This Week - Dowie returns to QPR, but can anybody afford to watch his team?
Friday, 16th May 2008 09:52
It's been a massive week at Loftus Road with a new manager, three new signings and the release of controversial season ticket prices.
The new manager
For months now they have been patiently saying that there will be no Chelsea style spending spree, no massive outlay on players, no immediate ascent to the summit of English football - what they want is steady progress based on solid foundations, possibly not even promotion from this level for another two seasons.
And yet when they say this it seems that many QPR fans are hearing Champions League by the end of the week, £20m strikers, Jose Mourinho as manager, instant success and watch out Chelsea hear we come. Consequently when Luigi De Canio left last week the fans didn't so much tip or mention a big name replacement as expect and demand one. Little over 18 months after we replaced Gary Waddock with John Gregory suddenly we're going to poach the best coaches from La Liga and Serie A to come to England and pick a team for our crucial Tuesday night trip to Burnley.
The out pouring of angst against the appointment of Iain Dowie across all the main message boards has been something to behold - varying from petitions against the appointment, in case Flavio does indeed spend his spare time looking at QPR message boards, tantrums and stampy feet posts, and deluded denials from those that said anybody tipping Dowie should "get in the real world" and "start thinking like a billionaire with a flair for glamour".
Like I say, no matter how many times our board says "steady progress", "nothing drastic" and "QPR is a club with rich board members, it is not a rich club" it seems we're just not listening.
Dowie is on the face of it a pretty uninspiring appointment, but that may not be a bad thing. He was twice overlooked for the job at QPR, first when Ray Harford left and he was put in caretaker charge, and then when Ian Holloway replaced Gerry Francis. Certainly I thought it was a mistake not to give him a go the second time and although Holloway got us promoted and did very well for us Dowie immediately left QPR and excelled at first Oldham Athletic and then Crystal Palace. His detractors have made excuses for those successes, pointing to a decent Oldham side he inherited and the presence of some good players at Palace, like Andy Johnson, when he took over. Whatever anybody says 17 wins from 23 games and relegation trouble to the play offs and beyond to the Premiership within six months is bloody good going - Andy Johnson or no Andy Johnson. And nobody has done as well with Oldham since he left.
Palace spent relatively little in the Premiership but with Johnson firing 23 goals they came close to staying up, within eight minutes in fact, but conceded a late equaliser at Charlton on the last day and dropped back down.
Dowie's main failing so far, and the stick many QPR fans are beating him with, was at Charlton where he spent more than any other Charlton boss, the thick end of £15m over one summer, but led them into a relegation battle from which they never recovered. Charlton are still in a mess today a division lower and only look to be heading in one direction. Many QPR fans are also pointing to Dowie's failure at Coventry but I'd actually put it down as a success. He got them playing decent football, won at Old Trafford in the League Cup, and kept their heads above water in the Championship despite crippling debts, imminent administration, a half full stadium they don't own and all the other lead weights that will prevent any manager doing any good at the Ricoh for many years to come. He left there for complaining at the restraints the new board were placing on him, not through poor results.
He's a manager that knows the league and knows QPR, he's an intelligent guy and very big on fitness, organisation and team spirit - something QPR could have done with last season as we shipped seven last minute goals and conceded 14 winning positions.
If I'm sounding like the founder member of the Iain Dowie fan club here then I apologise. Dowie certainly wasn't my first choice for the job, I would have liked Walter Novellino in charge, but I've been surprised and by some of the things I've read on message boards this week and thought I'd try and point out that this might not be such a bad thing after all.
Everybody was very taken by De Canio, myself included. The football we played with him in charge was a joy to watch, especially in the home games, and some of the best we've played in a decade or more. He kept us up and more besides despite taking over a poor team in trouble and he was a friendly, amiable and at times funny guy. But he wasn't without his faults.
