Matt Butler: QPR chairman Tony Fernandes sees the light at end of a very costly tunnel

He has come to a realisation that an academy system is a good idea

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The Independent Football

Tony Fernandes seems to have seen the light. Or at least he has made headway on the steep learning curve that comes with owning a football club.

In the three and a half years since he took over at Queen’s Park Rangers, he has been of the belief that he can buy success; that he could gain some semblance of an established Premier League club with a wave of the chequebook. And that he could navigate the murky world of football agents as he could with business contacts in his other ventures.

But after saying goodbye to Harry Redknapp – who, let’s face it, is hardly one for playing the long game when it comes to procuring, let alone nurturing, players – he has come to the realisation that a fully functioning academy system might be a good idea.

QPR’s last successful academy product was Raheem Sterling – and he was sold to Liverpool at the age of 16, having never featured for the first team. And Fernandes wants to see more players coming through the ranks.

 

He has admitted he has made “mistakes” with his transfer policy. And it is far from difficult to figure out what he means. Jose Bosingwa, the £65,000-a-week player who infamously laughed when walking off the pitch once relegation was confirmed in 2013, springs to mind. As does Christopher Samba, whose £12.5m transfer fee was a record-breaker for the club.

And as such he has his eyes on a head coach who will work under Les Ferdinand, the director of football, and help bring through talent. As he said today: “We will hire someone who cares, thinks long term, wants to be involved in developing the academy, has coaching skills, will play young players and is a winner.”

The idea of resurrecting the QPR academy is a good one on two counts. Apart from the obvious long-term financial gains – or at least savings, as bringing in a hungry player from the youth ranks is far cheaper than purchasing a 34-year-old approaching the end of his career – it will no doubt be a huge boost to Fernandes’ plans to build a stadium in west London’s Old Oak.

As things stand, the owners of the plot where Fernandes wants to build a 40,000-capacity ground are digging their heels in. But the QPR owner can convince the local council that the club would be a welcome addition to the area more easily if they boast a successful youth set-up.

Apart from the practicalities, Fernandes seeing the value in nurturing talent is a welcome development for fans – after all, Tottenham supporters know how good it feels when one of their own, Harry Kane, scores the winner. Even if success takes a few years, fans can feel they have their club back.

Now all Fernandes needs is a head coach who shares his vision. Good job that Tim Sherwood is available.

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