QPR’s transfer window was about reducing their squad rather than adding to it, particularly in light of financial issues, a potential fresh start when the contracts of several players expire this summer, and the fact they are seven points clear of the relegation zone and believe they can plod on as they are for now.
So what should we make of Rangers’ January business?
Trimming the squad
Already with the threat of a massive Financial Fair Play fine hanging over them, Rangers also went into the transfer window close to their current FFP limit, knowing they needed to offload players in order for new signings – even modest loan deals – to be possible.
In the end, they did not get rid of as many players as they’d hoped – certainly in terms of those who might have been worth a decent transfer fee.
But there was a significant and extremely necessary reduction of the squad, with Steven Caulker and Yeni Ngbakoto leaving along with a number of others, including youngsters who were told they had no future at the club.
In terms of balancing the books, some progress was made.
Sticking to their guns – because they had to
Many fans, especially on social media, will hit the roof at the suggestion a lack of signings is a major sign of progress – which is largely why the club have previously made foolhardy, last-minute signings rather than face the music in the short term.
Rangers, who did have some money available and made plenty of enquiries in the first couple of weeks of the window, this time accepted their fate as inflated transfer and loan fees put various players out of their reach.
Before we declare the arrival a new era of sensible management and lessons being learned, this is the result of financial realities and the club’s hands being tied more than some kind of epiphany. In the process of fighting that FFP fine, QPR simply have to be seen to be getting their house in order. They really have no other choice.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that Rangers’ overall spending over the last year or so has remained significant despite the perception of a club enduring poverty.
A quiet January doesn’t change the fact that players such as Sean Goss, Bright Osayi-Samuel and Matt Smith were signed not long ago amid a level of total spending out of reach of some clubs. The likes of Joel Lynch and Jordan Cousins were brought in not long before that. Rangers’ budget is being reduced and has been exhausted for now – but it’s not a pittance. There has been spending and plenty of signings overall.
Even so, January has been a step in the right direction in terms of moving away from a culture of nonsensical spending – the peak of which was probably most encapsulated by the then chief executive Philip Beard, outside Loftus Road, delivering what resembled an Oscar-acceptance speech to television cameras after a glut of deadline-night business in 2011.
That cemented a mentality at Rangers that making signings is itself success and something worth celebrating. It isn’t. And in QPR’s case it’s generally only involved papering over the cracks while paying a heavy price in the longer term.
Embed from Getty Images
It remains to be seen whether Ian Holloway will resist the temptation to talk up the perceived lack of money to spend if the rest of the season is a struggle. Things are difficult for him at the moment. And past Rangers managers have very successfully – from their point of view – shifted the focus away from their culpability and on to their bosses.
But, for all his volatility, to his credit Holloway has not stirred the pot during January and has accepted the club’s limitations. That’s important, both in terms of unity and avoiding the kind of excuses which often lead to the type of mid-season malaise QPR can’t afford with their current points tally. It’s all hands on deck.
No game time for Matt Ingram
Embed from Getty Images
Circumstances, i.e. an injury to Alex Smithies, could turn Ingram’s early return from a loan spell at Northampton – who opted to sign keeper Richard O’Donnell because of the possibility of losing Ingram at 24 hours’ notice – into a major positive. But as it stands, he faces months on the bench and that is potentially bad for Rangers.
Many fans fret at the thought of Smithies being sold, despite QPR having historically fared much better as a selling club and, more recently, the fortunes of Burnley, Huddersfield, Bristol City and to some extent Brentford after they sold players – to Rangers.
In many ways the prospect of the club banking some money and replacing one excellent keeper in Smithies with another in Ingram is central to what QPR are supposed to be trying to achieve. In a sense it would be a very symbolic passing of the baton were it to happen. It arguably needs to happen.
In the meantime, keeping Ingram active – and happy – is important. A season out on loan suited all parties.
The right move for Goss?
However, in terms of him developing from a Michael Carrick wanabee into a more complete midfielder, capable of playing Championship football, it’s debatable whether spraying passes around for Glasgow Rangers against dismal opposition and as a result being lauded as a class act and potential star is what Goss needs.
Are the kids all right?
Having thrown the dice and scored two sixes with debut goals for Paul Smyth and Aramide Oteh, Rangers are still far from the finish line this season and, certainly in attacking areas, are an injury or two away from being reliant on young players during the run-in. In some cases these players were not first-choice for the Under-23s not long ago.
Eberechi Eze, a talented player who had his moments on loan in League Two at Wycombe but was regarded as raw even at that level, was recalled – largely because of those stand-out moments.
The ‘young and hungry’ era is different to the era of massive spending, but the two are similar in that there are trappings and a danger of going overboard while trying to be seen doing what fans want. Both approaches are risky.