Queens Park Rangers supporters find themselves in unfamiliar territory this summer. The club has a management team in place with an ambitious vision for the future, a competent strategy to accomplish it and the money to see it through.
Who are you, and what have you done with QPR?
Following the additions of Ryan Nelsen, Robert Green, Andrew Johnson and Fabio da Silva, QPR signed Park Ji-Sung this week for the modest sum of £2 million, and continued the work of locating a site for a new stadium. The owner and board are saying and doing the right things and the team's landscape is unrecognisable from a few years ago. QPR are steeling themselves for a run at mid-table security and bringing in the players to get there this season.
The announcement of the former Manchester United midfielder was appropriately hailed as a "momentous day" for QPR. During his seven years at Old Trafford, Park made 205 appearances, won the league four times and was part of the side that won the Champion's League in 2008. He's a versatile player who can distribute and hold the ball and improves the midfield immediately. When asked if he would be in the starting eleven, Mark Hughes smirked and said, "I think you'll see quite a bit of him." Park is a coup for the price with the ability and experience he has to offer. Hughes remarked, "He's a player with great energy, great technical ability and he's going to bring so much to the team." The addition of another experienced player will help fortify QPR after their relegation scare last season. Though he is thirty-one, Park showed plenty of pace and engine last term to wave off any concerns about the creep of time limiting him in the near future.
He is also a superstar in his native South Korea, and the long-term benefits in marketing and audience growth can only help QPR. The funds to keep improving the squad and build the new stadium won't materialise in a vacuum, and combining a quality player with the team's financial side isn't selling out, it's just good business.
The club also announced this week that Adel Taarabt, who nearly left in a move to Paris Saint- Germain last summer, has signed a new contract with the club through to 2016. After a miserable start to the season last year amidst conflicts with manager Neil Warnock and deposed captain Joey Barton, Taarabt survived the January transfer window still in Hoops, and re-emerged as a game changer for Hughes during the run in.
The long term deal allows the midfielder to continue to grow and hopefully flourish with his head firmly focused on QPR. Hughes made use of him on the left wing several times last season and with the manager preferring a 4-4-2 formation most matches, he may have to adjust to a wider role than he is used to. Whether this will challenge the player is an open question, but his tempestuous first half was eclipsed by a more rugged finish to the season, and under the new regime perhaps more effectiveness can be squeezed out of him. Taarabt finished the year tracking back more than he ever did, and seemed to grasp the idea that he was not solely responsible for winning every game. He will always believe that he can out-dribble three defenders and take a crack at goal, but late last season he showed that he was also finally willing to pass and move with his teammates to accomplish more than just a gutsy but ineffective run. Seeing the fruits of that flexibility may encourage him to continue it, and if he does his potential may finally be realised. With players like Faurlin and Diakite handling defensive duties, opportunities for him to break free should present themselves frequently and allow him to work his creativity into matches.
Ferdnandes and Hughes have mentioned the possibility of a few more signings, so more positive news is still on the horizon. Along with the search for a suitable location for a new stadium, the professionalism of the club's leadership and investment in the squad on display are a revelation for fans used to seeing their team leaf through the footballing scrap heap looking for players. The club departs for their pre-season tour of Asia this week and will look to start forming the unity on the pitch that the patchwork 2011-12 team only found late into the season.