R's Fan Tells It Straight
Vital QPR regular Tom aka JoodyQPR is a professional journalist covering the African Cup of Nations.
Tom is currently working for a Nigerian TV station and will be travelling to Ghana to report back for them on the next Nigeria game.
It also appears he is quite a celebrity out there appearing on numerous TV and radio shows, nevertheless the Rangers football fanatic has promised to send Vital QPR exclusive African Cup of Nations exclusives.
JoodyQPR has written several Queens Park Rangers related aticles for this site and on this occasion he stays with the Rangers theme.
Tom begins by highlighting...
Jealousy, hatred and bitterness - common practice in modern football.
''FITZ HALL is an unlikely harbinger of revolution. The defender has played for six clubs without being noticed for much other than his wonderful nickname - One Size.
ut Hall has just joined his seventh club, Queens Park Rangers. They have signed seven other players in the first eight days of the transfer window and are starting to restructure the football landscape.'
'QPR fans gloat that their club is now the richest on the planet. Formula One tycoons Bernie Ecclestone and Flavio Briatore bought control in August. Last month, they flogged a fifth of the club to Lakshmi Mittal, the wealthiest person in the UK and the fifth richest in the world.'
'QPR lost the war of the wads with Roman Abramovich's Chelsea in the FA Cup, and their January purchases have been of workmanlike players, such as Hall.'
'Yet everybody assumes that QPR will start to climb, and we are all waiting to see whether the new rulers intend to spend enough to establish the London club near the top of the Premier League. It is a prospect, which is utterly alarming and deeply depressing.'
'Rich owners are not a new development. English football was shaped by them. Edwardian factory owners, who wanted their works team to beat rival factory teams, lured better players by paying them. The ground rules were set - a rich man could try to make his team better than the rest.'
'But the stakes were raised when Abramovich flew over London, looked down at Stamford Bridge and, like Little Britain's Andy, said: 'Want that one.'
'Abramovich's example led the world's super-rich to the Premier League and now they are moving into the Championship.
Top of Form.'
'Queen's Park Rangers have been a shabby, shoddy little outfit for decades. You can tell a lot about a club's ethos by the way they treat away fans, and anyone who has huddled in the dank, decrepit away end at Loftus Road will tell you how much the club has been allowed to decay.'
'Yet QPR could now cruise out of the Football League because of an accident of geography - Loftus Road just happens to be quite handy for Mittal's £57million home in Kensington Palace Gardens.'
'At other clubs folk toil away to pay bills on time, work hard to improve stadiums and strive to get the football right. On that treadmill, you have to run to stand still, and all that drives you is the hope that your manager might piece together a sequence of results which will bring some success.'
'The arrival of Ecclestone, Briatore and Mittal threatens to crush that hope.'
A reminder of the article by Mick Dennis of the Daily Express from earlier this month.
Whilst it is inarguable that our favourite journalist Mick Dennis might have a small grudge against our beloved club, I am not here to berate the former Evening Standard ink slinger. Two wrongs rarely make a right and mere sensationalism from the likes of Dennis, like the red tops, has to be taken with a pinch of salt.
Besides, the man has simply let a long running grudge on a club, founded from previous nightmare experiences, get in the way of a good story. It is a common footballing faux pas and I argue against anyone who disagrees that we have all been in the same boat. Hell, my experiences in a certain Cardiff Stadium has left me so scarred, the name Tommy Williams can not be uttered without a rare bout of savage sweats leaves me shaky and disorientated. My affiliations to Cardiff City have since, not been favourable.
In view of this, the story can be reasonably broken down into two segments. A reasonable and balanced account on how the Mittal deal will affect an increasingly money driven business, run, no longer by football fans, but by businessmen; and less craftily a shoddy and belittling piece on a football team that has been the victim for decades, true, leaving the club decaying and decrepit but a fact that might go some way to explain the often over-zealous reaction of QPR fans to a little ray of sunshine.
