Whilst Manchester City were busy taking their summer spending well beyond £100 million, England’s second wealthiest club spent £500,000 on Plymouth striker Jamie Mackie. This was the first signing made by the latest managerial incumbent at Loftus Road, former Sheffield United boss Neil Warnock. The vastly experienced manager has given Queens Park Rangers a sense of direction and purpose to match their fabulous wealth. The side are currently five points clear at the top of the Championship. Manchester City’s spending has created a sense of unease in the hierarchical Premier League. Sir Alex Ferguson’s remarks concerning ‘kamikaze spending’ could only have been directed at one club. Having won six, drawn one and conceded one can QPR fans expect to be in the PL next season, adopting the role of the division’s most aggressive spenders?
The Loftus Road crowd were in raptures at the arrival of Bernie Ecclestone and Flavio Briatore in late 2007. The duo took control of the club, with the former boasting a personal fortune of £2.24 billion. Christmas had seemingly arrived once more in west London when the family of Lakshmi Mittal acquired 20% of Briatore’s shareholding. The Indian steel tycoon is estimated to be worth £18.4 billion, which compares favourably to the personal fortune of west London neighbour Roman Abramovich. The Mittal family is now believed to have increased their stake in the Hoops. Following the initial takeover the new owners were eager to emphasise the importance of reducing debt and consolidation before reaching for the top flight.
However the presence and interference of Briatore in particular stymied their anticipated progression. The former Renault F1 boss stepped down as club chairman in February, concluding an eventful two and a half years in the post. During his tenure there were an astonishing ten managerial changes and 47 players were signed by Rangers. After Paulo Sousa’s exit Briatore was forced to refute claims that he had picked the team. The colourful Italian spoke with passion and conviction about taking the club to the PL and European competition. Nonetheless fans were justifiably relieved that Ishan Saksena replaced him as chairman of QPR Holdings.
The restructured board moved for marmite manager Warnock in March who made the journey from the financially distressed Crystal Palace. His remit was to steer the club away from the drop zone and they eventually finished 13th in the league. After the takeover, rumours ensued that ageing superstars such as Luis Figo could be tempted to join the R’s. These ostentatious links never resurfaced and Warnock duly brought in Paddy Kenny, Adel Taarabt and the aforementioned Mackie. The club are finally on a distinctly upward trajectory, remaining unbeaten in the league this season. The manager and former Spurs midfielder won the Championship’s manager and player of the month awards for August. Yet the bulk of the attention has been concentrated on Mackie who has already equalled his goal tally of eight for Plymouth last season. He scored a brace away to Leicester at the weekend, capitalising on excellent passing moves from Taraabt and Akos Buzsaky.
The season is not two months old but there is an increasing sense that QPR’s momentum will be hard to shake. The club’s vice-chairman, Amit Bhatia has struck cautious tones by previously calling for a salary cap in the Championship. He is a vocal opponent of club’s being submerged by high levels of debt. But the man who appointed Warnock and is determined to reach the top flight has said: “Premier League football is like gold dust. It adds to some of the sensationalism and excitement to have a Manchester City or a Chelsea with people who are able to spend so much money and do these exciting things.” If all goes to plan he will be able to speak of QPR in the same breath as these eminent clubs.