|Hughes sleeps soundly as Reading six pointer approaches â full match preview|
Fri 02nd Nov 2012 19:47 by Clive Whittingham
The Premier League’s only remaining teams without a win to their name meet at Loftus Road this Sunday. At the risk of provoking another draw, surely something has to give for QPR and Reading this week?
QPR (20th) v Reading (19th)
Premier League >>> Sunday November 4, 2012 >>> Kick Off 1.30pm >>> Loftus Road, London, W12 >>> Live on Sky Sports 1
Mark Hughes took time out from his busy schedule this week to let us know he isn't losing any sleep over QPR's current predicament.
He told the Fulham Chronicle: "I’m very lucky in that respect. It doesn’t affect me in that way. A lot of managers can’t separate their personal life from their professional one – and that’s something I understand. But I can, and that’s something I’m grateful for."
Well, thank goodness for that.
Hopefully, as he's well rested, he's come up with a solution to the latest defensive headache caused by Stephane Mbia's three match suspension following his mindless sending off at Arsenal last weekend. Improvements against Everton and the Gunners were driven by the selection of a settled back four for the first time this season but now with Mbia out and the porcelain left back Armand Traore a doubt once again it looks like we're set for more chopping and changing.
I can't have been the only one who saw the "Hughes not losing any sleep" headline and responded immediately with "well you bloody should be."
Speaking about his sending off, Mbia told his Twitter followers: "I've learned for next time. Very focused for next important dates.”
Which, I'm sure you'll agree, is very reassuring. Worth remembering though that the "next important dates" for the rest of the team are absolutely crucial home matches with fellow strugglers Reading and Southampton over the next fortnight that will take place without Mbia because apparently, aged 26, it needed a red card at Arsenal last week for him to learn that you're not allowed to take a wild hack at an opponent's knee caps after the whistle has blown. Personally I cannot wait for Mbia to return to the first team so we can establish some of the other things he missed while playing truant from his BA honours degree in The Fucking Obvious at the Cameroon branch of the School for the Gifted.
Meanwhile Esteban Granero, freshly scalped, has also been quick to back Hughes to continue as manager despite a nine game winless run that threatens to cut QPR adrift at the bottom of the league before the winter is even here if it continues much longer. Granero recently told West London Sport: "We know we have the best manager. It’s not his fault – it’s our fault. Against West Ham he told us what would happen and it did."
Again, how wonderful to know that our expensively assembled squad was told by Hughes what would happen prior to an abject performance and home defeat by West Ham and then went ahead and let it occur anyway. Excuse me a moment while I fall over my own feet in the rush to spend £35 to watch this tremendously self aware team play Stoke City next week.
Hughes used his pre-match "presser" (as we're told it's called by the club) to let us know that the overriding emotion at the moment remains "one of frustration." Sadly he's as misguided in this as he is in his continued belief that Shaun Wright-Phillips should be in the team ahead of Ale Faurlin. Or Jamie Mackie. Or me. Or my nan. This idea that QPR are doing enough to win matches but are failing to do so purely through bad luck or some other mystical force is half the problem here. QPR are not winning matches because they're not playing well enough most of the time, and on the rare occasions they do stick in a decent performance they do stupid things to themselves. On two occasions when it looked like at least a point might be in the offing those stupid things have been red cards – and Hughes shook hands with both the dismissed players as they left the field.
The overriding emotion should be one of anger; real fiery, burning, acidic, poisonous, awake-all-night, wrath of God stuff. Hughes shouldn't be sleeping soundly with a mild feeling of frustration, he should be pealing the paint off the walls. He should be finding it hard not to thump stupidly sent off players in the face as they leave the field, not slapping chuffing high fives.
How is a team that cost this much, looks this good on paper, and has this much talent sitting bottom of the table without a win? How is it worse than Southampton, Reading , Wigan and Norwich ? How is it worse than the QPR team at this point last year that was managed by somebody not deemed good enough for the club as of January? How is it worse than a QPR team populated by the likes of Shaun Derry, Tommy Smith, Heidar Helguson and Paddy Kenny – seen as they have all also since been deemed surplus to requirements?
There should be fury among the management and squad. Fury and urgency. They should be taking to the field this Sunday ready to play an adventurous, attacking game at the highest tempo possible and blow a lousy Reading team clean out of the water. One can only cling to the hope that this apparently half-arsed, unconcerned, calm malaise Hughes puts forward as his public persona is simply a cover for some pretty frantic paddling below the water line.