I'll answer both arguments separately...
Like Dennis states himself, the path for football has been going down the money route since the game was invented. How can an institute, sporting or otherwise, not, after it creates such excitement, such passion in the common man; and wherever something creates these sorts of emotions, lies a person ready to pounce on it's popularity two steps behind.
Ambramovich has no doubt raised the bar in recent years but before him, Jack Walker bought Blackburn the title and no one begrudged him that. Maybe the fact that Abramovich is foreign has something to do with the differing reactions to the two men, but you can't blame Chelsea, just like you can't blame the Blackburn's, Fulham's, Hull City's and finally QPR's of this world for rejoicing in a bit of good fortune (no pun intended).
Whilst it might be 'utterly alarming and deeply depressing,' to you Mick as a Norwich City fan, we, like the Chelsea and Blackburn fans before us will take our little piece of luck. Surely, it goes someway to healing a 22-year-old fan like me, who up to now has only seen terrible effects to supporting a football team.
As for the state of football due to these moneymen, we can only guess. It's a problem that has no quick fix and unfortunately looks like it will only breed. We will all have to wait and see.
It brings me on to the second string of his story. It seems to me that Dennis doesn't have a problem with these moneymen buying out football clubs and making them successful, but that he has a problem with these men buying out QPR and making them successful. Surely even Dennis can take a step back and realize that us fans, if not the club deserve this slice of the pie more than anyone.
In Dennis' reply, printed below, to the QPR fan's obvious unrest at his original story, he states his reasons behind calling the club a shabby, shoddy little outfit. These explanations were not apparent in the original article and therefore render the original statement sensationalism and quite frankly bullying. His basis for believing the club is little is never explained but relatively the club has had quite a large impact on league football over the past decade.
'I first went to QPR in the 1960s, when I was growing up in Hounslow. I used to go to all the West London clubs -- Brentford, Chelsea, Fulham and the R's as well as Hounslow Town, who were a decent amateur team. I did not support any of them, in the conventional sense, but I certainly wanted QPR to win when I was watching them. I used to stand behind the goal at the School End, and I joined in the chant of 'Henry, Henry' in awed admiration of the great Terry Mancini.'
'In the 70s I began work as a journalist and my first job was on the Eastern Daily Press in Norfolk. I could only watch one club -- Norwich City. I became hooked, and although my route to supporting Norwich was unusual, I have been a fan ever since. When I got my first Fleet Street sports reporting job, in 1978, I moved to Hertfordshire. As well as visiting Loftus Road professionally quite often, I have taken my family there for the odd game when work has allowed and when we couldn't get to Norwich.'
'I have also managed to watch Norwich at your place several times in the last few years -- and yes, we've lost most of those game, but that is not why I came to view Rangers as a badly run club.'
'That began when, as deputy sports editor of the (London) Evening Standard, I conducted a survey of all the London clubs for ES Magazine. I took my two sons, who were both very young at the time, to every London ground for a match and looked at things like prices and facilities.'
'Despite feeling well disposed to QPR, they came bottom of my survey. The unhelpful attitude of the stewards, the prices and quality of refreshments and the poor condition of the Ellerslie Road Stand were all factors, but the clincher was that the QPR match (against Liverpool) was the only time during the entire survey that my boys were frightened.'
'There was only one toilet we could access from the Ellerslie Road stand, and it only had one door -- for both in and out. My lads were crushed by the mob and both cried with fear. I wrote a private letter to the club about the issue of poor access to the toilet and received an astonishingly rude reply. I am sorry to say that I cannot remember what year that was, but it would have been about 89.'
'As I say, I have made several visits to the away end as a Norwich fan, and they have all been awful -- not because of the football (Norwich won some of them!) but because, although I have watched Norwich at more than 80 grounds, the QPR experience is among the worst.'
