Why Harry Redknapp Owes QPR's Renaissance To His Two Old Timers


Harry Redknapp made two critical decisions before the start of Queens Park Rangers’ narrow and unfortunate defeat to Liverpool.

He dropped Rio Ferdinand for Richard Dunne and he gave a start to his battle-scarred leviathan striker Bobby Zamora. Redknapp may have been beaten that day, but the tide turned.

Thanks to two much maligned Premier League old hands, QPR haven’t looked back since. 

The R’s only picked up four points from the next three games, but the level of performance in every encounter was off the chart, especially in comparison with the incompetence that preceded them.

They gave their all against Chelsea, they very nearly took three points from the champions Manchester City and they gave Aston Villa a real pounding. They no longer look such certainties for relegation. 

As the Premier League continues to fill with fleet-footed, spring-heeled sprites, men like Dunne and Zamora are the dusty guardians of a distant past. They are not artists, they are warriors. They represent the old ways. They were fed the pointy bits of elbows as young men and it was a moorish diet. They do not fear pain, nor do they seek to evade it.

Perhaps, in truth, they know that they are beyond death now. Far downstream, their legends already dominate the timeline. Men like Dunne and Zamora live forever.

Dunne was once known as the ‘Honey Monster’, which is the sort of nickname you don’t tend to hear very often these days.

A majestically big-boned young man, he added to his bulk by apparently drinking all of the Guinness.

Fortunately, Dunne played alongside the-even-bigger-boned Andy Morrison, the sort of central defender who definitely couldn’t play these days, if only because the graphics team at EA Sports would spend half the budget trying to draw his arse. But then Morrison left and Dunne’s size became more noticeable.

 

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Fortunately, Dunne was shrewd enough to change his ways. He trained harder and worked harder and the natural talent that Everton had spotted and then given up on, came to fruition at City. And still that talent runs true. It was never more obvious than at Stamford Bridge the weekend before last when he dominated his own penalty area, neutralising Diego Costa.

Rio Ferdinand may have been banned for three games for saying a Bad Word, but it will be far longer than that before he gets back in this team. Dunne and Steven Caulker are there to stay. 

But what of Zamora? While Dunne came through the academy at Everton, the road was harder for Zamora. He was released from West Ham’s academy as a young man and ended up at Bristol Rovers, even doing a loan spell at Bath City.

But it was at Brighton & Hove Albion that he made his name, scoring at a prodigious rate and eventually catching the eye of Glenn Hoddle at Tottenham.

But Zamora was not meant for White Hart Lane and he left to make an emotional return to West Ham after only scoring a single goal for Spurs. At Upton Park, he would help lead the Hammers back to the top flight and would later strike up an unlikely partnership with Carlos Tevez. 

But it was at Fulham where Zamora v2.0 was developed. A player who fought harder, who seemed taller, who saw clearer and thought quicker.

The limbs are creaking now and energy is used sparingly, but Charlie Austin will never have a better strike partner. Zamora is a siege tower, ungainly and surely in flagrant disregard of health and safety, but he is the only way that QPR are going to breach the perimeter. 

Redknapp toyed with a back three, experimented with a 4-5-1, but it’s four four f**king two that is going to save his reputation and keep QPR in the top flight. And for that, he has two old stagers to thank.

Read more from Iain Macintosh.