We've listened to the excuses; we've listened to them all. We've nodded along to the stuff about Hughes always starting slowly, the stuff about the constantly changing back four, the moans about a long injury list, the point about our opening fixtures all being against teams in the top half of the table and the theory about a new look team needing to gel. "Ooh yeh, good point, I suppose you're right," we've muttered while forking over more money for more tickets and Ji-Sung Park tea mugs.
The time for excuses has now passed. The injuries have subsided, the team has had 11 matches and several months to gel, Hughes has had his ten match settling in period that he always seems to need and the next three games are against similarly dreadful teams to ours. The time is now. Get angry, get the sleeves rolled up, and get stuck in. No more excuses, no more promises of jam tomorrow, no more frustration. Anger, passion, pace, speed, commitment.
It's time, once again, for Queens Park Rangers to stop waving it around and start fucking.
Team News: So QPR are without Stephane Mbia who starts his three game ban, and Armand Traore is (as always) a doubt with a leg injury. Nedum Onuoha, Anton Ferdinand and Clint Hill stand by as potential replacements. It seems as though Ji Sung Park is also going to be out as he hasn't trained all week thanks to the knee injury he picked up against Everton that kept him out of the Arsenal match. I'd love to be able to say that Alejandro Faurlin or Jamie Mackie are pushing for starts but, let's face it, it's going to by Shaun Wright-Phillips again isn't it? Bobby Zamora has had injections to try and clear up a knee injury and the doctors will see how he responds in training tomorrow before deciding whether to start with Djibril Cisse instead. Andy Johnson and Fabio Da Silva are the long term absentees. Kieron Dyer remains missing in action, and strangely unmentioned by anybody at the club. I have a theory they've lost him somewhere and are scared to admit it.
Chair of the three-man Reading refereeing committee Jem Karacan is out with a knee injury and his natural replacement Danny Guthrie has been ruled out with what the club are calling a thigh strain but what is widely said to be a lousy attitude. Denying a training ground row in less than convincing style this week manager Brian McDermott said: "There was no bust-up. Danny wasn't selected to play. Danny has been here for a short period of time and he needs to fit into our ways. He has to train really well, get himself in the team and the squad and we'll go from there."
Elsewhere: Right, so what do we have taking place in the 'best league in the world' this week then? Well Chelsea are at Swansea on Saturday at 3pm and presumably that will pass off without incident. That is unless Chelsea get a couple of men sent off, and then they can pretty much do and say whatever they like and to hell with whoever’s career or life it ruins. Still, as we learn that making a monkey gesture is worth a life ban but calling another player a "fucking black cunt" while captaining the club is absolutely fine I reckon we're only a couple more incidents away from their "zero tolerance" approach to racism being completely refined and clear.
Man Utd v Arsenal is the lunch time kick off on Saturday; listen out for the Arsenal fans who used to worship Robin Van Persie accusing him of being a rapist through the medium of song. Norwich v Stoke and Sunderland v Villa look good bets for draws on the coupon if you're so inclined. Spurs host Wigan and Everton are at Fulham in the other 3pm kick offs. West Ham are playing this weekend, so that has to be on the television – ESPN have done the necessary and picked up their home match with West Ham for Saturday evening coverage. I've seen more of West Ham than I've seen of my mum this season but it's fair enough, the Hammers being so utterly wonderful to watch and all.
Never before has the definition of a Super Sunday been stretched so far and for so little reason as QPR v Reading promises to do at 1.30pm, and Sky will be hoping the 4pm kick off may redeem it. Newcastle travel to Liverpool for a glorious 4-3 defeat, so the TV executives hope, while the LFW Travelling Party is intending to disturb all the Tarquins and Tabithas at the Richmond fireworks display with inappropriate songs and clandestine drinking of shots.
West Brom are the latest side to stick three through Southampton by way of Monday Night entertainment this week.
Referee: The Premier League's youngest referee Michael Oliver is the listed official for our home match with Reading . Oliver infuriated the QPR fans last season by awarding a ridiculous penalty against the R's and then missing a blatant one at the other end when Aston Villa's Alan Hutton punched a goalbound shot off the line. Still, at least we know now that if you're unhappy with the refereeing in a game you can simply storm into his dressing room afterwards and make up a crock of shit about things your non-English speaking central midfielder thinks he might have possibly said in a Geordie accent from 20 yards away. Full case file here. I'm sorry, can you tell I'm a bit grumpy at all?
