Warnock pays price for Premier League promotion

by Sean Bell

Monday, January 9th, 2012
 

Neil Warnock’s sacking by QPR after a run of just two points from their last eight league matches was not as much of a surprise as one would expect. Warnock had not only saved the club from relegation after joining from Crystal Palace during the 2009-10 season but led Rangers to the Championship title in his full season. Unfortunately the club’s owners Flavio Briatore and Bernie Ecclestone (AKA Tango and Cash) were intent on selling the club during the close season and this led to Warnock’s plans for Rangers’ Premier League return being stymied. Forced to sign players on short-term deals for little or no upfront cash payment, Rangers’ fans began the season with their optimism tainted by a grim sense of foreboding. The 4-0 opening day defeat at home to Bolton Wanderers was as deflating as it was inevitable.

 

But after the takeover by Air Asia owner Tony Fernandes soon afterwards, the gloom soon dissipated as quickly as a burnished Italian playboy and a dwarfish Andy Warhol lookalike fleeing White City several millions of pounds the richer. The signing of established Premier League stalwarts such as Nietzschean scholar Joey Barton, Luke Young, Anton Ferdinand and Shaun Wright-Phillips augured well for Rangers and Warnock, and early performances like the home draw with Newcastle (which Rangers should have won by several goals), away wins at Wolves and Stoke, and a famous victory over nine-man Chelsea suggested that Rangers could consolidate in their first season back in the Premier League since 1995-96.

 

But the 3-2 victory at Stoke in mid-November was to prove Warnock’s last victory as Rangers’ boss. A series of strange decisions such as refusing to play Wright-Phillips in his accustomed position on the right wing, dropping last season’s star player Adel Taarabt, lacklustre substitutions and defensive formations, particularly in choosing to play five across midfield at home to Sunderland and Norwich led to a slump that leaves QPR in 17th place,  just one point above the relegation zone. So Fernandes’s decision to sack the former Sheffield United supremo may well be unsurprising but it is also harsh. Whilst Warnock is still unproven at Premier League level he had surely earned the opportunity to get Rangers back up the table.

 

Their problems were initially caused by the failure to invest during the summer. The centre of defence is consistently fragile and only Wigan have scored less goals so far this season. Heidar Helguson, a 34-year old who looked unlikely to figure much this season, is the side’s top league scorer with seven goals and an unlikely hero but both Jay Bothroyd and DJ Campbell have struggled to impress. With Warnock’s successor set to sign several players during the January transfer window, Rangers still have the opportunity to avoid relegation but with classy midfielder Alejandro Faurlin ruled out for the season with a torn cruciate it may prove a Herculean task.

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