Hull profit from Green’s latest catastrophic calamity – report
Saturday, 2nd Jan 2016 21:09 by Clive Whittingham
The latest in a string of mistakes by QPR’s goalkeeper Robert Green handed Hull City a last minute winner at Loftus Road on New Year’s Day.
Queens Park Rangers won just 11 of the 47 matches they played during 2015. Sadly, the romantic ideal that the dawning of a New Year may herald the start of some improvement is just as trite and doomed as the idea that QPR fail as badly as they do because of who the manager or the goalkeeper is.
Rangers will put their season tickets for 2016/17 on sale this week, a welcome change from the recent situation where prices were released in May and money had to be found one payday later by the end of June or you’d lose your seat. But the whole thing is based around what a bargain you’ll get if you renew at the early-bird prices – which are expensive for the Championship – if the club then gets promoted to the Premier League. They go up even more after that, apparently. There’s no mention, as yet, about what happens if the club is relegated to League One. It’s like it hasn’t been considered.
Manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink said after this latest loss, secured in absolutely farcical circumstances against Hull City at the home of football, the club “shouldn’t even be thinking about promotion” and though you’d think that’s rather stating the bloody obvious it does need saying. The club should, however, be starting to think about the very real possibility it may exit this league in the wrong direction.
Director of Football Les Ferdinand was at pains to point out last summer that it is very easy for clubs in QPR’s situation to drop straight through the Championship and into League One following relegation from the Premier League if they’re not extremely careful about it. The prime example is Wolves in 2012/13. Ferdinand spent the entire summer managing expectations, preaching caution, saying consolidation was the aim. He was exactly right, and while the football wasn’t particularly inspiring, the performances were inconsistent and a couple of London derbies went very badly, QPR made it to the middle of October this season in midtable with only four league defeats to their name.
Having steadied the ship in midtable, as they said was their aim, what they’ve done since, entirely of their own volition, is push the whole thing off the side of the cliff again, thinking maybe it can fly after all. This is now a club descending so rapidly it’s whistling through the air as it goes - again. Rangers have won twice in 12 matches, one of which thanks to a shambolic piece of goalkeeping, and have only won four of their last 20 matches. That is relegation form and QPR, who play four of their next five matches and six of the next nine away from home, are now just nine points from that relegation zone. They have won only seven times all season and accumulated 30 points – Wolves in 2012/13 had won nine times by this point and had 31.
The more concerning thing still, is that the R’s played reasonably against Hull – while obviously saddled with confidence and fitness issues – and still lost. The QPR players certainly weren’t wanting for effort. Who could you accuse of phoning it in? Quite the opposite in most cases – Seb Polter, Ale Faurlin, Grant Hall, Junior Hoilett and Tjaronn Chery in particular. Hull, third in the league, looked a better team on paper, are a far better team in practice, but would have had to settle for a point had Robert Green not decided to continue his own personal 2015 Year of the Wally Brain into 2016. QPR don’t win whether they play well or not, that’s a bad sign.
In an attempt to set a better tempo and tone after Monday’s dire draw here with Huddersfield, the R’s flooded forward from the kick off, attacking the Loft End in the first half unusually. Matt Phillips got going down the right and crossed low to the near post where Seb Polter found the ball just out of his reach. Hull responded in kind. Mo Diame’s strong, muscular running from midfield will be a key asset to them in the second half of the season if he stays through the January transfer window, stays interested and stays fit. The former West Ham man curled one wide of the top corner after three minutes.
I was impressed too with Sam Clucas, a summer signing from League One Chesterfield, who found good space at the back post coming in from his wing all evening and had a shot blocked from that position after 21 minutes.
But Rangers traded the punches well. Junior Hoilett looks like one of the few who is on an upward trajectory of form and confidence, and his energetic first half display was epitomised by an interception and pass to Polter on the quarter hour. The German rather got the ball tangled up in his feet as he searched for space in the area to shoot, and in the end his effort was repelled by the defenders. Hoilett, sadly, faded from the game after half time.
