"It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God" Matthew 19:24. No one knows, until they shuffle off this mortal coil, whether St Matthew is right, and Premier League footballers will spend eternity with their faces pressed up against the Pearly Gates, but on this earthlyrealm having a few bob has its advantages, especially when it comes to lifting the FA Cup.
The last time a club outside the "Big Four" won the competition was in 1995, and Everton were then still clinging to the notion that they were part of the "Big Five". That quintet also included Tottenham, but not Chelsea. Since then, Roman Abramovich's riches have enabled Chelsea to gatecrash the elite. Yesterday, however, the Russian's club entertained a man with even deeper pockets. Lakshmi Mittal, who owns a fifth of QPR, has a fortune estimated at 19 billion, enough to make even Abramovich (estimated worth 10.8bn) feel envious. With Mittal joined in the QPR boardroom by a fellow billionaire, Bernie Ecclestone, and mere millionaire, Flavio Briatore, Rangers fans are dreaming not of emulating their west London neighbours, but of overtaking them.
Yesterday they were forced to settle for worrying the FA Cup holders, who were not exactly an advertisement for high spending and big names. As Avram Grant said, "We did our job". It was, though, graft, not art. Having been given a fortuitous lead through Lee Camp's 28th-minute own goal Chelsea, injuries not-withstanding, should have eased past their Championship neighbours. Instead they laboured to victory even after the reinforcement of stellar substitutes DidierDrogba, Michael Ballack andJoe Cole.
"That they had to bring them on showed we did our job well," said Luigi De Canio, Rangers' manager. He added: "I'm very satisfied with the performance. It shows we are progressing."
To judge from De Canio's purchases so far, progress is intended to be steady rather than spectacular. QPR's new owners have been spending enthusiastically in the transfer window, but the investment is in quantity rather than quality. The immediate aim looks to be a competent Championship side rather than a Champions' League-winning one. The seven acquisitions to date are a mixture of promising youngsters, like Hogan Ephraim, and old sweats such as Fitz Hall.
No one, in short, to get excitedabout. Has no one told them Dimitar Berbatov wants a move or, failing that, Jermain Defoe?
Five new recruits took the field at the Bridge, with the others on the bench, although since several had previously played on loan, the Hoops were not the collection of strangers that might be imagined. If anything Chelsea were the team making the dressing-room introductions.
With the spine of the team injured, and others rested, Avram Grant fielded a reserve-string central defence and occasional starters Steve Sidwell, Scott Sinclair and Claudio Pizarro. The latter was bizarrely withdrawn into midfield early on with the wingers pushed up to make4-3-3. More interesting than any name on the teamsheet was that of Didier Drogba among the substitutes. The Ivorian is just back from a knee operation and about to head for Ghana for the African Nations Cup.
These patchwork teams inevitably produced a match of only sporadic interest. In the opening quarter neither side mustered a shot on goal, the most noteworthy moment coming after Shaun Wright-Phillips blazed wide. The Rangers fans sang: "We won't be buying you."
Then, as the half-hour approached, Salomon Kalou squared for Pizarro, who driftedacross a challenge and shot from the edge of the box. The ball struck the post, rebounded against the diving Camp, and trickled over the line. Chelsea looked to settle the tie but Wright-Phillips dipped a drive just over the bar, then Sidwell finished a flowing move by drilling against the far post.
QPR played more positively after the break but were unable to capitalise on that reprieve. Though the busy Martin Rowlands fizzed a shot over, Rangers never suggested they would actually score. Still, that deficiency will be resolved when they sign Samuel Eto'o, Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka.
Wide open window
QPR's spending spree:
Gavin Mahon (Watford) 200,000
Fitz Hall (Wigan) Undisclosed
Patrick Agyemang (Preston) 350,000
Akos Buzsaky (Plymouth) ex-loan
Hogan Ephraim (West Ham) ex-loan, 800,000
Matthew Connolly (Arsenal) ex-loan
Kieran Lee (Manchester United) loan
About to sign:
Rowan Vine (Birmingham)
Stefan Postma (ADO Den Haag, Holl)
Sebastian Rusculleda (Tigre, Arg)
Daryl Murphy (Sunderland)
Robbie Savage (Blackburn)
Bobo Balde (Celtic)
Leroy Lita (Reading)
Dean Brill (Luton)
Wayne Routledge (Tottenham)
Dan Shittu (Watford)
Martin Taylor (Birmingham)Reuse content