Harry Redknapp appears baffled.
The Championship starts on Saturday and for some reason most people seem to have made his Queens Park Rangers the favourites to win the league. Redknapp does not agree.
"I don't think we have got that many big players here," he said on Friday. "People keep saying it but I don't know where they are. I mean, if [Loïc] Rémy's not playing, after that … We're not a team of superstars. If they are, I might be missing a trick somewhere. I don't see Gareth Bale or anyone like that here."
The manager has a point. Bale is not there, nor is anyone else of the Tottenham forward's calibre. Redknapp does, however, have 12 current or former internationals in his squad, one of whom is the current Brazil No1 (Julio Cesar) and another who qualified for the Champions League with Marseille last season (Joey Barton). That should be enough to win the Championship at a canter. The problem for Redknapp is that he does not know how many of them will be at the club in 30 days' time after the transfer window shuts.
His team selection against Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday should give some indication of who he intends to keep but he warned on Friday the club would not let anyone go on the cheap. Rémy, for one, has been linked with a move, possibly on loan, to Newcastle.
"Yeah, the chairman's not got a problem [financially if all the players stay]. If, say, Rémy goes we have got to get a loan fee that is suitable, otherwise he stays here. We signed him for £8m for four years, that is £2m a season, so that is what you will look to get paid for a season."
Redknapp added he did not have a problem selecting the players who may still be leaving. "[If the players stay] they will play and they will be top players in this division," he said. "They are here, they are getting paid, training hard and are part of the squad and I'll pick whoever I think will win the games for us."
But while Redknapp, who was installed as the favourite to become the next England manager only 19 months ago, says he would be happy to keep everyone at Loftus Road, it is clear that he has a plan for how to win immediate promotion back to the Premier League. And it does not appear to be with expensive foreign imports.
He has signed four players so far, with Gary O'Neil likely to become the fifth over the weekend. Redknapp said of his signings: "Richard Dunne will be great. Karl Henry is a good type, Danny Simpson is a great lad. I like Charlie [Austin]. They've all been here training, I can speak English to them, which is nice. I say 'morning' to them and they say 'morning' back."
At the turn of the century, Real Madrid introduced the so-called Zidane y Pavón policy, which meant signing one superstar and promoting one academy player each season. Redknapp has a similarly clear strategy, although it may be a little less sexy. It could arguably be called the Primus y Prosinecki policy.
Redknapp, who has managed in the Championship twice before, with Portsmouth and Southampton, said he was drawing on his experiences at the former when looking for players. He wants a mix of total dedication and a bit of stardust, players who can "blow everyone's mind". "I want lads who want to be here, who want do well," he said. "At Portsmouth I had Linvoy Primus, he'd give everything for the team, he was a fantastic player. That's what I need this year.
"Also at Portsmouth, on the Tuesday before the start of that season, I signed Paul Merson and that was it. He turned the club around for me. Really, the day he walked through the door that was the start of it."
Asked whether Rémy could still be that player for them, Redknapp recalled another great player who had played for him: Robert Prosinecki. "Yes, I think so. There's no reason he shouldn't be if he is a proper player. I went to Barnsley with a man called Robert Prosinecki who is one of the best footballers I have seen in my whole life.
"He was a genius. Played for Barcelona, Real Madrid, you name it. This man was on another planet. He went to Barnsley one night and I have never seen a performance like it in my whole life. He got a standing ovation when I took him off with four minutes to go – 14,000 people stood up, clapping him. He was that good. Good players can play anywhere. If they can't play at Barnsley then they are not top players."
At least the QPR players know what is expected of them.
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image: © Tom Cuppens