Confirming a conclusion their fans accepted some time ago, Queens Park Rangers and Reading sealed each others’ Premier League relegation on Sunday, doing so in the most appropriate way possible: with a display leaving no doubt their clubs don’t belong.
The match ended 0-0, a slog devoid of good chances and, more importantly, any evidence suggesting the match had meaning. Players lacking incentive to perform to ticket prices walked through 90 minutes with little regard for ceremony or result. So what if this was a Premier League match – an arena dreamed of by soccer players around the globe? Relegation foder worn down by 34 rounds of disappointment went through the motions in the 35th. Onlookers be damned.
If a tree falls in a forest, can a competitive match take place if nobody cares about winning?
Stuart James, in his report for the Guardian, summed it up better than I could:
In the end Reading and Queens Park Rangers conspired to put each other out of their misery. This goalless draw, which was every bit as bad as the scoreline suggests, condemns both clubs to relegation and a return to the Championship. Even if QPR and Reading win their final three matches it would not be enough to catch Wigan Athletic or Aston Villa, one of whom is guaranteed to reach 35 points because they meet on the final day of the season.
Though both teams confirmed their fate on the same day, we’re left with two very different impressions of their seasons.
Reading was a club that got hot in last year’s Championship and won an improbable promotion. They had never built up for a run at the Premier League, and once there, they were never situated to stay. They were clearly the least-capable team in the league, and it showed.
There’s often a difference between surprise and disappointment. The Royals’ relegation is the latter, not the former.
QPR, however, is the opposite. With Tony Fernandes’s investment backing them, they were expected to stay up. After a hyperactive summer of spending from Mark Hughes, Harry Redknapp broke the team’s transfer record twice in the winter window, yet the results just kept getting worse. QPR were well-situated to stay in the Premier League but kept finding ways to be bad.
Neither team looks a great bet to return next year, though nobody knows what summer will bring. Reading, at least, have Nigel Adkins, a man who brought Southampton up last year. If they keep their team together, they’ll (for better or worse) have some kind of chance, while QPR, who will desperately need to cut their wage bill, have to pull the roof down before they can rebuild.