Park Ji-Sung buys into QPR's stirring revolution

Mark Hughes believes that the additions to Loftus Road will come thick and fast this summer after the Hoops survived a last-day scare to hold onto their Premier League status
By Gary Sebastian at Loftus Road

When Jon Walters scored from the penalty spot for Stoke City to earn a point against Bolton Wanderers in the last match of last season, he couldn’t possibly imagine the collateral positive impact that goal had on a west London club that not so long ago were in the third tier of English football and very close to disappearing.

Walters rendered Sergio Aguero's league-winning goal for Manchester City meaningless for Queens Park Rangers, as they escaped relegation by the slimmest of margins, mostly thanks to Walters and that draw between Stoke and Bolton at the Britannia.

Out of breath, arms and legs gone, QPR needed help to reach the shore after frantically swimming against the tide for the entirety of their first season in the Premier League since 1996.

COMMENT: Park's arrival at Loftus Road leaves a conundrum for his former club
Among the many obstacles the Hoops had to overcome was a takeover that happened once the season had already started, a change of manager in the winter when Neil Warnock was replaced by Mark Hughes, a season-ending injury to key player Alejandro Faurlin, and a record-equalling number of red cards (nine for the season).

With their top flight status now guaranteed for at least another season, the QPR board continue to set the foundations on which they want to become an established Premier League club and they aim to position themselves as a global brand in world football.

The arrival of Park Ji-Sung from Manchester United will undoubtedly help them in that regard, with interest from the football-mad Eastern Asian market and the undeniable potential to attract new South Korean fans now at an all-time high for Rangers.

After QPR recently landed defender Fabio da Silva on loan, Park became the sixth signing in an already busy summer for the club. To go with the Manchester United duo, they added England international goalkeeper Robert Green, striker Andy Johnson and New Zealand skipper Ryan Nelsen, as well as the permanent arrival of Malian international Samba Diakite after an impressive loan spell last season.

Manager Mark Hughes even left a door open when asked about more potential arrivals.

"There could be more players coming through. Talk is cheap but actions speak louder and these things and the support from the QPR board show me I made the right decision in coming to QPR," said the Welsh manager.

The new QPR man's career to date
Some of the actions Hughes refers to, have a direct impact on the pitch, while others go a long way in helping chairman Tony Fernandes in his plans to make Queens Park Rangers popular around the world.

"Make no mistake, Park Ji-Sung is a player Mark Hughes wanted. We would never have signed a player that didn't make sense to our manager," said Fernandes at a press conference in London on Monday, when the South Korean star was unveiled as a QPR player.

"But the fact that I ran an airline in Asia and that my company flies to South Korea is the perfect icing on the cake and makes a lot of sense for our strategy," concluded the owner of Air Asia.

With Loftus Road being the smallest and one of the oldest grounds in the Premier League, a new home for QPR was always on the cards for Fernandes and his board.

Despite the many rumours on capacity and location, Fernandes refused to reveal sensitive information that could compromise his project, but he did admit there are plans and that they expect to make an announcement soon.

"Our new stadium will be in West London, it will not be a bowl. Will keep the same kind of atmosphere and will be of a capacity of 45,000 spectators. We have narrowed it down to two possible sites, but I can’t reveal anything about the potential sites because that could make the price go up," Fernandes added.

33/1 QPR are 33/1 with Sportingbet to win the League Cup in 2012-13
Loftus Road holds almost 19,000 spectators and there are voices of concern among some fans, neutrals and members of the media around a figure as high as 45,000 fans. To increase the capacity to more than double the current and do it in an area in the proximity of two other Premier League clubs like Chelsea and Fulham, surely begs the question about whether QPR will manage to put enough bums on seats.

A clever ticket prices scheme, something not very easy to find in QPR's recent past, will be needed to address that problem, while more signings as bold and as high-profile as Park Ji-Sung’s will certainly cause no harm in the club's growth in popularity.

If they also manage to achieve some success on the pitch, then they won't need a life belt being thrown at them from another ground on the last day of the season.

After years of uncertainty, mismanagement, administration, relegations and 'four-year plans', QPR may just be learning to fly - just like their own airline tycoon chairman.