Bobby Zamora interview
As legions of Football Manager fans will tell you, spending big doesn’t always equate to instant success. Manchester City and Chelsea’s respective millions have them flying high, but at the other end of the table are Queens Park Rangers – who scraped to Premier League safety on the final day of last season despite being bankrolled by Tony Fernandes and the super-wealthy Mittal family (combined net worth approximately $20bn).
They’ve spent big in the past three transfer windows, adding 26 players for almost £36m, but have started this season poorly – they sit 18th in the Premier League after four games. We spoke to 31-year-old striker Bobby Zamora, who signed from Fulham in January, for the inside track on the Premier League’s new big spenders.
QPR were struggling with relegation when you joined – what motivated that decision?
“I wasn’t really happy at Fulham – I think that’s been the case for a few people. The opportunity came to link up with Mark Hughes, who I had a good year with at Fulham even though I was injured for a lot of it. But the season I had with them [Hughes and his team], I really enjoyed the way they work. It was sold to me that it was an ambitious club, and obviously knowing Mark and his team, I know they wouldn’t go there if they didn’t think it was going to be the right club for them.”
Was that part of what attracted you – the fact that the club were spending money on bringing in players?
“Yeah, when I spoke to Tony Fernandes, he said they wanted to push on and promised they’d sign some good players. I’d heard about Djibs [Djibril Cisse] coming in, and a few other players they were looking to get as well. At the time, they said all the right things, and it was a move I was very happy to make. I think if you look now at the players we’re signing, they certainly are ambitious – and are following through with what they said to me in January.”
Is Tony Fernandes quite involved with the players?
“Tony is a very nice guy, and he’s always very approachable. He comes to the training ground and to the stadium, and he’s someone who just pops in who you can talk to about anything, really. I’m sure if anyone here has any problems, they can talk to him. He’s very hands-on. I think whenever you’ve seen him in the press, he’s been quite relaxed. He’s like a normal bloke, just with a ridiculous amount of money.”
The club have brought in 11 new players over the summer [see box on following page]. Has it been difficult to incorporate so many new faces into the team?
“Yeah – I mean I’m sure it’s like that in any walk of life. If you get 11 new faces thrown together in your office, it’s going to be hard to work together straight away. But I’m sure after a little bit of time you’ll all gel, click and put a good mag together [no comment, Bobby]. It’s pretty much the same situation with us – we have good-quality players, and everyone knows they’re quality. At the minute, it’s a bedding-in period, and we can see weekly for ourselves that people are learning. We’re still excited – even though we’re not in a great position at the minute, we’re only a few games in. So, really, it means nothing.”
How long do you think it’ll take before everything starts to gel?
“I’d probably say about 10 games, to be honest with you. I know that probably sounds quite a lot – it’s a quarter of the season – but 10 games is a good amount of time to gel, I think. After that, we’ll have to look at the table and the results and see if everything’s going well. I’m confident it will be.”
As a striker, is it hard to adjust to playing in front of what is a completely new midfield?
“I’m quite adaptable. I’d say we’re a ’footballing team’ now. And I like to think that I can play football; but that if you need to put yourself in the mix and bruise up a couple of centre halves, I can do that as well.”
But at Fulham, for example, you knew you’d have Damien Duff whipping in crosses and Danny Murphy playing it forward from midfield. Is it hard not knowing what runs to make, what service to expect?
“That didn’t come straight away – that Europa League run, for example, was the third season in for us. Again, it was a new set of lads that was built up slowly – not with 11 players in a season, but maybe three at a time. It was quite settled – Roy [Hodgson] used to try and play his first XI every game, whether it was a cup game or whatever. The team certainly benefits, providing your body can keep up with it. It was obviously quite hard with the Europa stuff on a Thursday, then Sunday, then Tuesday.”
What do you make of the new players who have come in – it must be exciting to play alongside the likes of Cisse?
“Yeah, though we haven’t played a lot together. He was suspended for quite a few games last year [laughs]. I think he had a couple of silly challenges – forward’s challenges, I suppose. That’s why he’s a striker and not a defender. But he’s a great finisher – certainly one of the best I’ve played with. But, you know, coming in now and seeing the likes of, say, Julio Cesar in goal in training. He’s a very special goalkeeper, and that’s one thing that’s certainly a bonus.”
You mentioned the red cards – QPR collected nine last season. Is discipline a problem?
“I think we were in a dogfight, and I think everybody was flying about and trying to get close to the ball. At times, there’s a fine line and it’s down to judgement. I don’t think anyone got hurt in any of those challenges, but it was the referee’s decision. You have to work hard, and sometimes that can go a bit against you.”
Are improvements being made behind the scenes as well?
“Yeah, we will be getting a new training ground. The site is there and stuff – I think it’s literally a case of planning permission and bits and pieces, and then they’ll start building. But yeah, there’s no point really doing stuff to a training ground that we don’t already own. But it’s not just players – physios and all those bits and pieces are getting overhauled.”
How does the set-up at QPR compare to your time at Fulham?
“I think it’s pretty much... well, Fulham have obviously been in the Premier League for however many seasons and have an established base. And obviously the training ground is their own. QPR are a team looking to go in that direction and become a bigger club. So I’m sure in three or four years time, if you ask me that question, QPR will be on another level.”
Amit Katwala @amitkatwala
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