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City hunt QPR win as reward for sticking rather than twisting - Preview
Thursday, 13th Apr 2017 17:17 by Clive Whittingham
AS QPR continue to experiment for next season, Bristol City are just hoping they're still in this division in 2017/18 having kept faith with manager Lee Johnson when many others would have given up.
Bristol City (12-8-21, DWWLLW, 21st) v QPR (14-8-19, WDWLLL, 16th)
Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Friday April 14, 2017 >>> Kick Off 15.00 >>> Weather – Not as nice as it has been, not as bad as it could have been >>> Ashton Gate, Bristol
Two games in a weekend, six points up for grabs, everything can turn around very quickly again over the next couple of days, but as it stands Bristol City will be staying up with the manager they started the season with at the expense of three teams who have had eight different bosses between them since August.
While Rotherham have employed Alan Stubbs, Kenny Jackett and Paul Warne; Wigan have worked through Gary Caldwell, Warren Joyce and Graham Barrow; and The Mad Indian Chicken Farmers have employed Owen Coyle then Tony Mowbray (do you think the players even noticed there’d been a change?)… Bristol City started with Lee Johnson and will seemingly finish with him, possibly, still, in League One once more.
That seems rather strange. Johnson has a connection to City as a player, and his father was a successful manager here. He was poached from Barnsley in February last year where the bright, young, attacking team he assembled went on to win promotion and has taken this division be relative storm this season. But Johnson had been on an eight match losing run at Oakwell not long before he was approached to take over at Ashton Gate, is relatively inexperienced and after a bright start to this season has overseen a tumble down the division not seen since Mick McCarthy left Millwall top of the table to take the Ireland job only for them to end up relegated – City have lost 19 and drawn six of their last 31 league games and are fourth bottom.
A run of 12 defeats from 15 games over Christmas would have seen just about any other manager in the league sacked, and yet Johnson has hung on. This despite City’s team, on paper at least, looking good enough for a top half finish, with a striking partnership of Tammy Abraham and Matt Taylor surely better than at least half the division has to offer. They’ve shown this at times – a 4-0 win at Fulham, 4-0 win at home to Huddersfield, 3-1 at home to Villa, 1-0 at home to Leeds – and then at others they’ve lost 5-0 at Preston. Johnson the constant throughout.
This is a substantial buck of a growing trend. Football has worked itself into an invidious position with its managers where they have less power and less responsibility but still get blamed for everything far more quickly than they ever used to. A club could have boardroom issues, financial problems, an injury crisis, a small budget, a mad chairman, a difficult dressing room, a director of football buying the players – any number of things that make it more difficult to get a result at the weekend or make the manager less responsible for the failings of the team. But it’s still the manager who will carry the can, and usually in double quick time.
Look at the three teams in the Championship drop zone. Rotherham and Wigan both have the same issues around location, attendance and income – they simply cannot afford to compete at this level. Their response to this is to sack their manager, repeatedly. Blackburn are where they are because they’re owned by a bunch of no-nothing fucknuggets from India who are running the club into the ground while Football League chief Shaun Harvey fiddles about with his precious B Teams in the Football League Trophy and gives interviews saying the league is in its best health ever. Even if they hadn’t swapped Owen Coyle for Tony Mowbray – a footballing equivalent of turning a broken machine off and on again – they’d still be in the same shit, the manager is not the problem there.
Supporters have become used to three consecutive defeats meaning the manager is under pressure, and five means the sack, and behave accordingly – howling for a sacking after what might have been little more than a bad/unlucky month. Players know it too – so if they don’t like the guy, or things are a bit tough, they down tools, knowing that he’ll be gone before they do. The manager is expendable, the players – apparently – are not.
Football has destroyed its own ability to impose discipline on its own dressing rooms, and it’s done it chasing an impossible dream. There have been 15 sackings in our division this year, including four clubs (Forest, Derby, Rotherham and Wigan) who’ve changed twice, but still only three will be promoted and three are definitely going to go down.
Take our own example. Few would pine for a return to Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s football, few would argue we’re not better off under Ian Holloway, few would argue the team hasn’t improved, but in pure terms of results and league position QPR were seventeenth when Hasselbaink was sacked and they’re sixteenth now. There has been no material difference on the league table for making the change, and we’re clinging to the hope the improvements we’ve seen in personnel and style of play will manifest itself in a better league position next season – otherwise, presumably, we’ll be pulling the trigger again.
While I do have a strong suspicion Bristol City are backing the wrong horse, and could well pay for that with their place in the division, it is at least refreshing to see a club stopping to wonder whether the manager is the main problem and whether he can be replaced with anything better mid-season. It may well not work for City with Johnson, but it would benefit many other clubs to adopt a similar attitude rather than continuing to rattle through bosses when they’re not the problem.
