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Monday, May 23, 2011

QPR Report Monday Update: Mittal-Ecclestone?

- Complements of QPR Report Archivist, Bushman

- Any American or Canadian Readers of QPR Report/QPR Report Messageboard? (Or any QPR Fans from Central or South America?)

- Throughout the day, updates, comments and perspectives re QPR and football in general are posted and discussed on the QPR Report Messageboard...Also Follow: QPR REPORT ON TWITTER

- Ecclestone Reportedly Rebuffs Mittal Bid while reaffirming Warnock as Manage

- Ex-QPR Jake Cole Released by Barnet

- Thirty-Four Years Ago Today: Dave Sexton's Last Game in Charge of QPR

- QPR's Summer and 2011/12 Calendar: Three Friendlies Thus Far

- London Masters with QPR: July 9 at Wembley Arena: The QPR Team

- Luigi De Canio Exiting Lecce

- Will Rangers's Second strip be Red and White Quarters? And third Strip Orang/Tangerine?

- Chelsea Axe Carlo Ancelotti

- Sam Hammam Wants Cardiff Return

David McIntyre Blog - Making a dog’s dinner of thingsBy davidmcintyre

I’ve often criticised QPR for putting out confused or misleading information, but in my sleep-deprived state I’ve been guilty of doing exactly that.

My ‘week off’ has been spent being terrorised by Lucy, a Portuguese water dog puppy who’s run me ragged during my attempts to toilet-train her and prevent my house being destroyed.

Lucy is the canine equivalent of Dominic Iorfa: entertaining to watch, with a loveable personality and absolutely blistering pace, but always in the wrong place and misses the target time after time.

Butter wouldn't melt, but she's a terror

Before settling down for a week of sleepless nights and apologising to neighbours, it was suggested to me by a colleague that I do a story about QPR planning a bid for Danny Graham.

Won’t happen, I insisted. Was I sure? Absolutely. They won’t bid for him before the end of the month.

A couple of days later, as Lucy was stampeding through my living room (I dread to think what she’ll do when I’m back at work), I noticed Sky Sports News reporting a £2.5m bid from QPR for Graham, which despite not having time to verify myself I have no doubt was true.

My incompetence didn’t stop there.

In my last blog post I suggested the Mittals might soon become more influential at Rangers – genuinely this time, as opposed to the ploy last year to placate fans and attract a heavyweight manager.

Taking a break from cleaning up puppy wee while having my hands and feet bitten to shreds, I checked Twitter and Facebook and had a few messages asking for an update on the situation.

As I was totally out of the loop, I tweeted that I knew nothing of any developments.

Unbeknown to me, in the outside world there were rumours that the Mittals had left QPR, so my reference to “developments” caused some confusion.

I attempted to clarify with a follow-up tweet, but the damage was done.

One un-amused follower – maybe now an ex-follower – made their disgust clear. The gist of his tweet was that I knew nothing. Which was absolutely right. That was supposed to be the whole point.

I often use Facebook and Twitter to link to stuff I’ve written, which people might not otherwise realise is by me. I might be a rubbish journalist and a negative so-and-so, but the common allegation that I don’t say anything new isn’t accurate, honest!

Having finally found time the previous day to circulate a story about a possible buy-out by the Mittals, I assumed an article that appeared the following morning was mine, so linked to it without really checking.

A couple of minutes later, I was back on Twitter pointing out that it wasn’t actually mine, although it was similar. No skin off my nose – just less food for Lucy this week – but further proof that I had lost the plot.

Given that, you might want to treat with due contempt my take on some of the confusion out there regarding the ownership of the club.

It’s an issue, like several others, that QPR has tied itself in knots over.

Implying last year that the popular Mittals had in some way ousted the unpopular Briatore made it difficult for them to explain Briatore’s subsequent transfer of shares to Ecclestone. So they didn’t.

Then in March, Rangers released a statement effectively confirming a report that the club were in talks with a potential buyer. That was all a bit silly.

Since then, the impression has been that Rangers are yet again up for sale and the owners want out, which isn’t really the case.

There has been some interest. I thought an Indonesian-based group who seemed seriously interested might make a formal move, but they didn’t.

Calm before yet another storm

Beyond that, the notion of an imminent sale was a bit daft. I wasn’t and am still not sure what it was all about.

I’ve been told that Briatore is particularly keen to sell his British-based business interests, but don’t know whether that’s accurate.

And while this is second-hand information because I’ve never spoken to Ecclestone since he became involved in Rangers, people who would know immediately told me that he had no interest in selling unless he received a ridiculous offer.

