As Pete Sixsmith said, another Saturday, another Sunderland defeat (he actually wrote ‘another Sunday’, as in another Sunday to have to write about losing). So let us put WBA behind us and move on in hope. Is it to be a case of ‘Arry arriving at just at the wrong time for us or will the men who are the cause of our disappointment finally offer a home performance the supporters deserve? Monsieur Salut’s former colleague John Crowley, a Loftus Road loyalist (if you can have loyalists from County Cork), weighs up the new boss’s prospects, tells us where the “dour Welshman down the pub” went wrong and prescribes a course of patience for our own support …
Salut! Sunderland: QPR have been on everyone’s lips all season as relegation fodder. Do you honestly believe the team has enough quality and character to survive?
With the arrival of Harry Redknapp, hope springs eternal. He’ll have to live up to his ‘Houdini’ monicker and get our big time charlies to start putting a shift in. Notwithstanding Mark Hughes’ bizarre selection policy and formation until his sacking, the vast majority of our players have been a disgrace to the shirt. On the pitch they’ve looked like listless zombies wandering around a George Romero film set, with Hughes the dead man walking. Currently, we’re six points off fourth from bottom. That’s our first immediate target. Then, who knows?
So, was Mark Hughes a complete disaster or was there mitigation? Did he deserve to go?
Hughes confidently predicted after we finished 17th last season that we’d never be in this position again. To that end, he was true to his word as we currently ringfence the premier league’s 20th spot. And, if you look at it one way, we’re still one place above Cardiff City. The players he brought in badly let him down but perhaps they didn’t warm to his dour Welshman-down-the-pub routine and obsession with stats. Ultimately, Hughes was unable to inspire the players to fight for the team and that was why he had to go.
He also neglected to bring in players in key positions. QPR fans were crying out in the summer for a dominant, young centre back and a hungry, young striker. Instead of that we got in Andy Johnson (currently injured) and Hughes decided Anton Ferdinand could marshal a defence. He then sidelined £50k-a-week ‘keeper Robert Green, initially brought in as our club number one, when Inter Milan’s Julio Cesar became available. That hardly helped morale.
Either way, it wasn’t in the script. Weren’t Rangers meant to be on their way to greater, money-fuelled things?
MH got significant backing in the transfer window from chairman Tony Fernandes. Park Ji-sung was one of several marquee signings brought in who has flattered to deceive. He’s currently injured. Caught up in the excitement, the fans probably didn’t realise the new players being paid top dollars are past their best. For instance, I would gladly drive Jose Boswinga back the short distance to Chelsea if asked by the club. Don’t care if he won a Champions League medal six months ago for our local rivals, he’s been dire.
We’ve had our own disappointments this season – all of two wins as I write – so is this a good time for you to be playing us?
Not the best time to meet us with a new manager but this job is going to take Harry some time. At crucial points in every game we lose our heads. Take Manchester United at the weekend: we were good value going 1-0 up and then we let in three goals in the space of eight minutes. Our top scorer Bobby Zamora is also on our groaning injury list. Our best player Adel Taraabt doesn’t do the business away from home for us. Did I mention we’re the only team in the football league not to have won a game? Think that’s enough reasons.
Is there anyone in our squad you’d take like a shot, taking into account how you think Ferdinand has done for you?
Well, Steven Fletcher obviously. Tell you what, we’ll buy him off you for the £12 million you paid for him. We’ll send Anton back to you and throw Joey Barton in for good measure. Shake on that?
* Guess the Sunderland v QPR score: https://safc.blog/2012/11/sunderland-v-qpr-can-oneill-block-the-arry-effect-guess-the-score/
What have been your highs and lows as a Rangers fan?
Watching us come back from 4-0 down at half time to draw 5-5 with Newcastle at Loftus Road in 1984 is my best live game. They’d let us school kids in for free in the top tier of the away stand and we certainly let the Geordies beneath us know our feelings when we equalised with our fifth goal. Am sure you’d appreciate the scene. Winning the Championship in the 2010-11 season clearly was amazing. Low was seeing us relegated to the third tier in 2001. Being a fan right now ain’t good either.
Read Monsieur Salut at ESPN on The diving shame that mars slick West Brom display
Who are the greatest players – Bowles? Francis? Rodney Marsh? – you have seen, or wish you’d seen, in Rangers hoops and who should have been allowed nowhere near them?
My dad took me to my first game when I was three in 1978 (the stewards let us in free at half time) so I missed our greatest trio first-hand in their pomp. My golden era was watching Les Ferdinand earn his ‘Sir Les’ title in the early 1990s. Worst players? Vinny Jones and Mark Hateley when they were well past their ‘best’.
What thoughts do you have on Sunderland – the club, the fans, the region?
You’re probably sick of you and the Geordies getting the ‘passionate’ fans tag, but there’s a reason for it. Would love to have your manager; keep faith with him. My visits up to the North East take me to rural Northumberland where my father-in-law lives, though on the wrong side of the Tyne as far as Sunderland is concerned.
What will be this season’s top four in order, and also the bottom three?
Man United, Chelsea, Man City, Arsenal.
Aston Villa, Reading, Southampton.
Where, if not mentioned already above, will our clubs finish?
If Fletcher gets back to scoring and stays injury free, you’ll be fine. You’re better than your current league position. ‘Upper’ lower-mid table finish. As for QPR, we’re nailed on for 17th, otherwise known as fourth from bottom.
Which form of cheating in football most annoys you, is there a player/players/club or club more culpable than most and what would you do about it?
I think the diving issue overshadows plain, old dirty fouling play that many sides do under the radar. Stoke City have a rep, but you don’t see a whole bunch of their players getting sent off. They’re like huge ogres from the Land of the Giants.
Club versus country, the latter being the Republic of Ireland in your case. Which comes first and why?
I followed the Republic of Ireland to the Japan World Cup in my footloose days in 2002. My roots are in Cork and my dad and myself were two of the very few people from that part of the world who thought Roy Keane’s walkout was a disgrace. Personally, I don’t have a conflict between the two, they exist side by side.
Will you be at our game? If not how will you keep tabs and what will be the score?
No, and I don’t think many Rrrrs fans will be braving a trip north on a Tuesday night in November, though Harry’s first game may tempt a few hardy souls. I certainly don’t live stream games because that is completely illegal. I normally read a match thread on the messageboard qpr.org, but at the moment I’ve been sticking my head in the sand, checking the result at the end of the game and cursing. One-nil to you.
*John Crowley on John Crowley
Season ticket holder. Blame my Irish father who started following Rangers when he came over to London in the 1970s. They played sexy football then. I’m a journalist and worked for Colin at a newspaper. He very graciously took pity on me when I told him what team I supported.
Interview: Colin Randall