Ramsey feels the heat as QPR lose at Birmingham - report
Sunday, 18th Oct 2015 17:59 by Clive Whittingham
The return of Neil Warnock, an away-end in open revolt by full time, and two more poor goals conceded increased the pressure on QPR head coach Chris Ramsey at Birmingham on Saturday.
It’s hard to think of anything else QPR could have done to undermine the position of their head coach Chris Ramsey prior to Saturday’s trip to Birmingham City.
On Wednesday, a public message from the chairman that results are all that matters and promotion means “the world” to him – contrary to all the “consolidation” and “building a platform” chat during the summer which Ramsey was supposed to be working to. On Thursday, on the club’s own in-house YouTube show, director of football Les Ferdinand saying Ramsey had to “up his game”. Then, two hours before kick-off, news issued by Rangers that a much-loved, highly-experienced former manager was returning in an “advisory” role.
Who needs enemies, or journalists, with friends like this?
The party line is that Neil Warnock’s return has been Ramsey’s choice. Warnock’s line is that he has no interest in returning to full time management, and has long advocated the need for experienced football men like himself to operate between the manager or coach and the board. Critics of Ramsey’s inexperience have wondered why he hasn’t done as Dougie Freedman has with Lennie Lawrence and call on an experienced right-hand man – Gerry Francis has been a popular choice – and potentially now he has. Could be wonderful news, if timed in the right way and handled sensitively.
But Warnock is a wily old fox and he knows full well how this looks. I’d love to have heard his own thoughts, were he the QPR manager at the moment, on the appointment of another big-name manager as his “adviser”, the timing of the announcement two hours before a big game, the comments from Ferdinand and the post from Fernandes. Sweetness and light it would not have been.
His arrival, and the omnipresence around the place of Shaun Derry, will inevitably set tongues wagging. The timing of the release meant that things wouldn’t need to go too badly wrong at Birmingham City before the travelling fans, already on the turn, started chanting Warnock’s name. So it proved.
Whatever the intention, the whole thing did Ramsey no favours on Saturday.
But then, Ramsey could do himself a few favours as well. It’s hard to undermine a man doing a fantastic job and winning matches, and he left himself wide open to criticism with a number of decisions made at St Andrew’s.
QPR had taken the lead after a quarter of an hour. A decent knock from Nedum Onuoha, playing out from the back, was eventually finished, via a deflection, by Matt Phillips. Having survived an early scare when Clayton Donaldson got the better of Onuoha and Demarai Gray followed in with a crisp shot that Robert Green did well to save and hold, Rangers had grown into the match and led. Sandro was dominant in the centre of midfield, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas likewise as the lone striker, and with Phillips right and Tjaronn Chery left the set up looked promising.
But there were few positives to report after that. QPR had shipped an average of two goals a game prior to kick off, the worst record in the division, and kept up that rate here with two more basic, basic concessions. The first, sadly, came just six minutes after Phillips’ goal, killing the momentum and cancelling out the lead, and was the product of two persistent problems which Ramsey is either oblivious to or doesn’t know how to fix.
The first is the persistently poor form of full back James Perch. Wigan’s Player of the Season for the last two years looks absolutely bereft of confidence. Permanently flat-footed, always second to the ball, often looking like he’s thinking about something else entirely only to suddenly realise where he is and leap into a desperate challenge without thinking. His tackle on Jacques Maghoma after 22 minutes here was laughable, the most obvious yellow card of referee Carl Boyeson’s entire career and a free kick conceded in an area Rangers have struggled to defend all season. Sure enough as the ball was floated across, Green stayed on his line and Paul Robinson, who’d been free and unmarked at the back post long before the kick was taken and throughout the move, was able to head home unchallenged.
QPR have two right backs, Michael Harriman and Darnell Furlong, both playing very well out on loan. Perch’s yellow, which could easily have turned into a red as he spent the rest of the game fouling his man at regular intervals, means he’ll be banned on Tuesday night against Sheff Wed but it will almost certainly be Nedum Onuoha moved out of position to cover at right back, and Perch will be straight back in this time next week. Didn’t Ramsey come in on a ticket of giving younger players a chance? No more of this square pegs in round holes just so we can pick a senior player business? Shouldn’t a brilliant coach be able to organise a defence a good deal better than this?
