Normally recrimination follows relegation.
At Queens Park Rangers, those trailblazers for expensive underachievement, the fallout has begun before their demotion has been rubber-stamped.
Yet with it appearing an inevitability, Harry Redknapp surveyed a squad with as many Champions League winners as league victories this season, abandoned the pretence Rangers are keen to keep those responsible and finally admitted what others have long suspected: that they will be lumbered with overpaid players in the Championship because their sizeable salaries will deter any suitors.
"They won't go," said Redknapp, suggesting a side who exhibited little unity at Goodison Park will remain together next season. "How are you going to get rid of them? That's your biggest problem. They all have contracts. How are they going to go? Who is going to pay them what they are earning here? It is going to be very hard to shift them."
Perhaps it was a veiled swipe at his predecessor, Mark Hughes, who brought many of them to Loftus Road, but unanswered questions amounted to an indictment of Rangers' recruitment policy. Despite their players' illustrious pasts and the cliched assumption sides with big-name footballers are too good to go down, Redknapp hinted they have been too bad to stay up. "You say [they are] talented players but I don't know," he asked. "Are they that talented?" Their track records suggest they are, but these are mismatched medal winners, signed from more glamorous clubs but often in decline. Saturday's starters alone included alumni of Internazionale, Real Madrid, Chelsea and Manchester United.
The journey from Champions League to Championship may be swift for many of them, the landing in the lower league an unpleasant shock. "I hear that all the time that if they get relegated they want to go because they don't want to play in the Championship," added Redknapp. "But if they fucking played better they would not be in the Championship so that's a load of cobblers."
For players and powerbrokers alike, the reality of the second tier looms. During wanton spending, QPR appeared impervious to the consequences. Not now. If there are parallels with Portsmouth who, following Redknapp's departure, collapsed into administration before they were demoted, the manager again divested himself of responsibility for the unpleasant figures on the balance sheet. "Only the chairman [Tony Fernandes] would know," he said. "I don't know the financial situation of the club at all."
It was hard to imagine those words coming from David Moyes' mouth. But, had QPR chosen to heed them, there were lessons to be learned from Everton. Their wage bill is probably dwarfed by Rangers' but the Merseysiders' spirited pursuit of a top-four finish continues. While QPR looked resigned to their fate, Everton are shaping their own destiny. "If we beat Arsenal [on Tuesday] you would talk about Everton having a real chance of getting in the Champions League," said Moyes.
The cut-price challengers showed the merits of prudence. In two decisive duels, they were younger and hungrier. Seamus Coleman, a £60,000 recruit from the League of Ireland, ran at and past José Bosingwa, whose three-year contract is worth £10m, with indefatigable enthusiasm. Victor Anichebe, a Nigerian international but homegrown, dominated the £12.5m defender Christopher Samba in the air.
"He has really great attributes," Moyes said of Anichebe. "He has great strength, raw pace and is a tough enough boy." But the bruiser has a tender side. He has improved with appreciation. "He needed a little bit of loving and that needed to come from the stands," his manager added.
It took time. Anichebe debuted in 2006, but a seven-year itch is being scratched as his potential is finally realised. "My patience has been tested by him a few times because his attitude wasn't always what it should have been," Moyes said. Now it is faultless. Dogged and determined, Everton's attitude is excellent. Disjointed and demoralised, Rangers's is not. Their players may be in the shop window but, on this evidence, there could be few buyers.
Man of the match: Victor Anichebe (Everton).
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