God Save The Queens Park Rangers

by admin

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

The Curious Case of QPR

For anybody whoever dabbled in the thrashy delights of Sky One’s Dream Team, and the tumultuous experiences of Harchester United FC, people derived entertainment from the bizarre plots the club found themselves in. Whether you found artistic value in the show, or savoured it in a tongue in cheek way (me, to be honest), the clubs fortunes were entertaining. Far too entertaining for a real life scenario surely? Well, not exactly. You could support QPR. That might be even more of a rollercoaster than the tribulations of Harchester.

Now that QPR have finally clicked into top gear, and raced clear at the top of the Championship alongside Cardiff, it may be a good time to reflect on all the hurdles they have overcome to get there. Until recently, the only thing the Loftus Road faithful had to cherish were memories of Dennis Bailey scoring a hat trick at Old Trafford, and the dizzy heights of 5th place in the Premier League in 1993, led by the free scoring Les Ferdinand and tactically astute Gerry Francis. However, the next season saw the departure of both talismen, and the beginning of a sharp plummet that saw relegation at the end of the 95/96 season. Increasing financial struggles began to chaff at the club, and adaptation to life in the 1st division became troublesome, with constant flirtation with relegation and a non existent cash flow making the club an extremely unattractive destination. New depths of despair were experienced in 2001 with relegation to the Second Division (for the first time in thirty years). But with everybody’s favourite soundbite personified, Ian Holloway, they clawed their way back for more dallying with survival. Dogged by debt and a threadbare squad, Rangers were reliant on journeymen such as Gino Padula (who lived in a caravan, apparently) and Marc Nygaard(lumbering), for creative spark and goals. Not much to get excited about. Or to get you up the table, for that matter. Holloway’s departure soon after led to a string of underwhelming managerial appointments, including John Gregory and Gary Waddock, and staying in the 1st Division soon became an annual dogfight.

While things on the pitch weren’t exactly much to shout about, the book keeping situation was surely worse, with a lengthy stay in administration kicking off in 2001. In attempting to exit this, a 10 million emergency loan almost broke the club, but somehow they soldiered on. These pressures told though, with the advent of a new board in 2005/2006, came the season of bona fide soap opera madness. As if life in the board room wasn’t challenging enough with prevailing disharmony, new Italian chairman Gianni Paladini’s reign had begun amidst a flurry of blackmail and scandal. Before the kick off of a home game against Sheffield United, a gang of five ‘fans’ burst into his office, held a gun to his head and ‘requested’ that he resign from the board by signing a piece of paper. He broke free, escaped and was probably more slightly relieved than he should have been to see Rangers triumph 2-1. As if this wasn’t an inauspicious start to the season, genuine tragedy was to follow in droves. In May 2006, highly promising youth team player Kiyan Prince was fatally stabbed when attempting to intervene in a bullying incident. Only months later, four team mates of Prince’s, whilst play acting on the platform at Earls Court station, caused the death of a Vietnamese architect and critical injury of their own team mate, youth team star Harry Smart. As if QPR youths hadn’t been embroiled in enough of their own tragedy, arguably the worst was to come.

The brightest light throughout all of this was the emergence to the first team of Ray Jones, a physical striker who was impressing with a deft touch, silky skills and an eye for goal. A refreshing breakthrough and revelation, and brimming with youthful charisma, Jones was earmarked as one who was going to be fast tracked to the Premiership. Even if Rangers were resigned to losing him, he would surely return their tutelage with some much needed cash injection through a transfer. However, three days before his 19th Birthday, Jones was tragically killed in a car crash in his home area of East Ham. In just over the space of a year, the club was reeling from yet another heartbreaking tragedy.

In true soap style though, all of this shock and sadness had to have an uplifting turn, an injection of bombastic entertainment, and a ludicrous twist to its storyline. Sure enough, it did. Only weeks later, a seemingly improbable takeover that had been mooted occurred, and a glittering consortium that consisted of Formula One Playboys Flavio Briatore and Bernie Ecclestone, and backed to the hilt by mega steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal came to the rescue. These mavericks sped into Loftus Road in true pit stop fashion, instantly pumped in the neccessary cash injection, and seemed to overhaul the mechanics of the club in an instant. Rangers fans were jubilant. The debts were written off, and there were murmurings of ‘potentially the richest club in the world’ abound. However, the brakes were applied, and spending wasn’t going to be immediately lavish. A slightly more measured approach to gaining promotion was discussed in theory. In practice, it was anything but. Briatore applied his approach to life in general, lavish, casual and carefree, to the running of the team, interfering with managerial appointments and team affairs at will, and allowing his own personal game of Football Manager to get out of hand.

Unable to choose between a continental touch or old school English management, Briatore went on a string of thoughtless appointments and subsequent sackings, ensuring that in the space of two years, Rangers went through ten managers. In a desperate quest for the right formula for quickfire promotion, figures as diverse as Luigi Di Canio to Iain Dowie to Paulo Sousa to Jim Magilton all came, and all failed to reinvent the wheel in the little time they were granted. Not to mention rumours of Zizou Zidane or Luis Figo coming in. While Loftus Road was new to this flamboyance, controversy remained a constant, with fan favourite and captain Akos Buszaky headbutting Magilton in the changing room, only for the manager to be given his P45 instead. Briatore also thought flash loan signings from the his Italian contacts at Milan et al would make a difference, only to look like little boys lost in the hurly burly of a wet Wednesday Championship night in Doncaster. Whoever thought the financial stability and rumoured extravagance would bring instant consistency and success to Loftus Road were wrong. The new structure and promises were only proving to be as deflating and desperate as the first half of the decade. Despite the clubs new found affluence, Briatore’s meddling was merely flattering to deceive, with crushingly disappointing low to mid table finishes. This, for a team whose clout and assets made them crave for Premiership action.

