LAST Thursday, QPR hosted a Fans’ Forum at Loftus Road, giving supporters the opportunity to put their questions to CEO Philip Beard, manager Harry Redknapp, captain Clint Hill and forward Jamie Mackie.
If you would like to watch the Fans’ Forum, it is available (free!) below:
Here is a run-down of what was discussed…
Q: Do you get frustrated by being asked the same daft questions in press conferences and having your words twisted?
Harry Redknapp (HR): The press conferences now are all televised so I think it is there for everyone to see on Friday when we do the pre-match ones. Certainly on a Saturday after the games when you talk to the press and it isn’t televised you pick up the paper on the Sunday or Monday, although to be honest I don’t read them too much. I am not a big paper reader as if you worry about if it is good or bad, I find not reading it then you don’t know. I don’t let it affect me really. I don’t pick up the papers and think ‘why have they said that about me?’ I just don’t bother too much.
Paul Morrissey (PM): You’re not on Twitter yet?
HR: No I don’t know what Twitter is, not a clue. Facebook, Twitter, not a clue. Emails none of that. Don’t do it. Don’t understand it, don’t want to understand it now.
Q: Just a few points the LSA want to raise. The implications of the (Financial) Fair Play coming into football -our financial situation is worrying fans - and the new ground, and youth system. Also the question of prices as I think it is a thing being taken up by the LSA and also the Football Supporters Federation of trying to have a reciprocal £20 for away fans. The cost of football if we brought in a reciprocal £20 for all fans traveling away, it would make it a lot easier for fans to pay for the game. The one question I did put in beforehand was that I have been in the lower Loft for well over 30 years and I received an email saying I have been stopped sitting in that particular place. I have nothing against a children’s end but I think the lower Loft should be the most vociferous end and the atmosphere of our ground use to be quite menacing in a hospitable way and it is no longer that. I think we should review the situation where the children sit and get the Loft back to being for the hardcore.
John Reid, LSA
PM: I think it is fair to say, in terms of emails and tweets received, that particular area has been brought up a number of times.
Philip Beard (PB): There are quite a few questions there. I think the thing to say is that if we don’t quite get through these questions in the way that you want tonight, because you are going to want to ask football questions as well, then I am very happy to meet with the LSA and go through things in more detail. I am not going to shirk away from anything that you have asked.
Are you referring to the meetings today on Financial Fair Play? I was at the Premier League meeting today and I can’t give you the exact chapter and verse of how it went but the recommendation, as you have seen on Sky tonight, is that the majority needed of clubs have approved the Premier League to go away and put together the detail of Premier League Financial Fair Play. That has two ramifications. One is that for the next three seasons from next season no club can have cumulative losses of £105million over the three seasons, and the other is that the wage restraints if you like, not a wage cap, has a minimum floor of £52million, for the next season £56million and then £60million for the third season for any club. That doesn’t stop so if you are Man City, Arsenal or whoever you are, you will be allowed to spend whatever you spent this season with an increment of £4million next and then another £4million. The aim of it is very simple, to try and make sure, close your ears guys (directed at players), but how we use the money that is coming into the Premier League from TV. It makes it even more important that we do absolutely everything we can to stay in the Premier League this season. There is an inevitability that three clubs will go down and whoever does needs to try and get back as quickly as possible. I am sure we will touch on that a little bit later.
On the lower Loft. I don’t want to go into huge detail but let me tell you what we did. We have got a small ground – we will talk about a new stadium – but last season we played Fulham and at half-time there was a Down’s Syndrome penalty-shoot out. After the penalty shoot-out the kids from the penalty shoot-out went back into what has been designated a family stand two or three years ago and 480 people stayed in there. Now I am not going to pick anybody out and please bear with me as I am not singling anyone out. But some of those kids got very badly abused which was one of about ten examples I had last season where families really struggled with some of the comments and things that happened. We had to make a decision last season for this season that we would honour the club’s mantra to have a family end and we made it the lower Loft. I would argue that the atmosphere, and I take your point, the atmosphere in this ground is as good as, if not better, than any club I have gone to in the Premier League. I still think we are doing the right thing.
My final point is that we need to build our fan base. We need families and we need kids and I am happy to look at how else we could configure the stadium, how else we could do it. The reality is for this season that represented the best option. John, if you want to represent the guys that would help me to find a better solution I would be really happy to do that. I think most clubs should have a family stand. We have got to do something and we will work with you to try and get it right, and if it is not right we will try and find a solution.
We have 10,500 season tickets in an 18,500 stadium, it makes it a real challenge. But if we meet we will try and sort it.
PM: So what you are saying is that it is not set in stone. If enough supporters are coming to you and saying ‘look we have had a chat as a collective and perhaps it could work better doing it this way’ that the club will listen to fans?
PB: It has to work both ways. If we can find a better solution we will try and make it work but ultimately a lot of people don’t want to move from where they are sitting. We went for the smallest number of people in the stand, that made most sense to us at the time. I had people waiting outside and emails but sometimes you have to make tough decisions at a football club. We will solve it all if and when we get a new stadium. The other thing I will make a promise with the LSA, or whoever represents the club, is that we will have a fans’ group to decide how we build and put together the configuration for a new stadium. We are just challenged by the number of seats we have got.
PM: Sticking with the topic of away fans, sometimes it is the top tier that is filled and when we play the likes of Chelsea both tiers were given to the supporters. I think it appears to be a common view of QPR fans to just give them the minimum as we can fill the rest.
