What fun it must be to work in the Queen’s Park Rangers press office these days. Normally attuned to the latest managerial casualty being splashed all over the back pages, the boys at Loftus Road have been churning out the positive news as though it’s a never-ending, renewable source – and what a difference it makes. Season tickets have already sold out, and there is a buoyant air of expectation among the QPR family on Twitter. Rumours continue to circulate, some nothing short of tremendous (Junior Hoilett) and others potentially suspect (Craig Bellamy). Owner Tony Fernandes has announced that, despite the arrival of Ji-sung Park – who will almost certainly be the most high-profile acquisition of the summer window – there will be more to come.
With FourFourTwo yet to release their annual pre-season preview, replete with the usual hilarious betting odds (Rangers were around 2,500-1 to be Premier League champions last year), the expectation level is yet to be fully worked out. For the board it is surely to improve on last year’s placing and achieve survival by April, instead of on the final day. However, it must be taken into account that there are probably only five or so sides that are likely to finish below the R’s come May 2013. Aston Villa, for instance, abysmal last season, may well reach the top half courtesy of the arrival of Paul Lambert. So is 15th a fair guess? Does there even need to be a “desired” placing? There are so many questions such as these, all of which are yet to be answered.
Stature-wise, it certainly appears as though the club’s management is deliberately trying to forge a “new look” for QPR, albeit in a way wholly different to the lies, broken promises and betrayals of the five year plan administration. Beyond the foundation of a new city named after and centred on the club, supporters have been treated to almost every upgrade and exciting promise in the book. The latest concerns a possible new stadium, with a capacity that could, according to rumours be up to 45,000. Given the furore that has surrounded previous debates on stadia and moving away from Loftus Road, it is surprising that the present speculation has instigated very little apart from a handful of “oohs” from excited fans.
Perhaps this is connected to the altered fan base the club now possesses. There has been a gentrification process in W12: there can be no doubting this. Even with the season ticket price freeze, supporters are still being asked to fork out at least £600 to watch their team. At last, however, there is genuine justification besides the effect of loyalty and dedication to signing away such a huge amount of money to watch Rangers. The signings of Robert Green, Ryan Nelsen, Samba Diakite, Fabio and Andy Johnson have lent the squad an air of quality and experience that it lacked before, having been essentially a Championship-winning side with a handful of ineffective top flight old boys.
With the Asian tour underway, and a month to go until the new season begins against Swansea City, it is hard to envisage a great many more additions, certainly not without disrupting the team and its preparations. The board, manager and coaching staff ought to be applauded for having concluded the vast majority of the club’s transfer activity prior to this tour. Not only will the period in Thailand and Malaysia be an excellent way of bedding in the new signings and forging a strong team bond, it could also go a long way to deciding the starting XI and determining how successfully the team begins the 2012/13 campaign. Only time will tell.