Chris Ramsey’s group of handsomely-paid losers can’t stop the fall.
In the 87th minute of QPR’s match against Chelsea, with the score level 0-0, Eden Hazard, the presumptive Premiership Player of the Year, cradled the ball on QPR’s wing and prepared to dribble at QPR fullback Mauricio Isla. Hazard charged at his defender, quickly combined with Oscar, and ran free until Cesc Fabregas, undaunted and unmarked, darted from midfield to score the last-minute 1-0 winner. It was as classy of a passing move and as tragic of a defensive sequence as it sounds.
QPR manager Chris Ramsey, watching nervously 50 yards away, became physically overwhelmed by Chelsea’s goal. We’ve fucking bottled it, again. As soon as Fabregas’ shot rolled under keeper Rob Green’s helpless arms, Ramsey turned away from the sight, dropped to his knees, hung his neck, and buried his face in his elbows. “I’m absolutely sick tonight,” he told reporters a half hour later.
Ramsey’s shame was palpable. Managers look away from their players with aghast all the time, but Ramsey was visibly crushed. He retreated into his own shell (like a Sandshrew) to protect himself from the indignance of his own team. Like Eve after The Fall, Ramsey’s embarrassment and fear was visually reduced into a snapshot.
Football managers live out their careers in the public eye, but to sustain success and maintain one’s own well-being, a certain reclusiveness is needed. Brendan Rodgers only speaks in positivity-soaked platitudes. Arsène Wenger’s interviews are laconic and sourly lack contrition. Sir Alex Ferguson was always pissed. To survive, football managers must don masks and curate their characters similar to WWE wrestlers.
José Mourinho, who, after winning a continent’s worth of trophies, has proven to be a master of this duality. In public he is “The Special One,” but he comes home as José. “I must try to hide my emotions. I have to live with both the victory and the defeat,” he told the The Telegraph in an interview published three days before his team traveled across London to play QPR. Ramsey, a professed admirer of Mourinho, now must live with his debasement as it was laid bare in front of millions of fans. In trying to hide his emotions, Ramsey openly revealed them.
The intense, public shame that Ramsey bore that afternoon wasn’t just the product of heartbreaking loss. At QPR, a club that for the better part casino online of the 21st century, has leaked goals and pounds in equal measure, the figure of a fallen Ramsey is a metaphor. Since solvent owners (there’s been a few major shareholders, which in of itself has been a problem, from F1 tycoons Bernie Ecclestone and Flavio Briatore to billionaire steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal and AirAsia founder Tony Fernandes) saved the club from its debts in 2007, there’s been non-stop managerial and personnel turnover. 17 different men have either managed or co-managed QPR, and there’s been a cavalcade of overpaid and unmotivated Premiership veterans brought in with every promotion back to the top flight. The errors of past executives and managers merely puts Ramsey at the top of the rubble.
Organizational chaos hasn’t stopped the spending spigot though. With higher wages than Borussia Dortmund, and salaries near what Juventus pays their Serie A-winning squad, QPR’s new owners have netted one Football League title, two promotions from the Championship, and Premier League finishes of 17th and 20th. Oh, and there’s a £50m fine from UEFA’s Financial Fair Play on the horizon. Ambition and good sense haven’t dovetailed. The club itself could do with Premiership exile, although to fans and ownership, it’d be another step back in a tumultuous journey to flirt with England’s elite.
This season’s leg of the journey has been a round trip adventure through Hades. A month into the new year, Harry Redknapp quit on QPR, and Ramsey, the club’s academy director, took up his stead. For his eagerness, Ramsey’s been blitzed with his team’s bullshit. Since being downed by Southampton’s Sadio Mane injury-time winner on February 7, they’ve coughed up points because of last minute goals in five of their last ten matches. That match was followed by three straight 2-1 losses in February to Hull, Arsenal, and Tottenham. In all, QPR have dropped 13 points this season on goals conceded in the last 15 minutes, with seven of those matches resulting in losses. Rio Ferdinand’s backline has allowed a league-leading 59 goals. For a team that’s squarely in the bottom three in late April by a margin of two points, this method of self-destruction is undeniably cruel.
Things are crap at QPR right now, but for perhaps the first time under new owners, there are men at the club who actually want to be there for reasons other than a last-gasp Premiership payday. 25-year-old breakout forward Charlie Austin has netted 17 times in his maiden campaign in the top flight, poaching wonky passes into the box in a clinical manner not unlike fellow England standout Harry Kane. Ramsey, a caretaker manager who’d like to stick around, has spoken about the loyalty he has to QPR, quotes that 16 former QPR managers can tease him over for perceived naivete. As the club’s former academy director though, Ramsey’s words come across as genuine.
A passionate manager and a prolific striker is all QPR has left as May approaches. For that alone, this 19th-placed club should consider themselves fortunate, but good fortune hasn’t followed Rangers this season—only the shame that comes with self-infliction and just punishment.