Both teams saw their centre backs – Curtis Davies for Hull, Grant Hall for Rangers – head well-taken corners back across the face of goal from a deep position in the area only for nobody to stick a boot in and convert the chance. Both teams caused further havoc from wide set pieces at the end of the half – Ale Faurlin almost scoring without realising when a clearance whacked against him and flew over, classy Scottish full back Andrew Robertson snapping a more conventional volley fractionally wide as the ball was cleared to the edge of the area.
Little to choose between the sides then, and so it continued after half time. Rangers appealed in vain to referee Keith Stroud that a swift counter attack between Faurlin and Tjaronn Chery had been interrupted illegally by a Hull hand as they tried to free Matt Phillips. Hull, meanwhile, continued to get Clucas, and on this occasion Robertson, free at the far post as balls were delivered from the right flank. Onuoha got across to block Robertson’s volley on the hour.
QPR had named Samba Diakite among the substitutes for the first time this season before the match, causing nothing short of hysteria in the Crown and Sceptre prior to kick off, though sadly they stopped short of sending him into the action despite him warming up in his full kit as if his introduction was imminent. Hull, for their part, took off the ineffective Ahmed Elmohamady and sent on Robert Snodgrass, which I mention only because the Scottish international is only now working his way back into first team football more than 18 months after suffering a horrific knee injury on his Hull debut on this ground at a time when he was one of the Premier League’s hottest properties. The very best of luck to him. Inspiration could be sought in the form of Ale Faurlin who never stopped trying to get Rangers around the park here in stark contrast to the efforts of his replacement against Huddersfield, Daniel Tozser.
The opening goal, when it came, reflected the extra quality in the Hull team, rather than the balance of play. QPR have Karl Henry in midfield, who certainly can’t ever be accused of hiding or not trying - despite now constant barracking from his own supporters which must have some effect on his performances – but also isn’t going to be troubling the notepads of too many scouts too soon. Hull, meanwhile, have Diame who was able to first catch Henry in possession, then shrug him aside, and then accelerate away from him into space in the QPR half without challenge far, far, far too easily. Given time to pick a cross he skilfully selected Abel Hernandez whose gentle finish from the edge of the area made the whole thing look very easy.
Referee Stroud might have done more to break up a prolonged, gratuitous, prayer meeting among the Hull players in the penalty area in the aftermath – and several flagrant examples of timewasting thereafter – but in the end he settled for merely adding five minutes to the end of the match and by the end of that we wished he hadn’t bothered at all.
Loftus Road had been morgue-like before this, and now the church was restless. Henry was replaced by Leroy Fer, resulting in a bizarre situation where the fans cheered the removal of one boo-boy target only to then abuse another coming on. Fer, looking absolutely bereft, contributed nothing in his 20 minute outing and now doesn’t even seem to be able to complete a simple ten yard pass to a team mate. The Dutchman, another who QPR were so excited about keeping they ripped up their plans for the whole season and set a course for the Premier League they simply don’t have the ship for.
Mind you, contribution isn’t any indicator of whether the current QPR crowd will stay with you or not. Few put as much into this game as Seb Polter and he crowned a tireless effort with a fantastic equaliser four minutes from time. First the German snapped a sharp pass wide to Matt Phillips - switched to the left by this point – then he turned and sprinted into the penalty area, arriving perfectly on time to power a fabulous header into the top corner from ten yards. This after 80 minutes of baiting and ridicule from sections of the home support.
Polter is an interesting example of how the dynamic of the crowd and the support has changed at Loftus Road since the club had money invested into it. Previously we absolutely revelled in having those unconventional, underdog players in our team. We considered them an embodiment of what we were as a club – making the most of what meagre attributes we’d been given to bloody the noses of the sport’s aristocracy. Maybe not technically the best, maybe a bit odd to watch, maybe a bit of a maverick, but 110% effort, totally committed and effective. “As long as they try, that’s all we can ask” used to be the refrain. “I don’t mind if they’re crap, as long as they’re trying.” We used to absolutely love somebody like that and make cult heroes of them. Jamie Mackie, Devon White, Danny Shittu... People who got somewhere because of their endeavour and attitude, rather than any given ability.
