Rangers Review 2007 Part 2
In his second instalment, Vital QPR co-editor, Boxer aka Adam has kindly written the 2007 Rangers Review Part 2. Parts three and four will follow in due course.
To read the Rangers Review Part 1, click here.
The month started on a positive note when influential Midfielder Inigo Idiakez extended his loan from Southampton. The Spanish midfielder scored a single goal for the R's in their 3-1 demolition of Leicester City extended for a month, for which manager John Gregory said was delighted...
'He's made a real difference since he arrived here and although his hamstring injury has ruled him out of the last couple of fixtures, he'll have a huge role to play over the next four weeks.'
Unfortunately for Rangers Idiakez was recalled by Southampton as the race for the playoff's heated up. He proceeded to miss a decisive penalty against Derby to knock Southampton out at the semi-final stage.
The sad news that Gareth Ainsworth had broken his leg in a 3-2 win over Luton was very much a downer that threatened to cast a shadow over Rangers' push for safety.
The midfielder was named in the Championship team of the week for his tremendous performance against West Brom, tying Paul Robinson in knots at every opportunity.
The Witney debacle was then brought to a head, after weeks of no news and Witney insisting the fixture was still to go ahead Gianni Paladini was described in the minutes of the 'Fans Consultative Meeting' stating...
'Game with Witney would not be going ahead, that it was merely a word of mouth thing.'
This was met with bad reaction from Witney, and chairman Steve Lake lambasted Paladini...
'I would personally like to thank both Richard Hill and John Gregory for their help in attempting to arrange this game - who's actions in this matter have been exemplary - just a shame that a Chairman's claim of 'word of mouth' does not mean his Club keeping it's word.'
On the lighter side of the news, it was revealed that Rangers' director Antonio Caliendo's son, Michele, would drive in the 'International Formula Master Championships' for ADM Motorsport. Oh The delicious irony.
Other pieces of news involved Simon Royce going out on emergency loan to Gillingham. A bold move considering Derby had a call-back on Lee Camp, Jake Cole not yet ready to play following injury, and Paul Jones virtually disappeared. As it stood, Lee Camp was called back by Derby County to cover for the injured Steven Bywater. Rangers went into Wolves praying for the fitness of Jake Cole.
Rumours were rife at the beginning of the month with Chris Coleman being touted as a possible successor to John Gregory should his situation become worse. Also, a rumour that Tottenham Hotspur were sniffing around Lee Cook, a player that Rangers could ill-afford to lose.
On the pitch, matters secured Rangers their place in the Championship for the 2007/08 season. Rangers came into excellent form at the right time securing four wins from six.
Wins at home over Preston and Luton in white-hot atmospheres at Loftus Road, sandwiched a good away win at Coventry. Rangers secured safety with a 1-0 victory over nemesis' Cardiff City. A tremendous moment for all Rangers fans. Rangers went on to lose at Wolves, a result that meant nothing.
John Gregory then activated a clause in his contract, which extended his reign at Loftus Road for another two years.
May soon came round, and more controversy unfolded for the Rangers board. News emerged from the Rangers camp that Gianni Paladini was looking to borrow £500k from Oldham chairman Simon Blitz.
It is against FA regulations for clubs to lend between clubs, but both parties insisted this wasn't a football matter it was between QPR and Simon Blitz's personal fortune.
Rumours were rife that the loan was in fact to help with payroll matters, and to offset the impending sale of Lee Cook. Paladini spoke out saying...
'Contrary to press reports, the loan was not made to help QPR with its payroll, but was made in the context of the ABC re-financing discussions.'
However, Blitz responded by adding...
'I was talking to the QPR Chairman and he asked me for a short-term loan because they had problems covering the payroll.'
Following an investigation by the FA, the loan was paid back in full to Mr. Blitz, and Rangers had to pursue other avenues.
John Gregory had made his long awaited decision on who was to say and who was to leave of the players with months remaining on their current contract.
The lucky players to stay were Marc Nygaard and Marcus Bignot. The unfortunate players who hadn't done enough to secure a new deal were Marc Bircham, Paul Furlong, servant to the club, Kevin Gallen, Paul Jones, Steve Lomas, Mauro Milanese, Simon Royce and the invisible man Armel Tchakounte.
