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Tuesday, February 02, 2010

QPR Report Tuesday Snippets...Priskin Profiled...Amit Bhatia on QPR: Flashback Interview

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- Year Flashback: January 21, 2009 - Mirror -QPR keen on Marcus Bent after he fails to impress at Birmingham
- Alex McLeish is preparing to boot Marcus Bent out of Birmingham this month - with QPR ready to pounce. Former Everton striker Bent will be allowed to leave as the Brum board look to trim their wage bill. Bent, 30, has failed to impress boss McLeish this season. But Rangers head the chase with Cardiff also ready to make an offer - and Bent is now set to join his 13th club.

- Dave Clement (RIP): Would Have Been Sixty-Two Today

- QPR's Next Opponents, Peterborough, appoint a new manager (announced at Midnight!)

- Year Flashback: Paulo Sousa Nominated for Championship Manager of The Month

- Three Year Flashback: Dean Parrett Sold to Spurs: What Was Said

- Profile of and Interview with Ex-QPR Richard Pacquette, now with his 17th Football Club.

- Haiti Fundraising: Mittal Foundation Donation

- "QPR Deny Playing China at Loftus Road" - Three Year Flashback "QPR Official Site - CORRECTION -The Club has had it brought to its attention that Ceefax and Teletext are reporting a game between QPR and China on February 8. We would like to confirm that no such fixture is taking place at Loftus Road and we have already asked both parties to remove the story."

- QPR Relegation Form Update: 7 Points from 11 Games - QPR have won just twice since their late October win against Derby County (14 League Games + 2 Cup games) ...and just once in their last 13 league and cup games.

- QPR's Current Promotion and Relegation Odds

- Flashback: Watford Fanzine Profile of Priskin (then a Watford player)

Priskin Profile -EADT24/Carl Marston - Nowhere man finds new home
- TAMAS Priskin, the man who was “going nowhere” on Friday, signed on loan for QPR just three days later.
- So what changed manager Roy Keane's mind?
- I would suggest a couple of reasons. Firstly, Keane managed to have some success in the transfer market, by persuading his old club Sunderland, and manager Steve Bruce in particular, to part with both David Healy and Daryl Murphy.
- And secondly, Priskin's performance at Preston on Saturday, although he had a couple of chances in an overall poor team display, did not suggest a striker about to burst into form for Town.
- In short, Keane needed a change, a fresh outlook, new blood.
- That's why Healy and Murphy have come in, and why Priskin has been given a chance to resurrect his career at under-achieving QPR.
- There's no doubt that Town have not seen the best of their Hungarian international, since his high profile £1.7m move from Watford last summer. He, too, might benefit from a fresh start.
- Priskin insisted: “I wasn't getting enough games at Ipswich, but hopefully I will get to play more with QPR.
- “I'm here to score goals and I'm confident I will do that if I get a run of games in the side.
- “I like to get on the ball and I believe I'm a good player, but I know there is room for improvement.”
- Priskin is set to make his QPR debut against basement dwellers Peterborough this Saturday, although he will not be allowed to play in the Londoners' next fixture - he will have to sit out the visit of Ipswich a week today, because of a clause in the deal preventing him from playing against his parent club.
- The 23-year-old only scored two goals in 19 outings for Town. He netted in the Carling Cup defeat at Peterborough in August, when he also missed a penalty, but his finest moment was scoring with a header in the 3-3 draw at Doncaster in mid-September.
- Although he claimed that his chances have always been limited at Portman Road, it's interesting to note that he was in Keane's 18-man squad for each of the first 13 league games, and was only left out of one of Town's first 20 fixtures in the Championship.
- Yet on the other side of the coin, Priskin will no doubt highlight the fact that his longest run in the starting line-up was a mere three games.
- Ironically, although he failed to score in each of Town's last three games, he did have chances to score in all of them - as a substitute at Southampton and against West Brom, and from the start at Preston.
- Now, though, Priskin will start with a clean slate at Loftus Road.
- “I want to give everything I can to QPR,“ continued Priskin.
- “This is a crazy Championship. If we can get a few wins, we can move right up the table.”
THREE days is a long time in football!
Here is what Roy Keane had to say at last Friday's press conference, about Tamas Priskin, ahead of the Preston game:
“Tamas is going nowhere. Tamas is staying at the football club. The boy deserves a chance. I think that he's a talented player.
"Some players take longer than others to settle in. I think our fans have been very, very patient with Tamas so far, and maybe we all have to be a little more patient with him.
"Tamas is a player we've obviously gauged and we've had plenty of enquiries about him. But I made a decision the other night. My gut feeling is that he's going to stay with us. He has missed out on a few squads, and he hasn't had that many minutes on the pitch.
"We all need to be a little patient. I know there comes a point when the patience runs out, don't get me wrong, but he deserves more of an
opportunity and he's going to get that with all the games coming up.”
Priskin fact-file
BORN: Komarno, Slovakia, in September, 1986 (aged 23)
WATFORD DAYS: After two lean years, he scored 14 goals last season
TOWN MOVE: £1.7m from Watford last summer
FRUSTRATIONS: never held down a regular place in Town side this season, mustering just one league goal and two in all competitions
GOOD AND BAD: summed up at Peterborough, where he scored his first goal for Town, but on the losing side after all missing out a penalty
LAST GAME: A rare start at Preston. Missed a great chance and had a goal disallowed for offside EADT24