The full back on the other side is every bit as bad. Paul Konchesky, another senior pro being picked remorselessly ahead of younger options despite poor form, appeared to be the one who lost Robinson for the goal. He spent most of the second half giving away stupid fouls in dangerous areas, often through concentrating too much on a physical confrontation with his man rather than the ball despite it being within easy playing distance. When he did stand-off Maghoma and allow a cross to come in, Donaldson went down in a heap next to Onuoha and Boyeson awarded a penalty. A little soft, and Rangers were keen to make a big deal of the decision when Paul Caddis’ successful spot kick proved to be the winning goal, but Leroy Fer gave the ball away in the first place, attempting some flouncy flick and trick in a lethal part of the pitch, and Konchesky allowed the cross to come in – you can’t point fingers at refereeing decisions when you making such crass mistakes yourself.
Fer is one of a clutch of big-name players Rangers expected to sell during the summer but ended up keeping, raising the expectations which Ramsey is now being judged by. It’s not the head coach’s fault that the Dutch international decided to piss about with the ball deep in his own half, nor that he later spurned a great chance for an equaliser by shooting wide after turning into an inviting position on the edge of the box. You also can’t blame Ramsey for another of the players we’re jolly excited about still having here, Matt Phillips, wasting one two v two counter attack by dallying on the ball, failing to pass to Chery in space or beat the man in front of him, then later selfishly shooting at home keeper Tomasz Kuszczak from an impossible angle with two team mates awaiting a tap in six yards out in the centre. Some will try all the same – in an increasingly nasty and hostile atmosphere among the support base there seems to be a prevailing feeling that everything that goes right is down to the players and everything that goes wrong is because of Ramsey. Y
You can’t legislate for your best players making such basic messes once they cross the white line. Nor can you deny that all these apparently wonderful talents we've retained that mean expectations have risen were all here last year when we finished dead last in the Premier League. Are we over-estimating how good they actually are, and hanging Ramsey unfairly because of that?
What is Ramsey’s fault, however, is his weird fascination with playing left-footed Tjaronn Chery on the right, and right-footed Matt Phillips on the left. Inverse wingers are fashionable, and as both players have fearsome shots on them there is potential for them to cut in and threaten the goal. But by and large, it’s not working. Having started in their correct positions and taken the lead, they were then swapped and never went back.
Birmingham were the perfect example of a well-executed, basic approach to Championship football. Fit, hardworking, well drilled, in a very set shape, with every player knowing their role. They have a decent centre forward in Clayton Donaldson, a well-organised defence led by Michael Morrison, and a bit of pace and skill on either wing with Maghoma and Gray. That’s it, they just do that, and it’s enough at this level – this win takes them fourth, at a time when they’re hacking into their costs and playing budget. QPR are over-complicating it.
City could have won by more, had they not wasted a succession of wide set pieces throughout the game. Gray turned into space that really shouldn’t exist between QPR’s midfield given the presence of two-deep lying players ahead of the back four and shot wide before half time. Later Caddis’ low cross took a deflection and was inches out of Donaldson’s reach in the six yard box. Onuoha scrambled another low cross from that side behind after Donaldson had turned a ball round the corner for Maghoma to sprint in behind Konchesky and deliver.
QPR lacked intensity in the second half, and rarely looked like they would come back into it. Not enough pace, not enough thrust. It was a game crying out for Jamie Mackie’s involvement and it’s not Chris Ramsey’s fault that he’s out for three months with a bad hamstring injury. But it is Chris Ramsey’s fault that Massimo Luongo, for me the best player in the first two months of the season, is currently out of the team. When he came off the bench he immediately injected that purpose and drive, carrying the ball past two Birmingham players all the way down the left wing and winning a corner.
