Kilburn Times journalist Ben Kosky speaks exclusively to Vital QPR about events passed this campaign.
The writer gives his customary hard-hitting views on the issues surrounding QPR this season, with a prominent figure never far from his sight lines.
You stated at the start of the season that you would expect Rangers to finish in around eighth place, would you consider 11th place a failure or natural progression?
I wouldn`t say finishing 11th was a complete failure, but it`s hard to regard it as progress either. The previous season Rangers did advance from being relegation candidates to a mid-table side, but they`ve stood still since then.
They signed 14 players in the year just gone and for my money only one, Kaspars Gorkss, represented an improvement on what was already there. With the resources available, they should have made a better fist of a play-off challenge than they did.
Which player has stood out for you this season as Rangers most influential talent?
Well, it would certainly be a defender, which says all you need to know about the team`s strengths and weaknesses! Damion Stewart was a deserving Player of the Year, but I`ve always seen him as a player influenced by those around him rather than the other way round.
So I`d say either Gorkss or Matthew Connolly, both intelligent players who read the game well and can get team-mates out of trouble. Connolly I think will go on to be a good Premier League player, but probably not with QPR.
While player of the year seems to be a burning topic at most clubs, Rangers could seemingly hold a Manager of the Year award – who would you choose?
I`m sure many fans will disagree, but I`d choose Iain Dowie without hesitation. He very quickly got the team organised and built the defensive backbone that had been missing the previous year. And there seems to be a myth that the quality of football under Dowie was poor, yet I can recall some of those early home games – Doncaster, Carlisle and Southampton – when there were plenty of Emmanuel Ledesma-inspired oohs and aahs.
I liked Paulo Sousa as a person, but I always felt he was a desperate choice as coach. Yes, he managed to get the best out of individual players like Hogan Ephraim, but tactically he seemed to be lacking – balls through the middle to a lone striker who wasn`t capable of holding them up, for instance.
And I can`t believe anyone thought the football was more entertaining than it had been under Dowie.
Gareth, in his two spells, did what you`d expect him to do – motivate the players to give their all and pull off a few impressive results. But as his control of team selection was extremely limited, it`s hard to judge him on that score.
Is there a significant moment this season you can pinpoint where it arguably ‘all went wrong?`
Losing Akos Buzsaky for the season was a major blow. But most of the turning points were self-inflicted by Flavio Briatore – chiefly sacking an experienced Championship boss in Iain Dowie and replacing him with a rookie who was always going to take time finding his feet. Not many clubs get promoted after changing coach mid-season.
Otherwise, there were several instances of Flavio Briatore hurling football logic out of the window and making damaging decisions that hurt the team. Loaning your best goalkeeper and then your best striker to Nottingham Forest, for instance.
How about signing a 35-year-old has-been with dodgy knees (Damiano Tommasi) and paying him £20,000 a week when you already have three players in his position? Or spending half a million on a player the coach doesn`t think is good enough (Gary Borrowdale)?
There has been a distinct lack of atmosphere at Loftus Road of late, have you noticed this dip in volume and to what do you attribute this?
It`d be hard not to notice the dip in volume, as well as the drop in crowd levels. One reason for this of course has been the standard of football on offer for steep prices, but I`d also hope it`s an indication that Rangers fans are starting to wake up and smell the coffee.
I know there`s a view that you should support the team no matter what and I`d subscribe to that view when a club is penniless or fighting relegation and everyone`s pulling together. But when supporters are being fleeced for money that`s being wasted by an individual whose interference is severely damaging that team`s chances of success, I`m not so sure loyalty is unconditional any more.
There were some high points at Loftus Road this season, what has been your favourite game to cover this campaign?
The Carling Cup win at Aston Villa was the pick of the bunch for me – it was a terrific battling performance from the team and combined two rare achievements – beating a Premier League side and winning a cup tie!
Old Trafford was a fantastic occasion but a poor game, mainly because Rangers went out with little intention of trying to win the tie. Unfortunately I missed the Wolves home game, which everyone told me was the best they`d seen in a long while, but I found both the games against Preston extremely enjoyable to watch and write about.
The managerial position is still vacant at W12, firstly who do you hope will fill the void, and realistically who do you think Rangers chiefs will plump for?
I think what fans – and a lot of the media – need to realise is that QPR aren`t looking for a manager. They want a coach, basically someone who can put on decent training sessions and motivate the players on a matchday, but play little or no role in player recruitment or sales, or indeed selection.
That`s why most of the names bandied around are complete non-starters – no manager worth his salt would want to work at Loftus Road now. The only options are someone looking for his first job at the start of a coaching career, or someone who`s been out of the game for a few years and wants to raise his profile again.
Given that situation, I`d say Gareth Ainsworth is the best option available. But I`d expect the board to go for someone whose profile will, they feel, ‘fit the brand` – and I wouldn`t rule out a return for Terry Venables because that would also bring a lot of fans onside.
Is there a specific area Rangers need to strengthen and which calibre of player should we opt for in the summer transfer window?
It`s stating the obvious, but recruiting a proven goalscorer must be the top priority, as it should have been a year ago. If the owners had the slightest clue about football they would have forked out whatever it took to get Kevin Phillips when he was available then. That`s the calibre of player they should be going for now.
The only other area that really needs strengthening, in my view, is the left-hand side – there`s a lack of competition for places at both full-back (assuming Borrowdale`s QPR career is destined never to happen) and on the wing.
What words of advice would you give to the Rangers hierarchy in the build up to a new campaign?
Stop meddling with things you don`t understand. Listen to Rangers fans and don`t take them for granted. Learn from your mistakes. Start realising that marketing and commercial activity count for nothing if the football side of a club is and continues to be an utter shambles.
And if you can`t grasp that, sell up and make way for someone who can.
Many thanks to Ben Kosky for his honest views