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QPR need a strong display after their FA Cup exit

Harry Redknapp still dividing opinion

icon qpr29 January ~ Tentative optimism defined most of QPR's January. Unbeaten in five games, including a win at Stamford Bridge and a hard-fought draw against in-form Spurs, the gap between ourselves and Premier League survival, once nine points, is now five. On the terraces and message boards tender shoots of hope began to appear. Until last Saturday. Losing a home FA Cup tie to a team two divisions lower is bad enough. That the team was the universally detested MK Dons and the result 4-2, far worse.

Memories of the month's modest triumphs vanished, replaced instantly by a cloud of gloom and collective recrimination. It mattered little that QPR's team was essentially a "B" squad, featuring only a couple of starters from recent matches. The one thing everyone agreed, from the manager to the ten-year-old in the lower Loft, was that they should have been good enough to beat MK Dons.

Harry Redknapp's response to the defeat raised some questions: "I gave them a chance because some of them have been knocking at my door saying they should play and with others I've been told they're good players. Well I gave them a chance and they blew it. You know what? [The result] answers questions. Not for me – I knew the answers. But it maybe answers questions for those who didn't know."

There are few neutrals when it comes to Redknapp. To some he's a wide-boy always looking for what's good for 'Arry. To others he's a savvy manager who can turn around a lost cause in a matter of weeks. That these two extremes are not necessarily mutually exclusive is often overlooked. So it's unsurprising that his statement has been parsed, by both friend foe, as if it were a newly discovered Gnostic gospel. They ask who, precisely, "those who don't know" are. To Redknapp's allies it's a message to agents pushing him to include their clients in the team. Critics, on the other hand, claim both team selection, and comments, were a ploy designed to persuade Tony Fernandes to open his wallet — yet again — before the transfer window closes.

Into this turbulent and increasingly paranoid environment come Manchester City, a club that's done rather better with their owners' billions than QPR. Few expect us to win, though we've nicked points off similar quality opposition. The stakes are psychological as much as arithmetical anyhow. If we lose, it's important how we do so. Play valiantly but lose nobly, as we did in last season's fixture, and the FA Cup defeat may begin to feel like an aberration. If that debacle is repeated, however, the darkening gloom really will become a fog of despair. John Carter

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