Q: Choose your starting line-up from the current squad
A: I’ll do this in terms of who is available to us at present. Firstly, I would start with Radek Cerny in goal because at the time of writing, Andy Marshall has not signed up yet and it’s too much of a step up for Elvijs Putnins.Across the back -four, I would start with Peter Ramage at right back, while he doesn’t give you maximum potential going forward, he is part of a strong defensive unit. I would like to see Kaspars Gorkss and Damion Stewart rekindle their glorious partnership in the middle that saw the R’s defend stoutly for the majority of the season, with Matthew Connolly the best choice left-back we have at present.
Into midfield, and I would opt for Hogan Ephraim over Wayne Routledge. The latter looks a little disinterested and I think he needs a slight reality check with a talented player like Hogan waiting in the wings. At the heart of midfield, while not being the most talented as individuals, they form the best partnership, Gavin Mahon and Martin Rowlands have displayed excellent potential in pre-season as they appear on the best wavelength of all possible partnerships. Akos Buzsaky would appear wide left for me, but we are spoilt for choice in terms of talent going forward. We don’t necessarily get the best from Akos in that position, but it promotes a better team performance in my opinion. However, he could be interchangeable with Adel Taarabt who I’d have playing in the hole behind a solitary striker. We have a wealth of talent in attacking midfield areas and I would be willing to sacrifice a misfiring striker to accommodate this. A straight choice between Rowan Vine and Alessandro Pellicori, depending on team tactics, would be my preference in a lone strikers’ role.
Q: What are your thoughts on the new players coming in and the ones that have left ?
A: I think we have been wise in our disposal of players and have commanded good fees for the likes of Camp, Blackstock and Delaney, all who seemed surplus to requirements by Magilton himself. Pellicori looks a wise inclusion to replace Blackstock, and looks a cut above the former Saints man in terms of aerial prowess, in terms of flick-ons and keeping the ball moving. The other two haven’t essentially been replaced with Marshall and Borrowdale seemingly interim measures. Adel Taarabt was a useful capture and if he can reproduce the positives from his game last season and iron out the creases, we could have a real talent on our hands and could prove the difference between mid-table and top-six.
I haven’t yet seen Alejandro Faurlin play, because as a fair-weather fan I couldn’t get to Croatia and Slovenia ! The price tag looks weighty indeed but must not be taken at face value – there are many variables to its construction. If what was has been quoted concerning the player is true, then we could have an excellent prospect on our hands, someone who we could command big money for in the future. The greatest aspect of it is that he is ours to shape with time on his side.
Q: Who do you think will be the star of the team this season ?
A: We have many talents in our side as previously mentioned, but without seeing enough of Pellicori or Faurlin, I can’t comment effectively on their potential for the coming season. However, Taarabt and Buzsaky have proven pedigree at this level and at the peak of their game can wreak havoc on this division. Taarabt in particular gets criticism for the undeveloped part of his game, but that raw intensity to run at defenders and take on all-comers is something to be shaped not discouraged. Personally, I am all in favour of a selfish player that can finish off chances rather than ‘dollying’ the ball around the six-yard box without reward.
Q: What are your thoughts about QPR on and off the pitch at this time ?
A: This club is constantly adapting and changing by the second, both on and off the field. I am constantly in two minds what to think about the situation at the club. Without getting into extreme politics of the situation, prices haven’t risen fairly in comparison with product, if indeed you link the two and the managerial turnover gives little ground for stability. These are all past instances however and the key phrase from the question ‘at this time’ must be taken into consideration. Briatore et al have in fact lowered season ticket prices for the first time in many years, which cannot go without mention regardless of economic circumstances.
For the first time in a while, we have a ‘Manager’ who wants to bring football back to Loftus Road – at this point I’ll ignore the fact that Dowie stated that he would do the same ! He has an able assistant in John Gorman who I have a lot of respect for and we have an excellent squad of players that need to show their potential. What has gone before us should and has been taken on board, but I live in hope the club and the fans can move forward in unison, because ultimately however much people dislike the fact, we share a common goal – Promotion.
Q: Who do you think will go up this season and who will go down to League One ?
A: Going up I believe will be Sheffield United who have spent good sums of money in strengthening their squad with the likes of Ched Evans. Middlesbrough are my favourites out of the three relegated sides to bounce back because of their youth policy and players in their set-up with already proven Championship pedigree. Finally, if Nottingham Forest can see their line-up gel, Billy Davies has the pedigree to lead them to play-off glory. Their fire-power should be enough to secure their play-off place, but their back-line will remain a concern to many Forest fans.
Going down I believe firstly will be Scunthorpe United – Nigel Adkins’ side has relied heavily on the goals of Gary Hooper and Paul Hayes, two players that previously have failed at this level, and an inexperienced defence may cost them several goals. Barnsley’s constant battle with relegation could come to an end this season with their rivals stepping up and signing the right players. Barnsley’s policy of foreign players may prove to kick them in the teeth in what will be a tougher battle this season. Finally and most surprising, financially-troubled Watford under the guidance of Malky Mackay, have some talented individuals, it remains to be seen whether they can turn this into team performances and fire Watford away from the dreaded relegation zone.
Q: With ever spiralling wage demands, should there be a salary cap in the Football League ?
A: It’s a very tough issue and there are good cases for both sides. A salary cap would undoubtedly deter the better players from dropping into our leagues and could in fact end up stifling the progress that has been made in abundance throughout the years. Obviously I cannot defend the viability of such a high wage for a footballer, but we are in a consumer based marketplace and if clubs continue to receive revenue from supporters in terms of ticketing and merchandise and externally from sponsorship, then they can afford to pay the money. Who are we to say that an investor shouldn’t be allowed to spend his money how he sees fit ? It would deter investors and money into football and the product across the Football League would be dramatically reduced as a consequence. This issue was significantly more burning when QPR had little money to spend and David Davies proposed the wage cap scheme – something evidently I was in favour of at the time from a purely selfish point of view. If this scheme is realistically proposed, the politics of envy may take hold and we will be the first in the firing line.
Q: Lastly, are Championship ticket prices too high ?
A: It’s a similar dilemma to the above and it varies depending on the club and individual prices. Starting more generally, I would say that ticket prices are indeed too expensive in light of the current economic climate – even with a slight reduction. It all hinges on supply and demand with the larger Grounds such as Middlesbrough able to be fair with their prices because they have a Ground to fill, where as Loftus Road doesn’t have many spare tickets to play with and ultimately can charge a premium to fill the gaps. I think they’ve done a good thing to reduce prices for season ticket supporters, the ones who follow their team week in – week out and charge more for fans who pick and choose their fixtures. That is not to call them inferior to season ticket holders in the slightest, but to say on a one-off basis the prices become more affordable.