PB: That is a very easy one to answer. We have an obligation as a Premier League club to offer two options to the club that are coming to visit us. You either give a lower number of tickets which means they take the upper stand and they don’t have to fill all of those, just what they can. The bigger clubs that want to come and bring more fans you have to offer them a higher number as an obligation, so they have to pay for all of those. So a Chelsea, Man United and Man City will almost always take the upper and lower. We got a benefit this season as the council accept that when we take the lower stand we don’t have to have five or six rows that we can’t sell at all, which looked crazy on television. It was 680 seats that we could fill so we managed to get the council to do that, but we have no choice but to offer every away club the option, either just the upper or both the upper and lower.
Q: It is a question for Philip following on from the lower Loft. A lot of us do feel very passionate about this subject and it is not so much what was done as we all agree that we need to move the club forward and make it a more family friendly atmosphere. It was the way it was done without any consultation or warning. I didn’t actually receive an email, my wife did, but I didn’t. There was no discussion or debate. I don’t want to make this personal but my wife is a former cancer sufferer and I wrote to you personally by email Philip and I explained our situation as to why a move out of the lower Loft might be disadvantageous and I didn’t get a response sadly. I don’t think I am the only person in a similar sort of position. I am very positive about what the club is doing and the direction it is going in but a lot of us felt really badly treated and I would like the club to acknowledge that they got it wrong.
Steve Saycey, Independent R’s
PB: I can’t do that. I am going to sit down and we will look at it but I don’t think it was the wrong decision. I am going to stick by that. The trouble is if you try and explain it to 480 people just before the season started what you were going to do, it would have been a challenge. I totally understand where you’re coming from. I apologise for not responding to your email, that is inexcusable, I try and respond to everybody either by calling them on the phone or by email. We will go into a consultation process but I think fundamentally some of the things that did happen last season were wrong. The risk for me was we would have lost – in mine and the Board’s opinion – a huge number of families that would have decided not to continue supporting the club. Now if we can find a way to do it then I am happy to do it. When we played Man City it felt like the ball was being sucked into the net by that end. We can’t make everyone happy and I accept that but I also accept we have to meet. I also can’t believe that we have Harry Redknapp, Clint Hill and Jamie Mackie sitting here and you are asking me all the questions!
Q: What do Harry, Clint and Jamie think of the chairman being on Twitter?
Freddy Fuller via Twitter
HR: It is like I said earlier. If you are going to go on Twitter and these networks, then I suppose you are going to have to take the good with the bad, and if you can’t take the bad then get off it. It is not something that would interest me but the chairman seems to be into it quite a lot. You are going to get criticism as well as pats on the back. Get off it would be my advice really.
Clint Hill (CH): Me and Jamie had a go at it and it is interesting. You get to meet some wonderful and weird people. It has its benefits and it has its downsides as the gaffer said but I just came off it as I found myself looking at it every minute. I have two kids and I end up looking at what people are tweeting and saying about whatever. I’m thinking ‘I don’t need this when I have two kids I need to occupy,’ which is the reason I came off it.
Jamie Mackie (JM): I was getting pestered too much and my girlfriend was getting a bit jealous. I wish, I wish!
Q: How does the fact we are bottom of the league affect the players on a day by day basis?
JM: Obviously it is there and it is hanging over us but as a group of players we have to be professional. The manager has set us up so that we believe we can go and win football matches now so we have got to not look at the league table and approach each game in the right manner. I am sure we will pick up points. It is not something you can think about too much as it will affect your game.
Q: All the players we have just signed, how many of these have got a get-out clause if we go down? I did see that (Chris) Samba hasn’t, but have any of these other players got a get-out clause?
Vic Stevenson, LSA
PB: Let me make one thing absolutely clear, don’t – and I know you don’t – believe everything you read in the press. I said to a journalist that I would send him a bottle of champagne the day he writes anything that is actually accurate. I find it absolutely extraordinary.
I would rather be sitting here today with the activity we did in this transfer window than be the chief exec of a bunch of clubs around us. I would rather sit here today with Harry Redknapp as our manager than any other manager in the Premier League, and these two guys that would die for the club and give everything for the club. The reality is we have had to re-engineer a club over two or three transfer windows and the power of hindsight is a wonderful thing. If the worst happens and we don’t stay in the Premier League, you are going to have to accept that some players aren’t going to be right for what we want to do next season, and we are going to have to find other ways to manage their contracts. A lot of players came in on free transfers or different contracts and to be honest with you, some of them their value has gone significantly up. Julio Cesar can stay with us for the whole of his contract but the reality is that some of them might want to go and do something else. Harry will sit down and look at all scenarios. I would just like to say please don’t believe that Chris Samba is on a contract like you might have read in the papers, or that other players have come here for different numbers or different terms.
We have a bunch of very successful businessmen who own this club – I won’t dare say run it – and the reality is they know what they are doing. We know we have taken some decisions that in hindsight we might have done differently but we are where we are and we have to stick together and fight tooth and nail to get through it. Whatever scenario happens, we will fight on to make sure we sort it out.
Q: I sit in the upper Loft and the problem I have is that on matchdays there are only ever four turnstiles open for the whole of the upper Loft. It creates a real problem. In Loftus Road there are about ten turnstiles that are never open. What is the reason behind this as it seems idiotic?
PB: I think we are taking transcripts of this. If there are four or five questions that I can’t answer I will commit to responding to them. I don’t know the answer to that question I am afraid.
Q: I wrote down a question when we got these forms five weeks ago. You have had five weeks to look into it so what have you been doing?
PM: In fairness we haven’t shown the panel the questions deliberately so we have a backlog of questions if enough aren’t asked on the night. The reason we hold them back is for that element of surprise, perhaps people don’t want to know questions in advance. In his defence.
PB: The best thing to do is to sort this one out and come back to you with an answer in the next 24 hours. But in future just write to me or email me and I will get it in my inbox and I will do something about it. Whether I come back with the answer you want or not, I will make sure I respond to you.
Q: Clint, what does it mean to you to captain our club?
