Monday, 21 April 2014

Putting your best foot forward

Leicester City 1 Queens Park Rangers 0

Queens Park Rangers 2 Watford 1

I was at a work conference a few weeks ago. We had some great speakers from various businesses. One that interested me the most was a tech company that specialises in helping start-up tech and media companies. The speaker, Jörg  Rheinboldt from Plug and Play Tech Centre, when asked what he perceived to be a winning formula, said that a 'brilliant team with a mediocre idea was better than a mediocre team with a brilliant idea'. This, as an avid QPR fan and someone who is fascinated by sports psychology and management, resonated with me. Why? Because we have spent most of the season complaining about the players in the QPR squad, largely due to their under-achievement despite their supposed pedigree. It has been somewhat obvious to us all that such pedigree does not guarantee quality football,  nor does it guarantee consistent winning and a place in an automatic promotion spot. What we have been hoping for all season is to watch a team that is just that, a great team in itself whether we are playing fallen stars like Niko Kranjcar and Benoit Assou-Ekotto,  youngsters like Max Ehmer, or up-and-coming Charlie Austin. We haven't really seen that. We've seen glimpses of it in some matches, but it hasn't been consistent enough. One might argue that the injuries that have plagued us has not allowed us to have such a level of consistency. I don't know if that's totally fair.

Companies are constantly trying to re-invent themselves to keep up with the changing world, especially media and technology companies. Innovation has been a buzz word for years, and it is ever-present in my industry. But often we hear that, in practice, you cannot force people to be innovative. It has to be organic, and sometimes (but very rarely) it's innate, or natural. It's the same with anything isn't it? You can't force a team to create a spirit. Look back on our team that promoted itself in 2004: we all look back on those players and the manager with some wistfulness. But we lived with a very different set of ingredients at the time. Perhaps we actually look back with rose-tinted spectacles given that at that point we were still under huge financial pressure as a club with a lot less options than we have now. There is nothing more powerful than a difficult battle that can unite people.

So what of our team now? Will they truly understand the magnitude of the task ahead in the play-offs? There is a job to be done - the task is simply to make it to the Premier League by winning. But for many fans, even if we do make it to the final, what we really want to see now is passion and not arrogance. There is a reason why these so-called 'Premier League quality' players are playing with us and not in the Premier League. But bearing that in mind, the fact that the play-offs is really a lottery and frankly it doesn't matter where you finish and that you must simply win the competition, means that - mediocre or not - the players must unite. And I believe our only hope is in the belief and passion that we can do it. And frankly that they, the players WANT to do it. It's all well and good Joey Barton doing some lovely stats piece on whether we can win but as he so rightly titled his piece - 'optimism' and 'belief' are actually where it's at.

The role that Harry plays in all of this is critical. The situation we are heading for will all be about preparing the team mentally more than anything else. I really hope that he is up to it as it's probably going to be his biggest task so far as a manager. We only have to look at how Mourinho's extremely sour (but very amusing) behaviour (post-Sunderland loss) probably impacts on a team like Chelsea which now leaves them 5 points behind Liverpool and unlikely to win the Premier League title. On the other hand, I can imagine Chelsea players responding to a manager like Mourinho who thrives on pointing out negative aspects of everything outside of his control in order to win his own side over. To me, it's cheap shots. But for some, it works.

One could argue that the fact that Harry has played a different team for every game hasn't helped us at all. I think all of us can understand why Redknapp played the '2nd team' he did on Saturday and the '1st team' today. But not all of us actually agree with it. Surely, at this stage in the season we should have players that are fit enough, good enough and game enough to play both matches so we put our best foot forward every time and take the consequences regardless?

That said, given today's winning result and the (let's be honest) expected loss on Saturday perhaps Harry was right to do what he did. You could say that attitude and spirit should not just be reserved for those that are picked on the day. They are things that exist on and off the pitch. But I sometimes wonder whether we truly have that? I cannot be absolutely sure.

All I can be sure of is that I'll be there, with many thousands of others, cheering the boys on and hoping, just hoping we might do it.

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