FOX Soccer Exclusive
QPR preview: Season of struggle awaits
Beginning our profiles of the Barclays Premier League's three promoted clubs, FOX Soccer looks at last year's Football Championship winners: Queens Park Rangers.
QPR’s 2010-11 was defined on opening day, their blitzing of Barnsley, 4-0, signaling their intent. QPR would never fall out of the automatic promotion places and held top slot for all but two rounds, an incredible achievement.
That said, the biggest moment came not on the field but in the English Football Association's boardroom. QPR was faced with the possible of loss of as many as 15 points and potentially being denied promotion because of a dispute involving Argentine player Alejandro Faurlin, whose transfer to the London club involved a third-party fee. (The FA has opposed these after a fiasco involving Carlos Tevez, West Ham and Sheffield United.) Good enough to have been sought after by the likes of Inter Milan, Faurlin chose QPR because of playing time, and the FA eventually ruled on the final day of the season that the club was not culpable in any of the third-party issues.
ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE
|15||Queens Park Rangers|
The acquisition of DJ Campbell, giving QPR three viable goal scoring options, should be enough to keep Rangers up. FOX Soccer's editorial and writing staff thinks there'll be first dividion football at Loftus Road for 2012-13.
The decision vindicated Farulin's decision to play in London and allowed QPR to hoist the trophy, with manager Neil Warnock revelling in a 24-win season (with only six defeats), a four-point cushion ahead of second place Norwich City, and a place in the first division.
Promotion to the BPL has become something of a poisoned pawn. While last season’s triumph ensured that there will be top level football on view at Loftus Road, whether one of London's smaller clubs can manage to relive the days when Terry Venables led them into Europe (some 30 years ago) remains very much in question.
Like all of the clubs recently promoted to the BPL, staying up appears to be harder than arriving in the first place. Realistically, QPR will start the season fighting against relegation in a league where at least eight of the 20 members begin each year worrying about the drop. Warnock's biggest decision will be whether to attack with the kind of reckless abandon that made Blackpool last year's big story (Blackpool, of course, were relegated) or to simply attempt to patch it together and hope for the best in the West Ham style (West Ham, of course, were relegated). Warnock is known as an inspirational boss so expect plenty of work, but it may not be pretty.
QPR SQUAD WATCH
|MOST EXCITING||Adel Taarabt, provided he's around come Aug. 13|
|MOST VALUABLE||Neil Warnock. Yes, the manager.|
|BEST ACQUISITION||Jay Bothroyd (Cardiff City)|
|OTHER INS||Kieron Dyer (West Ham), Danny Gabbidon (West Ham), DJ Campbell (Blackpool)|
|LOSSES||Pascal Chimbonda (out of contract), Lee Brown (Bristol Rovers), Mikele Leigertwood (Reading)|
|PROSPECT TO WATCH||Bruno Andrade|
Rangers signed Cardiff striker Jay Bothroyd and veteran Kieron Dyer in the first two weeks of July, an indication that they don't have the deep pockets needed to lure big name free agents. (QPR’s transfer budget was reported to be a paltry £1.25m.) Bothroyd, 29, should become attack leader while Dyer was added for his experience and the fact that he is a versatile operative.
Warnock has also acquired Blackpool striker D.J. Campbell and wants to conclude a loan deal that would snag emerging Tottenham right back Kyle Naughton for at least this season. Both would increase the options on a roster that is hardly littered with star names.
One thing won't change: Loftus Road Stadium in the Sherherd's Bush section of the city (capacity: 18,500) is one of the smallest and most compact major grounds in top level football. If QPR supporters can maintain their optimism, it might not be an easy place for anyone to visit.
QPR’s main rivals are, um, Chelsea and Fulham. They aren’t even close to either of those clubs. A better measuring stick will be to see how they perform against Norwich, Swansea, Wigan and Wolves.
Paddy Kenny and Radek Cerny are the goalkeepers expected to battle for the regular job while the defense includes Bradley Orr, Fitz Hall, Clint Hill, Shaun Derry and Danny Shittu, all serviceable players, but not one of them are on anyone's radar for future stardom. Along with Faurlin, Rangers have Icelandic veteran Heidar Helguson, Hungarian Akos Buzsaky and Latvian Kaspars Gorkss. Only Faurlin is under 30, however, which makes you wonder how this aging bunch will survive the rigors the Premier League places on men. Campbell and Bothroyd will form a serviceable pairming up front.
Not unexpectedly, Warnock's teams play a traditional English game, favoring counters, the long ball and a solid defense. There is enough veteran experience here for Rangers to be more than a punching bag, but in order for that to happen, the new strikers must make an immediate impact up front, and the back four must quickly prove it has the speed to deal with the clever attackers it now must face.
|August 13||10:00 A.M. ET||Bolton Wanderers (live, FOXSoccer.tv)|
|August 21||10:00 A.M. ET||at Everton (live, FOX Soccer)|
|August 27||10:00 A.M. ET||at Wigan Athletic (live, FOXSoccer.tv)|
The big name of course is midfielder Adel Taarabt, last year’s leading scorer with 19 goals, and last year’s Football League Player of the Year. The cash-poor club will be sorely tempted to sell him. If he stays and can repeat his pyrotechnics, QPR might have some cut and thrust.
Survival in the BPL would be considered a major success, if not an outright act of magic pulled off by Warnock. One thing in QPR's favor is the glut of other clubs in very similar circumstances which means avoiding the drop could come down to attitude and fighting qualities. That's something Warnock is very good at developing. His teams have always reflected his personality.
Look for Rangers to hit the January transfer market in need of at least two squad players who can keep them on course to avoid relegation. If management has the funds Warnock will surely need, then BPL football might still be at Loftus Road in 2012-13.
Jamie Trecker is the senior editor for FOXSoccer.com covering the UEFA Champions League and the Barclays Premier League.