The language barrier was a problem, I don't care what anybody says. It affected training and it affected our ability to change tactics during a match - highlighted in brutal fashion at Sheff Wed and Norwich in particular. The team was clearly under instruction in the second half of matches to sit back and defend leads. There's being forced back by a rampaging opponent searching for an equaliser, and there's deliberately sitting back and trying to soak it up and QPR did the latter time after time after time last season with the same result each time - goals against, points lost. The Wolves away game was the best example where three times we took the lead and three times we immediately scurried back to our own penalty area and allowed Wolves to come onto us like an easy girl in a seedy club. Just to continue that analogy we were penetrated three times as a result.
Again if this sounds like I'm desperate to have a bash at Luigi De Canio I apologise, again that's not the intention, but having seen somebody going so far as to compare his departure to "a death in the family" on one message board this week I feel it's important to try and inject a bit of context into all this madness. I'll spare you my personal tales of woe regarding deaths in the Whittingham family and simply say that De Canio was good, brilliant even, but he wasn't perfect and although it will be hard I'm sure we'll get over his departure.
Last season saw a lot of transition at Loftus Road. A takeover, three different managers, 38 different players used, so many loan signings I'm amazed we haven't broken a rule somewhere along the line and a partridge in a pear tree. Dowie is an uninspiring choice as I say, but we don't need inspiring now. We don't need a massive squad rebuild, the club doesn't need a huge overhaul, we don't need 300 photographers crowding round the dug out to take a picture of Zinedine Zidane before a match with Blackpool. What we need now is somebody to organise the players we have with a few additions of quality here and there. We need somebody who knows the division, who isn't going to change our style of play radically and who can provide a reliable hand on the tiller as we make steady progress. Dowie has shown in all his jobs except Charlton that he can do these things.
His title of 'head coach' rather than manager seems to suggest he'll be slotting into the continental system we use where Paladini does most of the work on transfers, and with the main concern with Dowie being the disaster he had when given money to spend at The Valley, that again is a positive.
De Canio was forgiven many of his failings by the QPR fans, I just hope there isn't a big group of QPR supporters out there ready to jump on Dowie if things start any less than brilliantly next season. Under whelmed? Yes. Uninspired? Yes Slightly disappointed? Yes, I'm all of those things, but I'm also confident. Confident Dowie can do us a really good job, confident that he's better than all but possibly one of the other names mentioned for this job, confident we'll be there or there abouts next season. However you feel about this appointment, I hope we can all put it behind us and not be too quick to criticise him next season. Loftus Road can be the best place in the world for a home side to play in, but it can also be the worst if the crowd let expectations get the better of them.
Questionable Public Relations
An increase was expected of course. Most QPR fans accept that season tickets at Loftus Road have been very cheap recently and with the takeover, the improved standard of football, the loftier ambitions and the crowds starting to flock back it was to be expected that prices would be raised for the forthcoming season. Players need paying after all and you get what you pay for in football. If we want to see an end to the likes of Stefan Moore in QPR shirts then we need to pay for it.
Indeed at a consultative meeting with the supporter's trust in December chairman of the holding company Alejandro Agag stated that if there would be a raise, but it would be around 10% or something "normal", and that 10% figure has been quoted several times since. I’m sure we all could have accepted that, many could have accepted 20% rises, but under the new prices the increases range from 34% (Lower Loft) right the way up to more than 500% (juniors in South Africa Road).
Now we'll start with my personal circumstances as an example and go from there, because I'm by no means the worst affected through all this. Two seasons ago when I left university I gave up my season ticket to my younger brother. It was a young adult season ticket that I no longer qualified for and as I prepared to enter the world of work I had no idea if I'd be attending games regularly or not, so Paul took it off me. Our travelling partner Stuart kept the OAP season ticket he has held since the early 1980s and that meant we had two seats between the three of us at the front of Block F. I've been paying cash on the day ever since. With Stuart not planning to attend as many games next season his season ticket is now being upgraded to an adult for me and Paul will renew his young adult. Last season Paul and Stuart paid £283, if memory serves, and an adult was £460 or thereabouts. Next season these have been increased to £399 and £599. So from paying £283 plus £25 on the day of the games for two of us to attend matches we now have to find £1000 to renew because we are in a 'gold' area. The fact that the cheaper 'silver' area starts five feet and one seat to our left only serves to rub salt into the wounds.
