Sam Wallace: QPR look out of fashion after big spree on top labels' cast-offs
They signed players who had once done it at the sharp end of European football
A football crowd fired up on frustration and anger tends to get to the heart of the matter quickly and so it was at Loftus Road on Saturday, where the Queen's Park Rangers support chanted "You're only here for the money" at their own wretched players.
By any standards Mark Hughes's team have had a dreadful start to the season, culminating in Saturday's defeat at home to Southampton, one place above them in 19th position. It does beg the awkward question: if QPR cannot beat Southampton, then who can they beat?
When Neil Warnock was sacked by the club in January his team were 17th after 20 games with 17 points. That worked out at 28 per cent of the total points they had played for. This morning, Hughes's team are 20th after 12 games with four points – that is 11 per cent of the points on offer.
The looming reality at QPR on Saturday was that they have signed some players who do not care enough. A mercenary element was certainly what Hughes seemed to hint at afterwards when he criticised an unwillingness to "chase lost causes" and his intention to reinstate the old reliables like Shaun Derry and Jamie Mackie.
Jose Bosingwa, acquired on a free transfer this summer, has been the worst of the bunch, and Saturday's defeat was arguably his poorest performance yet. Esteban Granero, played on the right, did not get past Southampton's 17-year-old left-back Luke Shaw, a fine young prospect. Djibril Cissé has two goals in 12 games this season and only one of them in the league.
Hughes has suffered injuries to key players this season, and is currently without Park Ji-sung and, long-term, Andy Johnson. But a manager complaining about injuries is rather like moving to west London and moaning about the traffic. It is a fact of life. The trick is to take precautions.
These are early days yet, with only a quarter of the season gone, and it is possible that QPR might finish above the likes of West Bromwich Albion, who beat Chelsea on Saturday; or Norwich City, who had a famous win over Manchester United. But if that is the plan, then QPR's players have a funny way of going about it.
The trouble is that as the club chased the dream this summer by signing a selection of players who had once done it at the sharp end of European football, so elsewhere English football was changing.
In June, Premier League clubs began moves towards a salary protocol, a kind of domestic salary cap to protect themselves from blowing the extra revenue from the new TV broadcast deal on increased wages. In short, they are fed up of losing money and would like to stop paying the players so much (although if they are successful do not expect ticket prices to come down).
The very fact that last week the 20 clubs sanctioned a study into the feasibility of such a plan is further evidence of a new militancy when it comes to paying big wages, especially for players outside the elite. At the same time, QPR have – broadly speaking – rewarded mediocre players with decent contracts, arguing that savings on transfer fees justifies the approach.
West Brom, conquerors of Chelsea, are one of the clubs opposed to a salary control because they see little point in legislation to enforce a rule they adhere to voluntarily. Not that their tight spending parameters always mean they get it right: between 2002 and 2010 they moved between the Premier League and the Championship seven times.
Currently in fourth place under Steve Clarke with 23 points, they have exceeded all expectations this season so far. No one expects them to be in the Champions League draw come August but their astute scouting has paid dividends. Claudio Yacob, an Argentina international signed on a free, has arguably been as successful as any of QPR's summer acquisitions.
Equally, Norwich, 13th after beating United, have refined their own approach to Premier League survival. They had just three non-British and Irish players in Saturday's starting XI, not a guarantee of lower costs but a sign they stick with a market they know.
Wes Hoolahan, Anthony Pilkington, Bradley Johnson and Robert Snodgrass were all signed from Championship clubs and Grant Holt from Shrewsbury Town. Compare that to some of the clubs QPR's new players have either been signed from or released by: Real Madrid, Internazionale, Chelsea, Manchester United and Marseilles.
Norwich are by no means assured of survival yet, although they have put themselves in a good position. If they do go down they are protected by a financial model that delivered an operating profit of £13.5m in their last accounts.
Everton, Newcastle United, Aston Villa and Swansea City are all moving towards that same model, placing their faith in young players and cheaper signings. Even Southampton, with a team largely developed from the Football League, and more than likely to go straight back to the Championship, demonstrated much more commitment than QPR on Saturday.
In that context, QPR's pursuit of Chelsea's out-of-contract right-back and Inter's disgruntled goalkeeper does not just seem expensive – it looks, by modern standards, unsophisticated.
No doubt Hughes has grand plans to run a club built on prudent signings and a productive academy. Who wouldn't want to do that? Equally, he inherited the likes of Joey Barton, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Jay Bothroyd, demonstrating that he is not the only one at QPR who got it wrong.
Hughes's defence of his own record is that he has left every club he has managed stronger. Testing that claim at Manchester City is difficult, given the changes wrought by Sheikh Mansour, although Hughes did buy Vincent Kompany and Pablo Zabaleta for £6m, pre-takeover. At Fulham he signed Moussa Dembélé .
To my mind, however, his greatest achievements were the impressive sixth and seventh place finishes at Blackburn Rovers in 2006 and 2008 which are largely overlooked by his detractors.
At Blackburn he built a team from inspired signings like Roque Santa Cruz, Chris Samba, David Bentley and Ryan Nelsen, all considered a success at Rovers, and many were sold for a profit (albeit, in the case of Cruz, to Hughes at City). It is a model that others have aspired to.
It also makes you wonder why QPR have not pursued it themselves. The moment they signed Julio Cesar to replace Rob Green should have told us that this was a transfer strategy going awry. They looked like a gambler at the card table chasing their losses which, in the new era of Premier League survival, where the stakes are high and the margins are fine, is one of the biggest mistakes you can make.
Will England recruit 'boys from Brazil'?
Roy Hodgson is within his rights to claim that he should not have to beg any player to represent England. It is a prerogative enjoyed by managers at every level of the game that no individual is bigger than the team, even if we know that the reality is often rather different.
But times are changing, and with it the notion of nationhood too. Wilfried Zaha may have chosen England over the Ivory Coast but it might not be so simple for future generations, especially if the options are better.
Round my way in north-west London there is a large Brazilian community and the thought occurs that some of their children could turn out to be very useful players. Anyone telling them that wearing the Three Lions is the greatest honour they could aspire to can expect to be politely set right.
Purple shirt, purple prose
Intrigued by the dreadful purple kit worn by the England rugby team against Australia, I wondered if the infamous kit-launchspeak — the marketing drivel that accompanies new replica shirt designs in football - had infected rugby too. I was not disappointed.
Under the 'England is all' campaign, kit manufacturers Canterbury claim their new shirt is 'for all of you', variously 'the receptionists hanging on for all the phone calls made' and the 'groundskeepers' and 'all the possibility that every white stitch can hold'.
At best it is sixth form poetry. At worse it just does not make any sense.
So in case you were wondering, they just want you to buy the damn shirt, a snip at £90.99. All the rest is, to put it in simple language, a load of nonsense.
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