Fer not a fit for QPR in the Championship
Anyone who saw Leroy Fer's goal for QPR in the 2-1 win over Newcastle two weeks ago will know he has the quality to play in the Premier League. But if you saw his defensive contributions for two of the five goals the club conceded against Leicester on Sunday, you might assume he doesn't have the heart for a Championship slog.
Marc Albrighton gave the Netherlands international a 12-metre head start in their race for the ball in the build-up to Leicester's second goal and the Englishman still cruised past a supposed purveyor of Dutch Total Football. Fer watched idly by as his man showed more desire, hunger and determination to do well for his side and double their lead.
The third goal was not much better. After a most half-hearted of challenges in his own penalty box on Riyad Mahrez following Rangers failure to clear a corner, the former FC Twente man seemed to nonchalantly walk away from goal. He did not seem interested in marking either of the two Leicester players closest to him. But then Wes Morgan thundered the ball home and Fer once again looked lost. Perhaps worse than lost; disinterested.
Perhaps the silky playmaker was irked by being played out on the left-wing again. His famous No.10 shirt is certainly one preferred by most of the mercurial playmakers upon whom he models himself on. Maybe he's just exhausted and ready for a summer break, but on two very clear occasions that led to goals, he made no attempts to do his job.
It stood out so clearly, not just because an impressive Leicester side took full advantage on both occasions, but because he was the anomaly in the QPR side. In recent memory the club has struggled when a lack of commitment to the badge has been a common trend, but Sunday's side was full of grafters, players who would love to have Fer's natural ability but instead are more suited to running, tackling and sticking their head in places it isn't safe for them to be.
Rangers cannot just have marathon men and bruisers in the Championship. A player with Fer's guile would be a huge commodity but they cannot afford any passengers and, if in the unlikely event that he stays, that is what he is likely to become. The players in the side who do the dirty work then, inevitably, would likely resent him and another divided dressing room would ensue.
In recent seasons, it seems Rangers have rarely got the right balance between quality and commitment. Karl Henry works like a man possessed, Yun Suk-Young is desperate to continue his learning curve and Nedum Onuoha has been a stalwart. At the other end of the spectrum more gifted talents like Adel Taarabt, Niko Kranjcar and Eduardo Vargas have shown flashes of brilliance, but ultimately failed in their responsibilities to the team.
Charlie Austin has proved that talent and work ethic do not have to be mutually exclusive. There will be players out there as honest as Clint Hill and as a capable of a young Richard Dunne. Matt Phillips, in the second half of the season, demonstrated as much once Chris Ramsey gave him some self-confidence.
If Rangers can sign a few players with some of the talent of Fer and all of the tenacity of Joey Barton then they might be in with a chance next season. But, as Norwich found out when they went down with the 25-year-old last season, Fer does not see himself as much of a second-tier footballer. Somehow Norwich doubled their money when they sold Fer to Rangers for £8million last summer. If Rangers can recoup anything close to that and invest it wisely on a player with similar skill but a bigger heart, they have a hope of returning to the big time sooner rather than later.
Wally Downes Jr. is a reporter for Hayters sports agency in London and a contributor to ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @WallyDownes_Jr.