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Watching the clock - Preview
Friday, 8th Apr 2016 23:16 by Clive Whittingham
Just three home matches now for midtable QPR before the season comes to an end, starting with Charlton at Loftus Road on Saturday.
Queens Park Rangers (11th) v Charlton Athletic (23rd)
Championship >>> Saturday April 9, 2016 >>> Kick Off 15.00 >>> Weather – Cloudy and dry >>> Loftus Road, London, W12
Time is both QPR’s friend and enemy at the moment.
For the past couple of weeks, and the six games that remain this season, Rangers are in the fairly unusual position of not being concerned with either the promotion or relegation picture. In fact, the R’s are 15 points exactly away from both.
This is the first time in seven seasons that they haven’t been fighting to avoid the drop or win promotion which hasn’t made for a lot of forward planning from one season to the next. You can’t start putting agreements with players in place if you don’t know what division you’re going to be in, and if that status does change then big turnarounds in squads have to be achieved quickly. Or, you know, just do what Burnley did.
This opportunity to try things out, work out what’s required, plan the pre-season and summer signings properly, and then in theory hit the ground running for next season is something that has benefitted several clubs of similar size to us at this level recently – Watford, Bournemouth and Neil Warnock’s QPR all stormed to promotion after similar ends to the previous season.
And yet time isn’t something QPR have very much of at all. Next season will see a smaller parachute payment than this, and the season after smaller still before they cease altogether. Throw in clubs like Newcastle and Aston Villa coming into this division next season, and then an influx of three Premier League teams each year with colossal money from the new TV deal which starts in August, and it looks like promotion will be harder and harder to win without once again ignoring the FFP rules altogether and gambling a large amount of Tune Group money on getting there.
The idea that a third will be shaved off the playing budget again this summer as the club moves towards, finally, running itself properly isn’t as drastic as it sounds. If you can clear out Armand Traore, Robert Green, Samba Diakite, Leroy Fer, Sandro, Stephen Caulker and Junior Hoilett this summer then you lose more than a third of the current wage bill without making any difference at all top the starting eleven.
Nor am I really spooked by the recent suggestion that QPR simply “cannot survive” without Premier League money or a move to a new stadium. The idea that you “cannot survive” in an 18,000 capacity stadium, with upwards of 15,000 people coming through the doors each home game, will be news to half the Football League and every club below it that manage to do just that every season. You can survive, you just have to run your club and your expenditure accordingly. You can’t survive in this stadium, without parachute payments or Premier League TV money, if you behave and spend as QPR have been doing – but nobody has been forcing that behaviour on us.
More accurately it’s QPR cannot survive in the way the board, and the majority of the supporters I dare say, want them to without Premier League TV/parachute money or hand outs from the owners. Living strictly by our means, without those things, would mean being a lower Championship outfit with stints in League One, as opposed to an upper Championship side with stints in the Premier League. In that respect, with Old Oak Common still a million lightyears away, getting back into the Premier League before the parachute payments have ended is important.
But time can still be a close ally in that. I had to smile in the week at the outpouring (mainly on Twitter, which is an increasingly hysterical and vile way of keeping up with our club) provoked by Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s decision to leave out Seb Polter and Tjaronn Chery for the game at Leeds. Now undoubtedly they’re both playing well, and very important to the way we’re playing, but if now isn’t the time to be trying new things, working out different ways we can approach players, trying to integrate Conor Washington in whom we’ve invested a lot of money, then when is?
That Leeds game meant nothing to anybody, it was exactly the time to try some bits and pieces out. And yet the old “Les Fedinand picks the team” nonsense appeared once more. I personally think it might be worth trying Washington for a few games in the left sided roll, cutting in onto his right foot in support of Polter and Chery. It suits his game, and with Hoilett on the money he's on it's likely a position we'll have to fill afresh one way or another for next season. No doubt if Hasselbaink tried such a thing, people would be castigating him for leaving out Hoilett, who is in good form but is unlikely to be here next season.
But mainly I found it amusing because before Christmas, Seb Polter and Tjaronn Chery’s inclusion in anything used to provoke the same negative rhetoric the other way. Polter was the “shit fucking German”, roundly abused by his own supporters at Birmingham City despite only appearing fleetingly for the final couple of minutes while Chery was too small and lightweight. Back then Les Ferdinand was evil for signing them at all, now he’s evil for apparently insisting they’re rested in favour of his other signings.
