Our season starts again today with the visit of Barnsley to Loftus Road and I'm really looking forward to it.
I've had a good break and feel really recharged. Like most managers I could still do with a couple of players to complete the squad before the transfer window closes, and it is a shame not to have got them in before today, but it's still been a good build-up.
For a family break after the season ended we went to Scotland for an old-fashioned holiday. It was half-term and Amy had exams as soon as she went back at the beginning of June. With the Icelandic ash cloud still around and the British Airways strikes we decided not to risk going overseas. Instead we had the best holiday you can imagine at Dunoon, where Sharon's grandparents used to live.
There was no TV, no computers. Just like olden times. We cycled for miles, we went on quadbikes, we played golf and went fishing for mackerel off the pier. That was at Blairmore. There were four fishermen there when we arrived. We asked them how they had got on – none had caught a thing. So Sharon cast for William and – you know what's coming – he immediately hooks a big mackerel. As he pulled it out the four came running towards us. They had one of those looks which indicated they were trying to feel really pleased for him, but deep down they all hated it.
The golf was at Blairmore and Strone with William. It's my favourite course – it's not long, just nine holes, and the scenery is fantastic, breathtaking. Then in the evenings we played Monopoly, dominoes and charades. It was great. Scotland has everything, if you get good weather.
2. QPR fans in Cornwall? Our fame is spreading
I was soon travelling again, only this time it was work. After doing some sessions at our training ground in west London I took the lads on a pair of pre-season tours. First we went to Cornwall, which I know from experience would be a good location to bring the lads together and ease them into the season. We had wonderful facilities at the Duchy College near our house, and good friendlies at Tavistock and Bodmin. We finished off with a game at Torquay.
It never ceases to amaze me how many fans turn up at these games. I actually met quite a few Cornish QPR fans, who were obviously delighted we had come down. We also went to Trethorne Golf Club, which may be the best I have been to. It was the night of the World Cup final but the lads were more interested in playing nine holes together than watching the first half, which says everything about how the tournament had been. They didn't miss much football, just a few tasty tackles. Watching it I could not see what else referee Howard Webb could have done. If he had sent off De Jong or Van Bommel he would have been slaughtered for making a debacle of the World Cup final. It must have been one of the hardest games he has ever had to officiate. I'm sure he knows now, as then, it should have been a sending off for De Jong especially, but he can hold his head up because the game itself was unrefereeable.
3. The QPR intiation ceremony: dressing up like JLS in public
After Cornwall we had a week in Italy arranged by Gianni Paladini, our chairman. We were on the coast, in a lovely hotel, about 30 miles from Rimini. The facilities were super but we had to be up at seven to train at nine because after that it was too hot. I don't know how people can manage there. In our first game Jamie Mackie sweated so much he lost 4lb in 45 minutes.
I took the family with me, which is something I have never done before. It's why I've never been away with the kids in July before. Trashing the waves with Amy and William (that's Amy's description for diving into them) I realised what decent and well brought-up children I have. Both said they wanted to "go". So I followed them out, walked up the beach to the bar, and both disappeared into the toilets. Then we went back into the sea. I said to them, "In my day kids would never have done what you have just done. And neither would I. We'd have stayed in the sea." William pulled a face and said, "Ooh, how dirty."
At the hotel the kids became involved in a fashion show. Akos Buzsaky was sunbathing like an Adonis by the end of a catwalk William had to walk down and give a spin. I gave him €20 and said, 'Take a water gun behind your back'. He gave Buzsaky a right soaking. It was one of the highlights of the trip.
We were at a lovely hotel, the Palace. One afternoon I came back and we saw most of the players on one balcony looking across at another one on which were all the new signings. They were dressed up as JLS and singing "Everybody in love, go on put your hands up". All the hoteliers were applauding. It's things like that you go on tours for; as well as the fitness and the matches they are about building the team spirit which is so vital over a long season.
One new signing, Leon Clarke, was not able to make it. So, on our way to the first game he went to the front of the bus, picked up a microphone and he started singing Craig David's "Seven Days". You know the one, the chorus starts, "I met this girl on Monday, took her for a drink on Tuesday..." By Wednesday it was apparent he had the worst voice I've ever heard in my life. But he kept going, all the way to the end. It shows what you can do if you have the guts.
The long chase for Adel Taarabt finally paid off late on Wednesday night when I persuaded him to join us permanently from Spurs. I'm sure loads of managers looked at this player and thought, "Do I want the hassle?" I really enjoyed having him around last season but assumed a big club would definitely come in for him. There are some things he does on the field that might make a manager think twice about paying decent money. But there is no doubt he brings quality and I like to look at his strengths – what he gives you rather than the problems. His ambition is to play in the Premier League and hopefully we can make that happen.
4. Well done, Mark – glad to see you're finally back in black
There were some good news stories in the last week or so. I was delighted to see the referee Mark Halsey passing a Premier League fitness test. Before his cancer he always talked a good game but I never thought he was fit, so I'm pleased to see he is now. Only joking, Mark. Seriously, it's smashing to see him back. I was also pleased that Portsmouth's Linvoy Primus and Neil Harris of Millwall had testimonials. They are two genuine guys and they've given their clubs the sort of service that is so rare now. You certainly won't see many testimonials cropping up in the next few years.
5. Wembley is small beer compared to our Carling Cup tie
Akos Buzsaky is looking forward to missing our Carling Cup tie against Port Vale on Tuesday as he has a prior engagement playing for Hungary against England. I have told him that there is a good chance there will be more people watching our game than will be at Wembley.
Saints can go marching into the Championship
Yesterday I gave you my tips for the Championship. So here's a punt on the other divisions kicking off this weekend. In League One I can't look past Southampton. They could do a Norwich this year. I also think Huddersfield can go close. I will also be following Notts County to see how Craig Short does in his first English job. He's got some of the other lads I had under me at County in his backroom staff: Mark Draper, Tommy and Michael Johnson, and David Kevan, so good luck to them all.
In League Two I think Shrewsbury look strong, with Stevenage as an outsider to do well. Mind, when we played Torquay pre-season they were a well-organised and entertaining side. I'd love to see Paul Peschisolido at Burton start well and be there or thereabouts. And it's farewell to my first ground, Chesterfield will be playing at Saltergate no more. There's a lot of memories bound up in that ground, but it was a bit out-dated and clubs moving to a new stadium, as I recall at Huddersfield, usually get a boost, so they should also be in the mix.Reuse content