1. A lot of Hull City fans will associate QPR with big money spending then living to regret it. Is that fair? What's the current state of the finances?
Yes that’s completely fair and the finances are not great.
Tony Fernandes came in just after promotion in 2012 and the club went a bit loopy. First Neil Warnock brought in some big-ego problem children like Shaun Wright-Phillips and Joey Barton which cost him his job when the dressing room spiralled out of control. Then Mark Hughes and his special friend Kia Joorabchian went absolutely nuts, bringing in the likes of Julia Cesar, Ji-Sung Park, Jose Bosingwa and so on. And finally everybody’s favourite chancer Harry Redknapp took over a club second bottom of the Premier League going into an away game at Sunderland and left it two years and nearly £200m later second bottom of the Premier League going into an away game at Sunderland. It was a lethal combination of naïve, rich owner wanting big name signings to promote himself and his businesses in the Far East through football, and football managers and their favoured agents running amok when given a blank cheque. Of course QPR, size and infrastructure wise, is barely a Championship club so to be paying the sort of wages and transfer fees we were to the sort of players we got was not only absolutely ruinous, but was also incredibly stupid because the players were only here for the money, didn’t give a sh*t about the club and didn’t perform at all on the pitch.
We have spent the last two and a bit years clearing this up and trying to get the club onto something of an even keel. We hired the CEO from Burnley Lee Hoos who is sharp as a tack and tight as a mouse’s waistcoat to try and get the finances under control but to a certain extent he’s fighting a losing battle. The cost of running QPR – ground maintenance, policing, drainage, utilities, rent on two West London training grounds etc – before a single wage is paid is just shy of £9m. The season ticket income is between £5-6m. In 2015/16 with the maximum parachute payment, £4m from Charlie Austin’s sale and £10m from the Raheem Sterling move to Man City the club still lost £11m, and that was despite halving the wage bill from the season before.
2. What business was done during the summer? Which players have started the season well?
With all that financial stuff in mind, and the absolutely bat-sh*t crazy prices being paid for even mediocre Championship players, we’ve had a quiet summer. Steven Caulker is the last of the stupid-money brigade so if somebody takes him before deadline it may free up some cash for some more additions. We signed Josh Scowen on a free from Barnsley to fill a troublesome spot in front of the defence. Grant Hall played well there last season - QPR won 13 and drew seven of 34 with him, without him they lost nine of 12 – but he’s got ongoing knee problems so Scowen has slotted in and done well so far. Alex Baptiste has come in from Middlesbrough, I’ve always thought he was a bit of a clogger personally but it looks like he’s only come in as cover. We’ve also loaned Kazenga Lua Lua from Brighton who was here last season but injured a lot.
QPR have grown used to signings flowing in and out and the fans kind of expect it now and see a new signing as the answer to every problem. That’s despite the financial situation I’ve already outlined, and the fact that for all the comings and goings we never seem to get any better. Hopefully the financial constraints will force us to sign fewer players but think more carefully about who we do buy, and hopefully the “announce Ravel, announce Bogle” mouth breathers on social media will wake up to this reality. You can say the team is short in this area or that but the fact of the matter is we have Jay Emmanuel Thomas, Nasser El Khayati, Steven Caulker, Jack Robinson, Matt Ingram, Jordan Cousins, Grant Hall, Sean Goss, Matt Smith, Ariel Borysoiuk, Yeni Ngbakoto, Idrissa Sylla and a whole host of 20-something youth team graduates either sat on the bench, long term injured or not involved at all. That’s a huge chunk of first team wage inactive, and the club can’t just keep layering more and more players on top of that until some of it is shifted. We did at one time, that’s how we ended up in this state.
3. How's the home form been in 2017 and are the crowds turning up in good numbers? Are fans happy with what's happening at QPR?
Season ticket sales have held up surprisingly well but crowds have levelled out at around 12,000-14,000 which is pretty much what QPR have expected as the hard-core for the last 15 or 16 years in this division and the one below.
