Following a testing two years in the Premier League, Queen’s Park Rangers have become a club that many supporters barely recognise. The top flight adventure has come at a heavy price indeed.
On Tuesday, a photograph circulated on social network Instagram, which showed goalkeeper Julio Cesar posing with fellow Brazilian and Chelsea defender David Luiz wearing a Blues shirt. In the days of Alan McDonald and Kevin Gallen, this would have been a crime punishable by a public flogging at the very least, and regarded as an act of idiotic disrespect or high treason.
Nowadays, however, it is indicative of a club that has forgotten all it once stood for, where those on the pitch have no respect for the thousands paying through the nose to watch them every week.
A statement was issued by Rangers and there was a minor backlash over the picture, which is foolish at best and moronic at worst, but it is saddening how little fans appear to be surprised or outraged. With nothing more than a muted sigh and a shrug of the shoulders, it is now accepted that absolutely no loyalty should be expected from those paid handsomely to ply their trade at Loftus Road.
Reading will go down because they are simply not good enough for the Premier League, rather like FA Cup finalists Wigan Athletic, while Aston Villa are at risk of proving that you really cannot win anything with kids.
QPR, on the other hand, are being relegated because too many “star” players simply do not give a toss about the club, its supporters and the shirt they are paid to wear. It is the biggest gravy train in English football.
To see a professional footballer throw the ball to a team-mate, only for the latter to knock it straight out of play seconds after a foul throw by the former is hideously amateurish and would embarrass a Conference team. Yet this was what Rangers fans were treated to last Saturday, as the R’s conspired to make Stoke City, a truly shocking team without a win in seven matches, look not only competent but even capable and threatening.
When schoolboy defending generously handed him an open goal in which to give Stoke the lead, Peter Crouch looked vaguely embarrassed, and probably was: by how far his former club have fallen.
Effort, commitment, passion, dedication, loyalty, pride and respect are all hallmarks of the beautiful game as it should be played, but they appear to have lost all meaning in W12, and been squeezed out by money.
So deep is the sense of apathy and alienation that, rather than spitting feathers at the appalling lack of substance at QPR, supporters are numbed to the new reality while crying out silently for change.
Greeting a return to the Championship with relief and anticipation flies in the face of footballing logic, but relegation is exactly what the club needs right now. Some may lament the inevitable loss of almost all the players unwisely recruited this season and last, at enormous expense, but in reality, it is a cathartic necessity.
Four-year plans, boutique club ambitions, the pursuit of Premier League mediocrity and signing Champions League winners have done Rangers no good at all.
From the 0-4 thrashing inflicted on the R’s by Bolton Wanderers two years ago, to the meek surrender against the Potters last week, top flight football has been an unmitigated disaster for QPR. There have been highlights, but even the brightest of all, beating Chelsea at home and away, has been overshadowed by the pitiless destruction of the qualities that made Rangers a club worth following.
Season ticket renewal is by no means under threat, for this club is blessed with a wonderful, long-suffering fan base that has seen far bigger crises in the last 15 years, and is far more valuable than the Malaysian television audience.
Nonetheless, instead of pontificating on Twitter and wasting millions in the transfer market, owner Tony Fernandes must realise there are some problems that money alone cannot solve.
With this in mind, the news that plans for the elite training facility at Warren Farm, which will also house the R’s youth academy, have been approved, heralded the start of a new dawn for QPR.
Egos, mercenaries, faded Premier League celebrities and payday seekers must be moved on to make way for a team that fans want to watch, and a club they feel able to love and respect again.
When financial difficulties threatened to put Rangers out of business in the early 2000’s, fans stood outside Loftus Road with buckets, collecting pennies and pounds to keep the club alive.
In recent years, the opposite has been true, as vast sums, unthinkable back then, have been squandered in the name of hollow “progress” that has seen the achievements of two years ago betrayed by greed and idiocy.
Take Jose Bosingwa, signed as part of the summer “masterplan”, who put two metaphorical fingers up to his paymasters and all those in blue and white hoops by refusing to sit on the bench against Fulham. Such a heinous, unforgiveable offence should have seen the Portuguese player isolated by his team-mates, publicly hanged by manager Harry Redknapp, and being kept as far away from the pitch as possible for his arrogance.
Instead, Bosingwa was restored to the first team remarkably quickly and has been able to make 21 appearances. This is most likely down to expediency, but such brazen disloyalty can never truly be forgotten.
Some might say that the former Chelsea defender is a one-off, but although his peers may not have gone to such great lengths to display utter contempt for the fans, they have chronically underperformed al l year, which is hardly any better.
A clean sweep is needed to rid the club of its deadwood, re-instil the values that were stripped away by two years of Premier League football, and make the unwavering support of those in the stands feel worthwhile.
Over to you, Tony.