Wednesday, 15 September 2010
Yesterday was one of the most satisfying nights any QPR fan could profess to have enjoyed over the past few years. Hearing our supporters taunting their Ipswich Town counterparts with 'We're just too good for you' really does underline the dramatic transition this club has been through since the appointment of Neil Warnock as manager on March 1st of this year. Whilst it would be unfair to pin the R's spectacular transition entirely on the broad shoulders of the outspoken Warnock, it is unquestionable that his arrival has given the club the stability it has needed for some time. So what are the secrets to QPR's success? You could ask the 92 Football League managers in this country and they would all tell you the same thing; an owner who leaves on-the-pitch issues to the manager and creates an environment in which the manager can work free from intrusion, unfair criticism and unnecessary meddling is a pre-requisite for success. This is what Amit Bhatia, son-in-law of QPR majority shareholder Lakshmi Mittal, has given Warnock. The type of solid foundation continuously denied by former owner Flavio Briatore to Iain Dowie, Paolo Sousa, Jim Magilton and Paul Hart. Warnock has been granted the freedom to pick the team, avoiding the type of negative headlines which surrounded Dowie's acrimonious departure in 2008, and mercifully, to sign players. This has resulted in a series of what, on the evidence of the season so far, can only be described as excellent signings. Warnock has blended what he describes as the 'bread and butter' players, such as the rock-solid Clint Hill and Shaun Derry, with the abundant flair and mercurial skill of Adel Taarabt and Jamie Mackie. In doing so he has forged a side which has defeated two pre-season favourites, Ipswich Town and Sheffield United, 3-0 apiece through devastating counter-attacking play, and only conceded two goals all season.
Despite being mentioned earlier, as a fan both captivated and frustrated by his talent in equal measure, I feel Adel Taarabt deserves to be rather more than a mere footnote in the story of QPR's resurgence. A trequartista in the mould of Totti or Zidane, Taarabt is in my eyes the most naturally gifted footballer plying his trade anywhere in the Football League. Further to this, he is the best player I have ever seen wearing the Blue and White Hoops. When Adel arrived at Loftus Road on loan last season, fans were driven crazy by his inexplicable selfishness when, in possession of the ball and predictably marked by multiple opposition players, he simply put his head down and ran, ignoring an unmarked team-mate with a clear sight of goal. Furthermore his petulance, arrogance, rather inflated perception of his own ability and consummate individualism were not exactly the most endearing traits. However this season he has, albeit not entirely, turned into a productive, occasionally-unselfish member of the first team, and this transition is primarily due to the positive influence Warnock has had upon him since arriving at the club. The Yorkshireman has made Taarabt the focal point of his side, and given him the sense of belonging and purpose he would never have been able to find at Spurs, or indeed any of the clubs at which Adel believes he ought to be plying his trade. Handing Taarabt the captaincy in the absence of the injured Martin Rowlands and Fitz Hall has been a masterstroke, forcing Adel to demonstrate a level of maturity and leadership which had previously eluded him. Even deciding to take the unprecedented step of flying out to Morocco in order to persuade the young forward to sign for QPR, Warnock's pursuit of Taarabt was masterful and his management of him so far this season has been even more so. Whilst I believe Adel will leave should the R's fail to win promotion at the end of the season, a small part of me hopes beyond all expectation that the sight of 13,000 QPR fans on their feet applauding him at the weekend, as he was substituted against Middlesbrough having turned in another spectacular performance, will be enough to persuade him to remain in West London for a while longer.
Photos courtesy of (in order): 101 Great Goals