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Stoke defeat begins QPR’s long goodbye – full match report
Stoke defeat begins QPR’s long goodbye – full match report
Sunday, 21st Apr 2013 23:19 by Clive Whittingham

For QPR the end to Premier League life threatens to be a long, slow, drawn out affair. An abject 2-0 home defeat by Stoke on Saturday sapped strength and will, and there are still four games to play.

From Harry Redknapp, a resigned smile. Even he cannot keep the pretence up any longer.

For weeks the QPR manager has preached persistence while a chance of salvation remains but the performance of his team in the second half at Everton last week and then for a full dire 90 minutes against Stoke on Saturday betrayed the reality. Rangers are likely to have one more week of taking solace in mathematical possibilities – and they may not even have that pending the Aston Villa result on Monday – but it is now only a matter of time before the inevitable is confirmed.

A dreadful season of just four victories is threatening now to drag on through a torturous final month with a poor team of players simply marking time before their summer holidays and departures to new pastures. Redknapp, often economical with the truth, praised his players for their hard work and said he couldn’t have asked any more of them after this latest sorry defeat but surely even he cannot believe that. If he did then it’s scary to think how bad QPR would be if they didn’t try.

Redknapp’s job now is to find some form of motivation for the final four matches which mean almost nothing to his players. The price of tickets certainly isn’t declining with QPR’s performances and a loyal support base deserve more than they got on Saturday for continuing to fork over their hard earned each week. But more importantly there is a risk that this lethargy could bleed into next season. Losing becomes a habit – it breeds a malaise that can fester and a six week summer break and a dozen ins and outs in the transfer window won’t necessarily ensure everything is right as rain come the Championship season kick off in August.

QPR need to be setting an attitude and ethos for next season now. That may explain some of the five changes Redknapp made to his starting 11 on Saturday – recalls for midfielder Shaun Derry and goalkeeper Robert Green certainly smacked of an eye on who will still be available for selection next season. If that is the case then the QPR management, and what few optimists remain among the support base, were given the latest in what is certain to be a series of reality checks under the spring sunshine in W12. Stoke – one win from their previous 25 away matches, one win from their last 14 in all competitions, the league’s lowest scorers prior to kick off – won easily here. Really, really easily. On this evidence QPR could easily be the latest top flight team to find itself plummeting through the division below as well.

Things had started reasonably enough. Adel Taarabt, another of the recalled players, initially revelled in the space between Stoke’s rigid back four and midfield and caused numerous problems playing off Loic Remy. He fired fractionally wide of the target from long range in the opening minute and then curled a free kick wide after being wrestled to the floor by Steven N’Zonzi.

Referee Chris Foy was averaging just over two yellow cards a game prior to kick off – easily the division’s most lenient record – and Stoke made the most of his understanding with a series of cynical fouls around the edge of the own penalty area that went without punishment other than the award of a free kick. Rangers, hinting at a lack of preparation, worked their way through four different free kick takers in the first half with similarly mediocre results. Remy found the wall after Whelan had tripped Taarabt right on the whitewash at the edge of the penalty area and goalkeeper Asmir Begovic sprung to his right to make a routine save from right back Jose Bosingwa when Remy was also felled. Samba flicked a header from a wider set piece through the goal mouth and a foot wide of the post – that was as close as the R’s came all afternoon.

To add to the frustration, Taarabt seemed to do his shoulder some damage in one of his falls and sure enough had to be replaced after half time – a makeshift sling made out of his shirt revealed a concerning muffin-top stomach over his shorts.