What Polter and Chery needed, and are now benefitting from, was a little time. Two relatively young lads, moving abroad for the first time, coming to London for the first time, playing in a notoriously physical, demanding, difficult, quintessentially English-style league and yet people were keen to dismiss them – particularly Polter – after barely three months in the country. Now, with their feet under the table and form steadily improving, they’re apparently undroppable and must start every game regardless.
For all the progress made under Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink so far – and progress there certainly has been – it’s a team and squad with plenty of work still required. The two form players in it have shown the benefit of being given a little time, and we can still afford to give the manager and the club a bit more of that to get us to where we need to be by this time next year.
Team News: Jamie Mackie’s nightmare season looks like finishing on the sidelines once again after his hamstring went yet again at Leeds on Tuesday night. It’s starting to look a bit bleak for Jamie, given his style of play and the importance of working hamstrings to that. A vitally important pre-season lies ahead for him. Clint Hill, meanwhile, is fighting to return to the side, and given how we’ve been defending without him he should be sure of a place if he can recover from his own leg muscle issues.
Johann Gudmundsson banged his head against Ipswich and isn’t sure what day of the week it is. Reza Ghoochannejhad has been ruled out after the Charlton club shop ran out of letters for the back of his shirt.
Elsewhere: This latest volley of Championship nonsense includes 11 matches being played on Saturday, beginning at lunch time with The Champions of Europe visiting the actual champions this season.
The pick of the 15.00 game sis probably the Franchise hosting Rotherham. Neil Warnock has inspired a turnaround there remarkable even by his standards – only the top three are in better form during the last month – and another victory against their fellow strugglers would go a long way towards securing safety which seemed so unlikely just a few short weeks ago.
Other than that it’s the usual load of old tut basically. Wolves v The Mad Chicken Farmers, Waitrose v Birmingham and Ipswich v Brentford all particularly pointless. Even Tarquin and Rupert can nearly start getting the boaters out and start planning for Henley after their midweek victory, especially if they record another maximum against The Red Dragons.
Brighton’s trip to Nottingham Trees has been moved to Monday, because getting from Brighton to Nottingham isn’t difficult enough already.
Referee: Andrew Madley gets a second QPR appointment of the season, his first coming in the last minute win at Reading before Christmas. Despite the positive Rangers result that night, Madley wasn’t particularly great. More on that, his previous QPR appointments, and his overall stats available here.
QPR: QPR snapped a 16 match winless run in London derbies by running three goals through Brentford last month. That run included a 2-0 loss at Charlton on the opening day of the season but they have beaten the Addicks on the last three meetings between the sides on this ground. The late equaliser at Leeds on Tuesday extended a run of just three defeats from 15 games, but Rangers are drawing a good few of those – 11 of 23 games since Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink took over, eight of them 1-1. The 3-2 loss to Middlesbrough here a week ago broke a run of three straight home wins.
Charlton: Charlton have had some horrific runs of form this season – two draws and ten defeats from 12 matches from the end of August through to November, then no wins from another 12 matches through December and January. It’s a wonder they’re still in any touch at all down the bottom of the league, but in touch they are thanks to a turn around in form since Jose Riga returned to the club. They’ve won three and drawn two of the last six including a draw at Ipswich and a win at Brentford. Overall this season they’ve won three, drawn four and lost 13 away from The Valley. With six matches remaining, they are seven points short of the team in the last safe spot – in form Rotherham. Charlton have conceded 19 goals from corners this season – the most in the league, miles ahead of Fulham in second with 13.
Prediction: Reigning Prediction League champion isawqpratwhitecity tells us…
“Charlton's recent form is inconsistent but on a general trend it's improving: 12 points out of the last 33 but that includes a one of out of 15 in February. They recently beat Boro on home turf which is more than we just managed. But despite that and our demise at the Valley first out this season (why do we lose to bad teams on opening days?), I think Jimmy's boys will hammer them."
Jim’s Prediction: QPR 3-1 Charlton. Scorer: Seb Polter.
LFW’s Prediction: QPR 2-0 Charlton. Scorer: Tjaronn Chery
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