15 January ~ The recent histories of QPR and Newcastle United have thrown up a good few parallels – awash as they are with tales of the type of head-shaking nuttiness for which football is now famous. The recently released film The Four Year Plan is an excellent, if slightly frightening, fly-on-the-wall account of the lunacy that was QPR under the control of Flavio Briatore and Bernie Ecclestone. It really is utterly bonkers, but however much our fans might say "only at Rangers", I'm sure our Geordie friends could have gathered more than enough footage for a feature film of their own over the last few years.
At Rangers, the unaffectionately nicknamed Tango and Cash are mercifully long gone. Now we have a new populist owner in Tony Fernandes. He is in some ways the antithesis of the last lot. He's all over Twitter. He is engaging and open with fans. He has dropped ticket prices and is buying players we have no right to afford.
However, we saw last week that, underneath it all, Fernandes and co-owner Amit Bhatia are still no-nonsense businessmen. Neil Warnock may be hard to love at times, but many felt his departure was a little harsh on a man who had lifted the Championship trophy with a team that was far greater than the sum of its parts only a few months ago. It's a little bit like Chris Hughton's situation at Newcastle.
Nevertheless, some questionable tactics, inconsistent selections and – crucially – a poor run of recent results, were enough to have Fernandes sharpening his axe. It's tough on Warnock, but maybe not completely unexpected.
Amid the furore over Warnock's departure and the swift arrival of Mark Hughes, a more immediate problem has received less attention: Rangers have no midfield. The loss of Alejandro Faurlin for the season with a cruciate ligament injury was a big blow for Rangers. Almost without being noticed, Faurlin has been (at times) sensational this season. It reached the point where QPR fans were starting to hope he played badly against the top clubs in case one of them cottoned on and whisked him away. With Joey Barton suspended and Adel Taraabt and Armand Traore off at the African Cup of Nations, our already struggling squad suddenly looks decidedly threadbare.
Once again there are some similarities with Newcastle, who themselves are missing two key players on Cup of Nations duty: Demba Ba and Cheick Tioté. On top of that, Sammy Ameobi's season seems to have arrived at a premature end through injury. Newcastle have their own gaps to fill but, much as Rangers fans might hope for some of the "new manager effect", there is no escaping the feeling that this weekend we might be asking a bit too much of our hugely popular, but bus-pass-qualifying midfield stalwart Shaun Derry.
But who knows, really? Rangers are a club with gates of 17,000 that have been signing "proper" Premier League players on serious wages from big clubs. None of it really makes sense. If you believe the tabloids (and of course I do), then by the time you read this, Newcastle might have bought Andy Carroll back at a £25 million profit and Rangers may have bought players from the likes of Chelsea or Manchester City to bolster our squad. The owners and managers may change, but the whole thing is still nuts. Anthony Hobbs