QPR: Life Doesn't Get Much Better Than This

Stoke today, Anfield and Old Trafford in a few weeks. We're back in the big time and things really couldn't be any sweeter...
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Stoke today, Anfield and Old Trafford in a few weeks. We're back in the big time and things really couldn't be any sweeter...

A win over Chelsea and upcoming clashes against Liverpool and Manchester United only intensifies QPR supporters' right to saunter in the sun.

As a football fan, unless you have experienced double relegation and the threat of administration or even liquidation, you cannot possibly appreciate the simple pleasure of the arrival of a pair of away tickets in the post.

Open the envelope and there they are: The tickets say Liverpool Football Club. Barclays Premier League. Liverpool v Queen Park Rangers at Anfield. Saturday December 10th.

We are going to Anfield Road for goodness sake and then the following weekend it’s Manchester United at home.

After 15 years spent with the inhabitants of the wilderness that lies outside the Premier League it’s still difficult to believe that something that clubs such as Leeds and Derby, Southampton and West Ham can only dream about for next season is happening now to QPR, a club that seemed to be bypassed by everything from crazy owners to the new economics of top level football.

Instead things can hardly get much better right now for QPR fans everywhere.

Beating Chelsea at home for the first time in 16 years was an unbelievable feeling. At the end men were heard telling their young boys, 'Son remember this day, the day we beat Chelsea.'

Then the triumph over Chelsea was followed by the best and most satisfying defeat a football fan could ever experience when the multi-millionaires of Sheikh Mansour’s Manchester City just managed to escape north with the three points, acknowledging it was the hardest game they had played in all season.

Of course a rational supporter would still bemoan the fact QPR actually lost the game 3-2. Mere detail. It felt like a win.

Naturally it would have been icing on the cake if striker Heidar Helguson has edged that late header just a fraction lower and a tad to the right so that it didn’t hit the bar and instead achieved the 3-3 draw the R’s so richly deserved.

If only the QPR attack had shown the same ruthless finishing exhibited by Dzeko, Silva and Yaya Toure the result would have been very different.

Despite the loss, on the way out of the ground there was a purr of contentment over the fact that Neil Warnock’s still makeshift team had pressed this season’s likely Premier League champions all the way to the final whistle.

The only slight tinge of disappointment was that if only the QPR attack had shown the same ruthless, clinical finishing exhibited by Dzeko, Silva and Yaya Toure the result would have been very different.

But what the hell, it’s still work in progress and thanks to the benign ownership of Tony Fernandes the team could be strengthened further in January.

The season could not have started much worse. The owners, the aging playboy Flavio Briatore and Chelsea supporter Bernie Ecclestone, whose daughter recently spent £12 million on her wedding, obviously wanted to sell. Total spending in the transfer window to prepare QPR for the Premier League - £1.2m million for striker D.J.Campbell. All the other newcomers such as Jay Bothroyd, decent though they are, were frees.

The owners had only escaped by the skin of their teeth a major points deduction that would have plunged the club into the Championship pay-offs because of irregularities over the signing of Alejandro Faurlin.

The only things that Briatore and Eccelstone can legitimately claim is that they saved the club from oblivion and that – eventually after a long and torturous process - found in Warnock the manager capable of taking QPR to the promised land.

Everything else was chaos.

Maybe Ecclestone and Briatore were already too rich to be bothered about small sums such as £40 million.

Along the way Briatore:

  • Killed off the club mascot Jude the cat because black cats are apparently unlucky in Italy, though not in Shepherds Bush
  • Ordered half-time team changes via mobile phone while attending Grand Prix races in Asia and often tried to pick the team
  • Contributed to, and almost certainly caused, the managerial revolving door that saw more than eight managers in three years .
  • Filled the club with expensive Italian starlets not one of whom managed to carve out permanent first team places
  • Then to add insult to injury the duo decided to celebrate promotion by increasing the price of  season tickets by more than 40 per cent.

But the damning charge against Bernie and Flavio is that they just didn’t care and a quick return to the Championship was a racing certainty if they had remained in charge.

They obviously thought they must shift QPR quickly, particularly after the opening day 4 nil home defeat to Bolton in front of a less than full ground, before the club became a basket case.

If Warnock had to go so be it.

The really odd thing of course is that as businessmen they didn’t find the £40 million a year in television fees more attractive and work out that by investing in the club they might have secured continuing Premier League status. Maybe they were already too rich to be bothered about small sums such as £40 million.

Fernandes hasn’t put a foot wrong although he has also explained he plans to run QPR as a stable business.

Thank God they didn’t decide to stay because at almost the last minute the cavalry arrived in the unlikely shape of Fernandes, the owner of AirAsia and a West Ham supporter who had tried unsuccessfully to buy the East London club.

The result was a blur of excitement in the days before the summer transfer window closed – Luke Young, Joey Barton, Anton Ferdinand, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Armand Traore- players that QPR could only have dreamed about a few days before, even though there was a reason most of them were available.

Since those dramatic days Fernandes hasn’t put a foot wrong although he has also explained he plans to run QPR as a stable business. There will be no limitless pots of money.

Jude the black cat mascot is back and season ticket holders each received a £50 rebate even though it was in the form of club shop vouchers.

Some issues still have to be sorted out. What do you do about a problem like Adel Taarabt, the sulky and disruptive Moroccan who virtually single-handedly propelled QPR into the Premier League with 19 goals and 15 assists last season.

His tally so far this season? No less than 29 shots on goal. Goals none. Assists none.

Taarabt has yet to prove that he can rekindle his moments of magic in the Premier League and he could now be sold to Paris St Germain in the January window.

The biggest question of all is of course can QPR avoid the drop this season. Almost certainly the answer is “yes” particularly if the form and spirit displayed against Manchester City can be replicated against weaker teams.

With all the promoted teams – Norwich, Swansea and QPR- all in mid-table you might even see that rare event, all three surviving, something that hasn’t happened for a decade.

Meanwhile it’s just time to rub your eyes in disbelief, enjoy the ride whatever the destination and look forward to dining in Delia’s restaurant after the trip to East Anglia for QPR’s away trip to Norwich later this month.

Other recent QPR stories you might like:

Ballon D'Oh Nominations 2011: QPR's Tweet and Tender Hooligan Joey Barton

QPR's Adel Taarabt And Football's Other Inbetweeners

5 Reasons For QPR Fans To Be Cheerful

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