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Don’t mention Mr Spock – preview
Saturday, 7th Dec 2013 02:26 by Clive Whittingham
QPR host Blackburn Rovers this Saturday at Loftus Road in their quest to regain the Premier League status lost, primarily, because of the management of Mark Hughes. Remember him?
Queens Park Rangers (2nd) v Blackburn Rovers (13th)
Old First Division, Old Old Second Division >>> Saturday December 7, 2013 >>> Kick Off 15.00 >>> Loftus Road, London, W12
It’s a peculiar thing, The Twitter, isn’t it? One wonders whether it was really invented in order for somebody to pretend to be Sam Allardyce, emitting random angry outbursts about walking past Karen Brady’s office and catching her trying to lick her own nipples (@TheBig_Sam). Or to draw frighteningly detailed comedy cocks onto random sporting pictures found in the newspapers for general merriment and amusement (@NewspaperDickz). Probably there was some flouncy, modern, Guardian-pleasing greater good in mind, to do with communication and connection and equality, when the wretched thing was launched – but then the overwhelming power of comedy penis drawings has overcome much more than such mealy mouthed nonsense before.
On a Tuesday LFW will take to The Twitter to ask our 4,415 followers (no, not kidding) for player connections between QPR and their future opponents. Once upon a time (in about 2009) the diligent journalist may have had to walk over to a bookshelf or something and find a record of such stuff for himself, or just try and guess from memory if he was feeling particularly lazy and then find himself chastised for forgetting the illustrious QPR and Blackburn career of Pascal Chimbonda. Now though you can just ask what we’re told we must call the “Twittersphere” and suddenly answers pour forth almost immediately, leaving LFW site editors to happily turn “a quick drink after work in Mabel’s Tavern” into an all-night session of debauchery and discussion about whether Steve ‘Schteve’ McClaren can be more closely compared to Aristotle or Plato.
But herein madness lies. Post a lazy request for player connections between QPR and their conquerors from last weekend Doncaster Rovers and disappear off to the pub for a few hours and you’ll return to find an inbox clogged with seven thousand mentions of Rufus Brevett. Nice fella though Rufus clearly is, he’s only just recovered from a previous encounter with this website’s staff on the dance floor at the 2010/11 Player of the Year dinner (possibly, though not officially, linked to the lack of such a dinner in the seasons that have followed) and we could always do with more than one connection between the sides in order to flesh out the http://www.fansnetwork.co.uk/football/queensparkrangers/news/33494/mackie-wegerl column that nobody reads anyway.
So the trick is to ask for connections, and then name a couple of obvious ones into the bargain. QPR and Tottenham connections – apart from Les Ferdinand, Harry Redknapp and Little Tom Carroll – for example. Make people sing for their supper – or history column. That can get tricky when, like this weekend, there is list as long as Stephane Mbia of shared players and other connections between the teams. Some 250 miles, and several different worlds, between QPR and Blackburn hasn’t stopped the swap and exchange of Bradley Orr, Simon Barker and dozens of others down the years.
Still, the first name on anybody’s lips here should be Mark Hughes. After all, it was at Blackburn – where he’d played late in his career before leaving to manager Wales – that Hughes cut his club managerial teeth. He had Rovers bouncing around the top ten and sticking their head round the door at occasional cup semi-finals, while scouting out bargains like Chris Samba and bringing the best out of mediocre sludge like David Bentley. A new managerial star was born – of course it was, Hughes suckled at Alex Ferguson’s withered teet didn’t he? How could he be anything other than brilliant?
He seemed hard done to at Man City, his first big job after Ewood Park. Yes, admittedly, he spent a gazilion pounds on some overrated tat – Jo? – but he got sacked while City weren’t playing that badly simply because the club had been taken over and the Sheik wanted his own man, with slightly longer grey hair and a better line in scarves and angry gestures from the touchline. Poor Mark, said General Consensus, while nodding knowingly when a poor start to his first season at his next club, Fulham, soon gave way to a top ten finish.
While leaving Craven Cittage citing lack of ambition, and then laying down in his birthday suit in front of his webcam while adding Aston Villa’s Randy Lerner and Chelsea’ Roman Abramovic on Skype, made him look a bit of an arse he was still, potentially, a decent appointment for a smaller club like QPR with a bit of money to spend.
The job he subsequently did during a disastrous 2012 - the players he brought in, the way he treated people like Rob Green and Shaun Derry, the way he set the team up, the way he could barely mask the total confusion in his own mind about why Rangers were losing every week, the arrogance of the man, the destruction of the team spirit, the dismantling of the club’s identity – means he should forever be at the forefront of the QPR psyche. No longer will pub discussions around Shepherd’s Bush about the club’s worst ever manager be swatted aside with “Mullery, now get me another London Pride”. The current plummet of previously midtable Stoke City towards the Premier League drop zone suggests that QPR’s obvious failings as a club weren’t the only problem during the reign of Hughes, the Taffia coaching staff, and minister without portfolio Kia Joorabchian. He must shoulder a good deal of responsibility.