QPR: First job, keep 11 men on the pitch. QPR have had a man sent off in the last four league meetings between these sides, but have actually gone onto win three of them. Keeping a full quota on the field has proved to be a challenge for Rangers – Mbia's red card at Arsenal was their ninth in 2012 (a Premier League record) and the eighth in Mark Hughes' 31 matches in charge. Hughes says his team does not have a discipline problem. The Arsenal game means it's now nine without a win in the league this season, taking us past the eight games without a win at the start of the 1991/92 season and onto the next record which was 13 at the start of the 1968/69 campaign. That was QPR's first season in the top flight and they finished it dead last. It’s now five league matches, and 180 days, since QPR’s last win at home in the Premier League. It’s 19 league and cup games, and 348 days since they won away from home.
Reading: The Royals are also without a win – the only other Premier League club in the same position as us. They're also without a clean sheet. They've won two of their last 24 away matches in the top flight stretching back to their last spell in this league and have so far lost three and drawn one of their four road games conceding eight in the process.
Betting: Professional odds compiler Owen Goulding writes…
“It’s short and sweet from the bookmaker this week. The first six pointer of the season and QPR are around the 5/6 mark generally for this one. That price is probably about right and doesn’t interest me. However, Rangers have put in a couple of decent first half performances lately and came out all guns blazing against Everton during their last home game and I expect them to do the same here. As to how Reading will react to the amazing game on Tuesday night remains to be seen but the fact is these kind of games need to be won if relegation is to be avoided. The Royal's squad looks like a top Championship squad with a smattering of Premiership quality players but no more. They have an average defence and a very average midfield. The Rangers midfield has shown great promise in recent games and I expect them to put Reading under a lot of pressure on Sunday. My recommended bet is QPR to be winning at half time at 13/8 with Betfred. Hughes was rightly aggrieved after things went against the side at Arsenal last week, but looking at the two teams on paper, for this one, there are no excuses.”
Prediction: The winner of last season’s Prediction League Nathan McAllister says…
“This is it then. `Difficult fixtures`, `half the defence out injured`, `new players haven’t had time to gel yet`... the validity of the excuses trotted out so far to explain Rangers poor start to the season expires this weekend. Rangers now begin a sequence of three winnable games that seem likely to determine whether or not they become mired in another depressing relegation scrap, and this one looks the most winnable of the lot. A home fixture against a team searching for their first league win of the season and only being kept off the bottom of the table by, well, you-know-who. A team who played 120 minutes in a see-sawing midweek cup tie - while Rangers` players had their feet up - and conceded seven goals against a reserve team whose first 11 four days earlier only managed to score their one and only goal against Rangers once they’d been reduced to ten men.
“Of course, all of these factors only serve to increase the weight of expectation on Hughes and his side to get that elusive first victory this Sunday, and consequently intensify any backlash should they fail to do so. How the players deal with that pressure will go a long way to determining whether or not they achieve that. Reading are in the same boat of course, and although it seems premature at this stage of the season to label this as a six-pointer this is without doubt a massive game for both teams. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the support Hughes still enjoys among the majority of Rangers fans (if this week’s LFW polls are to be believed) being swept away like a Staten Island amusement park if they don’t.
“I’m very nervous about this one. I desperately want stability for Rangers, and I want Hughes to succeed. This is his team and, as Clive has written so often, the last thing we need is a new manager bringing in another batch of new players. When Rangers are on a bad run my natural instinct for pessimism usually crushes any faith I have in the players’ abilities. But we do have some seriously talented players at the club at the moment. I honestly look at the Reading side and find it difficult to pick one player other than Pogrebnyak who would get into Rangers’ first 11 (assuming it didn’t include Shaun Wright-Phillips). I know, that hasn’t stopped them beating us once already at LR this season, but there will be few better opportunities for three points this season than this. So for now I’m going to suppress my pessimistic urges and go for Rangers to win – lord knows it’s going to get ugly on here if they don’t.”
Prediction: QPR 3 Reading 1
First Scorer: Hoilett
Pictures – Action Images