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This Week – Taking account and reasons to be cheerful
This Week – Taking account and reasons to be cheerful
Wednesday, 8th Apr 2009 23:22

The release of QPR’s latest set of accounts has prompted much discussion but how much can they really tell us about our present situation? And in amongst all this negativity we look at two things to be rightly chuffed about.

Accountancy for dummies module 1.1
I’m going to put my cards on the table nice and early here – I’m the wrong person to be writing an article about accounts.

I was never good with maths at school. I could do the adding and subtracting but anything more than that caused me a problem. I still have nightmares about reciting times tables wrong in front of the class and before I’d even been given proper teaching and schooling on that front I was swiftly moved into algebra and equations and, let’s be honest here, since when have χ and γ had anything whatsoever to do with maths? They’re letters for goodness sake. I struggled with the idea of a table being female (or is it male?) in French as well.

So when the QPR and QPR Holding Company accounts landed in my inbox yesterday the thought that I would actually have to sit here and write something about them was not a particularly thrilling one. This is normally an opinion column but I’m not really comfortable with offering an opinion on much of this other than to say that as these are the accounts for the financial year ending in 2008 – the Gregory and De Canio’s season. Therefore they don’t take into account the massive ground improvements carried out in South Africa Road during the summer, or the sacking of Iain Dowie and others and subsequent compensation which even CEO Ali Russell has conceded this year has been “expensive”, or the transfer in of players like Gorkss, Cerny, Cook and Helguson and the supposedly very expensive loaning of Parejo, Di Carmine and Ledesma.

On the positive side the numerous lucrative sponsorship deals we signed last summer with the likes of Gulf Air, Santander and Chronotech are also still to come so while it’s safe to assume we’ve spent plenty more since the period these accounts cover, we’ve also brought in a good chunk more as well. Lowering ticket prices for 2007/08 is listed as a cause of a 12% reduction in matchday income giving weight to the board’s claim against supporters that a packed ground paying a lower amount is better than 4000 empty seats with people paying £600 a time. Presumably in this season’s accounts the massive hikes in ticket prices and apparent huge take up of season tickets will improve that.

The accounts do obviously cover the takeover of the club by Flavio Briatore, or as it is modestly described in the introduction the “saving” of the club from administration and the signings we made last January. In fairness looking at the money going out and the money coming in through the share issue to Briatore and the loan from his company what we probably all knew at he time is clearly true – we were teetering on the brink of administration and a plummet down the leagues prior to the takeover.

Anyway like I say accounts and maths are not my thing so I have trawled the message boards, asked a few people with more idea than myself, and gone through the sheets as best I can and basically there follows a list of points that caught the eye and a link to where you can download the document for yourself and pass your own judgement.

- Firstly the line grabbing all the headlines across the boards is the various payments made to current Sporting Director and previously Chairman Gianni Paladini. He received, through the Moorbound company of which is wife is the only director, a £70k consultancy fee which if memory serves was the annual wage he has always taken from QPR. Bizarrely though the club also loaned Paladini £140,000 interest free and there is no note on page 20 where this is mentioned of when or if this is going to be repaid. A small amount in the grand scheme of things but a bizarre point to comprehend for the uninitiated like myself and another stick with which to beat Paladini for his critics. There is also £196,000 paid to directors which again is presumably Paladini.

- The ABC loan is confirmed as being refinanced. From paying 11.76% interest a season on a £10m loan from that lot we are now paying Amulya (essentially Briatore and Mittal) 8% a season on the same amount which with nobody in their right mind apparently just going to give the club £10m as a gift to wipe that away even if they do own the club has been seen as a pretty decent arrangement by people who know a bit about these things.

- An overall loss of £6m is posted. £10m came into the club during the takeover through a share issue, £8.6m was loaned to the club by the new owners. Certainly those that have accused Briatore and co of not putting their hands in their pockets may like to consider those amounts – it adds weight to their “saved” claims and is consistent (I’m told) with a failing and neglected business being brought up to date by new owners. As said at the start so much has happened since then with sponsorships, ticket price rises, new signings, compensation packages and a new loan from Lloyds Bank (£5m) so one can only take a wild guess at what that figure might be next year.