Now we absolutely pummel Polter, even when he's doing a good job for the team. He’s currently scoring and assisting goals regularly – bagging two of the last four himself and helping to set the other two up. We seem to think we as a club should be above this sort of basic footballer, and should be out there spending yet more money on supposedly accomplished strikers and big names, like that's worked at all for us over the past five years. “Spoilt” isn’t the right word for a group of supporters who have had so much festering shit foisted upon them over the past few years and kept coming back for more regardless – 11 wins in an entire year, and by the way we’re sticking £20 on your already expensive season ticket just the latest whack in the gentleman’s area – but we’ve certainly been changed, for the worse, by the money coming into Rangers in exactly the same way the club has as a whole.
Polter should be a fucking hero. Big German lump with ridiculous hair, scoring and setting up goals despite seeming to have no natural technique or ability - or, more kindly, an unconventional style - in a team that's struggling to score goals at all and is playing poorly. He’s old QPR.
And he should, should, (should), have been able to kick back in his lederhosen last night and reflect on a point won from the third placed team in the league thanks to his fine goal. That he’s not is down to somebody who does actually embody what we are as a club these days.
There had been a warning that the scoring wasn’t done in the immediate aftermath of Polter’s goal. Clucas was free at the back post yet again but volleyed over when it seemed easier to score as another right wing cross sailed over a lopsided QPR’s defence. QPR have two right backs, Darnell Furlong and Michael Harriman, and should be picking one of them in James Perch’s absence. Not only because that’s how it should work – player gets injured, player is replaced by his understudy, rather than rejig the whole team and start fielding up to half a dozen players out of position – but because even a mediocre, or inexperienced, right back is still a right back while a centre back, particularly Nedum Onuoha, will always be out of position there.
Having got away with that what happened next defied belief.
Except it didn’t, because Robert Green has been doing shit like this with increasing frequency. He has cost QPR seven points this season alone with catastrophic, basic goalkeeping mistakes against Nottingham Forest, Brighton and now Hull. He has, in my opinion, cost us even more than that, with weak goals conceded at Charlton and early against Fulham. Last season, there was the Chelsea goal, and against Spurs at home and Hull away he developed an unhappy knack of charging off his goal line and diving full length towards crosses with his fists clenched. Crosses he was never likely to get to, crosses he had no right to come for. Harry Kane in the first instance, and Dame N’Doye in the second, were allowed to head into totally unguarded nets as a result.
Green is a classic ‘new QPR’ player. An ageing big name in the game, paid far more than his ability justifies, picked regardless of his form, and held up as an example of why we think we should be great. QPR’s continued faith in their accident-prone stopper is ridiculous not only because he is now throwing the ball into the back of his own net with increasing frequency, but also because he’s neither young nor cheap. He’s exactly the sort of player a relegated club needs to be cutting adrift, to be replaced with a younger cheaper option. That’s how you don’t breach Financial Fair Play. QPR have left one younger, cheaper, better option on the bench so long he left and are now doing exactly the same thing with Alex Smithies. Not only are we not doing what you have to do when you’re relegated – with Fer, with Sandro, with Green – we’re doing the exact opposite. We’re putting them all at the front and centre of the team, ahead of the players who should be replacing them and are now left kicking their heels getting grumpy. We expect their presence to be the difference between us and the other sides in the division. They are the difference, but not in the way we want/think.
The latest reward for this absolute fuckwittery was Green once again springing from his line for a cross Grant Hall was about to calmly volley away into the stand – as his excellent positional sense has seen him do on countless occasions. Green punched it straight into City substitute Adama Diomande and it bounced into the open net. He was, justifiably, given very short shift by Hall and the other defenders when he stood up and had the temerity to blame them for his own, latest, obvious, amateur-standard judgement.
But QPR aren’t poor because the goalkeeper is poor – though it’s certainly not fucking helping – nor are they poor because of the manager’s failings, despite Hasselbaink still searching for his first win after six matches. Despite that, the first calls for his head were audible around the ground, the first “Chelsea cunt” call reported by plenty, and predictable pleas for Neil Warnock to return.
