QPR vs Sunderland match report: Charlie Austin hands Harry Redknapp first win of the season
Queens Park Rangers 1 Sunderland 0
Saturday 30 August 2014
It’s that time of year again. The raucous strains of ’Arry’s ’Okey Cokey (“You bring a right-back in, ship a striker out, in out, in out, shake it all about”) provided a faintly reassuring soundtrack to the build-up to transfer deadline day at Loftus Road.
Queens Park Rangers dealt with the most pressing business, securing their first Premier League points of the season through an unanswered Charlie Austin goal in added time at the end of the first half.
Sunderland are in greater need of reconstructive surgery, but Harry Redknapp has an unwanted reputation to enhance.
All that remains, as the countdown to the closure of the window invites panic, and his search for another striker becomes more acute, is for the electric windows of his Range Rover to slide down and for him graciously to give his state of the nation address.
He didn’t enjoy his mid-day wake-up call yesterday, claiming to be surprised when informed Chelsea had triggered the £10.5m buy out clause in Loïc Rémy’s contract, but his resilience is legendary. French sources suggest Rangers have already had an offer accepted for Marseille’s Ghanaian forward André Ayew, who also interests Swansea City.
The QPR manager complemented understandable praise for the debut of Leroy Fer by conceding that a return to his former club, Tottenham, for Brazilian defensive midfield player Sandro was also on the agenda. Another Super Sunday, with the mobile on speed dial, awaits.
Redknapp’s apologists insist perceptions of him as an inveterate wheeler-dealer deny him due respect. If it is gravitas he seeks, he might be at the wrong club, or even in the wrong business. Rangers are to consistency of strategy what the Great British Bake Off is to fair play.
No one doubts his credentials as a football man, but his revolving door recruitment policy – following last night’s departure of Danny Simpson to Leicester Rangers have been involved in an astonishing 90 deals, including transfers and loans, since he arrived at Loftus Road in November 2012 – is so startling as to invite deeper scrutiny. Six players, including the instantly-forgotten South Korean international full-back Yun Suk-Young from Jeonnam Dragons, were recruited in his first window. Seven were discarded. The trauma of relegation was reflected in the turnover for 2013-14, in which 19 players were signed and 31 left.
Redknapp has been relatively prudent during this transfer window, during which a two-year contract extension has suddenly been offered, in what seems a timely response to suggestions that, at the age of 67, he was careworn and susceptible to the strains of the job.
Lassana Diarra, a throwback to his tainted triumph with Portsmouth in the 2008 FA Cup final, underwent a medical yesterday morning. The millionaire journeyman, who has previously failed to settle at Arsenal, Chelsea and Real Madrid, is his seventh full signing of the summer. Two other players have arrived on loan.
When Rémy completes the formalities of his move to Chelsea, the French striker will be the 19th departure since promotion was secured at Wembley in May.
It is as well that football is a transient business: if Rangers had to fund farewell parties and golden hellos they would struggle to remain solvent. Little wonder the home crowd sang the name of owner Tony Fernandes so loftily. They need a sugar daddy to keep things sweet.
Despite the tactical acumen of Glenn Hoddle, Redknapp’s latest training ground guru, Rangers abandoned the holiday romance with 3-5-2, reverting to a flat back four at the expense of Richard Dunne who was, in truth, as comfortable in a back three as a tap-dancing elephant.
Rangers responded by attacking fluidly and pressing aggressively. They could have taken a third-minute lead when Connor Wickham cleared an Austin header off the line, and Fer’s rising drive beat Vito Mannone, but bounced to safety off the right-hand upright.
Sunderland’s lack of organisation at set pieces proved costly when Fer rose at the far post and steered a firm header into the path of Austin, who scored with an emphatic volley. Rangers survived periodic concern in the second half, thanks largely Robert Green, the goalkeeper whose long-term future is threatened by the arrival, on Friday, of £6m signing Alex McCarthy from Reading.
Sunderland manager Gus Poyet bemoaned a lack of diligence, and admitted he urgently requires reinforcements.
“I’m not a fan of the transfer window being open in the season,” he said. “I’ll be on the phone all the time over the next two days.”
Redknapp’s mobile rang as he did his media chores. “It’s Charlie Austin’s Grandad, Ozzie,” he said. “He’s a proud man tonight. In fact he’s probably drunk already.”
Classic ’Arry. We will miss the old rascal when he’s gone.
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