That was borne out by a subsequent comment by Ecclestone that he wanted £100m for the club.

In light of QPR’s statement, his words were read by many as ‘I want to sell QPR and want £100m’ when it was more along the lines of ‘no, I’m not looking to sell. Not unless it’s for £100m.’

Confused? That‘s hardly surprising. After all, it was Rangers’ own statement that fuelled the reports the club was up for sale.

This, if you remember, being the same club that took a break from the latter stages of negotiating the sale to the current owners to release a bizarre statement claiming the club wasn’t for sale. It’s never straightforward in QPR Land.

There is also the issue of who on the QPR board owns what. The individual stakes of Ecclestone and Briatore can seem a mystery, and the transfer between them fluid.

Since their takeover, I’ve always regarded their shareholding purely as a combined one. They’re a team. Who of the two owns what at any particular time is basically irrelevant.

The best way to view them isn’t as Ecclestone and Briatore, but Ecclestone/Briatore. They are one and the same. Seeing it any other way is splitting hairs.

As for the possibility of the Mittals taking control, I’d be surprised if it happened but it is at least a possibility, unlike last year when it had no substance and started as hot air generated by the pro-Paladini camp, who were keen to keep blame focused on the pantomime villain Briatore rather than their man, who they also believed would be strengthened by a Bhatia-led takeover.

I think there is still some of that going on, but there is also some substance this time around.

What this is not is a ‘boardroom battle’, the like of which was seen at Rangers in 2004 and again in 2005. Having covered both of those in depth, I can definitely say this isn’t comparable in any way.

That said, I’ve no idea where they are with the discussions they were meant to be having this week, or where Rangers are with enquiries about various players.

Having clearly misjudged the situation with Graham, only transfer story I’ve done in recent weeks was on Tottenham’s Kyle Naughton, who Rangers are trying pretty hard to get. I felt that one was advanced enough to do a story on.

Among the numerous others linked, Lee Bowyer is an interesting one because when his name first cropped up, Neil Warnock wasn’t interested in him at all and still wasn’t when I last checked.

Whether that’s changed in the last week or so, I don’t know. Often a deal for a player is done because it’s there to be done, and the idea grows on a manager the longer it‘s an option. So who knows.

Another name thrown at me on Twitter this week was Javier Saviola, who was apparently being linked with Rangers while I was introducing Lucy to worming tablets.

Those asking if I knew anything about the Saviola thing flattered me. I don’t. This blog is basically all about how little I know.

I’m pretty useless when it comes to overseas transfer stories. The only ones I’ve broken since 2007 were those of Parejo and Faurlin, and the almost signing of Sebastian Rusculleda (anyone remember him?), which collapsed at the last minute. I was a close second with Ledesma and De Carmine.

When you consider how many overseas signings Rangers have made, that’s a pretty poor return.

The way they happen and the people they involve means it’s hard for me to get there first with foreign signings.

A bummer that. And so too is having your furniture chewed to bits. David McIntyre Blog

Nico De Marco: Legend!

The Lawyer - Tulkinghorn: Hoopla for barrister duo

23 May 2011

Blackstone Chambers’ Ian Mill QC and Nick Di Marco have been awarded ­legendary status by fans of Queen’s Park Rangers (QPR).

After saving the Loftus Road club from being deducted points just hours before its last game of the season, the pair guaranteed QPR’s elevation to the Premier League for the next football season.

Fans showed their gratitude by chanting loudly at the final game against Leeds United: “There’s only one Ian Mill, only one Ian Mill”, as well as establishing a Facebook page in their honour. Nice. The Lawyer

lesrosbifs.net - Four months in Rome: Alec Stock (former Queens Park Rangers, Fulham) and his Italian adventure
May 22, 2011 by Gav

Alec Stock

The greatest thing, for me, about writing this website is reading about Englishmen who have gone overseas in an attempt to better themselves, and to enjoy the experience of learning a new language and culture. The motivations behind why they go are fascinating; so too are the emotions they experience whilst trying to acclimatise. Some are able to adapt; others struggle to do so and return. Others, like Alec Stock, simply found the politics and posturing in the background made their position untenable.

