Neil Warnock a victim of trying to buy quality without cash
The QPR chairman, Tony Fernandes, a keen user of new media, pleaded on Twitter last night for fans critical of his decision to fire Neil Warnock to "be patient" and to "give us time". These are not concepts he allowed his manager.
Fernandes and Warnock worked together for less than five months following the Malaysian's August acquisition of the club from Bernie Ecclestone and Flavio Briatore. Much of that time the owner was either in Malaysia, where his business interests include two airlines, or on the Formula One circuit with Team Lotus (now Caterham).
When he did see QPR play they rarely won, and the performance at Milton Keynes on Saturday, when Rangers scraped a late draw against League One MK Dons, seems to have been the final straw.
On Twitter, again, he wrote: "Driving back to London. Lots to think about." That followed his pre-match tweet: "This is a journey not a sprint. Along the way we learn. But we continue to develop and along the way hard decisions need to be made ... It's important to note that no one's job is safe."
The timing of Warnock's sacking can be explained by the club's nine-match winless run, and the arrival of the transfer window. Fernandes is understood to be less than impressed with the quality of the recruits Warnock made under him in the last days of the August window, and therefore reluctant to let him invest in this one.
This is hardly surprising given the collective performances of Joey Barton, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Anton Ferdinand, Luke Young and Armand Traoré, but, as Warnock's replacement may find this month, that is the inevitable consequence of trying to bring players into a promoted team with limited time and funds. Fernandes, new to the sport and managing remotely, appears to have shown a lack of understanding of the circumstances.
Warnock himself said: "My biggest regret is that the takeover didn't happen earlier, because that would have given me the opportunity to bring in the targets I'd pinpointed all last summer and probably given us a better chance to succeed in the Premier League."
Chief among those were Scott Parker and Craig Bellamy, who was QPR-bound before Liverpool intervened. Warnock was also close to signing the Footballer of the Year before Tottenham decided to meet West Ham's fee and Parker's terms. Instead Warnock signed Barton, but while his name helped to attract others the troubled former England midfielder has been high-maintenance off the pitch and a mixed success on it. This was exemplified by his last match when he scored the opening goal against Norwich, then was sent off for a headbutt.
While Barton was silly to get involved with Bradley Johnson and the dismissal was widely regarded as harsh, but it has been Rangers' fate recently to be on the wrong side of decisions. They led that match when Barton was dismissed, just as they led West Bromwich when Wright-Phillips had a second goal wrongly chalked off for offside. QPR took one point from those games. Injuries, particularly to central defenders, have also contributed to the team's problems.
Warnock moved for Parker after Fernandes arrived. So tight had been budgetary constraints under Ecclestone that he could not even compete with the clubs promoted behind Rangers last season. Swansea beat him to Danny Graham and Wayne Routledge, and Norwich to the Tottenham loanee Kyle Naughton. Shane Long went to West Bromwich. Warnock had to make do with Danny Gabbidon, Kieron Dyer and Jay Bothroyd on frees, and D J Campbell for £1.25m.
How much money Fernandes is prepared to commit remains to be seen but Warnock will be bitterly disappointed if his successor is able to spend heavily. This was his third crack at the top flight and, having been relegated with underfunded Notts County (1991-92) and Sheffield United (2006-07), he was looking forward to realising Fernandes' ambitions.
Last season's promotion was Warnock's seventh. During his time at QPR he had to work with Briatore, endure the Alejandro Faurlin contract inquiry, and try to build a Premier League team on minimal funds, and it has been the most draining stint of his career. Then again, after more than three decades in management, and a career which has gone from Sunday League Todwick to, for the last dozen years, the Championship or higher, the 63-year-old dearly wants to bow out as an established top-flight manager. His future may well depend just what offers are made.
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