Friday 9 May ~
Last night, QPR's Luigi de Canio became the first manager to be sacked since the end of the regular Football League season. He claimed to have been “stunned” by his dismissal but that seems unlikely given that QPR have been inked with a long list of high-profile managers and players, including Zinedine Zidane and Luis Figo, over the past couple of months. On taking over the club, chairman Flavio Briatore commented that he and his co-owners, Bernie Ecclestone and Lakshmi Mittal, “want to have some fun”. This may have sounded harmless to him but it may yet prove to be a chilling prophecy.
A billionaire's idea of fun in a football context is to have a team that you can show off to your friends. The expectation will be that they play entertaining football, generate a ton of positive publicity – allowing for some “cross-fertilisation” with your other business interests – and, surely, win a few trophies. (One fun suggestion that had to be promptly scrapped was a summer friendly with Real Madrid at Wembley for which QPR would make an estimated loss of around £500,000.)
QPR might indeed walk away with the Championship next season as they are expected to be the division's top spenders over the summer. But success can't be guaranteed. Within the last few years, Watford and Forest are just two examples of clubs at QPR's current level who failed dismally after splashing out on high-profile young managers – Gianluca Vialli and David Platt respectively – both of whom wasted millions in bringing in uninterested and ageing players from Serie A. Sam Allardyce has been a regular visitor to Loftus Road over the past couple of months and would appear to be the favourite to replace De Canio. He and his enormous back-up team of coaches, physios, dieticians and computer analysts could of course prosper in the Championship, having done so at a higher level with Bolton.
But succeeding at the next level up is a whole other matter. One might wonder how much fun QPR's owners will still be having in two or three years' time if the team is just about holding their own in the Premier League. Or if they are still stuck in the Championship having gone through at least a couple of managers and a small army of highly-paid players. In the meantime, QPR's spending is sure to have an inflationary effect on wages and transfer fees in the Championship just as Roman Abramovich's excesses have damaged the financial structure of the Premier League.