Opposites attract at Liberty Stadium

Posted by Max Hicks

Going into Saturday's match between Swansea and Queens Park Rangers, few would argue over which side were the favourites. Eighth place Swansea put five past QPR at Loftus Road on opening day, a result which set the tone for each side’s season, and continues to do so.

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Much has changed for QPR since then. A new manager, an influx of new players and consequently improved resolve and results. Chief among the new players is Christopher Samba, a world-class centre back who was lured to London by a pay-check reportedly so great you could add up the wages of half the Swans' starting XI and still get nowhere close. It is just one of many ways in which these sides are almost binary opposites.

Both sides gained promotion to the Premier League during the same season - 2010-11; QPR as outright Champions, four points clear of Norwich and eight clear of Swansea who survived the playoffs to earn promotion the hard(er) way.

Since then, the Swans have endured one change of manager following Liverpool's approach for Brendan Rodgers, and although the composition of the side has necessarily changed to accommodate better players, the transition has been gradual.

In the same space of time, QPR have had three managers and seemingly brought in enough new faces to fill out five teams - spending five teams worth of wages in the process. And yet it is this wealthy, resource-full if not resourceful club which now props up the rest of the table, a burden to which the Swans slim wage budget and bare-bones squad barely adds any weight, which is at least something for QPR to be thankful for.

Don't get me wrong; I am not trying to heap derision on QPR to boast about how much of a better run club Swansea are (though that is inarguable - very few sides compare favourably with the Swans' boardroom excellence). It is rather that the study of QPR as cautionary tale is so fascinating.

When those three Championship clubs made the big league, QPR's first division heritage and wealth dwarfed that of both Swansea and Norwich. If one of those three sides felt it was returning 'home' it was Queens Park Rangers, and yet it is the others, the minnows, who have not merely survived, but thrived.

I wonder if QPR fans feel their club betrayed them with the wholesale changes it has made to the side since the promotion. Granted, there has been a change of ownership, but facing the proposition of Premier League survival is no time for an identity crisis. QPR have been, and still are, fickle, mercurial and volatile; three words as commonly associated with star man Adel Taarabt as anything else. In many ways, the skilful forward is the perfect avatar of QPR at present.

What the ever-shifting landscape of QPR means for Swansea on Saturday is that they will face a side it is impossible to pin down. Amidst the constant flux, QPR's appointment of Harry Redknapp has perhaps been the club's best move. Still nailed to the bottom of the table by a four point margin, now is not the time for cold calculation, data extrapolation and systems football. For QPR, now is the time for passionate leadership, gung-ho self-belief and water-tight camaraderie, which makes Harry Redknapp the perfect man for the job.

I honestly believe Redknapp can save QPR, and if he does it'll be the story of the season. I'll be hoping for three points for the Swans come Saturday, of course, as I imagine many neutrals will, too.

Tony Fernandes's reckless exploitation of his own wealth and correspondingly dangerous transfer market strategy has created a mercenary culture at a club that pays Jose Bosingwa £60,000 a week just to stay away. A club which is now reaping the reward for trying to buy Premier League safety instead of earning it, a callous gambit which started to backfire with the dismissal of Neil Warnock, the man who had taken them back to the big time, and continues with Christopher Samba's inflated pay-check.

The Swans' clean, small-market honesty, transfer market expertise and success on modest means casts the Welsh club as QPR's exact opposite, and this wholesome transparency coupled with some of the league's most attractive football will have all but QPR's fans hoping for a Swans win.

It seems unlikely the Swans will carve out a repeat 5-0 scoreline however, even playing at home. If QPR win, and Redknapp goes on to achieve mission impossible by beating relegation come the season's end, here's hoping QPR take the chance to turn the page and start again, properly this time. For football's sake if not their own.

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