From just over a year ago:
- In Depth Bhatia Interview re Bhatia and QPR, The Mittal Involvement and Relations With Briatore and Eccelstone - -
- Campden FB- Marc Smith/ No41 Nov/Dec 2008 - The beautiful game

- While many wealthy individuals are happy to leave their lifestyle investments at the latest sports car or superyacht, some prefer to pour their money into what is rapidly becoming the ultimate status symbol – buying a sports team.
- From George Steinbrenner's purchase of baseball's New York Yankees to Mukesh Ambani's Mumbai Indians cricket team, the world of sport is awash with billionaires hoping to create an intoxicating but often elusive mixture of profit and sporting success.
- Add in the potential adulation from fans that beats shareholder applause and any industry award hands down, and you can begin to understand why so many are bitten by the bug.

- In particular, English football has become one of the most popular sports for successful businessmen looking to gamble their reputations on. In the last five years, the Glazer family, Roman Abramovich and a partnership between George Gillett Jr and Tom Hicks have purchased Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool football clubs respectively.

- Amit Bhatia (pictured) is the latest businessman to get involved with an English club. As the son-in-law of Lakshmi Mittal, patriarch of the family-owned steel giant ArcelorMittal, Bhatia is heading up his adopted family's 20% investment in Queen's Park Rangers FC.

- The club has a rich history that dates back to 1882 when it was formed after a merger between two London teams: St Judes and Christchurch Rangers. Famed for playing attractive football it is located just down the road from the Mittals' London home.

- Yet QPR is, in many respects, an unusual choice. Currently playing in the second-tier of the English football pyramid, the club has had a chequered recent history with the real threat of bankcruptcy hanging over it and a boardroom battle that ended with the then chairman accusing seven men of forcing him to resign at gunpoint during a game. All seven were later acquitted.

- It was against this background that Formula One empresario Bernie Ecclestone and F1 Renault team owner Flavio Briatore stepped in to save the club which was just days from closure, crippled by debt and a €12 million loan whose interest payment alone were €1.2 a year.

- Briatore's Sarita Capital investment vehicle and Ecclestone spent an initial €16.5 million on buying the club in September 2007, but it wasn't long before they began leaning on a few old friends to get involved.
- "We have known Bernie and Flavio for many years and consider them very close friends," Bhatia told Campden FB, who revealed he first learnt of the duo's acquisition when he saw the news on TV.

- "Soon after I was approached by Flavio who said I should come over to discuss a few things. We sat and talked and then he asked if we would like to be involved in QPR, a club that he said had a great history and great tradition."

- The Mittals had been invited to become financially involved in a number of other English clubs, but Bhatia says he was attracted to QPR for a number of reasons.

- "The club felt like an unpolished diamond that just needed a bit of nurturing and caring. There are a lot of people, everyone from the management to the fans, who I felt wanted good things for QPR and I think it has the potential to be great," says Bhatia.

- Cynics naturally would point out that this is a low-risk investment for a family that, despite the credit crunch, is still worth over €16 billion. The only way is up for this investment and, if it comes off, then Bhatia and co will be hailed as saviours.

- Yet the man himself is keen to demonstrate that the investment is more than just a simple punt on a club down on its luck. "At the end of the day I don't think you do anything in life hoping to lose money but this is not a monetary investment for me or my father-in-law – it is an investment of passion," he said.

- "There is a joy that you get out of being involved in sport that you do not get in business, so this is an investment that came about because of our love for sport."

- The family's investment has certainly had an impact. The club is today worth more than what the Mittals and the F1 moguls paid for it and is currently sat in its highest league position for 12 years. The ultimate aim is promotion to the Premier League – where it would face the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal – within three years and then European football where it aims to compete with giants such as Real Madrid and AC Milan.

