There was a time when Ben Kosky and I were on opposite sides of the QPR fence and he was the placid one.
Not only is he now a friend and someone I’ve grown to respect a lot, he’s also become almost as Victor Meldrew-like as me. Anyone who knows me will know that’s quite a statement.
For those unfamiliar with his work, Ben is the sports editor of the local Times and has written a number of articles criticising the club; the latest being this week’s panning of Gianni Paladini.
I think Ben is very good at writing this kind of opinion piece and that his views are shared by many fans.
It’s not a skill I have. This blog has been more fun than I expected, but I’m a news man. To me, getting a story is all that really matters. Anything else is secondary.
In some ways I’ve been proved wrong by the way Ben has rightly received a lot of praise for his finger-on-the-pulse articles.
As well as praise, I’ve seen some criticism of the guy. Some of it has tended to be that he is just plain negative and has an axe to grind.
It’s only fair to set the record straight. The fact is Ben used to be criticised for being an apologist for the Paladini-led regime, so any suggestion he is negative for the sake of it is wrong.
It was always me who had a bad relationship with the club. Ben, on the other hand, offered them very sympathetic and positive press. Those who’ve only become aware of him fairly recently may not know this, so perhaps get the wrong impression of him.
The point is that while I can be dismissed as negative and an enemy of the club’s hierarchy, Ben cannot. That’s partly why people should take notice of him, and why I think he deserves respect as a reporter.
It’s easy for me, who already had a poor relationship with QPR and did not work for one newspaper, to burn bridges. It’s harder to take a stance when you’ve previously enjoyed a good relationship with people and been onto a good thing, and also have pages to fill every week, so need a club’s cooperation.
Ben deserves kudos for being willing to criticise, even though it does nothing to make his job easier. Any suggestion he has an ulterior motive is simply wrong.
As for his assessment of Paladini and the Faurlin saga, like his general views on the Rangers regime I may disagree with some specifics, but I agree with his basic point.
But while putting the boot into Paladini is both justified and in many ways a re-hash of old arguments that existed long before the Faurlin farce, the bottom line is that it is the owners of the club who are responsible.
When Paladini was in charge of QPR, he and his allies routinely lashed out at the previous board and their supposed friends throughout a very traumatic period for the club, during which good people lost their jobs and individual fans were subjected to the most incredible campaign.
My response to Paladini during all that was very simple: the buck stops with you. You can’t blame disaster upon disaster on people (mostly lifelong QPR fans) supposedly trying to undermine you. You own QPR. You kicked QPR people out so that you could do so. No excuses. You’re to blame when things go wrong.
Well, fair’s fair. The same must apply now Paladini is basically a club employee.
Criticism of him is inevitable, but make no mistake, it is the owners of QPR who are responsible. It’s they who have a duty of care. And it is they who have failed in that duty by not removing Paladini before now.
During Paladini’s era, the list of debacles QPR have been involved in – episodes that have affected the club’s reputation immeasurably – is a matter of public record and presumably something the popular Mittal family are comfortable with.
I mention the Mittals for two reasons.
The first is that it is they who have enjoyed the adoration of Rangers fans, whereas Ecclestone and Briatore have nailed their colours to the mast. One through his apathy and the latter with his unguarded distain for “fans who pay £20.”
The affection out there for the Mittals is, I believe, based largely on Amit Bhatia’s words rather than actions – ticket pricing being the prime example – and action is now required.
The second reason I mention them is that they may be soon be in a stronger position to take such action.
I never went along with the nonsense that good cop Mittal had replaced bad cop Briatore. Like details of the Faurlin transfer, it was one of several examples of QPR fans being misled.
I do believe, though, that in the near future there is a genuine possibility – just a possibility – there will now be actual change at the top. A possible outcome is that the Mittal family’s influence will be significantly increased. This time for real.
If that happens, they will need to assess several areas of the club that have been a problem for some time.
I do think the Mittals are decent and their respect for QPR is genuine. I also believe they are capable of turning Rangers into one of the best clubs in Europe – not just on the pitch but off it too.
But they cannot do so without addressing the issue of the elephant in the boardroom, which they have so far been unwilling or unable to do.
As things stand, the Mittals strengthening their position would probably lead to Paladini strengthening his.
That’s not something Mittal fans who want Paladini out will want to read, but it’s true, and is why Paladinites on various messageboards have sought to whip up support for the Mittals versus Briatore in the past.
Long before the Faurlin saga, Bhatia received correspondence from fans pleading with him and his family to end Paladini’s involvement with QPR, and drawing his attention to the reasons why. Paladini’s collaborators take great pleasure from the fact that these pleas were in vain.
And while some of Paladini’s critics will use the Faurlin hearing – the results of which suggest no personal wrongdoing on the chairman’s part – as a stick to beat him with despite not knowing the facts of the transfer, there are others who, far from using hindsight, have warned of this type of situation occurring at some stage. It seemed inevitable.
As sensational as the Faurlin case was, in many ways it changes nothing.
Paladini was not found guilty of anything, so anyone who thought he was a fit and proper chairman of QPR three months ago need not change their mind. It’s as you were.
