Date:Monday January 14 2008
It's Boxer here again aka Adam, here is Part 3 of 4, in Vital Football QPR`s review of the year that was 2007. Part 4 to follow in due course.
To read Part 1 click here
To read Part 2 click here
Tommy Doherty was reportedly on his way to Wycombe Wanderers , only for the deal to fall through mid-negotiations due to the Northern Ireland midfielder fall ill on holiday, resulting in an operation to remove his appendix. This was a setback for both clubs, who were both eagerly seeking the move.
It was also the month where Paul Furlong found a new club, joining Luton Town on a one-year deal. Furlong was a fans favourite at Loftus Road and he will be remembered for several goals including a last minute winner against the Hatters to effectively condemn them to their fate. Justin Skinner also found a new home becoming assistant Manager at Lewes.
Marc Nygaard also signed a long awaited one-year deal. The striker who had been confirmed a new contract by Gregory at the latter stages of the previous season and the deal was finally thrashed out.
Gregory spoke of the deal:
'He played a significant role in helping us to stay up last season and even though we now have five strikers, it is my personal opinion that you can never have enough players for that position."
Outgoing Kevin Gallen also signed for League Two Milton Keynes Dons. The ex-Rangers frontman rumoured to be going to Plymouth to join up with Ian Holloway, but the sight of the stadium and manager Paul Ince was enough for the striker to sign.
Rangers also announced the news that former Chelsea stopper Ed De Goey would join the coaching staff. De Goey himself spoke about the move to W12:
'I spoke to Mr Gregory about the role and everything feels right. It suits me well and I'm really happy to be joining the Club."
"I am just looking forward to working at QPR and, hopefully, one day getting the Club back into the Premiership.'
Rumours were hotting up about the sale of Lee Cook to Fulham, and coming in there were rumours of Lee Camp on a permanent deal for the R`s. The major stumbling block however would be the players wages reportedly on a big wage increase if he stayed at Derby. A wage that Rangers would be unable to rival. Billy Davies spoke in the Derby Evening Telegraph, stating:
'Lee has been working very well in training and I'd be happy for him to stay and battle for a first-team place,'
Rangers` first pre-season friendly had come and gone as Rangers were hit for 5 by a fitter and classier Celtic side at Loftus Road. On the plus side there was a fantastic goal for Rangers` youth product Kieron St. Aimee, beating two players before cutting in from the right and drilling a left footed shot into the back of the net. John Gregory said:
'I really couldn't care less about the outcome. It wasn't about the result, it was all about getting some 'game-time' ahead of our season kicking off on August 11th.
'We came through unscathed, without any injuries and most of the lads got at least 45 minutes under their belts.
The moment Rangers fans had feared finally came to fruition. Lee Cook signed for local rivals Fulham in a deal worth £4.5m, an initial £2.5m. Cook himself spoke to the official website:
'As well as being a very exciting day for Lee Cook, it is also a very sad one. I have had three great years at QPR and have met many great people,''
'Being a QPR fan, it is very difficult to leave this all behind, but I hope everyone understands that this is something I have to do."
However Michael Mancienne then re-joined the R`s on a season long loan deal, the young starlet had an impressive spell with the R`s in the season preceding. Gregory was delighted stating:
'We're extremely pleased that we have the opportunity of having Michael Mancienne in our squad for the whole of next season."
'He had an outstanding period with us last season and I would like to pay a special debt of gratitude to Chelsea Football Club for allowing Michael to continue his footballing education with us."
Ben Sahar joined Michael Mancienne, as he too joined the R`s on loan from Chelsea for an initial 3 months. But undoubtedly the biggest deal was the announcement that Rangers had signed highly sought goalkeeper Lee Camp from Derby County, following their signing of Lewis Price from Ipswich. A mere £300k was paid for his services. Gregory spoke on the deal:
'It feels like an absolute eternity since I started competing for the permanent transfer of Lee Camp.
'I have finally managed to get my number one priority of the summer in, and I couldn't be more delighted.
It was a day where Rangers were on fire in the transfer market as Simon Walton also joined the R`s from Charlton Athletic for £200k. He signed a 3-year deal at Loftus Road, and was fully fit having played pre-season games for Charlton already.
A narrow 1-0 win at Adam`s Park was Rangers` first pre-season victory. A Martin Rowlands first half free kick was enough to secure a victory against Wycombe Wanderers.