Finally though, it looks as if things have been smoothed out. Briatore has got the message, and stepped slightly back to the lowly status of director, whereas Mittal(the man with the REAL money) has upped control with his casting eye by placing his son in law and business partner as the acting chairmen. This boardroom stability has transferred onto the pitch with the shrewd appointment of Neil Warnock, who is giving a masterclass of the tried and trusted method of gaining promotion to the Premiership. A man who is no nonsense, knows the Championship inside out, and has been there and done that, Colin, as he is affectionately known, is using all his canny experience to give Rangers fans the most satisfying season in memory. He doesn’t have to be likeable. All that matters is a trusty recipe for Briatore, Mittal, and Ecclestone to take the elevator upstairs and truly flex their muscle.

By signing old reliable Paddy Kenny in goal to be his stalwart custodian, and two giant Championship gurus at the back in Kaspars Gorkss and Fitz Hall, he has assembled a watertight defence that has been extremely thrift in leakages thus far. In a division rife with goal bonanzas, this is a priceless platform to build your team. In addition, Warnock has added Championship aficionado, crafty veteran and feisty ball winner Shaun Derry as his influential captain and driving force. With Derry doing all the dog work, this leaves the division’s most talented player, Adel Taarabt, to run riot and bamboozle defences with mazy runs, defence splitting passes and outrageous screamers. Up front are a plethora of proven Championship scorers such as Heidar Helguson and Rob Hulse, whilst Jamie Mackie, signed from Plymouth for peanuts, has been a goal machine, scoring 8 goals in his first 12 matches. Warnock, finally a sensible appointment, has in no time at all, assembled a team that can have promotion firmly in their grasp, and perhaps will be well equipped to stay in the Premier League if they keep their blistering form up. They should also be able to keep the likes of Taarabt and exciting young Spurs loanee Kyle Walker close at hand.

The fans are surely riding on the crest of a wave now, and are probably acknowledging that the emotional rollercoaster will have been all worth it. This of course, will be particularly if they finally escape the clutches of the Championship by May and their upwardly mobile aspirations are realized. If and when promotion does occur, expect the real fun to begin, It will be interesting to see who stays and goes, in particular, Warnock. The quiet and reserved Mittal is likely to release floods of cash, and Briatore will probably emerge as a abnter merchant in media watch. They won’t be Man City (who is?), but with the potential muscle behind them, QPR will be ready to announce themselves on the big stage, and gatecrash the Premiership’s status quo in style. It’s the only way Ecclestone and Briatore would have it. And besides, these soap operas have to keep the viewers happy and the ratings up, don’t they?

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  • Dai Hoop

    Fitz Hall is not a part of our “watertight” defence

  • Michael James White

    Apologies, I mixed up Clint Hill and Fitz Hall. ‘Watertight’ isn’t too far away from being accurate. Conceding only 7 goals so far is pretty remarkable, five less than the next best in the division. You should be pretty happy with that?

  • Dru

    Thanks for your efforts. It is indeed good to be an R right now.
    Padula was a good little player back in the day, though they were farcical times.
    And desire what it looks like on the pitch, Adel’s the captain not Derry. Another stroke of man management genius from Colin aka The Penguin.

    Will always remember playing Chelsea at the bridge just after the takeover in a cup game waving £20 notes and singing ‘you’re just a small club in fulham’
    Happy days.

  • John Gallagher

    Neil Warnock didn’t sign Kaspars Gorkss. Iain Dowie was manager at the time that Gorkss signed for us. Whether it was his decision or Gianni Paladini’s is another question entirely!

  • PC

    you’re reportage is very poor. Typical outsider who doesn’t have a clue. a particular highlight was dubbins Ray Jones a potential Premiership prodigy. I’m sure you never saw him play and thus exaggerated the fact he was a decent young player to portray another great ‘tragedy’ to hit the club. Yes. it was a tragedy but you’re obviously exploiting his death for your article. Pathetic mate.

  • Michael James White

    @PC: Who cares? Do I have to follow one team extremely closely, and and in pedantic detail, just to be allowed to write about them? So what if I’m an outsider, everybody is a complete outsider to the vast majority of clubs, i.e. pretty much every other club they don’t support. I don’t support QPR, but I have been fascinated by everything they have endured for the last decade, and I’m glad to see they are doing so well now. I merely thought it was an interesting story, and don’t think I should be attacked for taking a casual interest in your club. As for ‘exploiting’ Ray Jones’ death just for this article, thats a pretty harsh and needless accusation. It was a tragedy, nothing more, nothing less, along with the other incidents. To be pedantic about his ability reflects poorly on you. I had friends who are QPR fans who raved about him at the time, and he was regularly linked to Premiership clubs, and you lynch me for referring to this? Get a grip, and get over yourself. You don’t really seem like much of a ‘fan’ yourself. You’re the one who comes across as pathetic.

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