CH: It was a surprise to say the least. We have had a couple now, Ji (Sung Park) and Nello (Ryan Nelsen), and I have got it because Nelsen has unfortunately had to leave and go and manage Toronto, which is a big loss for us. But personally it is a brilliant achievement for myself. I have been here quite a while now and seen the club come through some tricky situations. It is a special club, especially with the season we had coming up from the Championship. There is a great togetherness with the team and the fans, which makes it a great honour to step up there and the lead the club. It would be a massive achievement to myself if I can help in any little way to get us out of the situation we find ourselves in.
Q: Harry, what is happening with Remy? The club have stayed very quiet, all the reports I have heard apparently he is out for two years!
HR: He is close to being fit for Saturday. He did some training with the fitness coaches this morning and there is a chance he will be available for Saturday – it is very close. I don’t want to rush him on Saturday in case he breaks down as he is not 100 per cent right and then we lose him for a few weeks. It is touch and go.
Q: What about DJ? Has he gone out on loan?
PB: Yes DJ has gone to Blackburn.
Q: So we have named someone in a 25-man squad and then let them go, that makes sense?
HR: The problem with that was there was no one else to name in the 25 man squad who would get in the team. Luke Young was struggling with an injury and he came to us the day before the squad was announced and didn’t feel he was capable of playing – he was on the verge of looking at his future. We weren’t sure Blackburn were going to come in for DJ or not, there was no one else we could stick in.
PB: Harry has been very open about Loic Remy as once again the press got it wrong. Secondly, DJ has gone so he can play games and he is on an emergency callback if we have issues after 28 days we can call him back.
Q: When Mark Hughes signed all the players did any of those decisions get questioned by the Board when we signed them?
PB: The decision to sign every player is signed off by the Board, there is no question to that. I think hindsight is again wonderful to look back and say what would you have done differently. I think there is a justifiable argument that it takes longer than you would want to get a squad to gel and that we had the worst start in Premier League history and you can’t get away from that. We needed to make the changes that we made in the hope we can put it right for you guys. Every decision that the club makes of any significance is signed off by the Board.
Q: Harry, if we do go down will you be here next season?
HR: That would be up to the Board and everyone else really. I have got no plans to want to go anywhere else, I am enjoying my time here. I am desperate to keep us up, let me tell you. This is the biggest challenge I have ever taken on and I would give just anything to keep us in the division this year. That is all my ambition is, I wouldn’t even thing about next year. If the owners decide they would like to go down a different road then I would accept that. I have got no intentions of saying that I only want to manage in the Premier League.
One of the happiest times of my life was the one year I had in the Championship with Portsmouth. The first year I went there we won the league and that was a great time. Please God it doesn’t happen but, if the worst comes to the worst, and then we come up next year, then it would be a great time again I am sure. At the moment I still believe we can stay up and that is all my focus is on this year.
Q: I have been a staunch supporter since 1958 and have seen all of the good and bad times. You have two players here who wear their hearts on their sleeves and would die for Queens Park Rangers, what I want to know is how will you motivate those players who are not pulling their weight?
HR: I don’t think there are too many. If you look at the squad, what we have given is plenty of graft. The last five games we have gone unbeaten. Ok, we had a bad result in the cup but I made loads of changes with Man City in mind. I wanted to get through in the cup and I didn’t expect that result to come. I don’t think the players can give any more than they are giving and we are getting the maximum out of what we have got. That eleven have been out there against Man City, Tottenham, away to Chelsea, Fulham and West Ham away, we fought for our lives. I think everyone is putting a shift in. I am not looking at anyone and thinking they are non-triers.
Q: What is the latest on Junior Hoilett’s injury. Are we likely to see him again soon?
HR: Hopefully. He trained this morning for the first time since Chelsea. He came off early in the game as I am sure you can remember. He did a hamstring at Chelsea and has not been fit again to play. He is back training this morning so hopefully he is ready to be part of the squad again.
Q: Jamie, over the season what has the dressing room and the atmosphere been like? How has it shifted with players coming in? You have been here since we came up so what is it like now?
JM: I think obviously at this football club in the time Hilly and myself have been here – two and a half, three seasons – there has been a lot of change. As players you have to embrace change. A lot has happened very quickly and a lot of different characters. With the Premier League comes a lot of different cultures. Players like myself, Hilly and Shaun Derry – the ones who have been here a lot longer – know the standard we try and set at this football club and we try and pass that on to new players that come in. All of the players that have come in – albeit some take longer than others – have taken that on board and everyone is pulling in the right direction. With different cultures it takes time but the changing room is good and everyone is together and pulling in the right direction.
Q: A question for Clint and Jamie. From my point of view as a fan I felt in games earlier this season players like you two were unfairly made scapegoats and dropped. How does that feel that you were cast aside for players who I felt weren’t pulling their weight, did you feel frustrated?
CH: I think I have been written off more times than a car in a car crash over the last two and a half years. You have got to be strong and confident in your own ability. I don’t think I started the season great. I think there were three or four games where I couldn’t get to the standard where I was at the end of last season. But slowly and surely we are starting to get there. At the beginning of the season when you are losing games, confidence can start to go and people get edgy but we are starting to get a lot more confident and positive, and I am just hoping we can get over that line now.
Q: What did Shaun Derry say to Ashley Young at Old Trafford earlier this season?
CH: I don’t think I could understand him as I think I was saying something to him as well to be honest with you! There are a few kids in the audience so I think we better leave it there, but there were no pleasantries believe that. I think that is the second time in two years he has tried to do that so I think he got the full on verbals, and rightly so.