The travelling fans, increasingly restless, disagreed with the withdrawal of Fer for Luongo, and Sandro – who’d played reasonably well – for Daniel Tozser. Fer hadn’t done a great deal, and was at fault for the second goal. Sandro’s fitness levels perhaps aren’t up to 90 minutes, so that criticism may be harsh. But it was difficult to make a case for staying ridigdly in a one-striker system, with two one-paced deep central midfielders, even into the dying moments while chasing the game. Birmingham had stopped trying to add to their score by this point so more men could have been committed forward. Even if they hadn’t, 3-1 and 2-1 is the same result anyway so throw a bit of caution to the wind.
Karl Henry remained on the field, despite another poor performance – falling flat on his back after being hopelessly nutmegged during a second half counter attack something of a low point – when he could easily have been sacrificed for a more attacking player. The fact remains, the only time Rangers have kept a clean sheet in the Championship this season was the game he wasn’t picked for – Michael Doughty remains criminally underused, again contrary to what we were told Ramsey would bring to the job.
To then remove Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, who’d done a very decent job of leading the line and looked the best hope of an equaliser, for Seb Polter in a straight swap was impossible to justify.
It was at this point that the away end really turned, with loud chants of Warnock’s name and “you don’t know what you’re doing” aimed at Ramsey down on the touchline. Sadly, in the back left corner of the away end, there was also some really nasty stuff aimed Polter’s way. “Fucking useless German,” “fucking useless Kraut,” “shit fucking German” and so on – all started from a small minority before he’d actually touched the ball at all.
He did little to win friends in the final five minutes – failing to win, or even compete, for any of the long balls knocked his way. But the level of hatred and vitriol seemed odd for a player who’s time on the field in the league this season doesn’t even add up to a half yet. It was also entirely counterproductive.
Four minutes of injury time drifted by without incident, set against the hostility behind the goal. A poor performance, another two goals conceded, another nail in the coach’s coffin.
The answer to “how many managers do QPR need to sack and not improve before QPR realise it’s not the manager that’s the problem?” still seems to be “at least one more.” The hunger for another for another change is seemingly becoming ravenous.
Another typical week in the modern day history of QPR. One wonders and fears what on earth they’re going to do next.
Birmingham: Kuszczak 6; Caddis 7, Morrison 7, Robinson 7, Grounds 6; Gleeson 6, Kieftenbeld 6, Davis 6 (Shinnie 74, 6); Gray 7, Donaldson 7 (Solomon-Otabor 87, -), Maghoma 7
Subs not used: Legzdins, Toral, Spector, Lowry, Brock-Madsen
Goals: Robinson 24 (assisted Gray), Caddis 63 (penalty, won Donaldson)
Bookings: Caddis 67 (kicking ball away)
QPR: Green 6; Perch 4, Onuoha 5, Hall 7, Konchesky 4; Henry 5, Sandro 6 (Tozser 72, 5); Phillips 5, Fer 6 (Luongo 71, 7), Chery 6; Emmanuel-Thomas 7 (Polter 84, -)
Subs not used: Doughty, Faurlin, Smithies, Angella
Goals: Phillips 16 (assisted Onuoha)
Bookings: Perch 24 (foul), Onuoha 63 (dissent)
Referee – Carl Boyeson (East Yorkshire) 5 The penalty was, perhaps, a soft award although having given the ball away and allowed a cross to come in QPR have only themselves to blame. It was, however, in keeping with a fussy display overall, with far too much whistle. One in the first half awarded against Phillips when Gray obviously dived right in front of the linesman was fairly typical.
QPR Star Man – Grant Hall 7 Overall, defensively, QPR were a shambles again, but Hall had a very decent game personally, covering for the failings of the other three members of the back four., He looks good in the air, rarely losing a header, and his positional sense which often sees him sweeping in behind Onuoha or the full backs to clear up, is far ahead of his team mates.
Attendance – 19,161 (1,500 QPR approx) QPR travelled in decent numbers and noise, and the frustration towards the end was understanding. The nasty abuse of Polter less so, firstly because I’m not sure he’s ever been on the pitch long enough to do anything to warrant it, and secondly because actively trying to destroy one of your own players seems an odd way to go about supporting a club.
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