Now £283 up to £400 is not 10% in anybody's language. Neither is £460 up to £599.
Like I say our case is not even close to being the worst. To our right in South Africa Road people are being faced with an increase to £699 from £460, and 300 people around the directors box will not have a seat at all next season because of the new 'platinum ' club being set up in that area. These people have been told alternative seats will be found for them, after everybody else has had a chance to renew. The free children's tickets, although continued in other parts of the ground to the club's credit, will not be available at all in South Africa Road next season which means many parents face upgrading their child's ticket from £0 to £399 or £499 (again a strange interpretation of 10%) or moving elsewhere which again they cannot do until after the renewal deadline. A good friend of mine in South Africa Road has had his boy’s ticket raised from £0 to £499.
It gets worse still. The Upper Loft, the home end, the place where many of the most loyal QPR fans sit, has been hardest hit. This is now classified as a 'gold' area and consequently faces the same £599 adult price as I'm having to stump up. That's up from £398 last season, again a strange interpretation of 10%. The fact that block G in South Africa Road is cheaper than the Upper Loft is hard to understand. This is now way to reward the loyalty of people that have supported the club through it’s darkest times. A family of two adults and two teenagers in the Upper Loft has to find just under £2000 now - £900 more than the same tickets at Charlton making a mockery of this “in line with other clubs at our level” stuff the club has tried to trot out. In fact when the club say this brings us in line with other clubs at this level it's difficult to understand exactly which clubs they're referring to - QPR adult season ticket prices £450-£699, Charlton adult season ticket prices £265-£475, Fulham adult season ticket prices £299 to £499.
Now Flavio Briatore has made it clear on several occasions, and did so again in 'Marketing Weekly' a few days ago, that he knows what he's doing and won't be dictated to by people who "maybe only pay £20 into the club". That's fair enough, I've felt for too long at QPR under most of the recent regimes that one or two of the "chosen ones" from our support base have had far too much say and influence over those in charge. However I fear we may be about to go too far the other way. It may only be £20 now but it's £20 every other week and it's lots of people - alienating an entire fan base is not a great way to achieve success and I fear the credit the board is in with supporters following the 11th hour rescue bid and subsequent improvements all around the club will be seriously eaten into by these season ticket prices.
Now being reasonable the club aren’t going to reconsider these prices. They didn’t consult the fans, or care very much about us and what we thought, when deciding on the prices so they sure as hell won’t be changing their mind on the prices because they’ve upset people. The prices, and the statement on the official site at lunchtime yesterday boasting of record sales (after three hours) send a clear message - if you don't like it go elsewhere, there'll be plenty of people willing to take your seat.
So I'm not expecting them to reconsider no matter how many letters and petitions are sent in, I just don't think they're that bothered about what we think - otherwise there would have been consultation in the first place. What we can ask the club to do, and what I'm asking for right now, is for them to increase the prices and leave it at that. It's the little extras that are being tagged on which are annoying me more than anything else to be honest.
You’ll notice that you only have until the first Friday in June to renew your season ticket at these prices or you face losing your seat – so not only are the prices increasing by anything up to 500% but they’re only giving you a fortnight to find the money. Why there has been this delay has never been explained or apologised for so it would be nice of them to bump that deadline back a week or two, explain why they were so late releasing the prices and apologise for that.
When you ring to renew your ticket you’ll find that the club are going to charge you an additional £3.50 booking fee. Basically they’re going to charge you £3.50 for the privilege of giving them money. It's essentially like coming to the end of the weekly shop at Tesco and being charged £3.50 to run it through the check out. It’s that ridiculous. If you decide not to buy a season ticket and simply pay for your home and away tickets as the games approach then you only need to go semi regularly to contribute more than £100 to the club in booking fees alone. The cost to banks of processing credit and debit cards transactions is said to be between 20p and 80p. £3.50 for every transaction is extracting the urine.
