Briatore’s QPR exit lifts the weight from Warnock’s shoulders

Briatore and Paldini’s exit should give boss a boost

For the first time in his spell as QPR manager, Neil Warnock holds his fate in his own hands.

Since he arrived at Loftus Road 17 months ago, Warnock’s relationship with the QPR board has been the subject of incessant speculation, to the point where in June, just weeks after he had guided the Rs to the Championship trophy, the club were forced to publically deny rumours that he had quit.

Speculation that Flavio Briatore and chairman Gianni Paladini wanted to bring in a ‘big-name’ manager from Italy overshadowed pre-season, with Briatore in particular a thorn in Warnock’s side.

The man who in his four years at the club has accounted for nine managers was, said Warnock, in sole charge of transfer dealings, and, together with co-owner Bernie Ecclestone, dished out a very public warning to the manager for daring to suggest he was not being funded in the transfer market.

The crisis point came on Saturday, when Warnock’s under-strength QPR side were humiliated by Bolton Wanderers. But by that point, the signs of salvation were just around the corner.

Tony Fernandes appears everything Briatore was not. In his first press conference on Thursday, the Malaysian business tycoon promised his full backing. He will be a ‘sounding board’ to the manager, taking a back seat in transfer dealings, lending support - in essence, letting the manager do his job.

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Finally, with Briatore and Ecclestone out, Amit Bhatia back on the board and Fernandes behind him, Warnock can be a football manager again. He stopped himself short of criticising the former regime, but his relief at the burden lifted from his shoulders was plain to see.

“I must admit that up until today I didn’t feel we had enough structure to progress,” said Warnock. “It gives me a fighting chance to bring in the players that I think we need to stabilise us at the top level. If you look at when I’ve been successful, the chairmen I worked for are the ones where I’ve been able to have a relationship.

“I’ve got two people to deal with, one might have a lot of shares and one might have less, but together I know both people that use common sense. They’re both football people who have common sense and when you have those ingredients together the recipe is usually success.

“That’s how I look at it; it’s a fantastic day for me personally. As a manager, results determine whether you’re going to get the sack, at every football club. You’re aware of that. You try and hope that you are given a fair crack of the whip and have an opportunity to try.”

The idea of manager and board working in harmony has become almost unheard of at Loftus Road in recent years and, in that context, Bhatia’s return to his role as vice-chairman is critical.

Bhatia is a man of the fans. Disillusioned at the raise in ticket prices, his resignation was a blow to Warnock, who appeared increasingly isolated from the club’s ownership. Stability was what he craved, and he must now hope that he has it. The fans will hope so too, and Fernandes knows it.

“The real ambition is to give Neil what he requires to keep the club and then we’ll take it from there one step at a time,” said Fernandes. “That’s the way I want to run the club, I want to be open and transparent, and make people all feel that they’re part of it.

“Me and Amit, we’re here just to be a sounding board. Neil will come to us with what he could like, I don’t know whether he wants old players or young players or inbetween players, it’s really his call. And as he said, he wants to make this club a great club, and he’s got enough years of experience, reading from his books...”

New players are the priority for Warnock, as they have been all summer. He has barely two weeks to get the names on board before the transfer window shuts, but this is a manager who loves a battle.

“Now all of a sudden it might come down to my ability, and I like that challenge. To be on a level playing field with a third, two thirds of the Premier League I think is a great opportunity for me. That’s what you want as a manager, and then if you fail you’re going to get the sack anyway.”

For Warnock, the hard work starts here, and you get the feeling he is rather enjoying it again.

Follow Ian Cooper on Twitter @QPRTimes