again would Queens Park Rangers approach the final game of a campaign still in relegation danger.
He got much wrong during his time as manager at the west London club, but on this he was absolutely right. A year on, QPR have got nowhere near the end yet there is little doubt about demotion. They are down with four games to go.
True, the mathematics insist that it will take an Aston Villa victory tonight to confirm their demise. But the sense at Loftus Road as they lost to Stoke was that it was over.
Indeed, the players did not wait until the defeat was completed – they played for most of the match as if hope long ago vacated the premises.
Even Harry Redknapp, the game's eternal optimist, has given up the pretence that any chance of a miracle remains. "It looks in tatters doesn't it really?" he said.
It was evident that the man who was managing in the Champions League two seasons ago had resigned himself to the Championship.
"That's life," he said. "The San Siro was great. I loved it. Fantastic. It was great going to Milan and winning but this is where I am now and I will get on with the job."
And Redknapp was unequivocal about who held responsibility for the future he now faces; a future of visits to Middlesbrough and Millwall rather than Milan.
"The players put themselves in the Championship. The thing that makes me laugh more than anything is when I hear people say, 'Oh they won't play in the Championship, they are too good'. Well they are in the Championship because they weren't good enough in the Premier League."
Once Adel Taarabt and Andros Townsend hobbled off injured, QPR were entirely devoid of spark. Watching this lot, you might assume they were a bunch of unpaid interns, rather than seasoned professionals given the wages of Croesus in the expectation that it might provide incentive to perform.
For Redknapp, it was surely an embarrassment to put his name to such a limp-wristed show.
Later, he listed what had gone wrong. There was the pitch, a surface he suggested was not fit for League Two. There was his inability to field the Bobby Zamora/Loic Remy partnership. But mainly, there was the fact he had arrived too late in the dugout.
"If I'd come last summer, if I could have built the team I want, we wouldn't be scrabbling around down here. That's for sure."
He has a point. This was a Redknapp team in name only. It was not as if they were facing opponents bursting with confidence themselves.
Their main creative source Charlie Adam – a man who was once considered good enough to anchor Liverpool – gave a performance so short of accuracy and direction it was a surprise that when he was inevitably substituted he managed to find his way to the bench unaided.
Stoke did not need much to secure three vital points. Just not being QPR was enough. A smartly taken breakaway goal by the lifelong Hoops fan Peter Crouch, who later earned a penalty converted at the second attempt by Jonathan Walters, sent their fans into vocal raptures.
The gap between the two sides was summed up late in the game when the visiting substitute Geoff Cameron whipped the ball off Stephane Mbia's toes with an ease that can only be described as contemptuous.
As Cameron galloped off with the ball, Mbia stood and watched him go, apparently labouring under the assumption that tackling back was someone else's responsibility.
For all the talk from the board of investment in a pitch and training ground, it was that sight that will have had QPR fans fearing most for what now lies ahead. (© Daily Telegraph, London)