'The catering facilities are certainly among the worst. I'd say Port Vale are the only ones I have encountered where the staff care less and have worse equipment than at Loftus Road. On one visit, the kiosks were both shut until one, dispirited girl arrived ten minutes before kick-off and opened one. A huge queue formed. She fiddled about for a while and then announced: 'Sorry, there's no hot water'. Then she closed the kiosk again.'
'The School End stand IS dank. The area behind both the upper and lower tiers is completely enclosed by concrete and not properly ventilated. I've been dripped on by condensation (I hope it was condensation!) while queuing for the terribly inadequate refreshments. And, since the club was forced to put extra gangways into the seating to comply with safety requirements, there are odd dead-end arrangements and random bits of metal.'
'Professionally, I've had lots of dealings with QPR. I interviewed Chris Wright for the Standard when he was your chairman and, in response to my outlining some of the above to him, he said that Jim Gregory had put the stands up on the cheap and that there were all sorts of design faults.'
'John Gregory told me that, on his first day as manager, he was astonished to find a plank of wood, the sort you put on scaffolding, in the middle of the changing room floor at the training ground. When he asked what it was doing there, everyone just shrugged. It had been there for years, someone said. Gregory was definitely of the opinion that the club had been allowed to decay. That was his phrase.'
'All those accumulated experiences, plus the shambles of the gun episode, the blackmail allegations etc, led me to the view that, over the last couple of decades, QPR have become a shoddy little club. I don't expect you to agree.'
'Of course clubs in trouble welcome wealthy benefactors. As a Norwich fan, I am hugely appreciative of Delia Smith's efforts on our behalf. She rescued us from the brink of insolvency, but the super-rich backers (Like Abramovich and Mittal) are of an entirely different order.'
'Abramovich's presence in the Premiership has been hugely inflationary, as other clubs have tried to keep in touch, and I think it is a terrible development if that trend is now going to spread to the Championship.'
'I picked my words carefully when I talked about those who 'toiled to pay bills, worked hard to improve the stadiums and striven to get the football right'. QPR did not always pay their bills. They went into administration, as a method of welching on debts. They did not work hard to improve the stadium. And now they are not trying to get the football right. They are just going to buy their way out of the division.'
'I understand your passion and it does you credit. I genuinely thank you for responding to my column.'
Regards, Mick Dennis
However, avoid Dennis' obvious bias and you are left with an unfortunate evaluation on the downfall and decay of a once great club.
The stadium, as good an atmosphere as it creates is ridiculously worn and torn, and that goes for both the away and home ends. I think Mick will agree that whilst you can tell a lot about a club`s ethos by examining the treatment of away fans, you can tell even more by its treatment of its own fans; technically the ones paying the bills, so to speak.
But the decrepit stadium is only one example of why the money we have luckily fallen into is so desperately needed by a club that was falling apart at the seems.
Last week, another three QPR youth players were let go, for various reasons. Whilst league teams consistently make millions from the sale of talented youngsters, QPR have consistently been let down by our youth academies. Not only has Briatore promised a new stadium, he has promised a new youth system, able to keep up with the best.
And finally, the new investment promises to finally lift the crippling burden of a loan from the mysterious ABC Company that was taken out by the last in a very long line of incompetent chairmen and boards. QPR wasn`t allowed to decay because of its fans, the team or its current owners and the money given to us will go some way to repairing the near incurable damage caused by past regimes.
In conclusion, it may look like I am agreeing with a lot of Dennis' infamous story.
It is impossible to argue a case against the current influx of foreign business owners who could be ruining our beautiful game, whilst at the same time I can not argue against Mick's conclusion that the club has been left to decay over decades.
The QPR newsreel contains some quite startling reports which wouldn't be out of place on any television soap. But to alleviate, as Dennis so vividly puts it, our decrepit club, we need money and this is what Briatore, Ecclestone and Mittal have brought.
You say our fortune is depressing but in the same breath, state we are a shabby, shoddy little club, something the three former mentioned men are planning on eradicating. Dennis simply contradicts himself and cannot have it both ways.