'The scoreline probably flattered us a little bit. I would have liked to see us win more comfortably, but it was a worthwhile exercise.
'I want us to have difficult times and for things not to run smoothly. It's a good test.
The R`s also defeated Harrow 3-0 at Earlsmead, goals from Marc Nygaard, Adam Bolder and Shabazz Baidoo was enough on the evening as Rangers secured their second pre-season win.
The month started on a sour note, with rumours that Rangers would not be allowed to field their new signings at the start of the season, due to the F.A banning them. This was a result of the Simon Blitz loan fiasco in which chairman Gianni Paladini responded:
"All of John Gregory's new signings will be able to play for the Club against Bristol City on the opening day of the new Championship campaign."
'However, I would like to take this opportunity to reassure our fans that everything is in order ahead of the new season.''
This news was then forgotten as Rangers fans watched their team beat local rivals Fulham 2-1 in a friendly at Loftus Road. Two cool finishes by on loan striker Ben Sahar cancelled out Brian McBride`s earlier goal. Lee Cook was given a good ovation by the Rangers fans as he started for the R`s he was taken off at half time after being on the end of a heavy Zesh Rehman challenge. With an up with Rangers there's always a down, it was confirmed that Simon Walton had broken his leg.
Cook also gave QPR back £250k, a loyalty fee having not asked for a transfer which was in his contract. Cook a boyhood Rangers fan stated:
"The club were saying that not enough money had been paid for me. I said, 'I'll give you 10 per cent of the sale'.
"It was totally my decision — there was no pressure from anyone. The transfer had been agreed but I love Rangers and I don't want to see them hard up."
Adam Bolder was selected as club captain by manager John Gregory he responded:
'I got a phone call from the Manager as I was leaving the training ground. He said he wanted to have a chat with me, and when I got back he told me I was going to be the captain.
'It came as a surprise, but it's nice to be given the responsibility and it's a great honour to be captain of a Club like QPR.''
Rangers also signed West Ham United young winger Hogan Ephraim on loan. He was previously on loan at Colchester United. John Gregory was beaming about the deal stating:
'Hogan is technically a very gifted player and he has the versatility to play on the right or the left of midfield - or even up-front.
'He's got very quick feet and is able to be very creative with the ball at his feet.''
Rumours were going round that F1 magnate Bernie Ecclestone was interested in buying QPR after being knocked by Arsenal, but it emerged it was Flavio Briatore that was the interested party involved. At the time great scepticism arrived with the news of the F1 pair, would they really plough money into QPR and why?
Whilst a deal was set to be done with 1 of 3 consortiums including the F1 consortium, Antonio Caliendo made an official statement:
'There have been many rumours spread in the newspapers recently about QPR.
'The Club is not for sale.'
A perplexing statement, but in light of what Mr. Caliendo was set to lose financially perhaps not so. A disappointing piece of news that Rangers fans hoped wouldn`t put potential investment to rest.
The directors of QPR holdings Nick DeMarco, James Ferrary and Kevin Steele all tendered their resignation with a view to an investment deal going though.
Rangers got off to a solid start on the pitch with a 2-2 draw away at Bristol City. Dexter Blackstock scored a goal sandwiched between goals from the Robin`s Lee Johnson and Scott Murray at the death. But at the later death Damion Stewart scored to send the teams away even. Gregory spoke:
'First and foremost it was a very good football match. I have to say when the fixtures came out, this was the last place I wanted to come on day one,'
'You can never write QPR off. The spirit, determination, courage and desire of this squad is first-class."
Rangers were then dumped out of the Carling Cup by Leyton Orient. A disappointing result, which reflected the poor style of play from QPR, and Orient capitalised with a strike from Jason Demetriou and a penalty from Adam Boyd, was enough despite a goal from Martin Rowlands.
'It hurts a lot, because we didn't perform well enough.
'We had to make changes, but we should have had more than enough about us to win the tie."
Rangers again lost, this time in the League, and this time 2-0 at home to Cardiff City. Goals from Steven MacLean and Paul Parry were enough to see the Bluebirds through without illustrious signings Robbie Fowler and Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink.
All news of the month was overshadowed however as Rangers were mourning the loss of young starlet Ray Jones. The official statement read:
Queens Park Rangers Football Club is in mourning today following the tragic news that striker Ray Jones died in a motor accident in the early hours of Saturday morning.
