As QPR players returned to training , supporters of the club should be looking forward with optimism to a new season of Premier League football. And yet the question on our lips is why the team that won the Championship last season has not been added to? It's obvious that new legs will be essential not only to challenge the top clubs, but simply to survive. What do the club's owners think they are playing at?
Over the past decade, QPR have been a football soap opera. In 2001 there was the ignominy of administration and a truly embarrassing result on the field with FA Cup defeat by Vauxhall Motors. In 2005 there was an alleged gunpoint threat to a director. Between 2006 and 2010 there were no less than thirteen managerial changes until lucky 13 saw the appointment of Neil Warnock.
As a supporter since 1976, I began to believe over the last season that the dark days were ending. With promotion to the Premier League as Football League Champions secured, any supporter could be allowed a little optimism. But.... (there's always a but with QPR). The true elation of promotion was stolen from us by the Football Association who took months and months to make up their minds about whether to take points away from the club over the transfer of Alejandro Faurlin. So, when we went to Watford on 30th April, we knew that a win would put us up and give us the title. In theory. In practice, everything was on hold until the FA hearing which was due to report one day before the final day of the season and many in football expected a heavy punishment. When Watford were duly defeated 2-0, the team celebrated and the fans went berserk for about fifteen minutes, but it was fleeting. Even as we left the ground, most QPR fans were thinking, 'So, we are Champions ... or are we?'
When the news came that there would be no points deduction we were all scattered far and wide making our way to the final game of the season. We had expected to celebrate a shared moment when a game was won, or news of a defeat for a challenger came through: a shared moment, together on what were once the terraces. Instead, my son and I were sitting in a fast food eatery in Shepherds Bush, when we got a text from a Watford fan who had been watching 'Football Focus' simply saying 'No points deduction'. It wasn't how any fan would want the moment of promotion to be marked. It could only happen to QPR.
Now, as the runners up to QPR, Norwich, have already been dipping into the transfer market, the Champions have missed out on targets like Danny Graham and Craig Mackail-Smith. Good but as yet unsuccessful efforts have been made to attract the likes Jay Bothroyd and D.J. Campbell, but the other way, we run the risk of losing Adel Taarabt and seem to be unable to secure Wayne Routledge even though he spent half of last season at Loftus Road on loan. The air of shambles even extends to the club not yet having a shirt sponsor and therefore not having released the shirt for next season while fans of other clubs are already wondering around in new garb. Didn't the owners realise that the team would need a new sponsor in 2011 having signed a three-year deal with Gulf Air, you guessed it, three years ago?
Most importantly, it's hard to believe that a bunch of people who have made a lot of money over the years don't understand the grim reality of the Premier League: teams who arrive from the Championship and try to survive on a shoestring go the way of Blackpool. So in order to explain what is going on, fans can only speculate. And it's speculation that makes some sense. High-ups at the club have long made it clear that they would like to see a big name manager at QPR, so perhaps that explains why they are not supporting Neil Warnock now. Sacking him would be difficult, but if he doesn't get the players he wants, then how long will he stay?
Alternatively, perhaps the majority shareholders (Bernie Ecclestone and Flavio Briatore) themselves do not plan to stick around for long. They have already listened to an offer from the Mittal family to increase their share of the club and while that has been rejected, most QPR fans hope there will be another offer. The reason for that is partly because the Mittals have the money to turn QPR into London's Man City. But it's also because Amit Bhattia, the family's rep on the board until recently, seemed to bring a steady hand to the tiller. It was only when he arrived that the current owners seemed to realise that when a manager is appointed, he needs to build.
So all the speculation in QPR-World is that the Mittals are still interested and that they will rescue the club. But it needs to happen and it needs to happen fast. Otherwise, we will be one season flops in the Premier League and fixtures like Barnsley away on a Tuesday night (nice enough trip though it was) will be back in our diaries all too quickly.