In all of his programme notes last season, Tony Fernandes, the QPR owner always signed off with three simple words, ‘dare to dream’. It was prophetic in many ways and the R’s faithful did indeed dream, they dreamed of survival in the Premier League after 16 years away. That was the limit of their ambition, yet even that seemed like a tall order at many stages of the season.
The 2011-2012 season was a roller coaster ride, there were massive highs interspersed with devastating lows. Nothing was ever straight forward, which added to the drama and tension as the season unfolded. Who could ever forgot the incredible 5 straight home wins against Liverpool, Arsenal, Swansea, Tottenham and Stoke at the end of the season which ultimately ensured survival, but then the six goal thrashings at local rivals Fulham and Chelsea brought any previous successes crashing back to earth. The reality of the situation was chilling at times, but the management and players dug in, they fought, they battled and above all they showed spirit and determination.
The supporters never stopped believing either and in the cauldron that was the end of season finale at the Etihad Stadium, it seemed like the whole season was encapsulated in a ninety five minute production drama, seemingly made for television. The script could not have been better writ. For a time the R’s were going down, but as the match unfolded there were heroes and villians, as there always are in an action packed thriller. Djibril Cisse and Jamie Mackie became instant heroes as they scored stunning goals in front of the travelling Rangers support to spark scenes of mass delirium, “the R’s are staying up, now you’re going to believe us” followed by the villian of the peace, Joey Barton and his hot headed actions, leading to his instant dismissal. Then came the final twist in the tale, as the two late late goals from Man City gave them the league title. Never before had the Premier League witnessed such a nerve jangling conclusion and never will it again. And Rangers had more than played their part in the afternoon’s dramatic events.
On that warm sunday afternoon in May, Rangers had lost the battle and, as sickening as it felt to lose in such crushing circumstances, the war of survival had been won, courtesy of Bolton not winning at Stoke. The R’s lived to fight another day in the Premier League and the feeling amongst the supporters, players and management was one of complete and utter relief.
And so where are we now, over 3 months on? Well, 8 new players have been acquired and some of the old guard discarded. This feels more than just evolution, more like a revolution. Marquee signings like Jung Si Park, Robert Green, Junior Hoilett, Fabio Da Silva, Andrew Johnson and Jose Boswinga have all caught the attention, raised the club’s profile and whetted the supporter’s appetite. The majority of these are not run of the mill signings, but are significant captures and illustrate that the club means business. They reflect ambition and a desire to take the club forward to the next level.
The question on all supporters’ lips at this time of year is how well will the new boys fit in? Can so many new players gel with the established crop so quickly, when we know from last year that these things can take time. Is there space for them all? This will be a challenge and, furthermore, how will the management keep a squad of over 25 well paid professionals satisfied, driven, committed and pulling in the right direction, it will not be easy. How will the team be set up and what formation will be favoured?
The new management team have so far proved themselves to be nothing other than adept, resourceful and competent in ultimately steering the club to safety last season. The supporters have faith in their ability. They are an experienced group and their new signings reflect their understanding of what the club needs, namely a little more solid Premier League experience, allied to the flush of exciting and youthful talent, players like the mesmeric Adel Taarabt, the gliding Samba Diakite and the explosive Junior Hoillett.
Yet maybe it is the seasoned and battle hardened professionals who should be looked towards for comfort, the likes of the ever dependable Clint Hill and Shaun Derry or should focus be on those players who can sparkle and dazzle, like Cisse, Taarabt, Park and Shaun Wright Phillips. So many questions?
The season promises much, the pundits are predicting a much easier ride for Rangers, a lower mid table position being well within the club’s grasp. Yet secretly, and no-one will ever openly admit to it, but the players, management, staff and supporters will be hoping for more. There has been huge investment in all aspects of the club, a new training facility has been purchased, a new ground has been mentioned with encouraging noises and on the playing field the squad is now looking stronger than it ever has since the mid 1970s.
It feels like there is a buzz about the place, a sense of anticipation and expectation about what might be achieved. So bring it on and ‘dare to dream’, again….