There’s so many things I’d rather think about this Saturday morning than the wildly dysfunctional Queens Park Rangers. There’s the Premier League’s Richard Scudamore scoffing at Bolton chairman Phil Gartside’s suggestion that England’s top flight eliminate relegation (please note Wanderers — facing Spurs tomorrow — are a mere point above the drop zone), Arsenal’s William Gallas doing his best to remind kids that smoking is cool, and a fantastic free kick goal by Kieran Richardson giving Sunderland a rare win over Newcastle. But nope, despite going from near bankruptcy to their current status as one of the planet’s richest clubs, the Stuporhoops manage to cover themselves in shame on a regular basis, the catalyst for their latest bonehead move being, believe it or not, this week’s announcement Rangers would be lowering ticket prices. Good news, right? Not if the the R’s three stooges of Flavio Briatore, Bernie Eccelstone and Lakshmi “The World’s Fourth Richest Man” Mittal can’t get on the same page.
Mittal’s son in law, vice chairman Amit Bhatia (above, right) has reportedly enraged Briatore with the price cut announcement, and whether Bhatia recognized the folly of charging £50 for second division football or was merely trying to curry favor with message board howlers matters little. Imagine the part of Briatore being played by Gary Marshall, as seen in Albert Brooks’ fantastic “Lost In America”. Much like the Desert Inn, QPR doesn’t need to be known as The Club That Cares, and despite last Saturday’s defeat of Nottingham Forest, manager Iain Dowie is left to polish his resume, fired after just 15 matches in charge, victim of what seems to be Briatore’s short fuse. The Telegraph’s Huw Tubervil suggests, “it’s a wonder he lasted this long”, while acknowledging that despite recent form, the former Northern Ireland international had Rangers just a point removed from the 4th playoff spot.
There was a spat with Briatore, reportedly about transfer policy, even before the season opener, against Barnsley. Dowie called the stories “hogwash”. After winning six of his first eight league games in charge, however, it was starting to look a sound, pragmatic choice. Then they hit the rails – four league games without a win. Even the 2-1 home victory over Nottingham Forest that arrested the sequence failed to earn him much of a reprieve.
There had been a story linking Terry Venables with a return to Loftus Road. The shutters had seemingly gone up among the playing and coaching staff. Dowie, who always insisted he could handle the pressure, failed to appear at the post-match press conference. His assistant, Tim Flowers, and midfielder Akos Buzsaky were defensive when asked about him. They insisted he was doing a grand job. They said they were not feeling undue stress at the continual media speculation. They appeared to protest too much.
Stories followed that Briatore was unhappy with the direction of the team, and was taking a more hands-on role.
Dowie was critical himself of the 0-0 draw at Swansea that followed, and seemingly that performance was the final straw for Briatore and Co.
(UPDATE : Reading 0, QPR 0. Aside from getting away with a handball that wasn’t, Rangers were halfway organized defensively for most the evening at Majewski Stadium. More importantly, interim manager Gareth Ainsworth sent the Elias Koteas Sports Bureau scrambling —- he now possesses the only career unbeaten mark of any of the members of Dog Chewed The Handle.)