News and Views from the Football League – Consistency breeds success

This writer seems to remember on more than one occasion suggesting that consistency is a vital ingredient in the success of any football club, whatever their ambition or division they are in. Now some things are worth repeating, and this is certainly one of them.

Consistency is an imperative for a football team for a plethora of reasons. With it comes familiarity, and when players and coaches are familiar and therefore comfortable in their surroundings, they will undoubtedly perform better. The obvious examples that we can allude to again are those of Manchester United and Arsenal. These two sides have come a long way from where they were when Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger respectively took charge. The same should be said with Crewe Alexandra too. Dario Gradi took charge of the Alex in 1983, during a period where they regularly finished near the bottom of the fourth division. In his 24 year first stint in the managerial hot-seat, he steered them away from the bottom and eventually took them up to Championship level. Now of course, success is relative to the size of a club. Crewe’s achievements under Gradi may not seem that noteworthy when compared to the two greats mentioned above, but for a small club the size of the Railwaymen to have come that far is an unimaginable thought, and yet Gradi had made it happen. It’s also worth noting the sheer number of players who he introduced to the game and the success that they have gone on to have. David Platt and Danny Murphy for example both started out under Gradi’s stewardship.

The point of all of this is to show just what a club can achieve with some consistency behind closed doors. The rise of Crewe was simply unthinkable at the time, and although they were relegated on occasions during these years, the club still kept faith with their manager. It’s only a shame that other clubs have not taken a leaf out of the Crewe book of how to run a football club. This point brings us nicely on to the latest happenings at Loftus Road, where Flavio Briatore has stepped down as chairman of Queens Park Rangers. The flamboyant Italian arrived at the club in 2007 along with fellow Formula One figurehead Bernie Ecclestone, with claims that Rangers would be back in the Premier League and indeed competing with Europe’s elite within five years. Of course, most saw such aspirations as a tad ambitious, but with a hefty chequebook to back the club up, there was just a chance that he would come good on his promises. The reality of the situation is that it appears Rangers will fall some way short of these objectives. Indeed they are not yet guaranteed a place in the Championship for next season, although Saturday’s victory over Doncaster will have gone some way to easing the relegation fears amongst the Rangers faithful.

Crucial to understanding why QPR haven’t kicked on in the last couple of years is understanding Briatore. The Italian does not suffer fools lightly, and has made a name for himself in motorsport with his reputation of success and high standards. It is with this in mind that he set the bar so high for the club, demanding improvement and success from the get go. Such is his craving for progress, Rangers have had 10 managerial changes since his arrival. That figure is simply startling and it is no wonder that they haven’t bee able to make their anticipated progress up the football ladder. The appointment of a new manger brings a new style of play to a team and indeed new ideas. Each individual has their own vision for how a club should be playing football, whether they be a supporter or the manager. Each new boss at Loftus Road will have seen changes to the style and personnel of the Rangers starting XI, meaning that it is near enough impossible for the players to feel settled and approach each game in the correct manner. This bring us back to the importance of consistency. With all of the chopping and changing going on in west London, there is simply no way that Rangers can realistically have been expected to make a concerted push for promotion, despite their fine form earlier in the season. Many will have seen their performances before Christmas, this writer included, and felt that there was a chance that this could have been Rangers’ year. Those days seem a very distant memory now.

What the club can only hope for now is that this will be the last big change made at the club this season. There is easily enough talent in the squad to fend off relegation, but the summer will be a crucial time for QPR. Changes need to be made then, and they need to be given a chance to flourish. Whoever is in the hot-seat at the beginning of next season must be given time to turn the club around. If this time is granted, consistency can return and perhaps even the good times will follow.

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