Saturday, 1 September 2012

just another quiet week at QPR

Wow. What a week to be a QPR supporter. 

Incredibly, having added more new blood to the squad than any other Premier League club, the Rangers did continue to make more signings as the transfer window deadline was looming. Of these, Stéphane Mbia looks to be an astute addition. His thirty-six caps for a pretty good footballing nation (Cameroon) suggest that the former Marseille man is no mug. Another plus is his versatility. The twenty-six year old Yaoundé-born player can apparently operate as a defensive midfielder and at centre-half. The latter position is certainly one about which many Rangers fans had concerns, and the opening day debacle at home to Swansea City only raised this level of concern about the robustness of the back line. So it really is to be hoped that Mbia adds some much-needed steel in this area. A pity, then, that the deal was only done late last night, meaning that the  versatile Cameroonian cannot make his debut at the Etihad Stadium this afternoon because even without the stricken Aguero in their side, it seems inconceivable that Manchester City will not manage to score today. Expect, therefore, to see Rob Green picking the ball out from the back of the net at least a couple of times, not least if our goalie's confidence has been affected by the prospect of competing for this place with another new arrival, the former Inter Milan 'keeper Julio Cesar, a much-capped Brazilian with five Serie A titles to his name. The South American is not able to play right away, there seemingly being the matter of a work permit to sort out, hence Green's inclusion in the team today.

haters gonna hate
The Rangers' acquisition of a world-famous and well-regarded goalkeeper is one of the signings that seems to have brought out the worst in some supporters of other clubs. The later signing of Real Madrid's Esteban Granero also appeared to provoke similarly incredulous and hostile responses. Indeed, this week, any QPR fan who uses Twitter can't have failed to notice a fairly steady outpouring of bile towards our lovely little club. Why? Well, some fans of the top flight's big hitters appear to resent the idea of a club they perceive to be marginal having the temerity to compete for well-known players in the transfer market. Some supporters of our fellow Premier League makeweights, meanwhile, seem to be drawn to the idea that QPR are recklessly overspending and should therefore be accused of attempting to buy success. But who isn't? Consider the large sum of money spent by Southampton on just one player. Consider, too, the eye-watering figures that Sunderland and West Ham are prepared to pay for escapees from Wolves, one of last season's relegated sides.

On the face of it, the economics of ours club are, perhaps, a bit hard to understand. How can a recently-promoted side meet the presumably astronomical wage demands of the likes of Granero and Julio Cesar? How can a club with a small and outdated stadium, and a history of only quite modest success, persuade players of this calibre to come to Loftus Road? Well, in the case of every new signing, the player mentions having been convinced that QPR is heading towards an exciting future. The Brazilian 'keeper even went so far as to say he dreams of winning the Premier League with the Rangers. Steady on, Julio. Sounds nice. But that sort of talk will only attract more mockery. 

If you choose to be cynical or pessimistic (not unknown traits among QPR fans), you may well be worrying about the future of the club. When others suggest that the current spending on players' wages is setting us up for a Portsmouth-style meltdown, perhaps you wonder darkly if there might be some truth in that. But for that scenario to unfold, there would need to be either a major change of heart or a major change of fortunes on the part of the club's owners. Were Tony Fernandes, particularly, ever to walk away from our club and leave it in a parlous financial state, his desertion would surely go down in history as one of the most striking examples of going from hero to zero.

in Tony we trust?
Many CEOs of major businesses really struggle to understand how social media should work as part of the marketing mix for their organisations. Many of them worry about the exposure of internal corporate affairs to the scrutiny of customers and potential customers. A good number of them remain unsure about their own personal social media activity in this complicated and quickly evolving context. Fernandes, though, stands out as a CEO who embraces social media much more enthusiastically than most of his fellow business leaders. In doing so, he appears to have created a very positive personal brand, first in his home country and now among QPR fans. This will surely work to his advantage. Having closed the emotional distance between himself and Rangers supporters (and indeed between himself and customers of his various businesses), he is well positioned to ask for patience and understanding should he hit any bumps in the road. But there is a downside here. Right now he is engaging with customers and with QPR supporters and is getting a lot of love for being so approachable, personable and open. That would surely change, though, if his airline seriously failed its passengers or if his stewardship of our club were to go badly wrong. Angry people would not be railing against a faceless corporation or against a distant, unknowable figure. Instead, they would feel personally betrayed and, perhaps, rather more inflamed as a result. Would his personal brand ever recover from something like that? Perhaps not. It would be a pretty spectacular fall from grace. 

So to believe that Fernandes might lead QPR back towards the financial ruin the club so nearly faced in recent years is to believe that he is capable of seriously miscalculating the unusually open way he chooses to do business. Unless you know the man personally, perhaps its impossible to form a strong belief one way or another about how likely it is that our Chairman will one day come unstuck in that way. In the meantime, many of us choose to place our faith in the man. Thus far, the signs surely continue to be good.

in Amit we trust?
Faith in Fernandes aside, another factor that would seem to mitigate the risk of a future Portsmouth-style scenario is the presence of Amit Bhatia on the QPR board, representing his Croesus-like father-in-law. The Daily Mail's mischievous Charles Sale has suggested today that the Mittal family did seriously consider withdrawing their support for the club this summer. But, as ever with this sort of stuff, Sale's assertion lacks a quote or any other supporting evidence. Probable shit-stirring, then. After all, Bhatia continues to be visibly and vocally excited by his role at QPR. Again, you are free to believe what you want and trust who you want. But, for now, we lack evidence to support any suggestion that Amit Bhatia's appetite for our club's success is lessening.

Putting all this aside, let's hope that Mark Hughes and his staff find a way of blending these new signings into an effective team. Perhaps it's too much to ask that this will bear fruit today in Manchester. But if you can't enjoy the experience of supporting QPR now, it does beg the question whether you ever will. These are exciting times. Not without challenge. Not entirely without doubt. But exciting times nevertheless.


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