At last the final installment of the final quarter of the year that was 2007.
To read Part 1 click here
To read Part 2 click here
To read Part 3 click here
Rangers started the month still reeling off the sinking 5-1 defeat away at West Bromwich Albion. A performance that would ultimately cost manager John Gregory his job. The official website announced:
‘The Club would like to thank John for everything he has done during a difficult period as Manager, in particular for saving us from relegation last season.”
‘However, the performances and results this season have not met with our expectations. The league table does not lie.”
‘The Club have decided to act swiftly in time to turn things around for the remainder of the season.”
Mick Harford took temporary charge of the team, and the rumour mill was hot, former Chelsea and Watford manager Gianluca Vialli, was being touted as a possible replacement. With other names such as Antonio Conte, Franco Baresi and even Didier Deschamps. Ex-Rangers player Glenn Roeder was also in the frame as the race hotted up.
Harford wasted no time in dipping into the loan market by recruiting Preston North End`s out of favour midfielder Jason Jarrett and Birmingham striker Rowan Vine.
As the month grew on new candidates were emerging; former England manager Glenn Hoddle and ex-Rangers player Les Ferdinand were in the picture according to some reports. However the front runner was out of work Neil Warnock, there was also an outside chance on Terry Venables. A plethora of potential but once again nothing concrete.
On the pitch, Rangers went down away from home at Colchester 4-2 in Mick Harford`s first game in charge. Goals from former U`s loanee Hogan Ephraim, who was later to extend his loan spell with the R`s, and debutante Rowan Vine weren`t enough as Rangers defence imploded once again after the dropping of Damion Stewart.
Rangers then invested in Portsmouth defender Martin Cranie, Harford was delighted with the move stating:
‘He’s played at the highest level already this season and he’s an England Under-21 international, so he’s got great pedigree.”
‘He’s versatile, but he prefers to play at centre half and that’s where we’ll use him.”
Rangers then got back to action on the pitch with a crucial result against Norwich, a 1-0 win was secured against the Canaries infront of the Sky camera`s courtesy of a Martin Rowlands penalty. This was a breath of fresh air for the Rangers fans who finally saw their team pick up their first win of the season.
Yet more managerial rumours were banded about with John Collins and Paul Jewell entering the fray as a possible replacement for John Gregory, the front runner though was former Palermo manager Francesco Guidolin, and it seemed all but a done deal, and a matter of time before it was announced according to some reports.
Bernie Ecclestone finally spoke regarding his investment in QPR:
‘I could see big potential at QPR if somebody got behind it. I think the stadium can be brought to life, which is something I will have a look at.’
Rangers then drew 1-1 at Home to Ipswich, a sensational drive from former Fulham player Sylvan Legwinski had put the Tractor Boys infront, but Marc Nygaard cancelled that out with a good drive past the near post of the goalkeeper. It appeared Rangers` form was picking up.
Rangers then picked up a good away point up at Preston, with Lee Camp saving a spot kick from former Rangers target Paul Gallagher. A 0-0 draw was the best both teams could muster in a gritty affair up at Deepdale, which was not for the faint hearted.
After a reported knockback from Francesco Guidolin, Luigi De Canio emerged as the front runner for the job; with the majority of reports saying his appointment was imminent.
QPR then pulled off their best performance of the season at The Valley, dominating the game against Charlton, with wave after wave of attack the pressure finally told, as Adam Bolder was first onto Marc Nygaard`s knockdown to thrash the ball in, right infront of the elated Rangers faithful, who could go home thoroughly happy at a great performance.
The reports were for once correct as Luigi De Canio was announced as QPR manager shortly after the Charlton game. He spoke to the official websitestating:
‘I am very excited at this fantastic opportunity to join Queens Park Rangers as their First Team Coach.”
‘For me, it will be an honour to work for Queens Park Rangers, a Club which is backed by Bernie Ecclestone and Flavio Briatore, two businessmen with an incredible track-record of success in sport and other fields.”
‘I would like to thank them and tell them I will not disappoint their expectations. I am fully committed to the project and I am looking forward to getting to work with the players in preparation for our forthcoming home fixture against Hull City on Saturday.’
Mick Harford was reportedly offered a role by the club, but turned it down, evidently hoping for further managerial experience elsewhere.