The issue for Taarabt and others is that it’s all well and good playing like this now the season is effectively over and the failure confirmed, but it’s not exactly enhancing any CVs is it? I’m sure the Moroccan and several others see their future away from Loftus Road next season and certainly there is the potential for clubs like Everton, West Brom, West Ham and others to come and make a killing in W12 this summer with players like Nedum Onuoha, Junior Hoilett, Esteban Granero, Loic Remy, Taarabt and others available at good ages and prices and with the potential to excel in a more talented, more settled, better coached Premier League team. But QPR are about to be relegated for a reason. When Newcastle United went the same way three years ago the players who all thought they’d be on their way in the summer found their performances hadn’t impressed anybody sufficiently for them to want to match the money they were on at St James’ Park. Hoilett may well look like a potential steal this summer, but any suitor watching on from the South Africa Road stand on Saturday will have seen a player who can apparently no longer even control the ball with any modicum of success. One particular first touch in the second half landed the ball some 15 yards away at the feet of a Stoke player. QPR can take solace in the fact that Newcastle, forced to honour the contracts of their big earners, bounced straight back at the first attempt but there are currently three Blackburn, Wolves and Blackpool examples for every Newcastle and West Ham and this QPR side looks far more likely to tread that path as it stands today.

The defending for Stoke’s first goal, four minutes before half time, will have widened the eyes of Championship strikers rather than visiting scouts. In Chris Samba and Clint Hill QPR have two centre backs with vastly different pay packets and back stories with one very crucial thing in common – they’re both in atrocious form. A channel ball for Cameron Jerome to chase after should have posed few problems for the Congo international but he stood off his man and allowed him to cross while behind him in the penalty area Hill had contrived to lose track of the only other Stoke man up in the attack and former R’s favourite Peter Crouch could hardly miss from six yards out – although Green may feel he should have saved the reasonably weak shot. Crouch’s first goal in ten, only his second in 27, and really Rangers were only a sprinkle potpourri and a pink bow away from gift wrapping the thing for him.

This effectively ended an already wretched game as a competition. Loic Remy, for whom the queue of suitors will surely stretch twice round Batman Close this summer, had hit an instinctive first time shot wide of the post before half time and then dropped his shoulder to create space and unload a strike after the break that a worse goalkeeper than Begovic could easily have conceded. Charlie Adam finally teased Foy’s yellow card from his pocket for a cynical trip on the Frenchman but what little effort his team mates had put in prior to Stoke’s goal drained away entirely in the second period and when Taarabt went off to be replaced by Jay Bothroyd Remy became as isolated and ineffective as everybody else. Nevertheless, to perform as well as he has and notch five goals in a team as poor as Queens Park Rangers will surely have been enough to convince Spurs, Arsenal and half a dozen others of his worth. Given his performance level compared to many of his team mates, few QPR fans would begrudge him a move.

Ordinarily such an obvious downing of tools would make it a question of how many, but Stoke are almost every bit as bad as QPR and so the game descended into something resembling a pre-season match between two teams from the nether regions of the Football League. When Peter Crouch unloaded from 25 yards and drew a nervous save from Robert Green – who’d earlier almost spilled a routine shot from Cameron Jerome into his own net in typical style – it stirred the supporters from an increasingly deep slumber. Quality was not so much thin on the ground as absent altogether. Even Andros Townsend’s youthful enthusiasm seems to be waning – although given that his main trick of cutting in from the right flank onto his left foot for a shot on goal has been seen and targeted by opponents his locker is looking rather bare.

A strike from the best part of 40 yards from Stephane Mbia that went bouncing off down the Uxbridge Road rather summed up the lazy, unprofessional and slapdash approach of the home team.

Redknapp replaced Townsend with Jamie Mackie before Bothroyd came on but other than a farcical situation where Samba’s goal-bound prod from a loose corner hit Mbia flush in his arse and flew wide the threat posed was minimal. At the other end the increasingly rotund Charlie Adam smacked one over the bar after being teed up in an embarrassing amount of space from a corner, and then side footed a volley over the bar when left unmarked at the back post in a remarkably similar position to the one he’d scored the winner from in the corresponding fixture between these two back in November. That QPR have contrived to lose twice to this Stoke team this season without scoring truly is a damning indictment.

