The roof fell in at The Loft yesterday as Queens Park Rangers' long-awaited return to the Premier League ended in a shattering and comprehensive home defeat. Just about everything that could go wrong, did. Kieron Dyer pulled up lame within four minutes, another new recruit, Danny Gabbidon, scored an own goal, Bolton's third was the result of an outrageous deflection, and Clint Hill was needlessly sent off.
Not that his departure affected the result which was never in doubt from the moment Gary Cahill stylishly scored in first-half injury-time. Rangers had had the better of the first 45 minutes but their confidence drained away and that of Bolton, who won only twice away in the League last season, grew. After Gabbidon's 67th-minute howler Ivan Klasnic and the impressive Fabrice Muamba doubled the lead within a dozen minutes.
"We are top of the league", sang the visiting fans. The home fans, those that stayed, made it clear where they felt the blame lay, abusing the co-owner Flavio Briatore and chanting support for Neil Warnock. Quite what Tony Fernandes, the West Ham-supporting airline magnate who is attempting to take control from the majority shareholder, Bernie Ecclestone, made of it is anyone's guess. At least he stayed to the end, unlike Briatore.
"I was disappointed at the way we capitulated but there were a lot of pluses," said Warnock with a forced smile. "We need two or three more players, if we can get them in I think we have a fighting chance."
A little perspective may be helpful for QPR fans. Ten years ago this weekend Rangers, managed by Ian Holloway, won their opening match against Stoke. That does not sound too bad, except it was a Division Two (now League One) match. It has been a long haul back dogged by financial difficulties and boardroom shenanigans. Even as they celebrate their return Rangers fans are simmering at vertiginous ticket price rises.
While the club has been hawked around Warnock has been forced to strengthen his team on a shoestring. Only one fee has been paid, £1.25m for Blackpool striker DJ Campbell. The best thing that can be said about most of the other recruits is that they "all have something to prove". None proved much yesterday with the luckless Dyer, operating at right-back just as he did for England many moons ago, suffering a foot injury. A broken metatarsal was feared, but it may be bruising. Adel Taarabt has stayed, but yesterday confirmed he will find it harder to tease opponents in this division.
Rangers started well enough and only Gretar Steinsson's headed clearance prevented Jay Bothroyd marking his debut with a 13th-minute goal. Bolton were content to bide their time, drawing Rangers' sting then striking when Cahill collected Chris Eagles' pass 25 yards out and whipped it past Paddy Kenny. Tommy Smith and Taarabt had chances before Gabbidon turned an Eagles tapped free-kick into his own goal. It was soon a rout, Klasnic sending a deflected volley past Kenny before Muamba ran on to the Croatians's pass for the fourth. There was just time for Hill, already booked, to engage in some handbags with Martin Petrov who made the most of it. To Warnock's ire Hill saw red, Petrov escaped.
Bolton's win recalled a 5-0 opening day victory at Leicester 10 years ago. Then they were a yo-yo club but have rarely looked back since. "We're thrilled," said their manager Owen Coyle. "It's nice for the fans to enjoy [being top of the league] but we all know it won't stay like that." Warnock will hope the same applies at the bottom.
Queens Park Rangers (4-2-3-1): Kenny; Dyer (Orr, 6), Hall, Gabbidon, Hill; Derry, Faurlin; Campbell, Taarabt (Buzsaky, 71), Smith (Helguson, 71); Bothroyd.
Bolton Wanderers (4-4-2): Jaaskelainen; Steinsson, Cahill, Knight, Robinson; Eagles (M Davies, 81), Muamba, Reo-Coker (Pratley, 82), Petrov; K Davies, Klasnic (Blake, 85).
Referee Martin Atkinson
Man of the match Muamba (Bolton)
Match rating 6/10