For all the agility of Paddy Kenny, industry of Shaun Derry, and ingenuity of Adel Taarabt, salvation for Queen's Park Rangers may lie in the wallet of a chunky 47-year-old LSE graduate who supports West Ham United.
Unless Tony Fernandes, the Malaysian airline entrepreneur, completes his proposed takeover of the west London club this week Rangers' prospects of staying in the Premier League are minimal. Fernandes was here on Saturday to see them taken apart by a Bolton Wanderers side that last won a league game away from home in November.
The experience should have convinced Fernandes – who is hopeful of signing a deal today – of the need for speed if he wants to avoid buying a relegation-doomed club. Having been starved of investment by his billionaire owners, the QPR manager, Neil Warnock, desperately needs to strengthen, but the transfer window closes in just 16 days time and Warnock is now talking about bringing in loan players who do not make the 25-man squads of other teams. Aside from estranged Manchester City players, whose wages will be prohibitive, there will not be much quality there.
QPR were not as hapless as the scoreline suggests – they dominated the first half. But they created few clear chances in their first Premier League match in 15 years, and when Bolton went forward Rangers' porous backline was exposed. "We gave away some rubbish goals," said Jay Bothroyd."Almost amateurish," was Warnock's view.
It is the back four which most needs reinforcement. Warnock's lack of faith in Bradley Orr was revealed when he picked Kieron Dyer – who soon went off injured – at right-back while left-back Clint Hill picked up both yellow and red cards. Central defence looks equally shaky, but decent replacements are going to be hard to find.
It is not as if the game is replete with high-class centre-halves. Gary Cahill is being linked with a £16m move to Liverpool or Arsenal but while the thrice-capped England centre-half scored the sort of goal that demands attention, the way Derry, of all people, waltzed past him on the edge of the box before being brought down might raise some suitors' eyebrows.
Cahill was never a QPR target, but the likes of Roger Johnson, Matt Upson and Jonathan Woodgate might have been signed if the funds had been there. They now play for Wolves and Stoke respectively and Warnock had to settle for Danny Gabbidon who marked his debut with an own goal.
That was as scrappy as Cahill's 25-yard opener was sublime but it still killed the game as a contest, Ivan Klasnic and Fabrice Muamba adding further goals as Rangers folded.
Through a mixture of craft and graft Muamba gradually imposed his will on the game. Still only 23 the midfielder has played more than 200 senior matches since leaving Arsenal as a teenager and he could well return to a top-four club (indeed Arsenal, after Alex Song's foolishness at Newcastle, might wonder about re-signing him).
Owen Coyle could ill-afford to lose Muamba and Cahill, even if his comments on the latter sounded as if he was trying to talk up a fee. "I am loathe to say this because he is my player, but if I was at one of those elite clubs Gary Cahill would be the first name on my shopping list." There have not, Coyle added, "been any concrete bids," but the way he moved on to praise David Wheater indicated Coyle expects some.
There is an argument for closing the transfer window the night before the season begins: everyone would then know where they stood as they set sail on a new campaign. Coyle would probably support such a view but not Warnock for he would be standing very precariously indeed.Reuse content