Basement battlers QPR look set to show their determination to beat the drop by splashing the cash on two expensive French imports as Harry Redknapp starts his January transfer window wheeling and dealing in earnest.
QPR are second-favourites to finish bottom of the Premier League at 7/4 (2.75) and odds-on to go down at 2/5 (1.40), so the anticipated signings of Loic Remy and Yann M’Vila are understandable.
However, as Mark Hughes found before Redknapp at Loftus Road, signing big names is not necessarily a recipe for success. We look at four instances where established players weren’t enough to save teams from dropping down a division at the end of the season.
Middlesbrough – 1996/97 season
It started with a 3-3 draw at home to Liverpool, secured courtesy of a stunning debut hat-trick by Italian superstar Fabrizio Ravanelli. And this, remember, was back in the days when Liverpool still harboured hopes of winning the title. Several months later it ended with an appearance in the FA Cup final, albeit one in which Boro lost 2-0. But in between it all, Middlesbrough failed to secure enough points to stay in the top flight – and lost a League Cup final to boot – despite boasting the talents of Ravanelli, Gianluca Festa, Juninho Paulista and Emerson. That said, having Bryan Robson as manager probably didn’t help.
West Ham – 2002/03 season
Even the inclusion of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Xavi in the team couldn’t have saved the Hammers in 2010/11 given they were managed by Avram Grant. That side was a lost cause. What was more surprising was that the vintage of 2002/03 – which included the likes of Jermain Defoe, David James, Joe Cole, Michael Carrick, Paolo Di Canio, Freddie Kanoute and Trevor Sinclair – was unable to avoid the drop. Bottom at Christmas, 19 points from West Ham’s final ten games proved in vain as caretaker manager Trevor Brooking failed to pull off a miracle.
Leeds – 2003/04 season
It didn’t take long for the dream to turn into a nightmare – a nightmare from which the club has yet to recover. Leeds finished fifth in the Premier League in 2002; two years later they were relegated. Off-the-field problems were a major contributory factor, as was the exit of several star players, but it is still a surprise that the likes of Alan Smith, Mark Viduka, Paul Robinson, Dominic Matteo and Ian Harte were regularly turning out for the Whites and yet they finished six points from safety.
Newcastle – 2008/09 season
A squad which included Obafemi Martins, Mark Viduka (him again), Nicky Butt, Damien Duff, Michael Owen, Fabricio Coloccini, Joey Barton and Shay Given – to name but a few – should not have been involved in a relegation battle in the 2008/09 season. Indeed, after a 3-2 away win against West Brom on February 9th, they seemed set for mid-table obscurity. However, two points from their next five games put them squarely back in the relegation picture. The Newcastle hierarchy duly sent for local hero Alan Shearer to mastermind the Magpies’ relegation run-in, although the former striker proved about as adept at management as he has done at insightful analysis on the Match of the Day sofa. Five defeats in eight games was enough to see them down.