Q: One accepts that players are very expensive these days and are commodities, assets is probably a better word. Who decides in the club where the players go to do things in the community? One of the problems is that whenever we ask the club for players to come and attend things like Christmas parties, nothing ever happens. Who do we approach? Is it down to contractual obligations because quite clearly it might have something to do with contracts. Why can’t players come and say hello for 10, 15 or 20 minutes, sign a few autographs, shake a few hands and have a few photos? They don’t seem to do it anymore. Is it because the club has moved on and away? And then when they do make obligations to go and visit schools, they don’t always turn up. Something somewhere has gone wrong between the club and the community.
Bill Cox, LSA
PB: Who did you ask?
Q: We wrote to the club and we spoke to Becky Grote.
Bill Cox, LSA
PB: Let me explain. A lot of players do a lot more than we ever see. Some of them don’t want to be acknowledged for some of the things they do. We have a rota system within the squad to make sure they do adhere to it and if you go to Andy Evans in the community then they get fed into the training ground.
Q: The LSA had its Christmas do in the pub next door and we still didn’t hear anything.
PB: The honest answer is that we have a very good team off the pitch and on the pitch but if you are not happy with something then please email me. We probably can’t manage every single request we get. The whole squad went to the Jack Tizard School next door which is a wonderful school.
Q: What is the relationship you have with local schools? My other half is a teacher at one of the biggest schools in your area. The reason all of us are here is that we have a connection to West London. I know we have grown as a club but one thing we should never forget is the fact that we are QPR. She runs a languages day and two years running the school was promised that Ale Faurlin would come down. Last year he didn’t turn up, this year they were promised that he would turn up and yet again he didn’t turn up. There was no email, no phone call - nothing. It is important. It was Chelsea Academy School in Kensington and Chelsea, which is very close to where you live.
PB: That is inexcusable and 100 per cent unacceptable. Ale Faurlin is one of the really great guys in the squad. There will have been something but it is inexcusable that 1,500 children were waiting for a QPR player to turn up. I will look into it tomorrow morning and come back to you with a written answer to your wife at the school as to why that happened. We are commercial people and that is the worst story I could ever hear that 1,500 kids are waiting at the school. That is the worst story I have heard since I have been at the club. I will look into it and, if that is the case, that is not allowed to happen. It will never happen again.
Q: This question is for Harry. We go to the games at home and we go away as well. Andy Johnson was injured right at the start of the season when we bought him. Is he someone you see taking part in the future when he is well enough to be a part of the team again?
HR: Not this season. He’s not in the squad so he couldn’t. At the moment it looks like he won’t be fit until the end of the season so there was no point in putting him in the squad even. He has a long-term injury and I hope he recovers from that but this season has been a write off for him. It has been a nightmare for him and the club. It is a shame. He certainly can’t play this season.
Q: When certain players are singled out for abuse, online and in the stands, how does it affect the morale of the individual, but also the team?
JM: As an individual it is an individual thing like Hilly touched on earlier with Twitter. You have got to expect this in football. You don’t always play to the standard that people may expect of you and rightly or wrongly people shout things. I just feel there is a line and if it gets to racist abuse or anything like that, then the line has been crossed. But if someone says to me you are the worst player they have ever seen and they batter you, then you have to take it on the chin. That is what some people think I am but then some people think I am not. You get on with it as that is part and parcel of being a footballer. You have to have a thick skin in this game.
Q: With the upcoming game at Fulham are we going to take a full allocation as we didn’t get enough tickets at West Ham, and at Swansea it is only 1,000 when there are people screaming out for tickets? Are we going to take a maximum allocation for Fulham, as it is a massive game for this club?
Luke Peppard, LSA
Q: So why didn’t you take the full allocation for West Ham?
Luke Peppard, LSA
PB: The two games at the start of the season, Man City and Norwich, we ended up with over 1,500 tickets left so we have to make a decision. Like when every side comes here they either take the upper, or upper and lower. I don’t know what the numbers are for Swansea but clearly we haven’t had the demand to take the full allocation.
Q: Yeah but the last game of the season at Man City we were going to sell that as it was a massive game for the club. This season, live on tele, late game, travel, costs – we were never going to sell 3,000. My point is if we won’t risk a couple of grand for West Ham tickets why are we paying Bosingwa £65,000 a week when he won’t do nothing for this club?
Luke Peppard, LSA
Q: Just to add to the ticket thing, at West Ham and at quite a few grounds now, our allocation of away Season Tickets are in some of the poorest seats in that ground. We are either stuck in the corner or in the rain. I sit in P Block as I like to stand up and see the game from above. We were below pitch level and when I spoke to the Box Office about this they said ‘we get our batch, it is the first batch through that are allocated to us’ and then everyone else gets the cream seats behind the goal.
HR: I’ve never spoken to Phil about this and maybe I should have done privately. It is strange to me to see all those away supporters sitting behind the goal at Loftus Road. I just find it such an advantage to the away team and I have never been used to that. I sat with Joe the other week and we said normally you go away and you get stuck up in the corner. Every club I have ever been at, the away supporters get stuck up in the corner. If you go to Villa you get stuck up in in that corner in the middle of nowhere. But here they are right behind that goal, full house, I just find it strange. They are kicking into their end second half, and it is like an even game. They have got as much support as we have and I find that unusual.
PB: It goes back to the point that John made. I went to Sunderland and Newcastle and the funniest thing was watching Stephen Mbia looking up at the Sunderland end and thinking, ‘how the hell am I going to get up there to give my shirt away to one of the kids?’ Newcastle is awful, Chelsea right in the corner, awful. I’ll talk to John about it if you are happy John represents the group or we will get a group together. The challenge is at the moment we have a really small ground and we have 10,500 Season Tickets. Even when we put the TV gantry right in the corner we lose 250 tickets as one of the obligations to Sky is that they have that so they can do their business. The reality is if we tried to move the away fans we would then be going to 1,500 or 3,000 Season Ticket holders and saying ‘guys I know you have sat there for 25 years but we are going to move you behind the goal’. It is a real challenge. I hear the emotion loud and clear, if we can find a way to keep the vast majority happy we will look at it. I can’t offer more than that.
