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Warnock's Rangers look the real deal

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Paul Fletcher | 20:37 UK time, Saturday, 21 August 2010

At Loftus Road

QPR manager Neil Warnock was at The Oval watching the Test match between England and Pakistan on Wednesday when he found out that Jon Walters had joined Stoke City.

Warnock had been trying to sign the want-away Ipswich forward for weeks and spent 14 hours in his office on Tuesday trying to put together the finishing touches to a deal.

He was so frustrated at missing out on the player that when he returned home from the cricket he headed straight out on his bike and cycled around Richmond Park for two hours in an attempt to blow off some steam.

"Walters could have done two jobs for me - playing out wide and up front," Warnock told me. "Missing out on him means I have to try to sign at least two more players."

QPR manager watches his team defeat Scunthorpe Warnock may be 61 but his passion for the game is as strong as ever.

Warnock is insistent that his Rangers team is very much a work in progress and is desperate to sign two strikers before the transfer window closes at the end of the month.

"I think at the moment we are in the top six-to-10 bracket but with a couple more forwards we can have a real go at getting in the play-offs," he added.

However, after watching Rangers repeatedly slice open Scunthorpe at Loftus Road, Iron boss Nigel Adkins said he expected QPR to claim an automatic promotion place.

On the evidence of Saturday's display, it is easy to see why Atkins thinks QPR are capable of mounting a strong push for promotion to the Premier League.

Bradley Orr and Heidar Helguson found the net but the 2-0 scoreline could have been a lot more one-sided if Iron keeper Joe Murphy had not pulled off a string of sensational saves.

The result lifted Rangers to the top of the Championship and they have now started a league campaign with three straight wins for the first time since 1947. They are the only team in the division with a 100% record and have yet to concede while averaging three goals a game.

After years of instability (Rangers had five different managerial combinations last season alone), there finally seems to be a sense of togetherness and some much-needed leadership at the London club.

They have a strong-willed manager in the experienced Warnock, who looks to be blending a side that boasts both steel and skill.

"The club has let me manage," said Warnock. "Everyone knew there would be a time when they had to give the job to a trusted manager rather than changing all the time."

Warnock told me that the period between his appointment in March and the end of last season gave him a valuable opportunity to assess his squad.

The first thing he concluded was that the club had too many loan players. Warnock estimated that there were eight when he arrived and felt that it reduced the sense of unity that you only get from permanent signings.

He also thought that he was short of experience. The subsequent arrival of goalkeeper Paddy Kenny, defensive duo Orr and Clint Hill and midfielder Shaun Derry has given Rangers a combative edge that was previously absent.

The QPR boss was asked several times after Saturday's victory to pay tribute to his eye-catching players, particularly the scintillating Adel Taarabt, yet he repeatedly stressed that from a manager's point of view players such as Derry are invaluable.

Taarabt was the captain on Saturday in the absence of the injured Fitz Hall, but it was noticeable that it was Derry who relayed instructions from the manager to the rest of the team.

Derry and Argentine Alejandro Faurlin were outstanding in a deep-sitting central midfield role, allowing the team's creative players the license to pour forward.

Warnock described his job as being like the conductor of an orchestra, trying to bring all the parts together in such a way that they play to their strengths.

In a sense I think that he is shaping a team in his own image. The outspoken Warnock is not to everyone's taste but as much as he is a chippy and abrasive character, he is also undoubtedly colourful and, in my opinion, pretty entertaining.

Adel Taarabt was outstanding against Scunthorpe Stand-in skipper Taarabt was outstanding against Scunthorpe

Nobody provides more entertainment at Rangers than the mercurial Taarabt, who recently signed on a permanent basis from Tottenham after two previous loan spells at Loftus Road.

The 21-year-old was at his impudent best on Saturday, showing flashes of skill that would grace any contest. One graceful spin and turn was particularly sublime, but there was also a cutting edge to his play. He had a hand in both goals and drew several saves from Murphy.

Much has been rightly made of Cardiff's stunning coup in signing Craig Bellamy, but if Taarabt can consistently reproduce Saturday's form then he will undoubtedly be one of the most important players in the division.