If this is not evidence enough that QPR is becoming, finally, a stable club then a recent article in the Times reveals that maybe, just maybe, we have finally hit the right button.
Luigi De Canio puts survival before dreams of glory.
Despite dreams of glory, the Italian manager's first priority is to ensure his club can survive in the Championship
Luigi de Canio
'LUIGI DE CANIO is walking us through the defining moments of his managerial career. We start out at Udine, and a first taste of European action for the city's football team. We move 800 miles south to Reggio, and an improbable escape from relegation for one of Serie A's smallest fry. Having traversed Italy from top to toe, De Canio tugs us back to the middle with a tale that gives a glimpse of his own core.'
'We're now in the Tuscan heartlands of Siena, scene of his last senior job and the following instructive vignette. 'I took a walk there one Sunday,' he says. 'I was with a friend, a heart surgeon. He's a guy who spends his life saving other lives. I'm a football manager, not even a famous one. But people were asking me for autographs, not him. I found that too strange.'
'The story reveals a lot of what, and who, he is - a quiet, unassuming man whose acute self-awareness takes its bearings from an upbringing in the austerity of Italy's south. What it doesn't explain is what he's doing at Queens Park Rangers, new home of the rich, flaunter of ambition, where egos and expectation have combined noisily since September.'
'It was then that Formula One tycoons Flavio Briatore and Bernie Ecclestone combined their loose change to come up with the £14m necessary to buy a controlling stake in the club and cover its debt.'
'A third headline act squeezed in two months later in the shape of Lakshmi Mittal, the Indian steel magnate whom Briatore persuaded to take on 20% of his shares. Mittal, valued at £19.25 billion, is the richest man in Britain and the fifth richest in the world.'
Playthings are only fun when they work, of course. For Rangers, under the designs Briatore unveiled when he arrived and reiterated last week, that means reaching the Premier League by 2011 and Europe the following season.'
'The natural assumption is that the chasm between the realities of the present and the imagined future utopia will be filled with wads of the owners' banknotes. Collectively, after all, they are worth £22 billion.'
'Listen to De Canio, however, and you'll be told that such simplistic thinking distorts what the moneymen are in this for. The 50-year-old talks not of flourishes but of foundations. The nine January signings he has already made he describes as a necessary exception, aimed simply at securing their Championship survival.'
'Every project has its road and its time,' he says. 'QPR are aiming high, but what can you do without a base? I could ask the owners for Ronaldo, Tevez, Kaka, but if there's no plan or structure underpinning things, how does it work? It would be easy for us to get results but just as easy to fall on our faces very fast. If a structure isn`t solid, it crumbles. We need to grow incrementally.'
'And so the secondments agreed by De Canio and Gianni Palladini, the club's chairman-cum-general manager, have been of the type of centre-backs Matthew Connolly and Fitz Hall.'
'The manager believes he is practising a form of positive discrimination. 'The place needs to be English, or at least to understand English football, because England is where we are and where we must succeed,' he says.'
'These players can help us to compete better in this division, then think about the next target. On that base we'll be able to layer on Brazilians, Americans, who knows.'
'But you need the base first. Until we have it, dreaming is not allowed.' His one worry is that the first step in QPR's recovery might be his last. Rumours persist that Briatore and Co fancy a bigger, or simply louder, name.'
'In the meantime, he spends his spare time 'doing the tourist thing' before returning to his home to devour the food and wine parcels sent over from his native Matera, where his wife and daughter have remained.'
'I'm not lonely,' he says. 'I`m enjoying myself. I feel an important part of an important project. I want to make this club work again.' And prove he is the man for the job.'
Encouraging words indeed; all I can hope for is that whether it's in 2, 5 or 10 years, Dennis is allowed to return to the away section of wherever in west London we are playing our football, and he revises his view on QPR.
He might be pleasantly surprised. As for now, maybe he as well as certain other hacks, let the turbulent and troublesome lives of the common QPR fan have our day in the sun.