DM: Since that opening day defeat at Charlton (and let's ignore the Carlisle thing), you've been at it again, haven't you? Quietly going about racking up points on the board and ensconcing yourself in the top five. What's gone...er...right?
CW: It's been a pleasant surprise. Last time we came down Harry Redknapp made a big deal about the amount of players we had to get rid of, but in reality we just went out and spent a whole load more money on lots of new players. We made some very good signings - Charlie Austin and Matt Phillips - and added a good few more overpaid mercenaries which we've become known for in recent times - Benoit Assou Ekotto, Yossi Benayoun etc. When Charlie Austin got injured we went out and loaned three more players in - Will Keane, Mobido Maiga and Kevin Doyle. The accounts show our wage bill for the season was £77m and for all that we squeezed up through the play-offs having played, for the most part, desperately dull, overly defensive football. The play-off final, winning in the last minute on a very rare visit to Wembley, was the best day of lots of our lives, but the season as a whole was a drag with very little entertainment or enjoyment.
This time the club has come back with a much better structure. We have Les Ferdinand as director of football and Chris Ramsey as head coach (essentially joint managers, one doing the transfer business and the other coaching the team) and we've recruited Burnley's notoriously prudent CEO Lee Hoos - no sooner had he left Turf Moor than they spent £6m on a striker and added Captain Ego to their line up.
We offloaded big earners like Richard Dunne and expensive problem children like Steven Caulker, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Joey Barton. We started scouting lower divisions for players like Massimo Luongo and Ben Gladwin from Swindon, and dark corners of Europe for players like Tjarron Chery (who won't be unknown for long) at affordable prices and wages. We've also walked away from a few deals rather than break the new spending restrictions, which is very unlike us.
The plan, presumably, was also to sell Sandro, Leroy Fer, Charlie Austin and Matt Phillips but Fer failed his medical at Sunderland, Sandro has only just got his work visa back and nobody met the asking price for the latter two. So having preached "consolidation" and "rebuilding" all summer we've actually ended up with a very handy team - much younger and cheaper than what we've had before, but still almost certainly high over budget.
We concede loads and score loads. We look great going forwards and commit men to the attack. It's different, it's fun, and it's getting results.
DM: Paul Konchesky, Clint Hill (these two had brief loan spells with us), Michael Doughty (son of late Forest owner, Nigel), James Perch and Jamie Mackie...more than a hint of a Forest connection. How's all that working out for you?
CW: Konchesky seemed like a little bit of a panic. He's been on the wane for some time at Leicester but we've been unusually hit by long term injuries at left back - Yun Suk Young and Jack Robinson have both been out for a while - and while we do have new England U20 left back Cole Kpekawa coming up through the ranks it was a bit unrealistic to expect him to play every game at this level straight away. Konchesky has been mediocre so far.
DM: The left back position. Don't get us started on the left back position.
CW: Clint Hill is a club legend. Signed for 12 months initially on an "ankle like a cement mixer" to do us a job for one year in the Championship and still here into a sixth season as club captain with three Premier League campaigns behind him. He's played in some great QPR teams and been part of some very spirited dressing rooms, and he's also maintained his dignity and spoken out strongly when he's been playing in poor teams full of overpaid players who didn't give a toss about playing for the club. He's adored at QPR and while for now he's still a reasonable centre half at this level the general consensus is we want him to stay here long term as a coach. Him as club captain and Nedum Onuoha as captain on the pitch gives us two very strong, intelligent leaders.
Michael Doughty has been a victim of QPR's total and utter refusal to give any of its youth team players a single minute of first team football under any circumstances ever. The nadir of this was two years ago in an away game at Blackburn, where automatic promotion was out of reach but the play-off place was secure, and Harry Redknapp picked Luke Young (remember him?) out of position at centre half, his first start for the first team for two years, rather than pick a junior centre back there. QPR's youth set up isn't very good at all, but it's produced one or two who can do a job and Chris Ramsey has shown a willingness to give them a chance. Doughty has seized his more than anybody else. He hasn't looked out of place so far, and he has that extra work rate and effort that comes with a youth player desperate to prove himself.
