10 July 2012

Queens PARK Rangers have arrived

Park Ji-Sung's talkin' 'bout a QPR revolution.

Football is a game of two halves. One half is all that is needed to make or break a team.

The last 45 minutes of the 2011/12 Premier League season, on 13 May, were certainly make or break for Queens Park Rangers. At half-time, they were trailing 1-0 at title-chasing Manchester City, while Bolton Wanderers were defeating Stoke City. The only combination of results which could have relegated QPR was a defeat for them and a win for Bolton, and that was what was happening.

Shortly after the restart, Djibril Cisse pounced on a defensive error from Joleon Lescott to equalise. Then, Jamie Mackie stunned the home supporters at the City of Manchester Stadium by putting Rangers 2-1 up.

Of course, you know what happened next. But in that second half, QPR showed why there were a worthy addition to the Premier League, and even though they lost, an equaliser from Stoke meant that Mark Hughes's men deservedly stayed up.

If, at the Britannia Stadium, Jonathan Walters had missed his 77th-minute penalty, or if his earlier goal had been chalked off for a clear foul on Bolton keeper Adam Bogdan, QPR's brave effort against City wouldn't have been enough. They would have been back in the Championship, right here, right now. The QPR revolution that began with Flavio Briatore's takeover in 2007 would have crumbled, or at least gone back to the drawing board.

They would certainly not have even attracted the players that they have bought ahead of their second season back in the top flight. Players that, if they gel together quickly, can fulfil the ambitions of Rangers' new Malaysian owner Tony Fernandes.

Hughes wasted no time in bolstering his squad with a couple of players that he had coached at his previous clubs. Former Blackburn Rovers defender Ryan Nelsen is that strong centre-half that QPR have been crying out for, and if anyone can revive the career of ex-Fulham striker Andrew Johnson, it's Sparky.

Then came Robert Green, who remains one of England's best goalkeepers (although to be honest that isn't really saying much), and on-loan Manchester United full-back Fabio da Silva. But yesterday, Rangers made their most exciting signing yet - a player who, like Fabio, has graced Old Trafford for some time.

The signing of South Korea midfielder Park Ji-Sung from United for £2million could well turn out to be one of the bargains of the summer. In Park, the Hoops have a very versatile and intelligent footballer who is also exceptionally fit and hard-working. At 31, he's getting to the peak of his career, and his arrival at Loftus Road is a game-changer in more ways than one.

When Park first came to Britain in 2005 as Manchester United's new signing from PSV Eindhoven, there were some critics who thought he was only there to make up the squad and sell shirts in Asia. A record of 27 goals in 205 appearances during seven seasons with the Red Devils is evidence enough that the sceptics were totally wrong.

He is by far their most significant signing so far, but you can be darn sure he won't be their last. They have plenty of dead wood to shift, and once they've done that, don't be surprised if they make an even more earth-shattering signing before 31 August.

When QPR bosses like chairman Fernandes and vice-chairman Amit Bhatia say that Park's acquisition is "momentous" and "a statement" of the club's ambition, they are not just talking hyperbole. Queens Park Rangers have well and truly announced their arrival on the Premier League stage, and they are adamant that they will be here to stay.

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