The end of year awards were handed out as Lee Cook was named 'Club Player' of the Season, with Dexter Blackstock picking up Young Player of the Season.
There was also another award, 'The Kiyan Prince Youth Team Player of the Year', named after the Rangers youth player tragically killed whilst trying to stop a fight outside of his school. This award went to young defender Aaron Goode.
Rumours hotted up about Cook's future at the club, with his award and the rumours surrounding the Blitz loan, Cook came out clarifying the situation and said...
'I spoke to my agent the other day and he is keeping me informed of what is going on.'
'If a club comes in and offers the right amount of money, I am probably going to have to move on. It would be an opportunity I would not be able to turn down.'
Rangers would have to search for replacement players for those released, and the rumours at this stage circled around Luton defender Markus Heikkinen, and Derby winger Ryan Smith, two very able players which had the Rangers fans longing for the season ahead.
The final result of the season settled matters with Rangers finishing with a respectable home draw to play-off chasing Stoke City.
16,741 saw the two teams draw 1-1, on a day where Rangers celebrated their survival and Stoke waved goodbye to an outside hope of a play-off place.
Silly season was officially underway as rumours were banded about as to who would be coming and going. Lee Cook and Ray Jones were the subject of much interest, with newspaper reports suggesting a combined bid from Fulham was being lodged.
Other reports stated Portsmouth interest in Cook, which Harry Redknapp later rebuffed.
Two concrete bids were eventually forthcoming; Fulham had a bid turned down by QPR who reiterated their intentions to hold on to the young winger.
Colchester also lodged a £200k bid for young striker Ray Jones, which Paladini rejected...
'There's no way we're going to sell our best players unless the price is right and Ray Jones has a very big part to play in our future.'
An improved offer for the striker was later rejected by Rangers ending interest.
A few Rangers players put pen to paper on extending their stays at the club. Andrew Howell, Kieron St. Aimee and Aaron Goode signed professional deals. Whilst Marcus Bignot signed a year extension that his performances at the latter end of the previous season had merited. No news yet on Marc Nygaard.
There was also a radically reformed coaching set-up at Loftus Road with Rangers saying goodbye to Youth Coach Joe Gallen and Prav Mathema, and welcoming new physio Paul Hunter, Steve Brown and Keith Ryan from Wycombe, also Paul Parker was signed as the clubs temporary Commercial and Communication director. This was coupled with the news that Warren Neil would be staying on as a first team coach at Loftus Road, after his temporary stint as assistant manager.
The most significant coaching addition was that of Mick Harford from Colchester to replace Richard Hill. Harford, who had assisted Geriant Williams at United spoke of his delight on joining the R's...
'I was very impressed by what John had to say when I met him. I'm very happy to be here and am now looking forward to getting started.'
Rangers announced a friendly to be played against Fulham at Loftus Road. This added to the news that Rangers were playing at Adams Park against Wycombe, and the Brentford friendly had been cancelled.
The fixtures were also announced with Rangers having to travel to Bristol City on the first day of the campaign. Gregory stated...
'Ideally we'd have liked to have avoided one of the promoted sides.'
'A good start is paramount and given the way we ended the campaign at home, it's nice to start with a large bulk of matches at Loftus Road.'
Rangers were also drawn at home to Leyton Orient in the Carling Cup.
The China debacle finally came to a close when Rangers were charged and fined by the FA:
'Queens Park Rangers FC were fined £40,000 for their involvement in a brawl with the Chinese Olympic team on February 9th, £20,000 of which is suspended until May 31st 2008.'
In a month of several issues and stories, it was rumoured that Rangers' Italian owners were looking to sell their stake in the club. Then another rumour surfaced that former Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool striker Ronny Rosenthal was interested in heading a consortium to buy the club.
Rangers ended the month with several key signings and rumours of more to come. Daniel Nardiello, John Curtis and Chris Barker all put pen to paper with the R's, on the latter Gregory saying...
He's one I've been interested in for some time, so I'm delighted he's signed.'
'There were four or five other clubs in this division pursuing him, so it's quite a coup for us.'
Rumours continued with the R's set for a deal involving Ben Sahar, who had also attracted the interest of Charlton Athletic, and even Scott Sinclair. This and more made it an exciting set of months to come for Rangers.
Part 3 will follow shortly