QPR boss Warnock ‘envied’ Norwich City
Neil Warnock admits he was jealous of Norwich City during the summer, as boardroom unrest threatened to finish his Premier League adventure with Queens Park Rangers before it began.
The Rangers boss took his side to the Championship title last season ahead of the Canaries and play-off victors Swansea.
But the decision of then-owners Flavio Briatore and Bernie Ecclestone to withhold transfer funds, plus speculation they wanted to replace Warnock with a supposedly bigger name, made for an unsettled close season at Loftus Road.
Within the opening weeks of the season Briatore and Ecclestone had gone, bought out by the boss of Norfolk's Formula One constructor Team Lotus, Tony Fernandes – a one-time interested investor in City.
And all has been well since as Rangers, Norwich and the Swans occupy relatively healthy – and early – mid-table positions.
'I think we've all surprised a lot of people, all three of us – not just the results but the way we've played,' said Warnock, who jokes he can count Delia Smith' mother among his fans at Carrow Road, and has respect for City's 'fabulous' crowds in recent seasons.
'It's no surprise to me, if I'm honest. I was envious of both Norwich and Swansea in the summer because my hands were tied, but I managed to do some shopping before the deadline and we're all in good positions.
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'But I think we all know deep down that fourth from bottom will still do all of us at the end of the season. The first year is just about staying up and we might talk a bit of bravado, but I think that is the sole intention of all of us – not just on the field but in the boardroom and everywhere.
'Norwich are like us in that we've enjoyed every minute. We've had some horrendous results – we got beaten 6-0 at Fulham and 4-0 at home to Bolton – but we've bounced back and that's the thing about all the teams. Norwich, Swansea and ourselves have all shown that bouncebackability.'
Respected Malaysian entrepreneur Fernandes admitted earlier in the year to holding informal talks with Norwich over investing, having also nibbled at the club he supports, West Ham United.
But for whatever the reason, it was QPR that suited Fernandes' plans – and for that, Warnock is thankful.
'I didn't know about that (Fernandes' talks with City), but his Formula One team is down there – we are all visiting them at Hingham soon, and we went to the grand prix the other week; the team was superb and we talked about Norwich and them not being far away.
'Tony has been a breath of fresh air to me and I think it's fair to say I would not have been (at QPR) now if he hadn't come in.'
As for Saturday's game, it could represent the ideal time for City to put right their recent spell of capital punishment in the Premier League.
City have won just one of their last 20 top-flight matches against London opposition – a 1-0 victory in the penultimate home game of the 2004-05 season over Charlton.
Aside from those three points City have managed just four out of a possible 57, including this season's defeats to Chelsea and Arsenal.
If past history is anything to go by, the Canaries might be in luck when Rangers roll into Carrow Road for the sides' first Premier League clash since March 1995.
While City have struggled against the best London has to offer, Rangers' record against Norwich is arguably worse.
Not only have Rangers failed to score in their last three meetings with the Canaries – City winning two of them 1-0 – QPR have had a player sent off in each of their last three visits to Carrow Road.
Matthew Connolly completed an wanted double when he was dismissed during last season's encounter, having also been sent off in the 2008-09 meeting between the two sides.
In 2007-08 defender Damion Stewart was the Rangers player to see red.
In fact, Rangers have won just one of their last 11 games at Norwich, losing seven of their last eight.
Norwich will be aiming to keep their first clean sheet of the season on Saturday afternoon – Blackburn are the only other Premier League side yet to shut out an opponent for 90 minutes.
But Rangers are probably more likely to arrive in Norfolk buoyed by their 3-2 win at Stoke last weekend – a game that saw just 362 completed passes and the fewest passes attempted in a game in almost two years of the Premier League.
Striker Heidar Helguson has five goals in five appearances – including two against the Potters – but is a doubt for Saturday's clash at Carrow Road with a knock he took from Robert Huth at Stoke.