by Mick Kelly
Pennant Books, £9.99
Reviewed by John Carter
From WSC 275 January 2010
“May you live in interesting times” goes the Chinese saying and Queens Park Rangers supporters certainly do. They’ve had a chairman ambushed at gunpoint, been taken over by a consortium that, temporarily, made them “the richest club in the world” and welcomed seven different managers, all in four years.
Unfortunately the theatrics occurred mainly in the privacy of the boardroom rather than on the pitch, leaving Loftus Road regulars with more unanswered questions than Anne Robinson. If a journalist were prepared to dig there’s unquestionably a fascinating story here but Hooped Dreams isn’t it. In fairness Mick Kelly doesn’t aim for Woodward and Bernstein territory. He modestly sets out to document the 2008-09 season, give fans a voice in describing it and reflect on the club’s glory days. However, ignoring for a moment whether these are even compatible goals, he still scores, at best, one out of three.
Kelly satisfies his first objective by framing contemporary media and messageboard speculation in the context of monthly match reports. Essentially this process merely regurgitates existing material, there is nothing new there. More promisingly he interviews two members of the club’s current board: vice-chairman Amit Bhatia and ex-chairman, now sporting director, Gianni Paladini. Bhatia is the fan-friendly face of QPR management, always ready to talk to supporters and occasionally sit among them. He’s also perfected the art of saying nothing substantive in a way that makes gullible interviewers believe they’ve scored the scoop of a lifetime.
Paladini, on the other hand, like the singer of a Puccini aria, has much to express. “I will die with QPR in my heart... if I end this job today or tomorrow, I will still be here with the fans. I love the fans... I don’t think I love anything like I love QPR. I’ve been here seven days a week, 24 hours a day, for five years,” and so on. Obviously overwhelmed by this flood of emotion Kelly fails to ask Paladini any relevant questions, either about the gun incident, his repeated assertion that the club was “only hours away from administration” when it was sold or anything else.
Hooped Dreams’ strength, to the extent it has one, lies in interviews with supporters. Some well known: composer Michael Nyman and MP Alan Johnson; others, like A Kick Up The R’s publisher Dave Thomas, less so. All articulate their passion for QPR and frustration with recent events coherently. Sadly the same cannot be said for the token representatives of the club’s golden era. Legends in the pantheon they most certainly are but, other than name value, it’s plain Messrs Marsh and Bowles have little to contribute here.
This is very much a contemporary story and one wonders why Kelly felt the need to hark back 40 years at all. If he’d constructed the book around just the supporters’ interviews it might have provided a worthwhile snapshot of QPR at a pivotal point in their history. As it is Hooped Dreams turns out to be far less interesting than the times it describes.