Idrissa Sylla’s second half goal from Massimo Luongo’s brilliant cross gave QPR a 1-0 win at Loftus Road when these sides met for the first time this season.
Team News: Difficult to know what Ian Holloway’s tombola selection machine will belch out from one week to the next but what we do know is Jordan Cousins is out for the season, Jay Emmanuel Thomas is having a swazzy time being unavailable to play for his weekly wage, and a double Bank Holiday weekend probably means we’re going to need eyes on Steven Caulker for the duration less he gives his mile wide self-destruct button a big press again. Karl Henry is in the dog house, Jack Robinson started last week so probably won’t play again this side of the next doomsday but James Perch’s deliberate attempt to get himself the Easter weekend off by killing a man to death in the defeat to Brighton was thwarted by lenient refereeing so he’ll have to travel.
QPR’s sacrificial lamb of Wembley, Gary O’Neil, is out with gangrene, but Bosnian striker Milan Djuric has returned to training after a brief flirtation with scientology. Other than that it’s a fully fit and available squad for the hosts.
Elsewhere:Well it’s that big one tonight between Wigan Warriors and Barnsley which has had home counties housewives frothing at the minge all week. Caretaker Wigan boss Graham Barrow says he hasn’t stopped believing, though it wasn’t made entirely clear what in.
We’re all playing twice this weekend, as if we haven’t been force-fed enough of this shit already, and that means ten matches at all sorts of weird and wonderful times on Friday. Leddersford, to prove they’re ‘ard, have stuck with a Saturday fixture against Reading and will then play again the day after at Tarquin and Rupert’s riverside retreat.
Seven matches, including our own, at 15.00 on Friday. All, just about, have something on them, so reading down from the top… Derby Sheep look to prolong their faint play-off hopes with a win at Brentford, Preston Knob End’s are all but over following defeat at Leeds but they go again at promotion chasing Borussia Huddersfield, Taquin and Rupert are spending the Bank Holiday on the Norfolk Broads with a game at Norwich worked in – Norwich’s seven goals against Reading last time out means they’re second top scorers in the division despite sitting tenth.
The Mad Indian Chicken Farmers are four adrift of Bristol City so really need something away to fellow strugglers Nottingham Trees, who can still be dragged in themselves should Blackburn win. Likewise Birmingham, where a vote of confidence in Gianfranco Zola (shouldn’t have appointed him in the first place you absolute weapon) doesn’t inspire greatly ahead of this week’s visit to Relegated Rotherham. Sheffield Owls have competition for the final play-off spot, and The Seventh Annual Neil Warnock Farewell Tour would love a Hillsborough victory on the commemorative t-shirt.
Three games in the evening, starting with Wolverhampton Wolves v Brighton and ending with Champions Newcastle v The Champions of Europe with the draw between Nigel Clough’s Burton Albion and Mick McCarthy’s free-scoring, free-wheeling Ipswich Globetrotters in between.
Time for light ales then we go again on Monday.
Referee: Jeremy Simpson is the man in the middle for this one and although he was in charge for the pre-Christmas loss at Rotherham, of which we never want a repeat again, he was also the referee for the end-of-season meeting with Bristol City last year which Rangers won 1-0 thanks to a 55 yard scorcher from Karlinho Henry. More details here.
Bristol City: Three wins in five matches, including a 4-0 home humping of promotion chasing Huddersfield, have shown some signs of life in Bristol City, though they lost the other two 2-0 at Brentford and 5-0 at Preston in between. That snapped a run of seven without a win, one win in 17 and two wins in 23 going right back to the first meeting between the sides this season. All of this after starting the season with three straight wins, and another four maximums strung together in September. At home they’ve won nine, drawn four and lost seven with Newcastle, Brighton, Brentford, Preston, Reading, Cardiff and Fulham the teams to have won. Though they come into this with two home wins in a row against in from Wolves and Huddersfield, prior to that they’d gone through ten home matches in all competitions beating only Rotherham, including a draw with League One Fleetwood in the FA Cup.
QPR: Ian Holloway’s time in charge so far has been extreme sets of results appearing in little clusters. Six straight defeats followed by three wins in four followed by no wins in five followed by five wins in seven and now three defeats in a row leading into a tough looking Easter. Of his 26 games in charge, 22 have been settled by a single goal difference or drawn, including a dozen 2-1 wins or losses. Away from home QPR have won six (Cardiff, Wigan, Fulham, Wolves, Birmingham, Reading) and drawn four of 20 overall this season, winning three and drawing two of Holloway’s 12 road games. This is the third consecutive Friday game for QPR, which isn’t great news…
Prediction: I think we’re going to win. Why not? Sun’s out guns out.
LFW’s Prediction: Bristol City 0-2 QPR. Scorer – Luke Freeman.
The Twitter @loftforwords
Pictures – Action Images
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