Rangers were indebted to Tal Ben Haim – not great but one of the few home players to emerge with any credit having started the day at left back – for a fine sliding tackle to interrupt a Stoke counter attack but when a deep free kick was headed back off the post Clint Hill wasn’t anywhere near as switched on as his Israeli team mate and having allowed Crouch to stand goal side of him from the set piece he foolishly wrestled the Stoke man to the ground. Crouch certainly made a lot of the contact, but it was an obvious penalty and although Jay Bothroyd’s prolonged moan about the placing of the ball meant Jon Walters had to try a second time after lashing the first spot kick into the roof of the net, he kept his cool and found the bottom corner when it counted. That made it two with the best part of a quarter of an hour left to play.

Yet another free kick on the edge of the box – Nzonzi drew yellow for tripping Hoilett on this occasion – was hit first into the wall by Bothroyd and then into the stand by Remy. Robert Huth subsequently nodded a corner just wide of the post and had it gone to 3-0 Rangers could have had few complaints. Four minutes of stoppage time felt needlessly cruel.

For Redknapp, or whoever succeeds him, a busy summer surely lies ahead. This QPR team doesn’t even look capable of competing in the league below as things stand. There are few indications, on the field at least, that the nightmare is over just yet. Four more Premier League matches, including the visit of in form Arsenal to Loftus Road, look about as enticing as a dose of the clap but they could be the very least of QPR’s worries.

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QPR: Green 5, Bosingwa 5, Samba 4, Hill 3, Ben Haim 6, Townsend 5 (Mackie 46, 5), Mbia 5, Derry 5, Hoilett 3, Taarabt 5 (Bothroyd 56, 5), Remy 6

Subs not used: Cesar, Onuoha, Diakite, Park, Granero

Bookings: Hill 76 (foul – penalty concession)

Stoke: Begovic 6, Shotton 6, Huth 6, Shawcross 6, Wilson 6 (Wilkinson 61,6), Whelan 6, Nzonzi 6, Adam 6 (Whitehead 69, 6), Walters 6, Crouch 7 (Cameron 90, -), Jerome 7

Subs not used: Sorensen, Kightly, Jones, Owen

Goals: Crouch 41 (assisted Jerome), Walters 76 (penalty, won Crouch)

Bookings: Adam 20 (foul), Nzonzi 77 (foul) QPR Star Man – N/A

Referee – Chris Foy (St Helens) 7 A reasonable performance, but I felt he was rather generous not to book several players in the first half when QPR were routinely finding their attacks cut short by cynical tackles on the edge of the box. Whelan in particular can count himself very fortunate not to have been booked for chopping down Taarabt right on the edge of the box as he headed for goal. Otherwise though few complaints, the penalty decision was correct.

Attendance – 17,391 (1,400 Stoke approx) Everybody deserves a medal for sitting through such utter rubbish. A Premier League game in name only.

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toemasher added 23:57 - Apr 21
Couldnt make the match so appreciate the report.
Gave our tickets to a w12 neighbour and his young family to experience their first taste of Loftus rd....

I will have to apologise to him on behalf of those shameful half arsed losers.


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TacticalR added 00:19 - Apr 22
I really, really hoped that relegation would settle some nerves and allow the team to put in a decent display, but that was a vain hope. The team was flat and the crowd was flat.

We looked very short of ideas from the beginning, and that got worse after Stoke scored. The lack of ideas was shown by the numerous attempts of our players to take potshots from 20 or 30 yards.

If we'd scored first we might have won, but the way Stoke scored by carving us right open through the middle was a hammer blow. Something went very wrong between Derry and Mbia, because one of them should have tracked Crouch, and Bosingwa looked out of position too.

Rémy. Continues to impress with his ability to take the ball early.

Hoilett. It's true he had a stinker, but his real problem is that he cannot see a pass even when he is playing well.

Derry. I thought he was OK, but he didn't want to get involved in attacking, either because he had been told not to, or because he was rusty after his lay off, or because his legs have gone.

Mackie. Couldn't find a way past Huth in the same fixture last year.