For a four month period in 1957, Stock was manager of Serie A side AS Roma. The West Country-born manager had made his name leading the giant-killing exploits of Yeovil Town, before establishing a strong bond with Leyton Orient chairman, Harry Zussman, which would see him enjoy stints at the London club three times over a ten year period. He built his reputation as a manager who played the transfer market perfectly, as well as building technically-sound, tactically-strong sides. His first stint with the O’s only ended in 1955 when he has made “manager” of Arsenal. Alas, on realising his role was more of a number two position behind Tom Whittaker and finding his responsibilities diminish, Stock resigned and made his way back (in open arms for all parties) to Leyton.

He was off again though in 1957. According to Brian Glanville, Stock had enquired through mutual contacts about how he could get a managerial role in Italy. It coincided with the work of Italian agent Gigi Peronace in England. His biggest coup at the time was to take Welsh international John Charles to Juventus and during the summer, he brokered the deal that took Alec Stock to Roma, a club still looking to follow up on their single Serie A success.

Stories abound of how the deal actually came about. Glanville reported that it was instigated by Sid Robbins, the chief scout at Orient, who called the journalist and asked him how he Stock could get a job in Italy. Stock himself said the deal took him by surprise, as he first read about it in the newspapers! Before long, Stock received a call from a friend-of-a-friend-of-the-Roma president asking if he would accept the offer. However, until Peronace was involved, Stock had no idea what the offer was!

At the time, a number of British coaches were working on the continent, their methods and success adding to the burgeoning reputations. George Raynor had been to Sweden and Italy with some success, Roma had benefitted from the quality English coaches in the past. Jesse Carver, who had led Juventus to the Scudetto in 1951, had been at Roma between 1954 and 1956 and since his departure, it was felt by the club board that the squad had lost their way and needed the discipline, fire and passion only an English coach could supply.

Even with the non-start at Arsenal, Stock was considered a good English manager at home. As he says in ‘A Little Thing Called Pride’ though, his experiences chiefly lied in the lower echelons of the English League. It was a massive step-up for him, yet one he knew would see him grow as a manager. Zussman was, in one respect at least, happy to see his manager leave. The chairman saw how his manager would benefit the club should he return from two years learning coaching methods on the continent, especially in an era when English football was starting to realise the rest of the world were surpassing them on the pitch.

Signing a very favourable two year contract, Stock moved to Roma in July 1957, starting off living in a hotel. Although there was no help from the club in finding somewhere for Stock and his young family to live, they eventually found a wonderful property not far from the Vatican. On the pitch, Stock made an immediate mark on his squad, leading them to some extensive pre-season training which saw them start the season fitter than ever before. The big name in the team was Swedish forward Gunnar Nordahl, now 36 but still one of the deadliest strikers in the peninsula.

Once the season began, Roma were looking in good shape. After two draws, their first win came in a 3-1 home success over Padova. In all, they lost just once in their opening ten matches under the Englishman. The highlight of them all was the 3-0 win over bitter rivals Lazio. As Stock himself says, his side lacked flair in attack, but more than made up for this with hard work and a solid defence. Heading into an away trip to Napoli though, Stock was pleased to see his side sitting third in the Serie A standings. However, boardroom murmurings were like a fog over the club.

Stock felt most undermined by the decision by the Roma board to appoint national team selector, Antonio Busini, as a senior director of the club at the same time. Never known as one to sit back and watch, Busini – “a notorious intriguer”, according to Glanville – was always in the background, speaking to the players and adding to the sense of discomfort Stock felt in the city. Busini started to purchase players for the club without consulting the team manager. Whilst this is not much different from how Italian clubs are set up today, it was something Stock was not used to. Perhaps the most galling thing about it all was that he was not consulted on any of the transfer dealings.

Stock’s Italian adventure come to an end in November 1957, on the away trip to Napoli. As he always did, the manager spent some time in the morning reading through the English papers over a coffee in the Roma station. With his translator with him, he got on the train to Napoli, before realising it was not the right one. He had missed the train the team and officials took.

By the time Stock got to the stadium, he had found that Busini had instigated a team change, with Nordahl dropped in favour of 17 year old Alfredo Orlando. This was despite the manager having already selected the team and informed them before departure. The interfering infuriated Stock to such an extent, he refused to take his place on the bench for the match, which ended in a 0-0 draw. In his book “Football Club Manager”, Stock described how he felt he could not take his place on the bench as it was “the last straw.”

Describing how his self-respect had been damaged as a result of someone else changing his team, Stock noted:

“I was thoroughly shaken, but I decided it would be bad for the players to have two warring officials in their dressing room before a match in which I desperately wanted them to do well. I let the team coach go ahead and followed it quietly in a car with the interpreter. At the ground, I had a quick word with the team and then went out and found myself a place in the stand. I got on well with the players and some of them followed me out. ‘What is it all about ?’ they asked. I was careful in my reply because they might have taken sides and players should only be on the side of their club. But I knew it was impossible to disguise everything from them.”