It was a game against Blackburn – the last time these sides met in fact – that provided the first suggestion that Hughes actually didn’t have the foggiest idea what he was doing at Loftus Road. A big January of six signings, encouraging signs against Villa and a big win against Wigan had been followed by a defeat to fellow strugglers Wolves that could largely be put down to a Djibril Cisse brain fart that saw him sent off in the first half under the ongoing clampdown against pure idiocy on football fields and in general society at large. A result was required at Blackburn, who were busy tearing themselves apart in protest at the ownership of The Venky’s and the management of Steve Kean and looked like easy cannon fodder. Rovers couldn’t find their arse with both hands before QPR arrived, and yet were able to cruise into a 3-0 half time lead. The sort of late rally only Jamie Mackie could inspire made it 3-2 but that was far more than Rangers deserved.
Afterwards Hughes admitted there were problems within the squad that he “didn’t previously know existed” which poured scorn on is favourite “meticulous preparation” soundbite for pre-match press conferences. Nine months later, with Rangers failing to win any of their first dozen matches of the following season, Hughes still didn’t know the problems existed, or in actual fact how he was going to solve them, and Rangers were already as good as down when he left. They didn’t win a single away game in the league during his near-year in charge.
And yet despite all that, when it came to naming QPR and Blackburn connections, his name never occurred to me once. I felt like Gareth from The Office: “Don’t mention Mr Spock. Don’t rake over old graves.” It seems I’ve expunged the Welshman from my memory banks already – or at least drunk so much that I don’t recall anything very much with any degree of clarity these days.
In the interests of closure, QPR can move a step closer to passing Hughes and his Stoke team on the way up in May with a win this weekend at home to Blackburn Rovers. See how that all tied together beautifully at the end?
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QPR and Blackburn play out the closing stages of a Premier League match at Loftus Road in 1996. Alan Shearer’s goal 13 minutes from time was enough for the visitors to win 1-0, pushing Ray Wilkins’ Rangers another step closer to relegation.
Team News: So apart from Nedum Onuoha and his bad hamstring, Ale Faurlin and his crocked knees, and the Bobby Zamora mercy killing, QPR seem to be at full strength this weekend. The Boy Hoilett – terrific lad, great around the place, gives us another option – seems to have slackened off his hamstring area sufficiently to get through 25 minutes here and The Boy Phillips – splendid boy, not a moment of trouble, terrific player – seems to have finally shaken off the wanker’s cramp that so troubled him earlier in the campaign. Little Tom Carroll’s prolonged grounding for swearing in the presence of a grandparent is now seemingly up and he’s free to swan around without a care in the world, pinging unlikely passess this way and that, while he continues to await the onset of puberty.
Todd Kane has impressed at full back this season on loan from Chelsea but a fifth booking of the campaign in the defeat at Ipswich during the week means he’s banned for this game. What’s that coming over the hill? Well, it’s Adam Henley apparently, set for a first senior start in his stead. Grant Hanley is available for selection after an arm injury.
Elsewhere: Firstly - and this is important - let’s not underestimate just how crucial this crucial nine hundred and ninety eighth round of fixtures is to the destiny of the 2013/14 Championship – possibly the most important Championship there has ever been, or so Jim White told my mate down the Crown anyway.
Simon Thomas, speaking live from the Sky Sports canteen, for reasons known only to some perverted executive producer BSkyB poached from the Daybreak shuttle wreckage – almost certainly called Miles – announced earlier that on six hundred and twenty three previous occasions the team leading the Championship at this crucial stage has gone on to finish in the top eight in May. Without the cutting analysis of Peter Beagrie or the incessant rhetorical questions of Don Goodman it’s impossible for the common or garden football fan to weigh that stat against the six hundred and thirty eight previous occasions that the team leading the Championship at this crucial stage has gone on to do fuck all. A mathematician, another mathematician, and a statistician are beavering away through the night trying to fathom this out for us.
In the meantime, and in the spirit of revolution for a greater good, the Football League has decreed that its fifteen dozen members can get “properly tooled up” (not my words Carol, the words of an official FL72 memorandum) with a weapon of their choice for this latest clutch of vitally important nonsense. The catch is you’re not allowed to know what your opponent has picked before choosing your own implement – so pity poor Middlesbrough who chose knuckle dusters only to learn later on that Birmingham City are coming into this weekend’s vital clash with flame throwers. Still, should liven that one up a bit.
More intrigue, and a clash of both styles and generations, at Ipswich who, armed with a job lot of whips and chains leant to them by the British museum from the Egypt collection, face Huddersfield who have managed to get their hands on a collection of 19th century French Naval Briquets in reasonable condition.