Hill. I don't blame him for the first goal, because he was left so exposed. For the second goal he had his arms around Crouch, so a definite penalty.
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qprmick added 00:28 - Apr 22
I was thinking the other day that this team is worse than the team that hit the big time in 1968. Then I thought at least they haven't conceded 8 like that team. I think that is going to change when we play Arsenal. However did this team play worse than last years team, but it has happened.
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AussieRs added 01:51 - Apr 22
Thanks Clive for superb, accurate and scrupulously fair report. They were abysmal. Hoilett looked like it was his first ever game. That they were not competitive against Stoke was unforgiveable, unprofessional. They certainly seemed to have given up.

Harry's post-match comments about an immediate bounce-back to the Prem Lg being very difficult, even unlikely were most enlightening. He talked about how much work needed doing to get the club back to being organised and competitive. Well what is that work exactly and who is responsible over the past two years for it not being done? Harry's comments tally with those made recently by Kevin Gallen on Open All Rs who said the working environment at Millwall (!!!) was so much better, more supportive and professional than at QPR.

These two years have been dreadful, a few moments apart. Everybody's second favourite team is now a public joke.

Time to start again.
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18StoneOfHoop added 06:07 - Apr 22
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18StoneOfHoop added 06:54 - Apr 22
The selection of hitherto out-of-favour Shaun Derry seemed to me particularly strange by Harry. When we got the back-to-back wins v Sunderland & Southampton Harry said that we might as well go for broke i.e. no room for defensive midfielders in the front 6 and let's be bold and go gung-ho.By picking Derry who hasn't even been on the bench for some games in recent weeks Redknapp indicated to me that to some extent had given up ; a bit like picking 2 keepers for the bench.There is nothing to learn about SD for next season that we don't know already.
I've very much enjoyed watching some of the attack-minded teams that HR has assembled in the past with plenty of flair,skilfull and foreign players (eg Di Canio at West Ham was wonderful to watch back in the 90's day or even Merse at Pompey) but I'm fearing that after we've culled as much as possible as we can get rid of in the summer,the 66 year-old with heart trouble,as much he protests about not being a 'wheeler-dealer',only sees an instant approach of open cheque-books and Willy McKay specially licensed agent extraordinaire ,as a way forward.HR is not the man to gradually,patiently - over 2 seasons even(!) -assemble a team,a philosophy,a style-of-play.
I can't see Poyet leaving potential-filled Brighton for basket-case us however much wonga is waved and so I'd go for thirty-something Eddie Howe from Bournemouth.No more ageing,proven,greedy established stars but hungry under 25 year-olds of mainly British (or Irish) extraction and coaching,coaching,coaching.
No way can I see TF and his backers going for that sort of approach though and I'm sure more money will be thrown and wasted..as Clive puts it 'more blood,more blood'..they're bloody addicted.
..ho-hum *sigh*..
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JB007007 added 07:53 - Apr 22
What a dreadful performance again. Like most fans, I seem to have given up too and am ashamed by that.
As an absolute last throw of the dice, we were saying at half time and a goal down, why not bring Diakite on? A player that can at least carry a ball forward.
Like most people, I was excited by the signing of Hoilett and felt he needed games to get going. His first touch has been poor for a few games, but I hope a year with us in the Championship will do him good if he is one to be retained. Some big and vitally important decisions are going to have to be taken over the summer. I feel we are going to need someone making them with Championship experience, as like you say Clive this situation could bleed into next year.
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Phildo added 08:05 - Apr 22
Odd atmosphere as well - everyone sitting talking to neighbors and only half watching the game - not sure I remember a so called competitive game like that really.

It looked like a number of players only half committing because they did not want to pick up an injury at this point before the summer move. Very sad.
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AgedR added 08:21 - Apr 22
Although he did ok, the selection of Ben Haim did seem a bit like 'go on mate, ave a run out', and the pairing of Derry with Mbia, didn't get it.

Finally, Bothroyd is suddenly back in the frame, in line with our ploy of playing Remy off a target man, that was the supposed key to success. Past tense.

