12 September ~ The last time Newcastle were at Loftus Road, QPR had to host the visitors' title celebrations. Championship success is not the only similarity in these clubs' recent histories. Both sets of fans have had to watch their precious clubs abused by incompetent megalomaniacs. No chairman in the country could match the speed with which Flavio Briatore disposed of managers. Allied to that was his inclination to see QPR as a "boutique club", a prime component of which was obscene price rises. At St James' Park, Mike Ashley has meddled while failing to invest. Between them, the two clubs have attracted huge amounts of derision from other fans.

At least QPR fans find themselves at the start of a new era. Briatore and Ecclestone are out, replaced by Malaysian entrepreneur Tony Fernandes. While previous experience means it's difficult not to be wary, the early signs are promising for Rangers fans. Refunds on season tickets and reductions on matchday prices are hugely important gestures – the fans were sick of being ruthlessly squeezed. Meanwhile, Mike Ashley is neither selling Newcastle, nor apparently capable of keeping his clothes on in a Chinese restaurant.

For many observers, however, tonight isn't really a football match; it's simply another episode in the endless soap opera that is the Joey Barton show. Neil Warnock must like setting himself challenges. The Adel Taarabt and Barton midfield pairing for QPR is going to be volatile, possibly explosive. Club veteran Shaun Derry has already predicted "fireworks". Yet if he can keep the melodrama at bay, Barton can still prove himself to be one of England's most talented midfielders.

One thing that you are unlikely to see at Loftus Road is a proven Premier League striker. Alan Pardew has now joined Newcastle fans in bemoaning the club's failure to replace Andy Carroll. For the moment, there is little choice but to trust in Leon Best. He has a journeyman's CV and has never been prolific at the highest level although his double against Fulham offers some encouragement. Two goals is two more than QPR's strikers have managed this season – this week Jay Bothroyd has been attracting comparisons with Michael Ricketts.

This is a defining season for both managers. For all his successes, Neil Warnock has not managed to keep a team up in the Premier League – fail this time and he won't be getting another chance. Alan Pardew's career was drifting badly when Newcastle offered him a surprise return to the big time. But his pragmatic approach last season when guiding his side to a mid-table finish won some admirers – repeat the trick and his reputation will be restored. Newcastle are looking to sustain an excellent unbeaten start. Neil Warnock, in contrast, has decided that QPR's season "definitely starts now". So Bolton's visit never really happened and Loftus Road is still a fortress. Andy Ryan

Comments (1)
Comment by Janik 2011-09-12 23:51:58

"Yet if he can keep the melodrama at bay, Barton can still prove himself to be one of England's most talented midfielders."

Possibly the biggest 'if' in recorded history.

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