Q: We were told when we buy an away season ticket that because we put our money up, we will get the best ticket allocation for the away games. We used to get that, like at Chelsea we would be in the top tier behind the goal. This year we were stuck in the bottom right hand corner out of the way and people who at the last minute want to go, they get the best tickets.
PB: Come in, we will have a meeting and we will look at it.
Q: Going back to what Harry said about giving our fans behind the goal. We give the away supporters the benefit of sitting there so they can go mad but unfortunately families do not do that. Years ago, going back to the 70’s and 80’s when it was standing in there, they used to be the voice of QPR. It is no longer the voice of QPR. The voice of QPR is now up in the Q, P, R and X blocks because you don’t get that drive of coming into the Loft. Every single game we used to kick into the Loft in the second half because that used to suck it in. How often when we have a sell-out do we have seats in that area empty because families won’t go there for night games?
PB: They are all sold. How many home night games have we had this season? One Premier League home game so far. I accept your point and totally get it and it is an anomaly. If there is a way we can sort it out, we will. That is what this evening is about. It is not about recrimination. It is about looking at what we can and can’t do and taking points on and if there are 1,500 kids waiting in a school – unacceptable. Some things will be more difficult to sort out.
Q: This comes up many times on fans’ forums and it might sound a bit pathetic but it does bug people. It is embarrassing really. Has Granero got anything in his contract that says when he is on the pitch he has to take free kicks? There has been occasions when Adel and Granero have tussled over who is going to take a free kick. The highlight was at the West Brom game when Adel put the ball down on the edge of the box, you made a substitution, Granero came on and took the ball off him. It took Shaun Derry to pull Adel away and tell him to leave it to Granero. It is embarrassing.
HR: It seems that you want Adel to take the free kicks? I know he did score one. I have seen two players wrestle for the ball over a penalty for two minutes one day. Frank Lampard and Paolo Di Canio wouldn’t let the ball go for nearly two minutes, it was unreal. It is a difficult one but let’s hope the next time we get a penalty they do it, and Granero takes it!
Q: I wanted to raise the fact there is a lot of dissent being raised tonight and a lot of huge plans being talked about by Phil Beard and the rest of the Board about things happening in the future. To me a lot of that can be alleviated or at least moved in a positive way by having the Fans’ Forum. It’s a start but, fundamentally, structured and reasonably regular contact between groups like the Trust, the LSA and the Independent R’s is important. There are lots of groups here with extensive remits amongst supporters. I think things like the lower Loft with the Family Stand can be alleviated by talking to us in a structured way and recognising we have legitimate grievances. I think in addition to that I was going to ask that when it comes to the future financial plans, is there any chance the Annual General Meeting for shareholders is going to be opened up for small stakeholders in the club who the vast majority of are QPR supporters? I think there has been a lot of really positive reinforcement about us not being in any trouble in the future and whatnot, but it is quite vague. I think things like the AGM and continued opening of structured dialogue with fans’ groups and representatives could be a really good start in that.
James Wright, QPR Supporters’ Trust
PB: Absolutely. I have no qualms about having regular communication with all groups affiliated to QPR. This is a really good way to do it, this is a good start, as long as there is give and take on both sides as, at the end of the day, you’re not going to be able to satisfy everybody’s issues or requirements. I have no issues about sitting down on a regular basis. Let me make the point, which I think was part of the question, I think we are very lucky to have the ownership that we have got. These guys are very committed and we shouldn’t just talk about Tony Fernandes. Kamarumdin, Ruben and Amit are, for me, fantastic people to have as part of the club. I don’t think you could ask for better owners and I will make the point again that if things don’t work out this season, we will continue with our plans to try and develop the club – we all know we need a new training ground and an academy that we can develop and nurture talent. Mark Donnelly has just joined us, who was CFO at the Football Association, to help us with those plans. We have got to build a club. The most important part of any club is the fans. All of the questions about the club today can be solved easily if we are able to move to a new stadium. It is going to take quite a long time to do it.
Q: What is the latest with the training ground and the new stadium?
PB: The training ground land has been gifted to us by Ealing Council. Planning is in and we aim to start in the spring of this year as soon as planning has been approved. The stadium is a bit more of a challenge. I think Chelsea and a few other clubs have been looking for years to move. What we have got is a group of owners committed to doing it. 100 per cent. One of the things we have to face is as great as this place is, and you only have to listen to the comments tonight, it is just not what is required for a club that has aspirations like we have all got to stabilise our position in the Premier League and kick on. It will take time to get right. The craziness of trying to talk about that too much in the press, even Tony when he tweets about stuff, they will pick up on it. Trust me, land values don’t go down too much when people hear about you wanting to buy their land or house. The reality is we have got to keep ourselves moving forward but it is the medium-to-long-term goal of the club to get to a state-of-the-art stadium for the club.
Q: The Unigate area is always mentioned in relation to the new stadium, is it possible to do something there?
PB: Very, very difficult. Imperial College are involved in that area and that land, and you have to look at college requirements, affordable housing and ultimately you need political backing to do anything like that. At the moment that sort of site just wouldn’t get the Hammersmith and Fulham support so you would need political support to do all of this. There are one or two opportunities that we have got where we think the political support will be 100 per cent as actually a regeneration of an area or a piece of land is something that they would like us to do.
Q: Would that be far away?
PB: No, the one thing it can’t be is far away.
Q: These days I just love watching Clint Hill, to concede just one league goal in the five games against the sort of attacks we have been playing against! Tell us about the difference in recent times in the back four and tell us about the new partnership with Samba?