Champions Elect Bolton have cheated rather, going with just your standard sawn off shotguns for the visit of Doncaster, while Blackpool are following up their red card fest at Yeovil midweek by going in with their bare fists against high flying Derby this weekend. Don’t write Paul Ince’s merry band of mentalists off there either.
Yeovil, stringing wins together one after the other (well, one, and then another, and that’s it so far) face an interesting challenge from Charlton this weekend. The Addicks are going down the Buddhist Monk path of doing absolutely nothing of any sort by way of attack, choosing to merely sit quietly cross legged and hope it either inspires surrender, bores the opponent to death, or sparks a miraculous self-immolation. Teams are seeing through this so far, but Yeovil will do well not to nod off during a key part of the second half.
This is dragging on a bit now isn’t it? What else do we have? Brighton v Leicester? Reasonably important I guess, if you’re into that sort of thing. Burnley, no win in six since beating QPR, have Barnsley, who rather foolishly armed themselves with only a set of three buckets and spades citing budget cuts. Expect some form of massacre there. Champions of Europe Leeds v Udinese is a game to inspire the entire world while Reading v Bournemouth barely even interests the people of Reading and Bournemouth.
Referee: Following Mr Woolmer’s eccentric display at Loftus Road on Tuesday night against Bournemouth, the W12 faithful will be hoping for a more considered approach from Lincolnshire’s Darren Drysdale this weekend. This is his first QPR appointment since 2006 when Gary Waddock’s R’s side lost 2-1 at champions Reading on the final day of the season, For details of his performance that day and his stats for the last couple of seasons, please click here.
QPR: The 3-0 win against Bournemouth on Tuesday night was Rangers’ biggest of the season, and the first time they’ve scored more than two goals in a game this campaign. It strengthened still further the imperious home form that the R’s are building their promotion campaign on – now eight wins, one draw and no defeats at Loftus Road with 14 goals scored and just two conceded. Only Derby have scored on this ground in the last eight matches, and that was in a 2-1 defeat. QPR remain miles ahead of the rest of the league on goals conceded (ten) and clean sheets (11).
Blackburn: By contrast, Blackburn are being held back by lousy away form. Currently thirteenth, with five wins, two draws and two defeats at home, they can look at a run of just one win, three draws and five defeats on the road to explain their eight point gap to the play off spots. Yeovil, Charlton, Birmingham, Bolton and Wigan are all below Rovers in the table despite winning more games on their travels. Having just concluded a second consecutive LDW sequence and started another with a loss at Ipswich the pattern suggests this will be a draw, but Rovers are clearly wildly inconsistent and difficult to call. On the road they’ve lost at Ipswich, Wigan and Brighton since winning at Bournemouth. They have won one of their last nine away matches.
Betting: Professional odds compiler Owen Goulding says…
Two winners last week, with QPR struggling to score at Doncaster while Carlisle’s Sean O’Hanlon bagged in defeat at Swindon – 16/1 that one.
QPR take on Blackburn this weekend and the equation is simple: both teams are performing below their potential but Rangers, unlike Blackburn, are still getting results. It's going to be a midfield battle which I expect QPR to win. I can't get involved at 8/11 though so I'm taking a chance on them to start fast again and my recommended bet is QPR to be winning at half time at 13/10 (General)
Elsewhere I'm going for a monster priced bet of the week and if comes in the FA Cup match at Home Park where Neal Trotman will look to add to his tally from centre half where he has looked a massive danger in recent weeks and against the minnows of Welling can be backed at 16/1 to score anytime.
Bet of weekend: Neal Trotman to score anytime - Plymouth v Welling 16/1 William Hill.
Prediction: Reigning Prediction League champion Mase tells us…
“Rangers' biggest win in 18 months on Tuesday has set a new wave of optimism coursing through the message boards. Is that light at the end of the tunnel, or a train coming the other way? We haven't become shackle-free over the last week, but nor was there any cause for the despair some (me) so readily embrace when it comes to this club.
“It's going to be another tough match on Saturday. Blackburn are lower in the league than I thought, owing principally to poor form on their travels: they have six points from their 11 games away from Ewood Park this season. The bookmarkers' prices reflect their supposedly outside chances on Saturday but they still have a strong spine to their team, with an eye catching right back in Todd Kane (suspended for our game) dangerously overlapping and supporting the attack.
“Scott Dann, Tommy Spurr and Jordon Rhodes have all apparently been targets for Rangers down the years, and David Dunn and Dickson Ethuhu are experienced if unexciting heads in midfield.
“Essentially I can see Rovers tipping up for a point in the same fashion that Barnsley, Middlesbrough and Ipswich did. They will not be good enough to pull it off either. I quite fancy another win but think we will concede to Rhodes.”
Mase’s Prediction: QPR 2-1 Blackburn, First Scorer: Austin
LFW Prediction: QPR 1-0 Blackburn, First Scorer: Austin
Pictures – Action Images
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