That grumbling sound emanating from W12 is the muffled discontent of a certain faction of the footballing world, concerned over the dangerous trend they've spotted in their club's transfer activity.
QPR have signed...players over thirty! More than one! And re-signed octogenarian (Player of the Year) Clint Hill! Oh, the humanity!
In this mixed up world where youth is the most valuable asset, clearly manager Mark Hughes must be sacked and Tony Fernandes must sell in favour of an owner with the foresight to understand that only twenty-one year olds on £90,000 a week can bring you success.
Reality check: QPR are exactly where they need to be and are making quality additions to the squad.
Andy Johnson celebrates scoring against QPR last year
The procession of free transfers and retentions at the Loftus Road Home for the Aged has elicited a bit of concern from the ever excitable QPR contingent. But the squad renovation now under way is a year overdue, as Hughes and company clear the books of players who were unfit for the Premier League. Due to Neil Warnock's stifled pre-season under the profit-first mentality of the previous ownership, last summer's activity consisted of patching hull breaches with duct tape rather than strengthening and building up the squad. The last minute panic buys of August delivered marginal returns, and the team sheet Hughes was handed upon arrival was in desperate need of sorting. In four weeks, he's done a fine job of discarding the surplus and returning players with qualities the team as a whole lacked last season - confidence and experience. Those commodities come at a price - age - but bear as much value as the exuberant pace of younger players.
In the past week the R's have announced the signing of defender Ryan Nelsen, striker Andrew Johnson and keeper Robert Green. Each still has talent and ability despite their age and represent upgrades at their respective positions. Further, the creep of Father Time is mitigated by the prudent contracts being awarded - Nelson joined for one year, Johnson and Green for two. If their game should fall off or they outlive their usefulness, the club is not saddled with long term obligations.
When fans scoffed at Nelsen's name being linked with the club, his advanced aged (34) was the main complaint. The New Zealand captain saw limited action with Spurs last season, but demonstrated that he can still win balls and be a physical force in the centre of the pitch. He'll be a fine substitute and a significant upgrade over the likes of Fitz Hall and Danny Gabbidon. What he lacks in pace he makes up for in tactical awareness and experience, having played for club and country at every professional level.
Andrew Johnson (31) showed that he can still work himself into dangerous positions, as anyone who watched QPR's six-nil demolition at Craven Cottage last year will attest. He tallied eleven goals in all competitions, mostly in Fulham's Europa League adventure, and slots in as an upgrade over Jay Bothroyd's meagre contributions. Sadly his arrival likely signals the departure of DJ Campbell, who suffered through an injury plagued year and never had an opportunity to show what he might contribute to the team. Johnson's an all-around striker, and whether he is paired with Zamora or Cisse, will continue to make an impact in front of goal.
Green (32) anchored West Ham's Championship promotion campaign last year and is currently backing up England #1 Joe Hart at Euro 2012. Despite the forever haunting memory of his bobbled miss at the 2010 World Cup, he is a very reliable shot stopper and a more agile upgrade over Paddy Kenny, who is likely to depart the club in the coming weeks for regular playing time elsewhere. Kenny deserves thanks for two solid seasons, but a change was necessary after the team allowed sixty-six goals last term. Much of the blame can be laid on the defence which was horrifying at times, but the new boss sought out upgrades and Green's availability on a free transfer put him ahead of the likes of Shay Given and Ben Foster. For the money and experience, he looks like a good buy and a value added between the sticks.
Despite the age of the recent arrivals, there is no reason for all of the panic.
First, new technical director Mike Rigg is overhauling QPR's scouting and youth development programmes, which were neglected over the past many years. Combined with the new training ground and the stability of an owner willing to invest in the future, the club is committed to developing internal players and recruiting talented youngsters to mentor for future teams. That is another positive sign that the Fernandes era is going to be more than just a pump and dump operation to inflate the club's value for a quick turnaround. The management team is focused on the long and short term health of the club and the value of that cannot be understated.
Second, the club is not exactly devoid of talented young players. Adel Taraabt was a different player after Hughes took over, standing out during the run-in and delivering that electric style and free kick ability that made him so vital the previous year. QPR face a decision with him, as he'll be out of contract after the upcoming season, but his response to the new manager and the manager's public comments about his value suggest he may be retained. It is a fresh start for him this term and he may yet return as the game-changer that he can be when properly motivated. Samba Diakite was a brilliant find last season, and there are shortened fingernails in West London as supporters await news that he has in fact been signed permanently. The loan deal from AS Nancy included a purchase agreement at the time, and that club's website indicates he's been sold, but without official confirmation fans remain in limbo. Nonetheless, if he does complete a permanent move, he will be a terrific partner in the central midfield with Ale Faurlin, who was exceptional before suffering a season-ending knee injury last year. Armand Traore failed to impress at Arsenal, but his switch to QPR revealed a pacey left back with excellent vision and crossing skills. His versatility on the wing could make for an interesting formation if he lined up on the wing in a 4-3-1-2, alongside Diakite and Faurlin behind Taarabt.
Finally, the transfer period is only beginning. Hughes and his team have been clearing the decks and securing quality free transfers to bolster the squad's depth. Green should add stability in net, and Nelsen will play a part in defence to bolster a line that is probably not done being upgraded. Johnson will push Zamora for minutes and gives the manager plenty of attacking options depending on the situation. The manager noted that younger transfer targets were also being worked on and with a summer yet to go, there is every reason to believe that a comprehensive plan is unfolding to make this a competitive squad that can not only withstand another season, but thrive at this level.