Harry Redknapp seems to be coming to the end of the road at QPR.
His support in the boardroom and dressing room have been on the wane, but it’s his frosty relationship with Les Ferdinand that probably makes his position as manager unsustainable.
Despite working under Redknapp at Tottenham, Ferdinand has been far from his ally since returning to Loftus Road as director of football operations.
Redknapp initially described that title as “stupid” – seemingly because he believed Ferdinand’s actual role would not be that significant. If that’s what he expected – and he wasn’t alone – he was wrong.
Whatever the motivation behind Tony Fernandes’ appointment of a club legend when much of the discontent among fans earlier in the season was beginning to focus on the chairman himself, Ferdinand has got his teeth into the role from day one.
He has held individual meetings with players, been omnipresent around the club and brought in his fellow former Tottenham man Chris Ramsey, who has also made his presence felt.
Ferdinand and Ramsey’s presence means it would be easy to speculate that Tim Sherwood is being lined up for Redknapp’s job. But the fact is, he is.
And not only does Redknapp know it, his players do too – so what kind of performance they put in against Manchester United on Saturday will speak volumes. They know a change of manager is potentially imminent.
In short, Ferdinand has taken a good look at his old club, he wants change and currently sees Redknapp as a barrier to that change.
The question is whether that change can wait. QPR’s league position and away record this season suggests it can’t.
The Daily Telegraph‘s Jason Burt gave a spot-on assessment this week of Redknapp’s increasingly tenuous excuses for Rangers’ problems – and the sentiment is certainly felt at boardroom level, where some of the manager’s comments this season have not gone down well.
Redknapp had to persuade the Rangers hierarchy to bring in Rio Ferdinand, who has struggled, while the big-money signing of the injury-plagued Sandro from Tottenham is proving to be a disaster. Another major signing, Jordon Mutch, has also failed to deliver.
Signings Redknapp seemed far less passionate about, such as Yun Suk-Young, Mauricio Isla and Eduardo Vargas, have made a positive impact, and players the manager seemed to privately have reservations about at the start of the season have been key performers. So there are doubts about his judgement. The public fall-out with Adel Taarabt also weakened his position. That didn’t go down well with the powers-that-be either.
This isn’t a new thing. Last season he clashed with the board over Wayne Bridge, who didn’t sign, and Yossi Benayoun, who did and made very little impact. As a result, there were already tensions and an expectation that Rangers would have a different manager this season. But Bobby Zamora’s Wembley winner changed all that.
That said, Redknapp still has a good relationship with chairman Tony Fernandes, who does not want to sack him. But whereas Mark Hughes and his backroom team were given more time because there was a feeling that they were going flat-out in an attempt to turn things around, with Redknapp there is a feeling that more could be done.
That is certainly the feeling among some of the players, too. Some of them, despite what they might say on the record, dislike Redknapp but are aware that he is a popular figure among the media and much of the public, so keep their head down and their gripes mostly to themselves. But that was the case as much in May, when Redknapp was a hero, as it is now.
He has, however, seemed to lose some support among players in recent weeks, mainly because there is a perceived lack of drive on his part. Despite the fact he religiously attends training (rumours he doesn’t are completely false) some of the squad feel there is a lack of direction, certainly for away matches.
Many fans have asked what Glenn Hoddle’s role in all this is.
Hoddle has made a significant contribution since joining the coaching staff but the perception at the club is that he works around Redknapp as much as with him.
He has worked with individual players who speak highly of the former England manager.
For example, when the players were recently given two days off following the FA Cup debacle against Sheffield United, Hoddle went in and worked with Mauro Zarate and Taarabt.
But Redknapp is still very much responsible for the bigger picture. That picture includes the implications of Financial Fair Play and other possible consequences should QPR be relegated again.
These are testing times for the club and the current situation, with Ferdinand and Redknapp at odds and Sherwood waiting in the wings, can’t and won’t be allowed to continue for much longer.
The players could keep the Redknapp bandwagon trundling along for a while longer with a barnstorming display against United.
Their performance will say a lot – because they know he’s on the brink.