- A rare footballing line that stood out for me, and LoftforWords’ representative on the OneQPR group Tom (WatfordR), was the assertion on page four that it is the club’s strategy to secure high quality players by offering long term contracts. This has been a source of regular debate on LFW during the past 18 months and while it is fair to say that excellent deals have to be offered to get players with the quality of Matt Connolly, Wayne Routledge, Rowan Vine, Akos Buzsaky and Kaspars Gorkss and the promise of people like Hogan Ephraim questions should continue to be asked about the sense of offering such deals to the many mediocre players we have brought in on the best contracts of their career and with the usual apologies to said players I shall use my usual examples – Delaney, Agyemang, Borrowdale.

- On page five the accounts state that the long term policy is to continue to invest in the team and the key areas of the stadium. The former bodes well for this summer because we are in need of strengthening up front, dire need, the latter is also good news although as we saw last summer when they say ‘key areas’ they more than likely mean parts of South Africa Road used by the owners and potential lucrative box and C Club holders should we ever reach the top flight rather than the Ellerslie Road bogs.

- Rangers owe Valentin Ehmer (whose son/grandson, I can never remember which, Max plays in our youth set up) £500,000 repayable in 2010. From memory he put this into the club when we were really up against it before the takeover.

- The club owes Antonio Caliendo £2m repayable in 2011 or earlier if QPR want. Caliendo has made various outbursts on his own blog that Briatore should hurry up and pay his debt to him, and even sent a man with a placard to pace up and down South Africa Road before the Crystal Palace match for the sole benefit of the Daily Mail.

- It is suggested by some that the club’s debt of more than £19m means we are only a going concern, in technical terms, by the valuation of the ground which in times of sinking property prices could be a problem when it comes to signing off next year’s accounts.

Anyway, enough of me fumbling in the dark. If you want to see full sets of both accounts they are linked to on the QPR Report message board at this link. I welcome comments at the bottom of this article – I might learn something myself.

Reasons to be cheerful – part one
There was a comment on the message board on Wednesday from a lapsed poster who said that the constant negativity surrounding QPR, and on the websites in particular, was putting him off contributing. He does have a fair point in that there is a lot of negativity around but then as far as I’m concerned you can’t simply demand everybody be happy and cheerful when there is little to be happy and cheerful about.

As the deadline to renew our extortionately priced season tickets approaches (end of next week) we have sacked our assistant manager after only four months without giving a reason, we have just drawn 0-0 for the tenth time and failed to score in a game for the twentieth time this season, we appear to be on the brink of sacking/losing yet another manager, the manager says he didn’t know his top scorer was about to be loaned out and Rowan Vine says the players don’t really understand the decisions being made. I’ll be honest, I’ve seen more unified and better run football teams in the Essex Senior League. Sticking several thousand pounds a season into following a club being run like this in no way inspires me or anybody else to be particularly chuffed about it all.

However constant negativity can give even me a headache. Following QPR and following sport in general is meant to be about fun. You spend five days slaving away for some tosser at work and your reward is a Saturday at the football. At the moment many of you may actually find yourself looking forward to getting back to work on the Monday as another QPR corner lands plum on the head of the defender at the near post but that is besides the point. I found myself quite down about it all reading through the message board comments on Monday and I tried to cheer myself by thinking of reasons to be positive about QPR.

The main one is our league position. Tenth may not be what the bookies, pundits or over optimistic, carried away Rangers fans had in mind for us this season but it’s higher than last term and higher than anything we have achieved since 2005. Those who profess to be in the know may have told you all to get your money on Rangers this season because everything was going to be brilliant but most people with half a brain anticipated a finish of between eighth and tenth and it looks like we’re going to be round and about that spot. The team is better than it was a year ago and with players to come back we are well placed going into next season. This is despite sacking one manager and seemingly being on the verge of changing again. Had we appointed the right manager last summer, and stuck with him, then we may well have made the six this season. Alas we didn’t and while the impatience with managers betrays this the board did say this season would be one of consolidation. You may think paying £600 to watch a season of consolidation and ridiculous treatment of managers isn’t much of a reason to be cheerful and you’d be right, but in the interests of remaining positive allow me to focus on one particular young man who still makes going to QPR worthwhile.

How good was Matt Connolly on Saturday? Through all of this stuff and nonsense this season, and despite landing the likes of Borrowdale on huge contracts to no obvious benefit, we have managed to land ourselves a real gem here. Connolly is exactly the kind of player I expected us to be signing when the new owners took over and spoke of young, talented players and building for the future. Sadly only he and possibly Hogan Ephraim and Wayne Routledge fit into that description of the signings we have made but still I think he’s going to be some player.

