x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Reality check for QPR and Warnock

The Premier League new-boys are given a dramatic introduction by Owen Coyle's Bolton.

Ivan Klasnic, right, of Bolton controls the ball as teammate Chris Eagles looks on against Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road.
Ivan Klasnic, right, of Bolton controls the ball as teammate Chris Eagles looks on against Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road.

LONDON // A prospective owner in the directors' box, an offside goal on two minutes, a Kieron Dyer injury in the fourth. Queens Park Rangers' return to the Premier League suffered no shortage of talking points; just a dearth of the variety that keep a team like theirs in this division.

"The one club to emulate" said Neil Warnock of Bolton Wanderers before adding a sly dig at employers he hopes to be rid of before he is long into QPR's first season at this level for a decade and a half.

"[Bolton] don't have the most financial clout, but year after year, with good management and a settled boardroom, they manage to defy the odds."

If he promised to deliver the former attribute, QPR have blatantly lacked the latter. Amit Bhatia resigned the chairmanship as soon as they reached the top tier. Swiftly placed on the market by Bernie Ecclestone, a majority shareholder seemingly more interested in driving ticket prices up than investing heavily in the team, QPR may soon be in the hands of Tony Fernandes.

Sat in the box seats, the Malaysian businessman observed a team whose limited transfer-market resources had been mainly directed towards wages. Dyer, who was carried off on a stretcher early on, Jay Boothroyd and Danny Gabbidon were all released by their former employers to save salary. Alongside £1.25 million (Dh7.4m) forward DJ Campbell, all started here.

QPR began with Championship fervour. Campbell stretched in a penalty-box scramble and celebrated before noting the linesman's flag. Bolton offered little beyond midfield endeavour until Gary Cahill's elegant opener.

Chris Eagles fed a smart ball to the unmarked centre-back, who took one look at goal and lobbed Paddy Kenny. Overlooked by the Champions League clubs he had sought to move to this summer, it was a moment Cahill rightly savoured."There hasn't been one firm offer," Owen Coyle, the Bolton manager, said. "I love having him in my team, but I'm telling you just now he could play for anybody."

Bolton's moments were to multiply. An Eagles free kick from alongside the area, deflected off Campbell, drawing Danny Gabbidon into an own goal.

Ivan Klasnic sidled across the box before firing in off the leg of Bradley Orr. The Croatian then fed Fabrice Muamba for a rare finish.

Then as QPR’s sparse support turned their attentions to bemoaning key shareholder Flavio Briatore’s stinginess, Clint Hill collected a straight red card for manhandling Martin Petrov.

Warnock remained upbeat. “I thought we looked like the team that were going to win,” he said. “I’ve spoken to [Fernandes] a couple of times since I’ve met him. He’s very supportive. I’ve just got to hope that things get sorted and we move on.”

Warnock and his support both.