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Sir Les welcomes Rangers back to the big time
Former striker Les Ferdinand recalls glory days but says things have changed as QPR prepare for Premier League return.
Last Modified: 27 Jun 2011 11:14
Ferdinand was a prolific striker for QPR, Newcastle and Spurs as the Premier League got off the gorund [GALLO/GETTY]

The greatest goals compilations from the early days of the English Premier League are aired in high rotation on cable television, providing a window into the last time that Queens Park Rangers competed with England’s elite.

Banging them in along with the likes of Eric Cantona, Teddy Sheringham and Ian Wright is Les Ferdinand, wearing the familiar blue and white-hooped shirt of the west London club.

The shorts were shorter back then, but it's easy to recognise the ex-England international almost two decades later as a striker coach at Tottenham Hotspur, another of his former clubs.

Approaching his 45th birthday, Ferdinand still looks fit enough to put in a full shift up-front against his much younger cousins, Rio and Anton Ferdinand.

Last week's draw for the 2011/12 season gave QPR an October trip to White Hart Lane in their return to the Premier League after a 15-year absence.

Their opening fixture on August 13 is at home to Bolton Wanderers.

Paddington-born Ferdinand supported Spurs as a boy but admits to having a soft spot for QPR, where he scored 80 league goals in 163 games over eight years.

When he was sold to Newcastle United in July 1995 for a club record £6 million ($9.5 million), many fans saw it as the beginning of the end for the R's days in the Premier League.

Relegated
 
Indeed, just 10 months later they were relegated and would drop to England's third tier a few years later.

"It is great to see QPR back in the Premier League," Ferdinand said.

"Football today is very different because there is a lot of rotation. In my day if I scored two goals I knew I would be in the team the next weekend, but you are not guaranteed that these days even if you get goals"

Les Ferdinand, Tottenham Hotspur forwards coach

"I think everyone expected it to happen a few years ago once the money came into the club, yet it wasn't to be. But they are there now and I'm delighted for them."

The money was from QPR’s foreign owners – Formula One magnates Flavio Briatore and Bernie Ecclestone plus Indian steel billionaire Lakshmi Mittal – who promised an immediate transformation when they took control of the club in 2007, giving it an estimated value of £22 billion ($35 billion).

The return to the promised land did come, but happened only after 10 different managers and yet more boardroom shake-ups.

At the height of Ferdinand's heyday in the early 1990s, both QPR and the English game were vastly different compared to the multicultural mixing pot that saw Moroccan Adel Taarabt inspire their successful promotion campaign, and Dutch recruit Rafael Van Der Vaart emerge as Tottenham's top scorer.

Taarabt is a former Spurs player who reportedly wants to leave Loftus Road because he thinks the current squad will find the going tough in the Premier League.

Ferdinand agrees.

"Like most clubs who come up from the Championship it will be a struggle for QPR," he said.

"They need to spend, and spend wisely, and if they do that, they will give themselves the best chance.

"But Neil Warnock is a wily manager who has had a taste of the Premier League and knows what it is all about and deserves another crack."

Calibre

If QPR had a striker of Ferdinand's calibre, their chances of avoiding the yo-yo fate of so many clubs in recent seasons would be much higher.

'Sir Les' was a human battering ram with finesse whose strong right foot produced 180 league goals and prolonged his career until his 40th year.

Taarabt's goals have fired QPR into the English Premier League [GALLO/GETTY]

In the mid to late '90s, he formed a formidable partnership with Jurgen Klinsmann at Tottenham, and alongside Alan Shearer at Newcastle, where he had a phenomenal scoring rate of 50 goals in just 84 matches.

But it was in the scruffy London suburb of Shepherds Bush where he first made his reputation.

Ferdinand had been loaned out to third division Brentford, and Besitkas in Turkey, before he established himself in the first team in the 1990-91 season.

Two years later as the Premier League was launched, Ferdinand's 20 goals in 37 matches saw QPR finish fifth in the table as Manchester United took the inaugural title.

"My best memory would be from that year where we finished as the top London team," he said.

"We were at a small club that was never going to win the league, but what we tried to do every year was finish as high up as we possibly could.

"You had Tottenham, Arsenal, Chelsea – the three big clubs – and West Ham, who were a good little side then, and we finished top of the bunch."

Like West Ham, QPR were known to play an attractive style and certainly produced some eye-pleasing performances as they were cruised to the second division Championship title last season.

But manager Warnock will be careful not to follow the fate of former QPR boss Ian Holloway.

He was praised for Blackpool's entertaining passing game, yet couldn’t stop the Seasiders slipping straight back into the second division last month.

Ferdinand recalls that QPR's reputation as an attractive team was built during his days growing up in London.

"I always remember when I played there and a lot of people said it in the 70s as well, that if their favourite team was away from home they would go and watch QPR play instead," he said.

"It was always a good little footballing club, similar to West Ham, who grew up on that same tradition. The quality of that side meant that most of our players were comfortable on the ball."

Like the QPR of old, his current club Tottenham have earned critical acclaim without having the consistency to back up the hype.

They dazzled on the European Champions League stage last season, yet a fifth place EPL finish means they’ll be missing in 2011/12.

And Ferdinand admits that the lack of production from Spurs' strikers cost them dearly.

"Football today is very different because there is a lot of rotation," he said.

"Jermain Defoe scored two goals against Wolves then, for the next game he was on the bench.

"In my day if I scored two goals I knew I would be in the team the next weekend, but you are not guaranteed that these days even if you get goals."

With no Champions League qualifying distractions, Tottenham open the season at home to Everton.

But Ferdinand admits he'll have more than a curious eye a dozen miles across town to Loftus Road as QPR make their long overdue return.

Jason Dasey (www.jasondasey.com) is an Asia-based international sports broadcaster and host/executive producer of Kopi-O, a new football chat show for Singapore.

Source:
Al Jazeera
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