With the likes of Hogan Ephraim, Akos Buzsaky, fit-again Martin Rowlands and summer signing Jamie Mackie, as well as Derry and Faurlin, Rangers have plenty of options in midfield. They also look solid at the back, with Hall, Matthew Connolly and Kaspars Gorkss vying for the central defensive spots.

But I can understand Warnock's assertion that he wants to boost his striking options. Helguson scored a goal of great skill on Saturday but he also wasted several other opportunities and, 33 on Sunday, he is unlikely to figure every week.

Leon Clarke has arrived from Sheffield Wednesday but has been a peripheral figure so far, while Patrick Agyemang is out of favour - and Warnock knows he lacks the artillery to last a long and trying season.

Rangers' superb start to the season must also be put in perspective. Warnock has been quick to point out that Barnsley, Sheffield United and Scunthorpe all had good chances to score against his team at a point in their respecive games when the result was far from clear cut.

Scunthorpe opened the season with a victory at Reading, won at Loftus Road last season and thrashed Crystal Palace 4-0 at Selhurst Park when Warnock was in charge of the Eagles. But they have lost key players since last season and were without their first choice central defenders at QPR.

"Our results have flattered us a little bit and I am sure the rub of the green will even itself out at some point," said Warnock.

The 61-year-old is the oldest manager in the division and has won promotion to the Premier League with Sheffield United.

He is far too canny and experienced to start talking up his team at this stage of the season.

But after years when the club have lurched from one bad decision to another, it is starting to look as though bringing the Yorkshireman to the club could pay rich dividends.

You can follow me throughout the season at twitter.com/Paul__Fletcher

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Taarabt is a far too good for this division. His skill and eye for a pass is way above anyone we've seen at Loftus Rd since the premier league days.

    If he keeps his head in tune we may well get promoted within the next two seasons and Tarbs can get his dream move to spain that he so craves.

  • Comment number 2.

    Today gave me a shiver up the back of my spine, of the sort that I haven't felt since the start of the 1975/76 season. At times, it was just like watching pure fanstasy football.

    I have seen enough false dawns over the last 42 years to keep me in sunlight until my dying day, but I am, for the first time in years (probably since Terry Venables' side of 1982/83) beginning to believe that QPR can achieve something special.

    After 15 years of exile from the Premier League and a whole host of potential bankruptcies and disasters, we have the potential, and the manager, to get back to the promised land!!

  • Comment number 3.

    We shall not be moved. You're right pal, best since El Tel's wonders - though don't forget Jim Smith and Gerry Francis' great teams as well.
    eg United 1 QPR 4, new years day 1992!

  • Comment number 4.

    I had a feeling that ths season could finally be ours. Its still early days but we have such a strong team and hopefully Buz, Cook and Rowlands will all have their part to play.

  • Comment number 5.

    Brilliant article and nice to hear some well deserved praise for both The Owners,Chairman,Mr Neil Warnock and the players of Q.P.R. As Mr Neil Warnock would say it is work in progress.We needed a strong manager who would add a bit of steel to the team and Mr Neil Warnock has done just that.The Owners knew who they wanted and perservered in their attempts to get Mr Neil Warnock.Then Mr Neil Warnock over the course of the summer perservered with his attempte to buy Adel Taarabt from Spurs.Adel Taarabt has natural talent and it is fitting that he is playing for us now.Remember Stan Bowels,Tony Currie,Rodney Marsh all players with natural ability and the crowds loved them.Yes i know i am showing my age;but who cares.I have supported Q.P.R. for 40 years and although i live 200 + miles away and cannot go down to see them play at Loftus Road i do try to see them play away when they are in the North of England.I also listen to them via the i-player. Yes we do need to bring in a couple of strikers and i would like us to go for Aaron Mclean of Peterborough.He scored several goals for Peterborough last season and has started this season well.I am not sure about his age or his value though.I do not see it as a big loss that we did not get Walters from Ipswich and do not see us getting Chorpa from Cardiff City.I am sure that Mr Neil Warnock will bring in a striker or two even if it means bringing them on loan.

  • Comment number 6.

    As much as I dislike QPR I think this is their season. They will finish in the top 2 comfortably, I would loved to be proven wrong.

  • Comment number 7.

    Now then - thanks for the comments so far.

