QPR can defy the odds just like 2007 heroes, insists former skipper
Bignot recalls the season Rangers closed ranks to secure their Championship safety
QPR fans hold the key to securing the club’s Premier League status, says the captain of the last Rangers side to survive a relegation battle.
Full-back Marcus Bignot skippered the Rs side that appeared doomed to League One football five years ago, but staged a late recovery to escape the drop.
Bignot, who now manages Conference North club Solihull Moors, cites the staunch backing of the Hoops faithful as one of the main factors in the team’s survival that season – and is calling for more of the same now.
“I think the supporters have to go back and revisit that year,” Bignot told London24.com. “There’s been criticism aimed at one or two players recently and, whoever they put out there, it’s paramount that fans get behind them.
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“When players are low on confidence, the supporters can help change that. People talk about the crowd being the 12th man and it’s a bit of a clich�.
“But they were right behind us that season and it definitely made a difference. One of the games that sticks out in my mind from that run-in was the Preston game under lights and the atmosphere was incredible.
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“It was the year that ‘We are the Rangers boys’ became our signature tune and I remember getting on the mike to sing it back to the fans at the end of one game because they’d played such a huge part.”
Just as the current QPR side have been facing a difficult fixture schedule, the odds seemed to be stacked against Bignot and his team-mates in 2007, when they faced five of the Championship promotion contenders in their final eight matches.
But they followed up their 1-0 victory over Preston with back-to-back successes against Coventry and Luton over the Easter weekend.
And, despite a 2-1 defeat at champions-elect Sunderland, they then overcame Cardiff 1-0 at Loftus Road to clinch Championship safety with two games to spare.
It was a triumph for Bignot, who had experienced relegation during his first spell at Loftus Road, and sensed a much healthier atmosphere in the dressing-room than had been the case when he arrived six years earlier.
“The big difference was that the senior players really cared,” he reflected. “There was a great team spirit, whether you were in the side or not, and we took pride in trying to keep the club in the Championship.
“We had Lee Cook, who was a massive QPR fan and, although people like myself, Gareth Ainsworth and Adam Bolder wouldn’t have claimed to be QPR fans in the same way, it mattered to us as professionals.
“Players have different motivations and I would never criticise a fellow professional if their main motivation was money.
“But at that time, I can honestly say it was more about having the club’s interests at heart rather than those of the individual. We all knew the consequences of us going down that year.
“If that had happened, there’s no way QPR would be in the Premier League now. They can talk about the ‘Four Year Plan’ but, in QPR’s history, the season before that was the most important one.
“They now have the opportunity to become an established Premier League club, so it’s vital that they stay up and the players have to want to stay up for the right reasons.”
Bignot had been transfer-listed at the end of the previous season, but was brought back into the fold after John Gregory returned to Loftus Road, and the 37-year-old is quick to credit the manager for his achievement in keeping Rangers up that year.
“From my point of view, John came in at the right time and I’ll always be indebted to him for making me captain, which raised my game and helped me to give the players the belief we could do it,” Bignot added.
“Because John was the sort of character who enjoyed the attention himself, he took a lot of pressure off us and onto himself, and let us go out and play. You have to trust in Mark Hughes the way we did in John Gregory that year.”
Bignot, who made nearly 200 appearances during his two spells at Loftus Road, believes his old club have the ability to stave off relegation this season – but also sounds a note of caution.
Despite the change of ownership last year, Rangers have continued to display a worrying disregard for long-term planning in favour of seemingly endless and excessive player recruitment.
Bignot observed: “It’s been said many times before, but quick fixes don’t work – you need some continuity.
“Look at Swansea and Norwich, who came up as well – they’ve added some players but they already had the right ingredients and philosophy.
“There’s been a lot of chopping and changing at QPR and an influx of too many players. You can’t always expect money to be the answer instead of getting the right manager and creating the right team spirit and togetherness.”