I remember making a point of going to see Arsenal’s Carling Cup side, of which Connolly was once a part, when it came to Sheffield United last season. As I’ve said many times the highlight of the evening was a Sheff Utd fan running on the pitch and fulfilling a lifelong fantasy of mine by throwing an item at Bryan Robson (sadly not a lead weight) but apart from that the thing I most took away with me was just how simple the Arsenal way of playing was. Nobody took on and beat three players, nobody did any Ronaldo style show boat tricks, nobody was particularly stand out from anybody else – they just played good passing football with ruthless accuracy, physical strength and incredible speed. Sheff Utd didn’t get near them. In Connolly we have a player brought up playing that way and now in a league where the instruction to just about every player across the back four is to kick it, head it and should you find yourself with the ball at your feet get it belted into the channel as quickly as possible he looks a cut above most.

Connolly can pass a ball better than just about all of our midfielders, he has positional sense second to none on the division and he is physically strong despite boasting a slimline figure. He has said, I believe, that he prefers to play full back and he is reasonably impressive there but when we move him to centre half as we did at the weekend his true ability really shines through. With Connolly and Gorkss at centre half I don’t think Crystal Palace would have scored if we’d kept playing for the entire week. Not only was he far too good for their forwards but he also defied an impossible playing surface with decent control and distribution. And when was the last time you saw him beaten for pace? Or forced to sprint? I can’t recall ever seeing it happen – his anticipation and positional sense is that good.

There’s an interesting piece with Connolly from the sponsor’s evening on Vital QPR and we may have something similar here on LFW before the season is out. I’ve been made to promise that I won’t get drunk at the player of the year dinner and go and impart all of this mushy praise onto Connors in person but I’m afraid I might not be able to help myself.

Of all the negatives from recent games and the season as a whole we have been able to take some positives, and Matthew Connolly is certainly one of those. A Premiership defender waiting to happen, hopefully with us.

Reasons to be cheerful – part two
And if the idea that we may have signed one of the country’s brightest, young, English defenders up for a paltry amount on a long contract doesn’t enthuse you even a little, how about somebody at the other end of the scale career wise. Paul Furlong, a true legend in an age when the word legend is overused, scored twice on Tuesday night to all but secure Barnet’s league status with a 2-0 home victory against Rotherham United at Underhill.

Although there is some dispute and goals for Enfield are not included this, according to my calculations, takes Furs onto 199 career goals with five game left to play this season. Such is the quality of the games at QPR at the moment it may well be worth giving the R’s a miss for a few weeks and following Barnet around just to be there if and when the magic moment happens. Furlong, who has 58 career goals for QPR, was released by John Gregory almost two years ago now. His final goal for QPR was a gorgeous diving header at the Loft End to win a match with Luton in the last minute. The ultimate script would have been for him to come on for his final appearance against Stoke City on the last day of the 2006/07 season and score but sadly his one on one chance was saved by Steve Simonsen. Had it gone in not only would the Loft be requiring a new roof, but he would now be on 200 career goals as of Tuesday night. Still, injury permitting, he should manage it for the Bees between now and the end of the season – he has four goals in his last three matches.

My favourite Furlong goal is the Oldham play off semi final winner of course, amidst an atmosphere the likes of which I’ve never experienced before at a football match, but I think the best one he ever got for us was the one at Sunderland that I was sitting right behind back in August 2004. Northern the Elder rates it as one of the best goals he’s ever seen in his life and he has been going to football for the best part of 70 years so it cannot be too bad. After initially being a target for the boo boys the quality of his performances and his work rate (Di Carmine take note) won supporters over and he ended up beig a fine goal scorer in career best form for us.

Long range strikes like the Sunderland one or his first in that 4-2 home defeat by Ipswich were mixed in with fine free kicks, one at Crewe springs to mind as it nearly snapped the goalkeeper’s hand off, headers, a last minute goal against Wigan still brings me out in goose pimples, and scruffy poacher’s efforts. A proper, old fashioned, all round centre forward, a true gentleman and a terrific player for our club.

If you haven’t seen it before this video is well worth five minutes of your time.

Barnet play Bournemouth at home this Saturday.

Photo: Action Images

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