Dave, Q Block
CH: I still have nightmares about Suarez before that! Never mind. We will forgive that one. It has been brilliant, it started with the gaffer coming in, we went away to Sunderland and got a really good point there but it has progressed from there really. We had an understanding, obviously with Ryan who has sadly gone. But now the big giant has come in next to me, he’s going to be a really good signing for this club. He is only 45 per cent fit I think he said, and we are expecting big things. He is going to be a big threat in our box and of course in other people’s boxes. We’d like to score more goals but that hasn’t quite happened yet but hopefully if everything starts clicking we might nick three points from the odd one.
Q: There was Bolton last season?
JM: Don’t bring that up mate, we’ll be here a long time mate!
CH: I don’t stop talking about it.
JM: I’ve had that for a long time mate.
CH: I’ve scored in the Premier League, alright!
Q: Jamie, four or five years ago did you imagine that you would one day be a regular Premier League player and an international?
JM: You know what, I have always believed in myself and the hard work I have put in on the training ground. I have improved a lot as a player since then. To get as far as I have I am very proud of myself, but it all comes down to the application I put in on the training pitch and working with good coaches who wanted to spend time with me. There might have been times when I was playing away at Tamworth, places like that for Exeter, that I thought it might not happen but it has happened and I am lucky managers have believed in me and I would like to think I have gone and shown them my worth. I am very lucky to be playing at this level and I want to keep improving. I know my limitations as a footballer but I always believe with hard work I can get better and better. I love playing at this level as it is the best level of football in my opinion.
Q: A question for Harry about strategy and formation. Since half-time of the Liverpool game you have obviously tightened things up and I think everyone here is impressed that we are more resilient and conceding fewer goals. Obviously we need to kick on and win a few games and against Norwich you changed things slightly with Adel playing up front with Jamie. How do you see things going from here strategy wise?
Andrew Watson, A Kick Up The R’s
HR: It is difficult. Sometimes you open yourself up as we did against Liverpool and you can get punished. We went to Chelsea and looked to be difficult to beat and took the opportunity when it came to win the game. Saturday, second half I ended up with Jamie up front with Bobby Zamora and I felt we created more chances. No one wants to play an open game more than I do. That is the way my teams have always played – looking to go and win games. It is a balancing act at the moment. Remy came in and picked up an injury and we got Jamie to play up front – we are really short of front men. Bobby is not capable of playing a game after his hip operation, half a game is what you are looking at. It is a strange situation becasue if he starts the game, at half-time his hip ceases up and he can’t get going again. We have got to bring him on in the second half and get 40/45 minutes out of him, really. That has been a problem for us as the attacking options have been a lot smaller than we would have liked. We do need to turn one or two of those draws into wins, there is no doubt about that.
Q: What about DJ Campbell?
HR: I like DJ Campell but I don’t know if he is going to get the goals I need in the Premier League. He’s a nice lad and works his socks off but, you know. We brought Remy in and I am hoping he will be fit this weekend and we have Jamie. Adel likes to play behind the front as well but when you open up too much the defeat against Liverpool made us have a rethink about what we are capable of. We are short of goal scorers, whatever way you look at it. You can look at your team at the start of the year and tell roughly how many goals you will score. This player will get you maybe seven or eight goals and this player might get you five or six. You can get a good idea of the amount of goals you will score over the course of a season. We are short of maybe a couple of big goal scorers. If you had two goal scorers that would get you 20 goals a season each, you wouldn’t hesitate and play two up front every week. We haven’t honestly got two out and out massive goal scorers.
Q: What about Cisse?
HR: I let him go. He wasn’t going to get in my team so I released him.
Q: Would you consider playing Samba upfront like he did at Blackburn?
HR: He’s a handful upfront but then you have a big hole at the back. You have lost Ryan Nelsen who formed a fantastic partnership with Clint. You lost Ryan Nelsen who was absolutely fantastic as a player I thought, and then you have brought in another great centre half. Samba could play in any team in the Premier League. Any team, a top team. There is not a team he is not capable of getting into in my opinion but if you go and stick him up front then suddenly you have lost a centre half. It is a difficult one. It is not impossible for Samba to play up front, I wouldn’t sit here and say it is not going to happen at any stage as it could well do. But at the end of the day you would like the forwards to start scoring a few, and him and Clint make sure at the back we don’t open up and concede any.
Q: It is a question for Harry. We touched upon it earlier that there is a situation that has grown up around Jose Bosingwa. In the wake of the comments after the Newcastle match I think there were a few people here that were surprised he was included in the 25-man squad. Judging by the reaction of fans when his name was read out I think he would, initially anyway, struggle to come back into the team and win the fans over. What do you see the situation as?
HR: It was disappointing. The day he didn’t sit on the bench we were all disappointed in that, myself included. Especially you people as you pay the wages and it is your club. It is not something that I understand anyone doing any more than you do. It has happened though and he is here and, whether you like it or not, he is going to get paid every week and I think we have to move on from that now. We have all made mistakes in our lives, he has apologised, he knows he has made a big mistake as I have not had him in any of the squads. It is up to him now to try and come back and get the opportunity to win you over with the effort and work rate he has to put in to do that. It is not going to be easy. What do I gain by not putting him in the squad anyway? People make mistakes in life, he has made a big one but there are people who have made worse ones than that who are playing football so we have got to move on from that now. If he gets picked it is up to him to win you people over. He’s here, he has got a contract, he gets paid every week and if his attitude is right he has got to win you people over. That won’t be easy, I know that, but he has got to try and do it.
Q: Does the club have an opinion on the reintroduction of safe standing throughout Loftus Road or a potential new stadium?