His first move was to sign Plymouth and Hungarian international midfielder Akos Buzsaky from Plymouth Argyle. He also spoke to the official websitestating:
‘I am really looking forward to playing here.”
‘It is a nice honour to be handed the No.10 shirt, but for me it is more important how you play rather than the shirt you wear.”
‘I haven’t played a full match for three weeks, so I am excited at the prospect of playing against Hull City on Saturday.’
It didn`t take long for Luigi De Canio to put his own stamp on the club, opting to bring in coaching duo Iuri Bartoli and Paolo Pavese, two men he has worked with before:
“I’m very happy to have them both with me”
“I’ve worked with them before and I know that they are very capable. They are very enthusiastic and looking forward to the challenge that lies ahead.”
In the transfer market, Rangers were giving a trial to Francesco Coco, the former Inter Milan star, was also a television star in his native Italy, taking part in a reality TV show.
Rangers also extended the loan of Rowan Vine just in time for the Coventry game, and also added Scott Sinclair on loan until mid-December; this paved the way for the end of Hogan Ephraim`s loan spell, this could not be further extended due to the previous extensions already taken.
Rangers also let defender Danny Cullip leave on a free transfer, the defender hadn`t featured much under Mick Harford and was also seen surplus to requirements under the new regime. The move to release Cullip and an injury to loanee Martin Cranie meant that Bob Malcolm was drafted in on loan from Derby County:
‘I am very happy to have brought Bob in.”
‘I have heard a lot of positive things about him. After losing Michael Cranie to injury, Bob’s arrival will really help us.”
‘He has the ability and enthusiasm to be a success.’
Dominic Shimmin was also allowed to go on loan at AFC Bournemouth, but later returned due to reported disciplinary reasons refusing to take part in a local competition for the Cherries.
Former Rangers manager Ian Holloway opted to leave Plymouth Argyle for Leicester City, a move much to the annoyance of the Plymouth faithful who thought that Olly had done the dirty on them, and run off for the money. Rangers fans will remember a similar scenario with Leicester resulting in Ian being put on gardening leave, at least he finally found his way to Leicester via the South West.
On the pitch Gigi De Canio`s reign as manager got off to a good start with a 2-0 home win over Hull City; goals from Hogan Ephraim and Mikele Leigertwood, both fanstastic solo efforts, handed Rangers a much needed three points. The second time in two years that Rangers played against Hull City under new management.
Coventry City then took advantage of Rangers 3 injuries in the first half and sealed the win. It all looked bright when Akos Buzsaky hit a trademark thunderbolt into the top corner, but Michael Mifsud and a last gasp header from Kevin Kyle sealed the win for the Sky Blues. An injury that ended Martin Cranie`s loan spell.
Rangers then picked up a point away at Crystal Palace but it should have been a lot more for the visitors, several times Rangers were thwarted by the acrobatics of Julian Speroni, only Scott Sinclair`s header managed to beat the Argentine. Palace hit back late on when Rangers nemesis Clinton Morrison put the eagles level, and Dougie Freedman still had time to miss a guilt edge chance at the death.
Stalemate ensued at Loftus Road when Sheffield Wednesday came to town, the Owls and the R`s played out a gritty 0-0 which saw Bob Malcolm make a somewhat uncomfortable debut at the heart of the Rangers backline, and he was duly substituted.
Rangers ended the month with a disappointing away defeat at the hands of Stoke City. 2 first half goals from Richard Cresswell and a scintillating free kick from Liam Lawrence looked to have killed off the R`s. This was compounded in the second half when Dexter Blackstock was sent off for a high lunge, after which a 3 match was appealed and rejected. Vine got Rangers back in it with a curling left-footed drive but Leon Cort put the result beyond doubt with a towering header.
Rangers ended the month having seen the best and worst of De Canio`s reign, and more of both was to come.
An eventful month began with news that had Rangers fans rubbing their hands together in anticipation, Rangers had drawn their West London rivals, Chelsea in the 3rd round of the FA cup at Stamford Bridge, the anticipation was evident from the minute the balls were drawn, and the excitement was palpable.
Nick Ward departed Loftus Road under a cloud, bemoaning previous management for his inability to make the cut in England. He spoke about John Gregory stating:
‘It seems that as far as he was concerned, Australians couldn’t play the game and that the English (players) were all that counted.’