The fine shouldn’t be a problem. Rangers have plenty of money, and most fans would regard Faurlin as worth £875,000 which, from discussions I’ve had, the QPR regime seem to feel is all that matters.
There’s also no need to worry about any damage to QPR’s good reputation. They didn’t have one.
For others, including me, as you were means believing that Paladini ought to go. The Faurlin case didn’t highlight any corruption, but it did – yet again – highlight that Rangers are a very poorly run club.
Paladini, as club chairman since 2005 and the current board’s fountain of football knowledge, is to blame for that.
In return for the adoration and respect of QPR fans, the Mittals have a responsibility to them and a duty to ensure those fans can be confident their club is run in the best possible way.
Paladini unfortunately has a track record of costing the club large amounts of money through shoddiness and incompetence, from the Gino Padula contract fiasco to a series of diabolical signings.
His continued involvement at a time when the board will expect fans to pay top-dollar during tough economic times would be an insult to people whose loyal support of the club guided it through troubled waters.
Paladini has sometimes been wrongly demonised – never more so than with regard to Ian Holloway – and his role in positive things has been overlooked because the truth would not fit with the negative portrayal of him.
But I’m afraid those examples are rare. They are also outweighed by the credit he has too-often received, even from critics, for supposedly ‘saving the club’ or arranging the 2007 takeover – a version of events his allies have pushed relentlessly for a long time, and one I’d very strongly dispute. But that’s for another day.
If Paladini is to be credited with ‘saving’ QPR, it ought to be because of the Monaco-based investment he brought in not long after becoming involved with the club in 2004. That money was absolutely crucial and something he is entitled to take credit for.
Sadly, during the following years, what was a respected club has been dragged through the mire again and again, and Paladini is more responsible for that than anyone.
His advocates may see this as unreasonably blaming him for all sorts of things simply for the sake of it. But while defending him on some issues I also have no hesitation in laying blame for others at his door. Take for example the infamous China brawl, which for me encapsulated the club’s malaise.
Not for a moment am I suggesting Paladini would condone an episode like that or be anything but sickened by it. He was. And in fact, once he calmed down that afternoon and stopped berating me for reporting the incident, I thought his response to the whole thing during the following days was magnificent – his finest hour as chairman.
However, there is no doubt in my mind that incidents like that happened in the first place because of the general climate at the club. A climate where there seemed to be no leadership, no discipline, and, frankly, no standards. For that, Paladini was responsible.
Simply put, the place was a shambles during his tenure, and for that reason many hoped – and wrongly assumed – the 2007 takeover by renowned businesspeople would do for him. It was never likely to, and it didn’t.
This is something his supporters point to as proof of his ability. I see it as proof of the owners’ lack of knowledge of QPR and football in general.
In many ways the takeover strengthened his position, and the shoddiness that plagued the club’s dealings before 2007 has still been evident since then, culminating in the Faurlin fiasco.
So the result of the Paladini years is a club that apparently views a fine not far short of £1m – the largest fine in FA history – as a vindication, and that uses as their defence the fact that they deliberately sought to mislead their own fans.
What a sad state of affairs and what a comedown for a club once viewed by others as a benchmark.
So Ben Kosky is spot-on to say Paladini cannot be allowed to continue in his current role. I also know it wasn’t the easy option for him personally, because he has long been battling the club over the issue of access to players, and an article like that will do him no favours at all.
From my own point of view, I really hoped promotion would be an opportunity to draw a line in the sand and achieve a better relationship with the club. Three Premier League sides in the same borough ought to be a great opportunity for those clubs and the local press.
I hoped to mend fences this summer, and have a few ideas I’d like Rangers to embrace. So at this stage, I need to be criticising the powers-that-be like Akos Buzsaky needs another injury.
Tempting as it is, now Kosky’s opted for potential career suicide, to wait for them to bury him and see where that might leave me, I’m reaching for the razor blade as well. They can bury both of us together. Might as well. I’ve seen far too much of the guy lately.
Being a gentleman, and probably still more placid than me, Ben’s amicably suggested that Paladini be “sidelined”. But what would be the point of that?
That would see him keep his role as the club’s figurehead, particularly at away matches, when he is often the only director representing QPR, which itself is a sad indictment of the club.
QPR must – and easily could – do better. It’s not appropriate for Paladini to perform that role, and the need for him to be replaced in it is even greater now than before.
Rangers are not short of excellent alternatives. There are a number of QPR fans who are respected and successful in business and other areas.
Closer to home, there are people like Andy Evans, who attends every game and has done outstanding work in charge of the QPR in the Community Trust. Bhatia is the trust’s chairman, so there’s an option staring him in the face.
There are also committed Rangers fans who have helped the club in numerous ways through the years, including, incidentally, providing financial support for the aforementioned community trust.
These people would, in my view, represent the club very well and should be asked to do so as part of a new era for Rangers, in the Premier League, with people who live and breath QPR being prominent when the moneymen aren’t.
Until now, that void has been filled by Paladini. That should never have been the case.
Removing his title of sporting director was only a cosmetic, token measure. There must now be proper, meaningful change. It’s long overdue.