Gareth Brennan, A Kick Up The R’s
PB: It is something that has been looked at by quite a few clubs now. It is something that is on our radar. If we can find a way that makes it safe and it works, and clubs want to engage and embrace it, then I think it should be looked at and considered seriously. Again it is another thing that if you are going to build a new stadium, by then it might have moved forward a bit. We are probably not the greatest test base for anything like that as we are restricted in what we can achieve and do with something like safe standing. It is a dialogue that I know quite a few clubs are looking at.
Q: I think everyone in here has got the same view as me. Every Saturday we turn up and there are touts outside with literally wads and wads of tickets. Where are they getting these from when everyone is supposed to be on a database at this club? They are selling them to Korean’s outside White City Station for £100 a ticket. That is not good for our club at all.
Vic Stevenson, LSA
PB: Ticket touting is not good for any club or any sport. Before I came here I was at the O2 and before any event it was a challenge. I know Twickenham have had major issues with people that own debentures and when the big games come around people try and sell them for a lot more money. If they are on the database and you can track where tickets come from, we can try and do something about it. It is not a great fact of life but for every event that there are limited tickets, there are touts.
Q: That’s not the problem. The problem is that it is not one or two tickets but these people are bringing out wads of tickets. Someone from within the club is giving them tickets from somewhere because it is not just one or two tickets. They are bringing out bundles of tickets. I can understand one or two, but not the amount they are getting.
PB: It is a good forum to understand these things. I haven’t seen them with wads of tickets when I have arrived but I can absolutely 100 per cent assure you that anyone who knows the people in this club, that most of the guys involved here have been here for many, many, many years, and are as passionate fans as you are. I can assure you that our checks and balances don’t allow anything like that to happen. But we will look into it.
HR: I think if someone bought a ticket off these people and sent it into the club then it could be traced where it came from.
PB: I am writing things down and if that is happening that shouldn’t be happening I will pay to find out. There is not a question that that is unacceptable.
Q: First of all Harry Redknapp, thank you for coming to QPR. We really, really do appreciate it. Thank you very much. First point is to Philip that whatever the cost of away tickets, fill those seats so these boys get the backing they deserve at every game going into the vital part of our season. We need them seats filled up with QPR fans. If we lose some money, it is better than losing our Premier League status as the boys need us and we will be there to back them, just give us a chance. The point I would really like to make is that I would like to see QPR reach out more. When you come out of Ladbroke Grove tube station, when you come out of White City tube station, actually have a QPR sticker, programme, fixtures whatever. When you come out of White City tube station you wouldn’t know there was a Premier League football club here. Can we just publicise our beautiful football club a bit more?
Q: Question for Harry. As you have mentioned about the lack of resources going forward and given the money that the club has spent, obviously before you got here, a lot of us viewed it as money wasted on certain players, why didn’t you go to acquire another striker as well as getting Remy? Remy is obviously not fully match fit and has slight injury concerns. I know we were looking at Peter Crouch and Peter Odemwingie but, given what we have spent, why didn’t we really go to get that second striker?
HR: On transfer deadline day morning it looked like we had a choice between Peter Crouch or Odemwingie, that was where we were going. I spoke to Tony Pulis the day before and there was every chance Crouchy could come, it looked like a deal that could happen. Then Tony changed his mind on the morning. He called me and said ‘look Harry I can’t let him go’. Then we had a problem with the Peter Odemwingie transfer which was a shame again as he would have been an outstanding player. It certainly wasn’t through lack of effort, they fell down at the last moment unfortunately.
Q: You must have had other options as well?
HR: It is difficult when you are looking at strikers as it is not easy to find. Everybody is always looking for goal scorers. We really felt, I will be honest, that one of them two would come off. Certainly the Crouch one in the morning looked very promising and Crouchy was dead keen to come back here.
Q: Odemwingie. Was that underhand tactics by his club?
HR: I just felt it was unfortunate. I will be honest, I felt sorry for the boy. He travelled down as he felt the deal was done, or was going to be done, and so he got himself down here to be ready for a medical and get the forms signed if it did happen rather than have to drive down at the last minute. What he did wrong was he turned up at the football ground. There were lots of players turning up on deadline day where deals didn’t come off, he just happened to be here and the cameras were here. It was a difficult situation. He is a nice lad and a good player.
Q: Philip, you will remember that we had a meeting not this January just gone but the year before, and you very kindly came and we have had meetings with you since then. I just want to reiterate on behalf of all fans’ groups that we have raised the issues of ticket touts; we have raised the issues of family stands and numerous other issues that would improve the matchday experience. I just want to ask you that if you are willing to meet with the LSA and with the Indy’s and every other fans’ group, please continue to involve us because we have brought these issues to you before.
Linda Farrell, OSC
PB: I’ll meet wherever and whenever we can meet, that is not a problem at all. Let’s get them in the diary. As long as we come to these meetings with the understanding that it is not as straightforward at Loftus Road as some people want it to be. Some of the points today are really hitting home and we will do what we can. The tout one I will definitely act on that.
Q: If the worst comes to the worst and we do go down, are we able to survive in that situation or will we end up like Portsmouth in about five or ten years? Can we get back up and do we have the stability in place for that?
PB: The simple answer is yes, we are ready for whatever circumstances happen. The reality of football is that three clubs will come up from the Championship and three will go down. If we go down our intention will be to come back up as fast as possible and 100 per cent this is nothing close to being like other clubs that have gone through financial difficulties. I think the testament to that is that I know we weren’t able to agree with West Brom a deal for Peter Odemwingie but in the last ten days of the transfer window this club broke the transfer record not once, but twice, to try and help Harry and the guys with some support. From my point of view when Ryan Nelsen left, it was really difficult. It is challenging. I remember the Newcastle trip, and we (PB and fans) played fantasy football trying to think, if you were going to get a striker or a defender and we were coming out with all sorts of names. It is really difficult to think who you could bring in who is a tried and tested Premier League goal scorer. We got Loic Remy who finished the first chance he had for this club playing against West Ham. I am sure, like you I was thinking touch it, go on and then he shot and, oh my god, it’s gone in. That was great. With Chris Samba he looks like, with Clint, we have found somebody that can not only match what Ryan can do but is a bit younger and can be with us for a while.