The 18 year-old was involved in an accident in East Ham and was pronounced dead at the scene.
The collision occurred at approx 00:20am on Saturday August 25 in High Street, South East Ham, E6.
Everyone at Queens Park Rangers extends their deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Ray at this sad time.
The Club will be no making no further comment at this stage and we ask you respect our wishes as we grieve for our young striker
The subsequent game against Burnley was postponed as a mark of respect for the young striker. The number 31 shirt that Jones was famous for wearing the season before was retired as another mark of respect.
A minutes applause would be observed before the home game against Southampton a the request of the club and the family in what would prove to be an emotional day at Loftus Road.
Rangers reportedly had signed Sheffield United midfielder Mikele Leigertwood in a deal worth £900k, adding fuel to the Briatore and Ecclestone deal, if not it was surely a suicide buy.
On a lighter side of the news, the day that Rangers fans dreamed for finally came:
The Boards of Sarita Capital and QPR are pleased to announce that they have agreed the terms of a recommended cash offer by Sarita Capital to acquire the entire issued and to be issued share capital of QPR. Both Boards believe the Offer to be in the best interests of the Club and QPR Shareholders. Sarita Capital is a newly formed company incorporated, in the British Virgin Islands, for the purposes of making the Offer. Flavio Briatore is the ultimate beneficial owner of Sarita"
Queens Park Rangers Football Club is delighted to announce Flavio Briatore and Bernie Ecclestone have made a recommended offer for the Club.
Mr Gianni Paladini will remain as Chairman of QPR and Mr Flavio Briatore, Mr Bruno Michel and Mr Alejandro Agag will be invited to join the Board.
The takeover was completed in time for the Southampton game, a game which full of emotion, the minutes applause was observed impecably by both sets of fans. Chants of There`s only One Ray Jones could be heard all round the ground, with Southampton fans giving a solo rendition which was roundly applauded.
The game itself didn`t match the occasion with Rangers being defeated 3-0 on home soil, back to back home defeats at a tough time for the R`s
There were rumours following investment that Fabio Cappello was set for Loftus Road, a move which made Rangers fans sit up and take notice at the sort of aspirations the new owners had. Although a mere rumour what would this rumour lead to? Rumours of Alessandro Costacurta, the former AC Milan player to be installed as John Gregory`s replacement came to the fore.
Again though Saturday came around and Rangers managed to pick up a good away draw at Gary Megson`s Leicester City, with Mikele Leigertwood hitting a cracking effort for the equaliser, the long distant strike fizzed past Martin Fulop to give Rangers a 1-1 draw at the Walkers Stadium.
Rangers though followed this up with a home loss to Plymouth Argyle, watched by new investor Bernie Ecclestone. Ian Holloway secured his first win over the R`s since leaving. A disappointing performance and result left John Gregory shrugging off suggestions he would pay the price for poor home results:
'I've been through everything in football and I'm very philosophical about life."
'We must carry on working as hard as we can. We just need to get a win.'
A good result followed though with a home draw with league leaders Watford. On loan Adam Johnson had given Watford the lead just after half time, with Rangers` defence switching off at a vital moment. But the equaliser came from an unlikely source, Stefan Moore bagged a goal for the R`s at the Loftus Road end to rescue a point and possibly his managers job. Gianluca Vialli was rumoured to be lined up as his replacement.
If Gregory was worried for his job before then a 5-1 defeat at the hands of West Bromwich Albion would do his aspirations to keep the job no good at all. Rangers were humbled live on Sky and it was the sort of performance and result that simply wasn`t good enough as wave after wave of attack from the Albion looked like yielding a goal at every turn. The selection of Zesh Rehman and Stefan Moore had Rangers fans questioning the position of a man who had openly criticised the pair in the past with better options at his disposal. Gregory commented:
'I've been through everything in football and I'm very philosophical about life.
'We must carry on working as hard as we can. We just need to get a win.'
'I suppose the only positive to take is the fact we can put the wrongs of this display to right in three days time."
'Sheffield Wednesday lost a number of games on the bounce and have won their last two and it can have a huge impact, both on the players and the league table."
'Three points against Colchester will make a huge difference.'
What would happen next in the Rangers saga?
Be sure to come back for the Final Part of the year that was 2007.
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Date:Monday January 14 2008
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