    It seems that QPR fans are pretty confident that promotion could be a realistic prospect this season. Is that fair comment?

    And supporters of other clubs - do you reckon that under Warnock, Rangers have what it takes?

    Personally, I think that Loftus Road is a pretty good place to watch football and it would be good to see them in the Premier League again.

    And Warnock - love him or hate him - is always good value.

  • Comment number 8.

    I'm a Spurs supporter and became a fan of Taarabt's after his debut for us in the 4-3 win over West Ham in 06/07. He came on and I think with his first or second time on the ball he took it straight past a few players and won the free-kick Berbatov would score. The fleeting moments we saw of him in a Tottenham shirt after that were enough to convince me we had a great talent on our hands.

    Unfortunately it didn't work out that way with us, but I wish him the best of luck with QPR. He has already made quite an impression in his loan spells and having started very brightly already I'm looking forward to seeing him progress. As a great admirer of Neil Warnock I wish him well too. Unlike some I have a lot of time for him as a person and I think with QPR he has a club he could really do something with. It'll be an interesting season for them either way.

  • Comment number 9.

    I am a Huddersfield Town fan with a soft spot for QPR - what a great ground to watch football at, so close to the pitch. Really liked this article. Any club with Warnock in charge has a good chance of promotion. He was a great manager with Town 15 years ago - he's now got bags more experience but no less enthusiasm. He's been unfairly knocked too many times - good manager & as Fletch says, a true entertainer...the Premier League will only be stronger for his return.

  • Comment number 10.

    I'm always interested to see managers who seemingly keep going back to former clubs to sign players as Warnock has done with Kenny, Hill and Derry and often question the real motives behind the moves - although it no doubt ensures bosses end up with tried and tested guys who they know they can trust. I think QPR will fall short this term but might scape into the play-offs unless they bring in more quality reinforcements and manage to hold on to their gems like Taarabt in the Jan window. I'm suprised Warnock hasn't gone for more loan signings from London's Premiership sides or tried to pick off a few of their more fringe players?..but ofcourse there's still time.

  • Comment number 11.

    I'm another Spurs fan and a 'secret' QPR supporter (my local club) - wish we could have kept him happy at the lane. He really is something special going forward and was fantastic against some major clubs pre-season.

    As the dude above said, he's too good for the Championship... I hope QPR prove the whole team is also and we see you all in the premiership next season!

  • Comment number 12.

    Qpr ST holder and fan here...nice blog Paul and good to see the other comments above.

    In terms of promotion chances I would agree completely with Warnock, the current squad is a 6th to 10th team and that's where I expect us to finish if we dont make any further additions. Given the great start we've made if those vital additions are made (in particular to the front line) then I would say we're a 6th and above team.

  • Comment number 13.

    QPR ST holder and fan here too.

    Enjoyed the article Paul. I feel we have a chance as well this season but agree that without a stand-out striker we may well fall a little short. Having said that Blackpool and Burnley have both been promoted in recent years without prolific strikers in their squads but would still prefer to have one in ours!
    We can't get too carried away though. Last season under Magilton we were getting decent results which saw us in the top four, he was sacked and we went through two caretaker managers which saw us drop to fourth from botom.
    The main difference this season is that the manager has been allowed to manage the team without any interference from board level.

  • Comment number 14.

    Lots of praise for Warnock - I guess to some extent it is all a matter of timing.

    Last season he had obviously become very frustrated with the financial problems at Crystal Palace that left him hamstrung in the transfer market.

    He made the move to QPR - where he can work the transfer market. Yet Palace are now out of administration and have just signed Edgar Davids. Though I must admit, I have my doubts whether we will see all that much of the former Dutch international.

  • Comment number 15.

    @bakes8 Tarbs gets his dream move to Spain if we go up? That makes no sense. He's just signed a three-year deal with us.

    If Spain is his fantasy, why didn't he go there now on a loan deal or sign with one of their more modest teams?

    I was in a prime position to watch him on Saturday and I was knocked out by, not only his dribbling, but those low skidding corners and passes AND his commitment. Lovely to see him chase the ball down and not wait for the passes.

    Special mention should go to Hogan Ephraim too. He wasn't far behind him in class

  • Comment number 16.