Q: Question for Harry. I’ve been a supporter for I suppose 43 odd years and seen a few tumbled. Rodney and Stan. I don’t like to have a go at any of our players but the antics of Stephen Mbia over the last couple of months has been a liability. He is a sending off waiting to happen. Have you said anything to him about his antics of diving?
HR: He does roll around a bit, I must be honest. He has calmed down a bit. I think it was the Villa game he got injured and carried off. I think he gives everything and is a good lad. I thought the Tottenham game when we drew, he was fantastic that day. He got after everything and worked and made good forward runs. We have got to be careful though. I took him off the other day after he’d been booked as he looked like he could make another challenge and the game is over then as you are struggling.
Q: With this great support of the Board we are giving you, do we sign Lionel Messi and would you manage to fit him in the squad?
Luke Peppard, LSA
HR: Yeah I reckon we would manage to fit him in. Definitely. Funnily enough I read the other day that Messi has always supported QPR. You wouldn’t be far off winning the league if you had Messi. He’s that good he would come here and score 40 goals. It’s crazy how good he is. I would think he would score 40 goals in the Premier League.
Q: With regards to Amit, a lot of emails and tweets have come in about what is his involvement going forwards in the club?
PB: Amit and the Mittal family own 33% of the club. Amit is here most games when he is in the country. Tony is a very media savvy business guy and Flavio and Bernie were very quiet people that rarely said a word. Amit is very involved. They are big business guys who travel a lot. Amit is on Twitter. Tony has taken the front side as being the chairman, but Amit is a wonderful guy who is absolutely passionate about this club.
Q: The only problem I think with Tony being on Twitter is that when things don’t go to plan and he gets criticised – and they may not be QPR fans - he will come out and say, ‘I will try my best, I will leave or step down, it makes us look unstable’.
PB: Tony has thousands of followers through Caterham and AirAsia, and it is how he likes to communicate. I think if there is one thing, and Harry touched on it, it is if you let these comments get to you – I have a small number of people who follow me – it can really hit you. Tony Fernandes is one of the most passionate people I have come across and I don’t know too many chairmen who would walk around the edge of the pitch and make sure he speaks to anybody and everybody. After the Fulham game we went down to the Crown & Sceptre for a few drinks in there. He is full on; he loves it, and keeps saying to me he has to keep leaving to make the money in order to keep investing! Tony is going nowhere but we also have to accept that he has two other partners who, when you get to meet them, they might not be as loud and vocal as Tony but they are absolutely passionate. They have grown an airline from nothing into a huge business. If we simply look to the short term then it is important what happens this season, but you guys have been here 30, 40 or 50 years and the next ten can ensure the foundations are built for future generations.
Q: This is probably an unfair question for Philip and I am going to put you on the spot. It is easy for newspapers to say so and so is on £80k a week or £90k a week or £100k a week and can print what they want about QPR. Without naming names, would you be willing to give us a ballpark figure for what the top earner at QPR is on at the moment to nip it in the bud?
Clive Whittingham, LoftForWords
PB: I wouldn’t comment, not just in a football club but in any other business, on what anybody’s contract is as they are private. What I would say is that I think Harry has brought a different type of player to the club. You look at a player who wants to come to the club and they have got to come for all the right reasons. I do think that so much gets banded about in the press and it is crazy. I am lucky, I go to the training ground quite a lot and the spirit is good and the guys are fighting really hard. We made some good signings and some haven’t worked out quite as well. I do think one of the greatest signings we made was to bring Harry to the club, and also Joe Jordan and Kevin Bond. But I won’t comment on anyone’s agreements.
Q: You have teed up a second question whilst I am on my feet. Harry is a great manager and we are lucky to have him here but how much input is he having on the new training ground and what do you think of the scouting system you have inherited here, and how much input are you having into that and the training facilities we are developing?
Clive Whittingham, LoftForWords
HR: My only focus at the moment has been on the team and staying in the Premier League. I have not got to sit down with Phil and the chairman and the Board to look at the new training ground. Once that is up and underway I would love to have a big input on it all and we will have meetings. At the moment there is nothing else, my whole life has revolved around trying to stay in the Premier League. You never switch off from that, I don’t. People can talk to me about training grounds and I will say I’ll worry about that at the end of the season.
Q: Question for Philip. You talk about plans for the training ground and future but the main thing I want to ask about is the stadium. Would, if the worst comes to the worst, relegation affect plans for the new stadium?
PB: Absolutely not, no. We have three key objectives at the club. One is Premier League stability and that has got to be done over the next few years. We have got to find stability as a club in the Premier League and build from there, and make sure we focus on improving all the time. The second is the training ground. You guys all know that we currently share a training ground with Imperial College. For a Premier League club that is not right and we will be building a new training ground at Warren Farm. And a new stadium is key to long-term plans from a business point of view, a revenue point of view. We have the smallest ground in the Premier League with, I don’t say lightly, the best fans in the Premier League but we are going to have to grow that fan base. We are going to have to have a stadium of 30/35/45,000 – whatever it is – and we need to fill that every single game with fans and that is why we have to bring young fans and nurture them through the system. I wouldn’t be doing this or have persuaded Mark Donnelly to leave the FA halfway through a season if we were going to tear up plans for the training ground or not try and move plans forward for a new stadium.
The next Fans’ Forum is scheduled for September 2013.