Warnock's Rangers look the real deal
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."
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.
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.