I remember that last time QPR were in the top flight, under ‘The Owl’ Gerry Francis they had quite a team on their hands; players like Les Ferdinand, Trev Sinclair, Andy Sinton, Darren Peacock, man-making sensation Danny Maddix, Kev Gallen, Ray Wilkins, Ian Holloway, Andy Impey, Dennis Bailey, David Bardsley, Rufus Brevett and even big Devon White. They were a good side and managed 4 consecutive top 10 finishes between 1992-1996 in the then newly-formed Premiership.
Present day and QPR are back in the Premier League and after such a long wait there should be optimistic fans and a buzz around the club … but things just aren’t right.
In between the clubs glory years in the top flight and now there is not a lot that hasn’t happened at the Loftus Road club; a fifth place finish in the Premiership, relegation from the league, big players sold off, the club floating on the Alternative Investments Market (AIM), going in to administration, nearly merging with Wimbledon, boardroom scandal, chairman Gianni Paladini being held at gun point during a match, the sad deaths of Kiyan Prince and Ray Jones, takeovers and more managers than you could shake a stick at … it sounds more like an episode of Eastenders than it does a football club or a business.
Just as the fans think they have turned the corner after finally gaining promotion to the Barclays Premier League, the unrest began. Neil Warnock is the manager behind the success, howeve,r since proving his worth speculation has only intensified regarding his future.
When the current owners Flavio Briatore and Bernie Ecclestone bought the club in 2007 it seemed like there was to be a new dawn at QPR. The propaganda began instantly with Ecclestone stating that the club would return to the Premier League within 4 years and big name players were linked with the club. Now hats off, this was a promise that came true, but it did so at great expense – the board went through 11 managers (permanent & temporary) since the motor-racing moguls took over.
QPR fans were boasting they were now the richest club in London with the Mittal family (world’s 5th richest person) taking a 20% stake. Finally, two-fingers up to rivals Chelsea! But now QPR won’t even back the manager to spend £3m on proven striker Craig Mackail-Smith (CMS), with the striker opting to sign for new-promoted Championship side Brighton over Premier League QPR.
Something is badly wrong at QPR and the CMS saga has highlighted this. In a recent interview, Peterborough Director of Football Barry Fry outlined what happened with QPR. He told talkSPORT: “[Craig Mackail-Smith] first of all met Neil Warnock with his agent, I mean I did a deal with Neil six weeks ago to be quite honest but [Flavio] Briatore and [Bernie] Ecclestone wouldn’t back Neil, he can’t even get a free transfer in, he can’t even get a tea lady in’.
Quite a shocking statement especially when you consider that QPR have asked the fans to swallow a 40% hike in ticket prices for this year. As a fan how can you be excited and happy to spend your money on a prospective season when the most likely outcome is relegation because the manager is not able to strengthen his Championship squad.
But there have been rumblings from behind the scenes for quite a while and things should be very different. If the owners were serious about backing Warnock they would have said ‘who do you want for next year?’, talked through the targets and when all agreed they go out and get them. This should have happened at the end of last season! Missing out on CMS to a Championship team is a kick in the teeth. The deal was done, Warnock met CMS who apparently asked Warnock for his assurances he will be there come the start of the season, assurances that Warnock was not in a position to give. Danny Graham was another striker that QPR lost out on, this time to fellow new-boys Swansea. This time apparently they didn’t think he was worth the money and dropped out of the bidding.
The only player Warnock has been able to bring in is Brian Murphy on a free transfer following his release by Ipswich Town and he will merely be a reserve goalkeeper. Now QPR are linked with such exotic names like Jimmy Bullard, prolific striker Carlton Cole and Ashley Williams, a player who Swansea have stated they won’t sell. What happened to the propaganda and the Italian international invasion? The biggest player to be linked lately is 37-year old Fabio Cannavaro who was released by Dubai side Al-Ahil as he wasn’t good enough. Also rumours are rife that star player Abel Taarabt, who Warnock was able to tame, is to be sold to PSG for £15m. I cannot see the point of getting to the Premier League if you are not going to go for it.
If they don’t want Warnock, sack him. Warnock is not the most popular man in football, but you have to feel sorry for him. He has earned his shot at the big time and is again being let down. The people that come off worst here are the fans as usual. QPR fans are disillusioned right now, especially when you see clubs like Leicester City (that QPR left in the Championship) making good signings. It seems that the rumours regarding Warnock’s future are true, the owners seem to be making life difficult for the manager and threatening the longevity of QPR’s Premier League return in a bid to oust Warnock. QPR fans should start the protest now or Warnock should walk otherwise this could be a highly unenjoyable season for R’s fans that deserve so much more.