THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

24 March ~ After six games Neil Warnock is almost a third of the way through his tenure as QPR manager. Admittedly this prediction is based on the nebulous statistic that the club’s five "permanent" managerial appointments since Flavio Briatore's 2007 takeover have lasted on average 21 games, but another swift departure would be unsurprising given my club's recent track record.

As with anything in football a purely statistical analysis is misleading. Naked numbers barely do justice to the mad turmoil at Rangers since the buyout: 11 people have taken charge of the team, 47 players have been signed permanently or on loan and we've had six managers this season alone. These are crazy figures but they don't come close to evoking the tangible disquiet among the fanbase that has made Loftus Road a very unpleasant place for most of the last two seasons.

Becoming a joke club isn't as funny as it sounds. By the time of Paul Hart's farcical exit after just five games in January I'd given up trying to write replies to friends' text messages. I didn't want to talk about it, I felt appalled by the club. We'd become too absurd to be amusing, just churning out C-list material for the "breaking news" ticker on Sky Sports News.

While Warnock is due his P45 in mid-August statistically speaking, the new mood emanating from the club and its fans tells a different story. Briatore stepped down as chairman in February, improbably making way for the popular duo of Amit Bhatia and Ishan Saksena. Both are connected to the Mittal family, who increased their shareholding in the reshuffle. Saksena is the new chairman, saying when appointed "our fans are the real owners of this club". Not a controversial statement, but a long way from Briatore openly deriding the feelings of supporters who pay £20 a fortnight to watch the Rs.

Warnock appears a viable long-term appointment and he seems re-energised away from the misery of administration at Crystal Palace, speaking of "looking forward to every game" – quite a feat for a 61-year-old. With Bhatia and Saksena's sensible public statements preaching stability and more transparency between club and supporters the mood has predictably picked up on matchdays.

Another stat: 15,502 watched Rangers draw with Swansea on Saturday. The Swans brought a good travelling support, but that's up more than 2,000 on this season's average at a time when QPR have little to play for. Supporters around me, the sane ones at least, seem to be encouraging players when they would have been slating them a couple of months ago. Every member of the team suddenly seems to be doing a lot more running and purposeful pointing.

As Clive Whittingham has been saying for months on his excellent QPR site Loft For Words, it doesn't take a genius to work out that a well run club needs to appoint a good manager, assign him a realistic set of goals, support him financially and then leave him to get on with it. This is the blueprint Rangers must now follow in a potentially crucial period of the club's history. Worryingly the erratic Briatore remains an ominously large shareholder and divisive ex-agent-cum-charming-chairman-cum-liability Gianni Paladini is still at the club despite his foibles.

Extravagant millionaire owners promising Champions League football to a middling Championship club was never likely to end in glory, and there's every chance that this is false dawn number 104 of an ongoing series. For the time being I'm enjoying watching QPR again and it feels like, as our support has sung recently, "We’ve got our Rangers back". Thom Gibbs

Comments (1)
Comment by Amor de Cosmos 2010-03-25 00:11:07

I don't think Colin's going to get much of a honeymoon, but then he probably doesn't expect one. There's a lot of whingeing today about last night's draw with Derby for example. More to do with the welly-it-into touch tactics than the result it seems. But if we should lose a couple in a row then he'll need a lead suit.

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