The team selection and player performance, maybe Townsend apart, stunk of couldn't give a monkeys.
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DesertBoot added 09:13 - Apr 22
Christ we were pathetic. Naively I looked at Stokes form since January, their woeful away record and thought we could win this.
Once they scored it was game over and our wayward shooting was pathetic. A Row X Challenge. Going down with a whimper. Sad
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Monahoop added 09:18 - Apr 22
Very much agree with 18 Stone's comments. I've never been a fan of Redknapp though, too much of a sporting media show horse if you ask me and now past his best. Time to be put out to grass I think.
Know one knows for sure what next season might reveal, player or manager wise. I won't be disappointed if Redknapp goes though. The club needs to take a long look at itself in the mirror. Bring in a fresh young manager instead of an ageing has been and build a team with younger hungrier players who don't cost an arm and a leg. Even if it means stabilising for a couple of years in the Championship, then so be it, but if the club is to return to the 'promised land' again, I want it to be better prepared, advised and run and look like they want to be there.
Saturday really seemed a white flag waving exercise. I don't expect too much at the 'battle of the flops' at Reading next week.
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MelakaRanger added 09:23 - Apr 22
This team will not earn another point this year.

This team is made up of woeful underachievers and woeful has beens. The only exceptions were Remy & Townsend.

Regrettably Derry & Hill have joined the 'has beens' as they really are a shadow of themselves compared to 2 years ago

I guess we cannot underestimate the damage done by the hurried buys of Warnock and the almost fatal reign of Hughes.

Its probably going to take a good couple of years to carry out the surgery required and then rebuild. Harry has 2 more years of his contract remaining. Lets give him (and Tony) our support and trust that they will have a 2 year plan as I believe the only way back will require an almost complete clearout of players and rebuild over 3 or 4 transfer windows.
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MelakaRanger added 09:28 - Apr 22
This team will not earn another point this year.

This team is made up of woeful underachievers and woeful has beens. The only exceptions were Remy & Townsend.

Regrettably Derry & Hill have joined the 'has beens' as they really are a shadow of themselves compared to 2 years ago

I guess we cannot underestimate the damage done by the hurried buys of Warnock and the almost fatal reign of Hughes.

Its probably going to take a good couple of years to carry out the surgery required and then rebuild. Harry has 2 more years of his contract remaining. Lets give him (and Tony) our support and trust that they will have a 2 year plan as I believe the only way back will require an almost complete clearout of players and rebuild over 3 or 4 transfer windows.
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KingKev added 10:06 - Apr 22
This squad needs smashing up and starting again, they're either too old, too well paid or ultimately not interested in the success of the club. I know that Chris Samba was out until the early hours drinking in Leed on the Saturday night before Fulham away on the Monday...and he then wonders why he was shocking and tried to defend himself. It showed arrogance, a lack of respect for the club and supporters, but I'd anticipate that reflects the attitude of most of the players. We need to start again, targetting young enthusiastic pro's from the lower leagues who have plenty of ability and much to prove, mixed with some experience down the spine. Hate to say it, but relegation could be what the club needed.
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Northernr added 10:16 - Apr 22
Kev - it will only be what the club needs if it first of all learns from the mistakes it has made and second of all gets going with planning for next season now. Sadly I fear it's doing neither.
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isawqpratwcity added 10:20 - Apr 22
Thanks for the report, Clive. It sounds like it was pretty dire.

It seems unlikely, but I really want us to get another win or two. I'd hate for the egregious Hughes to be able to say that he had a better win ratio than HR.

I've been saying for two seasons that relegation isn't an option, and I think in a few games we will find out why. Sorting out the overpaid underperformers is difficult enough in the Premier: in the Championship it will be nigh impossible. If we lose our backers...
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probbo added 10:42 - Apr 22
Redknapp needs to show his hand sooner or later. He says he's happy to stay on and wants a new pitch (!) but a decisive commitment now would be helpful.

I do agree though that on a longer term view a younger manager would be the way to go. I found myself watching 'the four year plan' (again) on Friday and i'd give someone line Paolo Sousa another crack. He (and other managers) were totally suffocated by Briatore but given the right environment and a supportative owner I think he could do a decent job.