And it gets worse. Several people I've spoken to who have already renewed have said that once you’ve handed over the vastly increased amount, and the booking fee, you’ll then be asked if you would like your season ticket posting to you. Now your immediate reaction to that will be "of course I bloody do" and indeed since season tickets were introduced at Loftus Road they have been posted out to you. Often scarily close to the first day of the season, but posted all the same and for free. Coming to Loftus Road to collect the tickets is not practical for most, certainly not for me, and the thought of 2000 people turning up on the opening day to collect theirs before the match sounds like a disaster waiting to happen. However once you've said yes I'd like it posting to me another five pounds is added to the bill for postage. So that’s £599 for your ticket, £3.50 charge to you for giving the club money and £5 for the club to post you the ticket you’ve bought. To go back to the Tesco analogy it's like paying £3.50 to use the checkout and then being charged £5 for the carrier bags.
And just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse again we’re treated to a story on the official website talking about record sales, after three hours, and an exceptional response from supporters while message boards melted under the weight of complaints. Questionable public relations indeed.
The season tickets are far too expensive in certain parts of the ground, particularly in the Upper Loft, but we all sort of expected it. We want better football, we want success, we want better players and all of these things cost money. Money that has to come from somwhere. It's the fact that we only have two weeks to renew, that there is no early bird discount, the delay in announcing the prices, the booking fee for giving them money and having to pay again for them to post the bloody thing to you that's annoying me more than the actual price itself. It is a piss take plain and simple. While I’m not idealistic and optimistic enough any more to believe that the club give two hoots, I would urge them to explain why they've left it so late to release prices and to remove the outrageous booking fee and postal charge from this as a tiny gesture of good will because at the moment there’s very little of that going around.
Now, can anybody lend me £600?
The most impressive team I've seen so far has actually been Carlisle and they won't be at Wembley for the League One final. The blame for that lays squarely at the feet of manager John Ward who picked the right starting eleven for the away game, sent them out with the right tactics, and watched on as they systematically took Leeds apart for an hour and cruised into a two goal lead. Some of the football Carlisle played was superb, better than a lot of what I've seen in the Championship this season, and had they continued to play as they were doing in that first leg then I reckon they could have won the game three or four nil. Instead, for reasons known only to the coaching staff, they decided after an hour to change the way they were playing totally, haul everybody back behind the goal and try and protect the lead they had.
To this point Leeds hadn't threatened at all, had looked like a fighter on the ropes, and had clearly run out of ideas. In the end Carlisle's tactics in the last half hour cost them a goal and while they all made the right noises afterwards I could tell they were as gutted as I was to see Leeds back in the game and sure enough Leeds won 2-0 at Brunton Park and went through. Sometimes manager's seem to over think things to me, if Ward had left well alone in the first leg Carlisle would be in the final now and we wouldn't be staring down the barrell of another trip to the cess pool that is Elland Road.
Of course that overlooks the key issue of the first leg, and of many of the play offs so far, the standard of the refereeing. Now I always thought that the play offs were a chance for the league to reward its outstanding officials for good performances during the season - I remember the excellent Howard Webb doing our play off final shortly before his promotion to the elite list. This year the play offs have seen a mixture of Premiership referees, Webb, Alan Wiley and Mark Clattenburg handled their games brilliantly, and some of the worst football league referees around.
Who in the name of all that's holy in the world decided that Kevin Friend should be let loose on a play off match? His handling of Watford v Hull at the weekend bordered on the farcical and at times in the second half he looked like a circus act. Watford had a goal ruled out incorrectly, a player sent off that was over turned on appeal and for a ten minute spell in the second half he didn't get one decision right. I mean the man is useless, you only need to watch the Football league on a semi-regular basis to get to know his name. This is the man who sent two people off in the Millwall and Oldham game for over celebrating. He's a liability. And yet he's given a play off match.
Anthony Bates is another poor official and yet he got Leeds v Carlisle. A macth were four minutesd of added time was indicated and seven was played, allowing Leeds to score a crucial goal to get back into the tie. Show me a man who thinks play was stopped for three of the four minutes of added time and seven minutes was justified and I'll show you a man who needs to be put in a padded room.
