Having the club captain call your former manager Mike Bassett in a vitriolic attack on Twitter is probably not the ideal way to prepare for a crucial relegation battle but life at QPR has rarely been ideal over the last decade or so.
Joey Barton prepared for his side’s vital 3-1 victory over Wigan by quoting Arctic Monkeys’ lyrics in response to the haters who are inexorably attracted to his gnomic wisdom like moths to the flame.
Neil Warnock’s sacking earlier in January left many QPR fans disappointed. Whilst there was a general acknowledgement that he had made a series of tactical errors this season and had often failed to show the nous that less experienced managers like Brendan Rodgers and Paul Lambert have demonstrated, Rangers’ supporters were still grateful for the job that he had done since taking over in March 2010.
After winning last season’s Championship, Warnock was handicapped by the ongoing sale of the club during the close season by Tango and Cash, AKA Flavio Briatore and Bernie Ecclestone. Unwilling to invest further in a club that they were looking to offload, Warnock was unable to pursue some of his transfer targets including the likes of Swansea’s close season signing Danny Graham.
Instead he had to make do with free transfers like Danny Gabbidon, Kieron Dyer and Jay Bothroyd with the only outlay the £1.25 million spent on DJ Campbell. This left Rangers playing catch-up as the season began and a 4-0 opening day home defeat to Bolton soon dissipated any Premier League optimism.
When new owner Tony Fernandes arrived soon after Warnock was finally able to splash the cash on Barton, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Luke Young, Armand Traore and Anton Ferdinand but Rangers are still suffering from their close season malaise. Their leading scorer is a 34-year-old who often looked sluggish in the Championship, their central defence continues to be exposed by the extra quality of Premier League attackers and star performers from last season like Adel Taarabt and Paddy Kenny have struggled with form and injury.
Warnock paid with his job but there are now an increasing number of Rangers fans growing disillusioned with Barton. Many thought they were getting a combative and tough-tackling midfielder who would bolster the middle of the park but in reality he’s proved to be a surprisingly skilful enabler who links play together. Apart from his displays away to Wolves and Stoke he’s been decent rather than spectacular but when you’re telling the world and his wife just how good you think you are, being decent isn’t enough.
When Barton was abusing Z-list celebrities like the cast of The Only Way Is Essex his diatribes were amusing enough but attacking a manager who Rangers fans hold in affection so soon after his departure is undignified and churlish. Now Barton has the opportunity to win back their support.
In Rangers’ previous home match against Norwich he looked decent, scoring a goal before being harshly sent off following an off-the-ball confrontation with Bradley Johnson. With Rangers’ Premier League survival in the balance, it’s time for him to let his feet do the talking.
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