- Away from the pitch, the owners have used their contacts to create a new identity by redesigning the club logo, attracting high level sponsors including Gulf Air, Lotto and the Santander Group, and modernising the club's facilities by introducing fine dining courtesy of Cipriani's.

- As vice chairman, Bhatia says his role is to help overall decision-making at the club and there have been a number of important one's he has had to make – not all of which have been popular. He admits a new ticket pricing structure that outraged fans was a mistake and took personal charge, resulting in an open letter on the club's website, of resolving the matter.

- The day we met in his office in London's Mayfair, the board had just sacked its fouth manager in the 13 months since they all bought into the club. A clash of personalities was the conduit for the latest coach's departure and Bhatia shows he has quickly picked up English football-speak.

- "It is part and parcel of the game unfortunately," he said with the air of a man who has been around the game a lot longer than 10 months. "There are tough decisions to be made and we are not too proud to say that we have made decisions that have not always been the best ones – but we always try to do the right thing."

- Bhatia grew up in New Delhi, India where his family is involved in real estate and is independently wealthy. He moved to London aged 15 to attend school before heading to the US where he studied economics and investment management at Cornell University. Jobs at Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse in London and New York followed before he married Lakshmi's only daughter, Vanisha Mittal, at a famously lavish ceremony at the Palais de Versailles in France.

- Opportunities arose at both his father's and father-in-law's businesses, but Bhatia says he likes doing things for himself. To prove the point, he set up his own private investment house, Swordfish, that today has its own hedge fund and a private equity business. Both businesses manage assets of several hundred million dollars each.

- Clearly very passionate about finance, he is keen to reveal his love of sport. "My whole life I have been involved in sport – cricket is obviously the number one sport in India so I played it to a quite high level. Then I started to play a bit of tennis and competed at Junior Wimbledon. Now I play golf, a bit of football and a lot of squash. I play anything that I can," he said.

- QPR is not the first time he has combined sport and business – a dream scenario in his own words. Alongside his father-in-law, Bhatia set up the Mittal Champions Trust, a non-profit venture that supports and funds talented Indian sportspersons and potential Olympic medal winners to enable them to access the best specialists in the world. MCT was behind India's first ever individual gold medallist at the Olympics in Beijing and Bhatia hopes to help his home country to achieve a level of success comparable to its size.

- QPR is just his latest venture and although he admits it is taking up increasingly more of his time, given the tone of his voice it is a privilege not a chore.

- In particular, it is the human side of the investment that most appeals to him and says he has a very active role with the players. "I spend quite a lot of time with them. We had a dinner for all the players and their wives plus all the management and their spouses at our house." he said.

- "We want to get to know the players and our families to get to know their families so they realise that we are all here for a common goal which is to win football matches."

- While it appears to be all happy families so far, there is a risk that one of the three investors will want to pull out or that a difference of opinion will lead to a split in the future. This is exactly the situation that has happened at Liverpool where Hicks and Gillett Jr have fallen out.

- Bhatia claims such an evantuality is extremely unlikely at QPR. He describes both Briatore and Ecclestone as close friends and says they even take holidays together. "If anything I think this leads to a much better dynamic because it allows communication to be very open and very forthright on a regular basis," says Bhatia.

- Consequently, he scotches recent rumours that the Mittals would buy out their two partners saying it was a comment taken out of context. "When you truly love something you want to own as much as you can. However, the idea of one of us buying the other out is as far away from the truth as it can be for the simple reason that we are all involved in it because of each others involvement."

- Although the Mittals have a minority stake, Bhatia says they have just as much of a voice as those who own a majority stake. "We are very good friends who have a lot of respect for each other so I think that in the long run we will be able to make much better decisions as a family for the club."

- If passion counted for on the field success then the club is well set for success. "I absolutely adore the club and I am first and foremost a fan," says Bhatia. Only time will tell whether his dream becomes a reality. Camden FB

- Lee Cook has hailed the arrival of striker Marcus Bent and can't wait to link up with the Birmingham City loanee.
- Cook, who returned to First Team action at the weekend following a prolonged period on the sidelines owing to a knee injury, has set his sights on providing the ammunition for Bent to fire the R's back into form.
- "I don't know him personally, but I - like many of our fans - will know what he brings to the party as a player," Cook told www.qpr.co.uk.
- "He's a handful - he's strong, quick and will make a big impact here."
- Cook added: "Hopefully I can provide plenty of assists for him to do his stuff in and around the box.
- "He likes to put himself about a bit and if he gets the ball in the right areas, I've no doubt he'll score goals for us." QPR

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