I also watched Hull v Bristol City on Friday and was left wondering how Hull ever got that high up the table. Perhaps it was 'getting over the line' syndrome that resulted in such a poor performance but if they do go up good luck to them I say.
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Roller added 11:23 - Apr 22
Well done on writing that Clive, I did a Bosingwa and shrugged my shoulders after only two paragraphs!

Where I was in the Upper Loft there were a number of long term season ticket holders who didn't show up and others who left noticeably early. My mate remarked that he had never felt so detached from what was happening on the pitch, the atmosphere was as poor as I can ever remember it being, this season really can't end quick enough.
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SomersetHoops added 11:36 - Apr 22
Samba's pathetic defensive performance for Stoke's first goal was right in front of me and I couldn't believe what I was seeing. This was a £12 million £100,000 a week player playing like a lumbering overweight schoolboy. Any sensible prospective purchaser of a player in his position would take a look at that and want us to pay them and his wages to take him off our hands.

Another example of a player bought without checking CURRENT fitness and performances. After the hopeless Hughes purchases it would be reasonable for Fernandes to have learnt something, but after the Samba deal I despair of him ever understanding the importance of judging what a player can do now and in the future rather than what he has done in the past.
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QPunkR added 11:52 - Apr 22
You've gotta be kidding me! You must be the one and only QPR fan who wants Sousa back.
Under him we played the most boring football it has been my misfortune to see. At least with Hart you almost had to laugh, playing 8 defenders across the pitch. Sousa's team near-enough bored me to tears.

If we were to bring back any former manager it'd have to be Ollie or Gigi de Canio
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probbo added 12:25 - Apr 22
I hear what you're saying but in fairness to Sousa it was the usual thing - close to the bottom when he was appointed, an inherited team, an avg of less than one goal per game, limited money for new players, no time to prove himself and he lost top scorer Dexter to Forest. Not an ideal situation for him or anyone else.

Agree about Gigi.
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parker64 added 13:18 - Apr 22
The Sun report yesterday said "Taarabt was playing for himself and looked like he'd been eating for everyone else too".

Him, Samba and Hoilett look right proper fatties. How can professional footballers get like that.
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francisbowles added 16:06 - Apr 22
Can't disagree with most of what has been said but the pitch is dreadful and makes control, running with the ball and shooting very difficult. Even Remy found it hard. If you are going to water it at half time then do it properly. Clear everyone of it and do more than just the half way line.

I do however think that 7 for the ref is very generous. He may have got the penalty right but he allowed fouls to take over and should have given Stoke several yellows. Can anyone explain why, in thefirst half, he restarted the game with a drop ball after he blew and pointed after a challenge on Tarabt?

I think that the Arsenal game will be interesting. Might be that we revert to January tactics and defend deeply and let them try their passing game on our 'dog' of a pitch. Play Diakite and Mbia with players who are likely to be here next year but include Remy as we want to see as much of him as we can before he moves on.
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alm added 17:46 - Apr 22
For those of us old enough to remember, the 1968/9 season was similar
to the one that’s just grinding to a halt. Four wins (from 42 games then!),
managers coming and going and a club in turmoil. The rebuilding – under
Jago, then Sexton – was steady, but slow; Rangers didn’t get back to the
old 1st Division until 1973. Can there be any useful parallels with what
happened so long ago? Possibly. The exciting team that narrowly missed
out on the title in 75/76 was a mixture of shrewd lower league buys (Parkes,
Bowles, Masson), experienced pros with something left in the tank (Webb, McLintock, Hollins) and a sprinkling of home-grown talent (Clement, Leach,
Busby). Sounds like a good combination to me.
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Kaos_Agent added 20:32 - Apr 22
Harry has been much easier for fans to relate to than MH however I don't think he has been any better at fitting the puzzle pieces together or motivating the lads, apart from the Southampton and Sunderland games which seem eons ago now.

I agree with those who want new blood at manager. Tony should have a look at Clive's earlier piece on the organizational approach Swansea has taken.
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