RANGERS hosted new-boys Crystal Palace in the opening game of the 1989-90 season.
Teams: Queens Park Rangers v Crystal Palace
Date: Saturday August 19, 1989
Competition: Barclays League Division One.
Venue: Loftus Road, London
See Also: Crystal Palace 0-3 QPR – 02-12-89.
In a summer of transition for Queens Park Rangers hopes were high in W12 that they could once again challenge the higher echelons of the division. These ambitions were refuted by boss Trevor Francis who tried to keep a lid on the fans` burning ambition.
He stated in no uncertain terms that a similar ninth placed finish would be ideal for QPR and that this was a season of consolidation – despite the positive finale to the 1988-89 season.
Rangers brought in England left back Kenny Sansom from Newcastle United in a move that saw live-wire winger Wayne Fereday move in the opposite direction. Promising forward Paul Wright was brought in from Aberdeen while Don Howe joined the backroom staff.
There were also departures from W12 with Andy Gray and Mark Dennis both departing for the opening day opponents with the former signing for £500,000, leaving Rangers after only joining in February. Gray seemed a victim of circumstance, as Peter Reid became available shortly after he joined the R`s.
Francis remained vigilant that he would not let either David Seaman or Martin Allen go for less that they were worth, in light of public interest from London rivals Arsenal. A combined deal of £1.65m was turned down by Francis in a bid to hold on to the pair.
To the game and Rangers were without forward trio, Mark Falco, Mark Stein and Les Ferdinand owing to injury – so new signing Paul Wright was thrust into the limelight for an opening day debut alongside Colin Clarke.
Crystal Palace were without defender Mark Dennis and midfielder Alan Pardew for the trip to Loftus Road. However they could call upon the creative talents of Ian Wright and Mark Bright in their attacking capacity as the Eagles would be a force going forward this season.
Both sides came through the first half unscathed as Palace`s pace on the counter attack was met with the strong defensive line marshalled by defensive midfielder and captain Peter Reid. Alan McDonald and Paul Parker remained stern in facing a tricky attacking line.
Steve Coppell`s side had just been promoted from the Second Division and were providing Rangers food for thought – belying some lofty pre-match predictions from the Rangers faithful.
Eventually however the R`s made their reputation count and it came courtesy of debutante Paul Wright. The former Aberdeen man hadn`t been anticipated to feature so early for Rangers, but with a long list of absent forwards he got the nod from Francis.
His well guided header moments after the half time broke the deadlock at Loftus Road, with the 16,000 strong crowd rising as one to applaud the efforts of the striker who had contemplated his future in the game nearly two years previous.
He had his brace with little over ten minutes remaining as he confidently converted a spot kick to hand the R`s an opening day win – and earn the praise of his boss Trevor Francis.
Francis said: “At the end of the training session when I asked who wanted to volunteer for penalties he immediately stepped forward and said, ‘I want to take them.` I love that sort of attitude in a player.”
The player manager didn`t last long at the helm in W12, being released in favour of his assistant manager Don Howe. The confusion arose when Francis was told he was brought in with the side looking for a young manager, and released because the club wanted more experience.
Howe steered the R`s to safety after a blip on the turn of the year which saw Rangers dip perilously into the bottom half. Howe took Rangers to an 11th placed finish in Division One, which promised much for the following campaign.
A season of stability for Steve Coppell`s Crystal Palace saw the Eagles finish 15th – a positive first campaign in the top flight.
Final Score: Queens Park Rangers 2-0 Crystal Palace
Queens Park Rangers: Seaman, Channing, Sansom, Parker, McDonald, Spackman, Allen, Reid (Maddix), Clarke (Falco), Wright, Sinton.
Crystal Palace: Suckling, Pemberton, Burke, Gray, Hopkins, O`Reilly, McGoldrick, Thomas, Bright, Wright, Barber.
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