In both of his books, Stock felt a sense of conspiracy around the whole event. It was his translator, a 16 year old who “had learnt his English in Wales”, who had led him on to the wrong train. On top of this, Busini had already expressed his disappointment at the selection of Nordahl over Orlando, while at the station that morning, Stock noted how an official was “walking up and down the platform” with the young forward. It did not feel right. When Busini came to him in Napoli and simply said, “We change the centre-forward today,” that was it.

Later that evening, Stock received a letter suspending him from the club for “abandoning the team.” Within 24 hours, Zussman had been on the phone to offer him his job back at Orient. Although the Italian club had broken the terms of their contract, Stock realised his time was up in the country, expressing dissatisfaction at how the role of manager as he saw it could simply not fit into the way Italian clubs were run. He left later in the week, although (quite rightly) he said, “I did as good a job with this Italian club as I have ever done, but they would not allow their manager to manage.”

The dismissal of Stock saw Roma took a nose-dive soon after. Nordahl, who had made his support of Stock clear on many occasions- both privately and publicly – was made manager after the Napoli match. After all of the promise of those first eleven matches, Roma finished a disappointing ninth out of 18. It would be another fifteen years before they flirted regularly with the upper echelons of the league table; another seven before they managed to win another trophy (Coppa Italia). Nordahl lasted a little more than a season before being replaced by Hungarian Gyorgy Sarosi. The Roma managerial conveyor belt continued for many years, the role constantly hampered by the sort of behind-the-scenes politics that destroyed Stock’s stint.

A lot of half-truths and non-truths appear to surround Stock’s time with Roma. Depending on whether you read English or Italian sources, Stock did not speak a word of Italian (he admitted he did not, but was learning), while his interpreter was Peronace (the agent was there, on occasion, but was not his interpreter). It is also reported that some club officials were not happy with Stock’s unstinting support of Nordahl after an alleged ‘drunken incident.’ The subsequent appointment of Nordahl as manager in place of Stock would appear to nullify this point. His lack of Italian may have hampered Stock’s ability to relate to his squad and earn their respect, but he felt there was a bond there. Quite rightly, with the results being positive and the win bonuses coming in, there would have been some positive feelings towards the Englishman, for certain.

Regardless of who was at fault, one thing stands out. Even with a good contract, Stock should have been supported more by the club on his arrival. He should have been given help to find somewhere for his family to live, rather than having to live out of a hotel for five weeks as he found his own place. More support with learning the language would also have been beneficial… These are things that come up, time after time, when profiling Englishmen playing and coaching abroad – even today.

On his return to England, it was not long before Stock was back at work with Leyton Orient; Zussman knew his manager was a good one. It would be the third and final time he led the club though, as he left to take charge of Queens Park Rangers in 1959. His ten years at the club were his most successful in management, leading QPR to consecutive promotions to the First Division, as well as becoming the first 3rd Division club to win the League Cup in 1967.

Asthma took a hold on him in the late 1960’s, with Stock stating in ‘A Little Thing Called Pride’ that then-chairman, Jim Gregory, dismissed him for being ill. He was still a man in demand though, leading Luton Town to promotion, before taking Fulham to the FA Cup Final in 1975. His final season in management was with AFC Bournemouth in 1979-80, which led to a place on the board.

Sadly, Alec Stock passed away on 16th April 2001 in Dorset. He is survived by his two daughters. Fans of Yeovil Town, QPR, Fulham and Leyton Orient consider him to be one of their greatest managers, while his players still talk fondly of him. Perhaps, with a little less politicising on the part of Roma, and a little more patience on the part of Stock, his time in Italy would have been just as successful and popular.

Alec Stock would not have been the first Englishman to feel undermined in an Italian establishment, and he certainly is not the last. As someone who worked in Italy for three years, there are elements to his story that have had me nodding in agreement, as well as shaking my head in a knowing sense of ‘nothing ever changes.’ Yet, ever the gentleman, he still instigated the settlement between the two parties and ensured things were left on the best terms possible for all concerned. Stock has, in the past, referred to his time in Rome as “confusing”, “bitter” and other such words. Yet his short record speaks volumes for the man, as does his subsequent successes back in England. Who knows what might have happened had he been on that train, or Busini had taken more of a back seat. lesrosbifs

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