Given enough rope, 'Oudini Redknapp may just pull off the great escape
SOCCER ANGLES:QPR face Fulham at Loftus Road today in a crucial three-pointer, writes MICHAEL WALKER
Apparently the real Harry Houdini met his end after he allowed a student to repeatedly punch him in the stomach for Houdini to prove he didn’t flinch. Instead, it seems, later in the day Houdini buckled.
Football’s version, ’Arry ’Oudini Redknapp might just be beginning to think he knows how the original feels. Redknapp took charge of Queens Park Rangers three games ago and remains unbeaten.
Unfortunately for him and QPR, the three games have been three draws and produced three points. That tally has kept QPR 20th in the Premier League.
Those three games have been against Sunderland, Aston Villa and Wigan. They are all in the bottom six alongside QPR and it is reasonable to think that when Redknapp was discussing succeeding Mark Hughes, he and the Loftus Road ownership looked at those three fixtures and thought they might bring QPR a first win of the season.
Alas, not. Today at Loftus Road the visitors are from nearby, Fulham, and it’s game number 17 in the Premier League.
There are those saying that this is it, the afternoon when the Hoops break free from their wretched un-winning run and make a start on the path to true safety. Fulham are nothing special, they say. Then ’Arry can take off – as in go up, not head for the hills. He has a contract until June 2015.
The thing is, Fulham might not see it this way. They have Brede Hangeland back in defence, they have Dimitar Berbatov up front, and Hugo Rodellega, and they have just arrested a run of four draws and three defeats with victory over Newcastle last Monday night.
Fulham, moreover, have vested geographical interests in QPR returning to the lower divisions which they occupied for 15 years until a combination of new owners, money and Neil Warnock gave Rangers upward impetus two years ago.
In those years Fulham joined the top flight for the first time in decades and they have established themselves there, reached a Europa League final and had three top-10 finishes in the past four seasons.
Fulham, with an average attendance of 25,000, see themselves and Chelsea as occupying west London, the Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. A club, Fulham, owned by Mohamed Al-Fayed might just see one with billionaire Lakshmi Mittal in the background, QPR, as something of a threat.
Mittal is a form of guarantor to co-owner Tony Fernandes, whose ambition has outpaced the reality of the club. Fernandes stood by Mark Hughes until that became unsustainable and even men of this wealth must be wary of the wage bill QPR could carry into relegation.
When you mention Portsmouth in this context, QPR fans and Redknapp get irritated, but to the neutral the comparison won’t go away. Redknapp got annoyed yesterday again at the “wheeler-dealer” tag, and the notion that he will be busy in January.
As he correctly pointed out Hughes was not given that tag despite the 12 signings QPR made in the summer. But the club gained a name for haste. And now they’re grounded.
So the idea that QPR will simply sweep past Fulham is premature. They may sneak past them this afternoon, though. And surely they must. That is certainly the perception: today matters.
And yet Redknapp is not desperate because a remarkable fact at the bottom of the table is that even after 16 games without a win, QPR are not adrift.