Well, it is really quite difficult to know where to start. It has been a pre-season of huge change at QPR with not only a new manager but also no fewer than 12 players leaving the club and, at the latest count, no fewer than 14 arriving. Indeed it could be even more as the transfer window is still open.
Whether all these changes will prove to be a success is anyone’s guess at this stage with nothing really to go on other than a few friendly fixtures with only half a team. Who only knows how Rangers will fare this season in the Sky Bet Championship with so many new and unproven faces.
What is not difficult to predict is that the views of the Rangers’ faithful are as confused and mixed as ever. When perusing the various forums and social media outlets, views tend to vary markedly by the day, which is hardly surprising when at the moment players are seemingly arriving and departing each day.
Yet for all the moans and groans, buys and loans, it is hard to imagine any true loyal supporter who does not have that slight tingle of excitement at the beginning of a new season and, deep down, a hope that maybe, just maybe, this season could be something special. As ever, it is the hope that kills, yet it is that hope that keeps the loyal supporter coming back for more.
It is easy to wonder why so many changes in such a short space of time. Then again, having finished in 19th position in the Championship last season, now with a new manager in Mark Warburton at the helm and even less money than last year, then maybe it is not such a surprise after all.
Rangers have seemingly gone from riches to rags in no time at all. Yet despite all the money of recent seasons, for many it did not sit well for a club of the size, stature and history of little Queens Park Rangers.
So how best to assess all the changes. Of the departures, it could be argued that only Luke Freeman will really be missed and no Rangers fan would surely deny him his tilt in the top flight at Sheffield United. Good luck to him and his move is fully deserved.
It was a shame to lose Darnell Furlong to West Brom in an age when the club are trying to bring through the youth but this is precisely the strategy – develop from youth and then sell for a profit. However, from a playing perspective, Furlong can easily be replaced.
Despite the team’s lack of goals last season, many will also have been disappointed to have seen Matt Smith leave for Millwall, for he had given his all for the club and he is vastly under-rated. He has both scored and assisted a large number of hugely important goals and he will be missed. However, many will argue, with some justification, that his presence on the pitch automatically resulted in the team playing in a certain way, doing nothing more than lofting the ball forward in search of his head, when Rangers should really be capable of far more. Yet, to counter that view, sometimes, especially towards the end of a match, needs must and invariably Smith’s inclusion justified the end. He was certainly effective in what he did and what he will no doubt be doing this season down at the New Den. Rangers fans will just hope that this transfer does not come back to haunt.
Yet, and somewhat ironically, on the day that it was announced that Matt Smith had departed the club, it was also announced that they had recruited another Matt Smith to join the ranks. The new boy of the same name is a freshly faced youngster from Pep’s school at Manchester City, having arrived on a season long loan, where he joins the likes of Luke Amos, who has joined under similar circumstances, having been schooled under Mauricio Pochettino at Tottenham. Young lads, both hungry for action and game time, and why not ? It seems like a win-win situation all round. Indeed Amos has arguably been the stand out performer in the pre-season fixtures, with a look and game not dissimilar to a young Dele Alli.
The new manager’s approach to recruitment seems to be one of drafting in loanees from Premier League clubs (Smith, Amos, plus strikers Jordan Hugill from West Ham and Jan Mlakar from Brighton ); players that he has known from his previous employers, especially at Glasgow Rangers (Lee Wallace, Liam Kelly and Dominic Ball); some experience in the shape of Marc Pugh and the returning Rangers (Angel Rangel and Geoff Cameron) plus something of a punt on a few newbies who have been out of contract elsewhere (Todd Kane, Conor Masterson and Yoann Barbet, who is arguably the pick of the crop).
It must be said that these are hardly household names but then again needs must for a club in QPR’s current plight and financial situation. Indeed, for the majority of those players signed, this represents a fresh start, a new beginning and a chance to re-ignite and progress their careers. As a result, there should be no complacency and despondency, more a desire and a drive to succeed and perform well. That is what the Rangers manager, owners and supporters will be hoping anyway.
Yet for all the new faces, the new manager has inherited some decent talent himself from previous regimes and seems to have important roles lined up for the likes of Joe Lumley, the fit again Grant Hall (who is a strong candidate to be club captain), the rejuvenated Ryan Manning (now featuring at left back), Josh Scowen, Ebere Eze (who should be the attacking linchpin for this team), plus the increasingly impressive Bright Osayi-Samuel and his fellow winger, the fit at last, Olamide Shodipo.
It would appear that a couple of last season’s stalwarts, Toni Leistner and Massimo Luongo, will be on their way if suitors can be found and suitable transfer fees can be obtained.
Yet what about the new gaffer himself, Mark Warburton? This is arguably his chance too to reignite his career and prove himself again, after a period away from the game. He has pedigree and a proven track record in this division with Brentford, prior to his move to Glasgow Rangers. He likes his teams to play and promises the Loftus Road faithful that they will see skilful attacking one touch football, playing out from the back and with purpose. Little wonder that Leistner and Matt Smith do not feature in his plans.
So far he has come across well – considered, warm and engaging – and saying all the right things. He talks of the revamp being a necessity and his recruitment policy seems to reflect his own character and situation ie players having a point to prove and with a hunger to succeed. Furthermore, he has continually stressed the need to have two good players in every position, fighting for the shirt so as to engender competition and avoid complacency setting in. All makes good logical sense.
He certainly seems to have been well supported so far by Director of Football, Les Ferdinand and the Board. Then again, that is hardly surprising given that he is their new man and so far he has not spent a penny on transfer fees yet simultaneoulsy raised a few quid for the coffers.
All will kick off in earnest this Saturday and only after then, and the subsequent few weeks, will anyone have any idea and be able to pass judgement as to what might happen.
Much of the recruitment and rhetoric has been positive thus far, as indeed it should be, albeit it could be said that Rangers do look a little light in central midfield and especially in attack. However, the supporters, Board and players must have faith.
Furthermore, and arguably of greatest importance, Warburton and his new Rangers must be given time. So many changes have taken place that everyone needs to be patient. Patient to allow Warburton to impose his ideas and playing style, patient to allow the players to get to know each other and patient to allow for a few hiccups along the way.
Then, and only then, will all the new faces, including Warburton himself, have a chance to perform and show the Board and the supporters what they are made of and what can be achieved.
Who knows, after all the upheaval and changes, things might work out well after all, but there is always a fear that they will not. Rarely has a team made so many changes and gone on to succeed in a short space of time.
The starting point must be to improve upon last season’s 19th place finish. However, with a fair wind and a little luck along the way, a secure mid table position could be attainable. For anything higher, all Rangers will have to dare to dream.