‘He was almost at the point of bastardisation,’
‘I just didn’t rate him as a person or a coach. He tried to intimidate you.
‘He was a bully and I learned nothing at all from him. Football-wise, he just didn’t give me a chance.”
Rumours were hotting up as to who would be next to join the Rangers revolution, Defender Martin Taylor was the biggest rumour, with Birmingham desperate to sell to Rangers, but Norwich being the players prefered club, Glenn Roeder on numerous occasions reminded us of this fact. Rangers also reportedly made a joint bid for Tommy Spurr and Jermain Johnson from Sheffield Wednesday, which was rejected.
There were also trials for Gabor Gyepes and Francesco Coco, with neither particulary impressing and unable to earn themselves a contract. The latter, a reality TV star in his native Italy; reportedly fell out with owner Flavio Briatore, now way back after that one really.
There were also departures on the non-playing side, Ed De Goey found him self surplus to requirement and was followed by Francesco Ceravolo, as Rangers seeked to freshed up their backroom.
John Curtis was released by mutual consent and found himself training with Preston North End for a brief period, the full back was signed by John Gregory, but once again fell aside to the Rangers Revolution.
The big news of the month was that steel magnate and 5th richest man in the world, Lakshmi Mittal had invested in QPR, dubbing QPR, “The richest club in the world” (In terms of owners, but we`ll forget that)
‘This investment in QPR by the Mittal Family is a great stepping-stone towards the future development of the Club and supports the ambition of the current shareholders to reach the Premier League in the near future.
‘The new capital being invested in QPR will help fund the programme that is needed to help us achieve this target.’
Former Rangers player Ivor Powell was given an MBE, a worthy accolade for a man that has given so much to football over the years.
Rangers at the end of the month also announced the emergency loan signing of Watford`s Gavin Mahon with view to a permanent transfer a few days later.
On the pitch Rangers started the month badly by losing to Blackpool 1-0 at Bloomfield Road. A last minute winner from Ben Burgess condemned Rangers to a poor start to the month.
Rangers then lost at home to Crystal Palace 2-1, Rangers took the lead, but were pegged back through second half goals from Clint Hill and Clinton Morrison handed Rangers 2 losses in two.
Akos Buzsaky single-handily gave Rangers a point away at Scunthorpe in a 2-2 draw, with two stunning solo efforts.
‘We feel as though we are making progress, but we keep throwing goals away,’
‘We need to tighten up defensively, because we can’t afford to keep letting teams back in the game.”
Rangers then stunned everyone by defeating Burnley 2-0 at Turf Moor, Rangers who simply did not win up in that part of Lancashire won courtesy of goals from Damion Stewart and Rowan Vine
A 0-0 draw then ensued at Loftus Road against Wolves, with Rangers bemoaning the lack of a penalty decision for a foul on Marc Nygaard
‘What happened with Nygaard was simply unbelievable,’
‘That worries me because we’re not getting the big decisions.
‘It was a very poor decision by the referee.’
Rangers got back to winning ways by dispatching of Colchester 2-1 at Loftus Road, for some revenge following their big defeat of Rangers only a few months previous. Akos Buzsaky added to his ever growing reputation with 2 more goals as Rangers looked to pull clear of the relegation zone.
Boxing Day disappointment at Plymouth 2-1, gave no Christmas cheer for Rangers, when another 2-1 reversal ensued following a Rangers lead. A last minute goal from Sylvan Ebanks-Blake saw to it Rangers were sent home empty-handed. Mikele Leigertwood was sent off after the final whistle, with Gigi De Canio berating refereeing woes:
‘His performance offended me and every sportsman. He was bad throughout the whole match.”
“When we lost at Stoke it was because of our own mistakes, but here the referee was mainly responsible for our defeat.’
Rangers though ended the year with a bang defeating high flying Watford 4-2 at Vicarage Road. Angelo Balanta made his debut but it was Martin Rowlands who stole the show, with an excellent performance, capped off with a goal.
That was the year that was 2007, the high and the lows, in abundance, but I guess that`s Rangers, 2008 already holds a lot of promise as Rangers will look to kick on and make the big push for the Premier League.
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Rangers Review 2007 – Part 4
At last the final installment of the final quarter of the year that was 2007.