The following article was written by Sandy Macaskill for ‘Telegraph Sport’ – Steve Russell
The Italian, who was at one stage so in love with the West London club that he took to walking the Loftus Road corridors in slippers embroidered with the QPR coat of arms, has already begun courting outside investors. ‘Telegraph Sport’ can reveal that Briatore has told close friends that he had already planned to leave at the end of the season should the team again fail to qualify for the play-offs. However, the former Renault principal’s legal issues with world motorsport’s governing body, the FIA, over the ‘Crashgate’ scandal, a lingering concern that he could become the first to fail the Football League’s fit and proper persons test, and the rumoured possibility of becoming President of Juventus, are thought to have acted as catalysts.
The most popular scenario among supporters would be for Amit Bhatia, the club’s vice-chairman, and his father-in-law Lakshmi Mittal, Britain’s wealthiest man, to relieve Briatore of the burden of his shares and assume total control. However, Briatore entertained potential American investors during QPR’s FA Cup defeat to Sheffield United at Loftus Road on Tuesday, which in turn has encouraged other as-yet un-named parties who have the finances, to begin taking soundings as to whether Briatore’s partners, including Bernie Ecclestone, would be prepared to consider a full takeover.
It comes at a time of severe instability for the club, who are 10th in the Championship and again without a permanent Manager. Paul Hart became the shortest lived Manager in their history when he resigned after just 28 days – one less day than Tommy Docherty in November 1968 – because of the erosion of his influence in the dressing room. Hart’s assistant, Mick Harford, has assumed control for the away trip to Blackpool on Saturday afternoon – the club’s ninth Manager since August 2007 – having received a late call from the Board on Thursday night once it emerged that Hart did not have the support of the Board over his disagreement with Moroccan midfielder Adel Taarabt.
Harford, 50, is now looking at this as an opportunity to stake his claim for the role on a permanent basis, something he failed to do when appointed caretaker after John Gregory was sacked in 2007. There is speculation that Harford’s friend, former Newcastle Manager Joe Kinnear, could take on an advisory role, but whoever is chosen to succeed Hart must have the quality best summed up by Bradley Allen, the former QPR striker, who observed on Friday that whatever else, it must be a man with “rhino skin”.
Sandy Macaskill – Telegraph Sport