As you can probably tell from the previous answer the fans are very divided. There are those of us who believe the club currently has to take its medicine for its past follies, cannot compete in the current over-heated transfer market, would be much better focusing on youth and lower division players (and crucially give them some time to settle into the team) and think director of football Les Ferdinand and CEO Hoos are doing a good job. And then there are those who think we’ve got rich owners, the squad is short in key areas, we should make loads of signings, we should pay £1m for Omar Bogle, we should sign Ravel Morrison, Ferdinand’s an idiot, Hoos is an idiot etc etc. Everybody’s entitled to a point of view, but you only have to have a quick read of the Financial Fair Play regulations, QPR’s accounts and the completed transfers elsewhere in the Championship this summer (and how much they cost) to see who’s right.
4. Are the Tune Group still your owners? What do you think of them?
Yes they are, and not much.
It could be much, much worse. They’re not malicious owners in the way the Allams or the Oystons are. They converted just shy of £200m-worth of debt accrued in shareholder loans during the Hughes and Redknapp eras into equity – basically writing it off. They stuck another £60m of their own money in during 2014/15 to get us technically under the FFP barrier – ongoing legal case about whether that should be allowed or not. It was there poor decision making and naivety that caused all this, but they didn’t (as many other owners have done) load the resulting debt onto the club so credit them for that.
Let’s not get all misty eyed and pretend they bought QPR for the love of the club or the game. They wanted a Premier League football club in London with Air Asia and Tune all over the shirts as a marketing vehicle for their business in the Far East. It was a vanity and marketing project. It’s cost them a bomb, but not anything they can’t afford. I wish for their sakes, and ours, that we’d had the director of football system we have now at the start when the money was flowing. Somebody who knew football to sit between the board and the manager and say ‘no’ to stupid ideas like signing Julio Cesar on £100,000 a week a fortnight after you signed Rob Green on £50,000 a week. If we had Hoos and Ferdinand running the club back then, none of this would have happened. Instead they hired what they saw as industry experts – Hughes and Redknapp – gave them the keys to the safe and encouraged the signing of big-name players to “build the brand”.
5. Ian Holloway, marvel or muppet? He's a guy who splits opinion, what's the concensus at Loftus Road?
Well he’s smarter than I think a lot of people give him credit for. He’s been promoted three times at unfashionable clubs Palace, Blackpool and QPR and there are a lot of managers regarded in much higher esteem than him who haven’t got anything like that on their CVs. Dave McIntyre, one of the local journos who covers QPR in more depth than anyone else, says, and I think he’s right, that Holloway always runs in a cycle. He starts off keeping it nice and basic and being a motivator and what have you and that works, but then as results improve he starts tinkering and trying to show what a clever, brilliant manager he is at which point he goes into long losing runs which are only snapped when he returns to basics and so the cycle starts again. That was very pronounced last season when he lost six in a row to start with, and seven of the last eight, with a good run in the middle. The end of the season in particular, which nearly got us relegated, and featured some unfathomable team selections, burnt off a lot of credit with QPR fans but he’s started this season quite well.
6. Give us a QPR player who might shine? Score prediction and what are away facilities like at Loftus Road? And before the match, anything to do nearby?
The three midfielders – Scowen, Massimo Luongo and particularly Luke Freeman – are tidy players and have started the season well. If we get them motoring, and Polish wing back Pawel Wszolek going up the right side and swinging the crosses over, we’ll have a decent chance of a result.
Not been in the away end but I gather it is expensive and basic – I’d still take Loftus Road every day of the week over some out-of-town identikit Middlesbrough/Coventry/Derby/Southampton/Reading sh*thole though personally.
Shepherd’s Bush has changed a lot, gone all yuppiesh and replaced a lot of pubs with ****
pits like Brewdog, The Sindercombe Social and The Pocket Watch in recent times but there’s still a huge array of places to drink and you’ll struggle to find a wider range of cuisines than the restaurants and takeaways down the Uxbridge Road. Westfield is spitting distance as well if you fancy doing a few laps of the seventh circle of hell before moving down towards the ground.