Perch I like a lot, but he hasn't started particularly well. We're playing him right back at the moment and I'm sure he'll come good.
Mackie is, like Hill, one of those players that QPR fans love and everybody else wonders why. He just seems to really fit in at Rangers and is a bit of a cult hero. He's scored some very important goals against some really good teams - Man City in that Aguero game, a last minute winner at home to Liverpool and so on. Every team needs work horses/rabid dogs like Mackie and after years of watching Jose Bosginwa and his ilk the QPR crowd warm to them very quickly, but personally I think Mackie is a better player than he gets credit for, and certainly a better player than he ever showed for Forest. He's been injured since the opening day, when he was our Man of the Match, but should be back this weekend.
DM: Back for this weekend? Get a few bob on him notching a goal then.
There has been much wailing, caterwauling and gnashing of teeth from our quarters towards your apparent disregard of and escape from censure regarding the whole FFP thing. We're sure there's a quite reasonable explanation - are you able to explain your current position without making our heads hurt without lots of sums?
CW: Well the simplest way of putting it is if we hadn't been promoted we'd have been under the same restrictions that Blackburn and Forest have been, but we were and the Football League can't rule over Premier League clubs.
We did disregard the FFP rules, as I outlined in the first question - Tony Fernandes and Harry Redknapp is not a recipe for thrifty spending and careful planning. The problem is the rules as written aren't legally safe. If you look at the biggest fines levied against companies through history there are some eye watering figures - oil companies and banks have been fined hundreds of millions or even billions - but they're all proportionate to income and turnover. Put more simply, fining somebody £1bn seems like a lot, but if the business brings in £60bn then it's proportionate. Fining a business £60m when its turnover is less than that isn't legally safe.
The problem the Football League has now is if they try and push through the rules as written, QPR will challenge it legally and win, Forest, Blackburn and others will form an orderly queue for compensation and the rules will collapse completely. As I understand it QPR are trying to show this summer that they're trying to play by the rules this time (while almost certainly missing again) while negotiating a legally safe punishment for the previous breach. It's in the league's interest to reach an agreement, rather than be beaten in court. Reports say it'll be a fine of around £9m, I think it might be a bit less.
The bit I'm not sure about is why we're still allowed to sign players while those negotiations are going on. Obviously I'm pleased we are, but I can imagine that if the boot was on the other foot we'd be grumbling about Forest or Blackburn doing what we've done.
DM: It's only the perennial Championship loiterers Forest. Is it a big game for you or just another Championship tussle?
CW: Forest away will be a big game for us because it's the only Football League ground (apart from some of the very new ones) we've never won at - thick end of 35 visits and not a single win. So it would be nice to shift that record this year. This weekend feels like the start of the season. We had a very badly organised pre-season so the first few games felt like borderline fitness exercises, and although we've won games since it's always felt a bit weird as we expected the two best players to be bought. Now we know what the team is going to look like there's a bit of a wave of optimism around the place so it will be interesting to see how it goes. The early kick offs always have a lousy atmosphere though sadly so hopefully we can make a fast start and get the crowd going.
DM: Where's good for a pre game drink for away fans?
CW: I'd tell you, but then I wouldn't be able to get to the bar.
DM: Fair enough. Tinnies on the train it is then. You tanked us last time around at your place on the box...same again?
CW: Hopefully. That was an odd game, not only because it was 2-2 with 15 minutes left but also, as I've said, that QPR team was the slowest, least attacking side we've had in recent times and that final 15 minutes was a very rare occasion when we cut loose and went for a team. With our attack, we're capable of scoring that many again, the way we're defending it could be the other way around. It's nice not to know though, in the Premier League we paid £52 for tickets to games we almost certainly knew we had next to no chance of winning.
Heartfelt thanks go out to @Loftforwords for the enlightening, detailed and honest appraisal of all things QPR.