Neil Warnock’s four game stint will hang over the Dutchman as long as the poor results continue. But the “We want our Warnock back” sentiment ignores the fact that Warnock himself has said he doesn’t want a full time manager role again, that Warnock’s personal circumstances meant he couldn’t commit to the club for more than eight weeks, and that Warnock’s four matches in charge were desperately dull affairs played almost entirely without a striker on the field. It also ignores that successive managerial changes have brought no improvement whatsoever in the team or its results.
It’s based on his magnificent historical achievement at the club which is beyond reproach or question, but more recently on some idea that we were awful under Chris Ramsey, awful under Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, but wonderfully successful under Warnock. He presided over a dreadful 0-0 draw with lowly Preston and a 1-0 loss at Middlesbrough every bit as bad as what went before and has come since. He beat a Leeds United team who’d lost at home to Rotherham the week before thanks to a goal from a set piece by Charlie Austin – who would make any QPR team, and therefore manager, look infinitely better. He beat a dreadful Reading side about to sack their own manager thanks to the home goalkeeper throwing the ball into his own net in a style so comical even Green hasn’t tried it yet. Buoyed by the euphoria of that last minute win he came out afterwards and said he might have the bug again, upon which everybody has leapt and assumed he was the answer all along.
There’s nowhere near as much to go on as people will make out, with increasing ferocity, during a tough looking January for Rangers.
The New Year brought a joint message from the co-chairmen Ruben Gnanalingam and Tony Fernandes in the programme and the official website which included the priceless line “patience will be required”. Excuse me while I laugh until my oesophagus ruptures and blood flows out between my teeth. Do remind me again, who was it that took to social media a few months back with Rangers safely midtable to say that while hard work on the training ground was all well and good “promotion means everything to me”? Was it the supposedly overly negative, pessimistic, melodramatic “blogerati” through our websites and podcasts? Was it the Loftus Road regulars who have, for all their faults, turned up in big numbers to two dreadful Christmas games in quick succession? Was it the managers who have lost their jobs or the players who are copping varying levels of abuse because of those raised expectations?
That Rotherham match is looming large.
QPR: Green 2; Onuoha 5, Hall 6, Angella 6, Konchesky 6; Faurlin 6, Henry 5 (Fer 71, 4); Phillips 6, Chery 6 (Luongo 85, -), Hoilett 6 (Mackie 78, 6); Polter 6
Subs not used: Smithies, Tozser, Diakite, Petrasso
Goals: Polter 86 (assisted Phillips)
Yellow Cards: Hoilett 73 (foul), Angella 90+1 (foul)
Hull City: McGregor 6; Odubajo 6, Davies 6, Maguire 6, Robertson 7; Elmohamady 5 (Snodgrass 65, 6), Livermore 6, Diame 6 (Diomande 86, -), Clucas 7; Hernandez 6 (Huddlestone 81, -), Meyler 6
Subs not used: Taylor, Maloney, Jukupovic, Aluko
Goals: Hernandez 61 (assisted Diame), Diomande 90 (assisted Green)
Yellow Cards: Maguire 34 (foul)
QPR Star Man – Seb Polter 6 I’m making a bit of a cheap point really, but if people can go over the top with their criticism and piss taking of him then I can go a bit over the top the other way. Like Faurlin, Hoilett, Hall and Chery in particular I thought he gave absolutely everything he had to get QPR something from this game, but he got a bloody good goal as well.
Referee – Keith Stroud (Hampshire) 7 Controlled the game reasonably well, all cards justified, but could have clamped down more on the time wasting at 1-0. Mind you, he did add five minutes, which we now rather wish he hadn’t.
Attendance – 16, 205 (700 Hull approx) Just about the worst atmosphere I can remember at a QPR game. Totally silent, then grumpy, then nasty. I don’t blame any of us really, after everything that’s gone before it’s a bit much to expect us to be all up and dancing about isn’t it? It just feels like the life has drained out of the crowd now, people are utterly miserable and fed up of the whole thing. That said, the stick handed down to limited players who are trying their best but simply aren’t good enough, isn’t helping. The longer we keep making scapegoats of individual players or managers the longer it’ll be before we start moving forwards.
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