Paul Taylor, the man who harshly sent off Martin Rowlands on the final day of the season, was also given a play off match. He oversaw Southend v Doncaster last Friday where there were three tackles far worse than Rowly's - he didn't even give a free kick for two of them and didn't book any of the offenders. Then he sent off Paul heffernan for the most technical and petty off the ball incident where a talking to would easily have sufficed.
The worst tackle of the play offs so far was committed by Shaun Derry against Bristol City at Selhurst Park, and he got a free kick for it! Mick Jones the referee on that occassion.
At the moment the Championship officials are being shown up by their Premiership counter parts and certainly in the case of the Watford v Hull fixture spoiling some excellent football. If the league stays true to form Trevor Kettle will get one of the remaining games.
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Six users have commented on this story. Click here to add your thoughts:
Just read your report and you are spot on with your assessment ref Dowie, I have felt for a while that the biggest pressure we will face next year is fan expectation whilst I understand it I'm just glad we will (hopefully) be playng decent football. I was against Dowie initially but if you think about it the appointment makes sense. De Canio was brought in as he has a history of saving clubs, Dowie has a history of performing well in the Championship and I agree with you I think he did a good job at Coventry before the issues. When we go up I feel they will then attract a Premier League manager who at the moment will not be willing to come to us. The fact that he has been given a 2 year contract is the clue that this is the case. Like I said I would rather have ince but the decision made now and just have to get behind him.
Ref the prices no one can say are suprised and i knew with all the signings that this would happen i sit in B Block with my son who has just turned 8 so i will have to find £400 for us next year (463 last year now 600 and my boy from fee to £200) I think if we ever have aspirations to go up that is what is gonna happen. All last season I was questioning about our new aspirations as I quite enjoyed the down and dirty footballl of where we were and everyone thought I was mad, I wonder what they all think now?? Anyway great piece as usual - Ghassan
I also agree with the assessment on Dowie. He may seem an uninspiring choice but there were worse candidates in the frame and the bottom line is we need a manager who can get us out of the Championship and he already wears that badge. - Quilters
I've supported Rangers for over 40 years and in all that time both the PR and the administration of the club have been hopeless. I knew when there was a lack of any seson ticket information at the end of the season that we were in for a massive price hike. The club was too embarressed to make any announcement because they knew what the reaction would be and didn't want any kind of protests at the last few home games of the season. Now we have all gone away for the summer it is a case of divide and rule. - Andy
I have four upper loft tickets which last year cost a total of Â£590 (1 adult,1 child and 2 under 8s).i have just renewed to be guarenteed a seat and paid Â£1200 and now wait to be moved in June so i can get free tickects for under 8s again.Now i know that some people will think that the under 8s being free is not a great idea but neither is Â£199 for a seat when we had 8 night games last season that they could not go to as it is just too late.I have to say that the guy in the box office was great but by the tone of his voice he was not impressed with what has been done and the fact that 400 fans will be moved to make way for the prawn sandwich brigade.These rich people have saved our club from dying and given us a future but at what cost ? i have been supporting for over 30 years and what my kids to do the same but it may become two games a year as a treat rather than every Saturday home game.I have also had to pay for the four tickets and wait for a move which if i get i wi ll be refunded but in the mean time they are sitting on my money and probably many other fans money aswell. - Nigel
For weeks the club have thanked us for out loyalty. Where is the loyalty in return? We are now being fleeced for the that loyalty and passion. No doubt I will be stupid enough to renew but it is with resentment. I feel the supporters are being exploited for their loyalty and passion and the blue and white blood in out veins. Is it any wonder our owners are among the richest? - Geoff
I would have liked us to approach Paul Ince but after him I cannot think of a more reasonable choice than Dowie. And yes, the offer of a 2 year contract is key. It says "you're our choice but you better get it right straight away." We should all respect that and get behind the team and manager. - Jami
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