    14. At 1:08pm on 23 Aug 2010, Paul Fletcher wrote:

    Yet Palace are now out of administration and have just signed Edgar Davids. Though I must admit, I have my doubts whether we will see all that much of the former Dutch international.
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

    What a ridiculous signing and irresponsible waste of money for a club who have just come out of administration.

    The Championship is a very competetive league, and frankly when Davids played for Tottenham, some years ago now. He was distinctly poor and offered little to their side. Since then he has retired and not played competetive football for some time.

    Even at his peak he was vastly overrated and I do not see what he is going to offer this team despite some publicity that they don't require.

    Surely bringing in some ex Prem academy players who have just been released would make more sense.

    Bring in 5 or 6, develop them at a club where they can get a chance and surely one will shine. You may even sell some for a profit later down the line.

    Take Leon Osman for example at Everton, this was a player who appeared to be going nowhere at the age of 23. He has turned out to be a quality performer and would be a star in the championship

  • Comment number 17.

    If Spain is his fantasy, why didn't he go there now on a loan deal or sign with one of their more modest teams?
    ---------------------------------
    Which Spanish club made him an offer?

  • Comment number 18.

    Well were top winning first three is great for QPR and us fans who some have been moaning an fed up with QPR.
    But now i think were be up there withthe big boys soon, but were ot going to be in silly debt like Man U, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, and Man City.
    These clubs are spending money that isn't theres as were spending money that the Owner Mittal is giving to us as he is a true fan.
    Also whats to make QPR like his home, which i think is great.

    QPR will be a big club again now Flavio has took the back seat, but it's great that we got Flavio, Bernie, and Mittal at QPR but i'm glad Mittal's got the most of the shares.

    Lets hope Mittals sell samosa's and tiger beer at half-time.

  • Comment number 19.

    Good article, Paul, nice for once not be refferred to by the BBC as "QPR's expensively assembled squad", as Warnock has pointed out, he's brought 7 players in so far who cost a third of Ched Evans. Doncaster have probably spent more than us so far.

    I think most Rangers fans will enjoy this while it lasts, it's a mere 3 games, and in each game we could have conceeded goals. While the performances have been pretty good, lets not kid ourselves here in thinking we are anything better than a top half side at the moment.

    Personally, I'd still see Burnley, Cardiff, Leicester, Forest,Ipswich, Boro,Leeds, Hull, and Doncaster, as better equipped at sustaining a challenge. If anyone needs a reminder, good time to mention Port Vale at home, where having fielded some of the squad players, we were outplayed.

    Tarby ? was good for us last season, though when he was out of the side we looked poor. What Warnock has brought in during the close season are seasoned campaigners and willing workers (ie Hill, Derry, Mackie), which firstly enables Taarabt to play his game, mould the team around him, and will also make us more solid and difficult to beat when Taarabt is out of the side.

    Much has been made of our search for a striker (for the past 3 years), and if we can add 2 strikers, one thats of better quality than what we have got, perhaps a left midfielder or left back, a center half as Hall is frequently injured, then we might have half a chance of mounting a top 6 challenge.

    Warnock is ambitious, and secretly I believe he wants to get up this year, which is in our interests, as I can't see us holding on to Taarabt, or more importantly Faurilin, for more than this season if they play the way they have been over the last year.

  • Comment number 20.

    Just wondering what happened to Arsenal loanee Jay Simpson. Like, Tarbo, I thought he might have been another candisate for a permanent move. He picked up quite a few goals for us in a struggling team last season and had a bit of class about him. I'm also wondering whether the defence a bit on the lumbering side. However, well done to Warnock he is transforming the side.

  • Comment number 21.

    No 5 martin

    Im an Aldershot fan like you dead old and your comment AAron maclean hes ex Shots and he could do the business for you,hes still loved down the Shots but not so much Mr Warnock who had two playing seasons there.I lived in Harlesden for many years and watched "strangers" in the wilkins ,wegerle,sinclair era always played football good days.Im glad the club is turning round onwards and upwards

  • Comment number 22.

    I remember as similar article on Sky Sports last season, with player interviews and their belief they could reach the Premier League ... after that piece QPR's form was awful, sliding down the table. Whilst Warnock is building an impressive team, it's far too early in the season to be talking about promotion. This is a tough league.

 

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