It’s time the monied QPR players proved their worth
I’m no Jeremy Clarkson, an act of fate for which I am profoundly grateful, but I can tell a lot from a football club’s car park. It is not necessary to know the difference between a sprocket valve and a spanner to understand that QPR are an upwardly mobile club.
QPR’s training ground, which lies under the flight path to Heathrow, has changed little in the 20 years or so since it was first rented by Chelsea. The offices, glorified portable buildings, are cramped. A small video room, with tiered seating, is one of the few concessions to modernity.
But outside, there’s a car showroom a petrolhead would kill for. Bentley Continentals are parked haphazardly alongside Porsche Panameras with European plates. Customised Range Rovers flank a Ford Mustang. The place reeks of new money and Premier League pretensions.
QPR are following a five-year plan set by their owner, Tony Fernandes, who knows a little about conspicuous consumption from his other sporting role, as owner of the Lotus Formula One team. He bought into a circus when he bought QPR and has put his trust in Mark Hughes as ringmaster.
Hughes is a driven character. His staff are hugely loyal and tell you, unbidden, that he works minimum 12-hour days, seven days a week. Last season’s narrow avoidance of relegation was the signal for an upheaval that is just working through the system. Fringe players have been culled and Joey Barton is being sent to Marseille.
Rangers have recruited a phalanx of thirtysomethings to give stability in what is intended to be a transitional season. Logical on paper, but potentially calamitous, if the mistakes which led to a humiliating 5-0 home defeat by Swansea on the opening day are repeated.
Hughes, who raised eyebrows by offering a three-year contract to José Bosingwa, one of the least impressive European Cup winners of recent vintage, will have to throw more money at glaring weaknesses in the centre of the QPR defence. A pairing of Anton Ferdinand and Clint Hill, who was loaned to Nottingham Forest last season, invites trouble. If Hughes can complete the signing of Michael Dawson from Tottenham, and agree personal terms with Ricardo Carvalho for a season-long loan from Real Madrid, QPR will be moving in the right direction.
Football is a short-term world, and some critics are already whispering about the corrosive nature of complacency, which could be a problem for players who have secured the last fat contract of their careers. Another loss, at Norwich on Saturday, will coax the doubters from the shadows.
It’s time for the boys to earn the right to own their toys.
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