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.
When Redknapp took over at QPR 18 days ago, the gap between Rangers and 17th place was seven points. That gave Harry hope. By the end of the night, Villa having beaten Reading, the gap was eight points. This morning it remains at eight points and while Rangers have the worst goal difference in the division, it is as yet not really worth another point.
So the others are not exactly galloping into the distance and Sunderland, for example, are at Manchester United today, Villa are at Liverpool, Wigan are at Norwich.
Those fixtures act as an added incentive to QPR. A home win at Loftus Road coupled with defeats elsewhere would alter not just the picture of the relegation zone, it would spread anxiety away from Shepherd’s Bush and into other corners.
It has already taken a grip of Reading. They have lost five in a row and look to be in freefall. A contradiction is that QPR do not seem to be suffering the same downward trajectory and yet are below Reading in the table. And until those above start winning, the race for fourth-bottom will go on.
Eight points is a gap, not a gulf. Give him enough rope and Harry Redknapp might just be able to drag Rangers up.
Great player Platini still making all the right moves
Some day there will be a decision made by either Fifa or Uefa that you can agree with. Some day.
This week came Uefa’s response to the disgraceful, violent and racist scenes at the end of England’s under-21s recent match in Serbia.
The Serbian FA was fined less than Niklas Bendtner received for his unveiling of the Paddy Power pants at Euro 2012.
Even to those of us whose skin colour could be described as beyond pale, the message is clear: Uefa regard a corporate ambush as more offensive than racism.
Imagine how the likes of Danny Rose feels.
Even Michel Platini, who increasingly appears to inhabit a different world, saw the problem here and may intervene. And what Michel says, often goes.
As well as having been a great player, Platini is also clearly a great player. Who else could have come up with the notion of the 2020 European Championships being staged across however many countries and not been shot down?
Not only that, Platini’s notion has gained credibility within Uefa.
This comes after the unnecessary expansion of the 2016 finals to 24 teams, which instantly reduces its quality and impact.
Now the murmur is that it might actually go up to 32 countries four years later.
That way there are less qualifiers; less qualifiers means more space in the calendar and more space in the calendar means that the 2022 World Cup might just be able to be squeezed in over winter in Qatar, rather than summer, when the daily temperature is over 40 degrees.
Ah, Qatar 2022. That’s another beauty of a decision.
There were more decrees issued from the city-state of Doha this week as to their readiness for a summer World Cup and how they have the cool technology.
No population, no sporting heritage, but they have technology.