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Norwich City 2 v 0 Queens Park Rangers
SkyBet Championship
Wednesday, 16th August 2017 Kick-off 19:45
Direction of travel - Preview
Wednesday, 16th Aug 2017 09:18 by Clive Whittingham

QPR are Norwich City on Wednesday night, two clubs that have embraced a director of football model in recent times and done the opposite of what many pundits expected in the early games of the season.


Queens Park Rangers v Norwich City

Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Wednesday August 16, 2017 >>> Kick Off 19.45 >>> Weather - Bloody lovely >>> Carrow Road, Norwich

There is, buried deep within the LFW archives, a piece like this written by me stating that the continental director of football model will never work in British football and managers should just be left in charge of the whole lot. It cites Harry Redknapp’s rejuvenation of Champions league-bound Spurs following several years of over spend and under achievement under DOF Damien Comolli.

What can I say I was young and naïve, I needed money, I did some things I’m not proud of.

The logic was sort of sound. Managers were being held accountable, and sacked, for the performance of players they’d had foisted upon them. When Spurs abandoned it and got an old style English manager in that team looked really good until Redknapp believed his bum chums in the press and thought he was going to get the England job and took his eye off the ball. A wonderful team to watch, led from the front by Gareth Bale who Redknapp was absolutely not ever on the verge of offloading to Nottingham Forest on the cheap – just as he was never trying to give Matt Phillips and £1m to Wigan Athletic in exchange for Callum McManaman. Comolli, on the other hand, seemed like one of those emperor’s new clothes types whose connections and reputation far exceeded any actual results and achievements.

But it was wrong then and it’s especially wrong now. The average tenure of managers is even shorter now than it was then and to just hang the whole budget and signing strategy on the whim of one man who probably won’t be here in nine months’ time – even if, like Swansea and Southampton, you have some joined up thinking in the sort of managers you employ – is a road to ruin. Managers know the score, they know they’re only ever three defeats away from a “crisis” in our loathsome world of instant gratification, so given the choice between giving a 19-year-old a run of 15 games to make his mistakes and find his feet, or bring a senior professional in on loan from somewhere else what they going to do? If a key player gets injured for three months are they happily going to sit there for three months and try and muddle their way through with what they’ve got? Or are they going to demand a signing to replace him? Always the latter, and who can blame them given the rate they get fired at?

But that is, as QPR found with Redknapp in particular, a road to ruin. QPR are in the state they are in now because of his reign and Hughes before him, under the charge of Tony Fernandes. Who can forget that when Charlie Austin suffered a dislocated shoulder ruling him out for up to two months Redknapp was allowed to add Kevin Doyle and Will Keane and Mobido Maiga and Yossi Benayoun to replace him. An £80m+ wage bill in the Championship.

QPR needed a director of football more than any other club in the country. Not only to set some sort of strategy around signings, but also to say no. Who knows where we might be now had we had somebody like that between the manager and Fernandes when the money was flowing, rather than just handing it all over to two managers and their agent mates.

We’ve got one now of course, a club legend no less, and people bitch and moan about him and ask what he does. These people presumably part of the first manned mission to Mars between 2012 and 2015.

I am interested to know, however, how Les Ferdinand’s role has changed since Ian Holloway came in. While talk of Ferdinand picking the team was knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing, full-frontal-lobotomy moronic, and while signings like Nasser El Khayati clearly showed that if the manager wanted a player and he was within budget then he could have him, he did seem to be very involved with who we signed and why. The average age of the squad came down markedly, players were bought with clear sell-on potential in mind and profit has subsequently been made on Seb Polter, Tjaronn Chery and others.

This is how it should be. I like this. Not all the signings worked out but at least there was a logic and purpose behind them. At least there was some joined up thinking. When you’re appointing managers as diverse as Luigi De Canio, Iain Dowie, Paolo Sousa, Jim Magilton, Paul Hart, Neil Warnock, Mark Hughes and Harry Redknapp and just letting them sign whoever they want to play their system it’s little wonder your squad ends up an expensive, disjointed, unworkable, bloated mess. The director of football, in my mind, is there to ensure that even as managers come and go the type and style of player you bring in remains constant. Personally I think Ferdinand was doing a good job.

But with Holloway arriving, and a quick raft of player departures, followed by the arrival of his old muckers Gary Penrice and Mel Johnson (both of whom I really like) as the scouts I wonder if Ferdinand’s role has changed at all. Does he simply take away the budget, contract and academy concerns from Holloway? Or is he still intrinsically involved in the type of player we bring in? I really hope it’s the latter, because it’s absolutely vital and I think he’s pretty good at it. Going back to doing things on the say so of whoever the manager is at any given moment would be a mistake. One for the next fans’ forum perhaps.

On Wednesday we go to Norwich who looked at Huddersfield out playing them twice last season and flying past them to the Premier League on less than a quarter of their budget and thought not just “I want a bit of that” but, in fact, “I want exactly that”. They hired Stewart Webber, the sporting director who oversaw the appointment of David Wagner at Huddersfield and the recruitment of his squad, to do the same for them. And he hasn’t strayed too far from the path, once again hiring the Borussia Dortmund Reserves manager – Daniel Farke this time – and signing a clutch of players from the less-fashionable clubs in Germany. There have, naturally, been the unproveable little lines fed into the press about how Farke was actually rated even higher than Wagner in Germany – by whom and for what… details, details.

They’ve started with a draw and a comfortable home defeat by Sunderland, defying pre-season expectations of a promotion push. QPR, meanwhile, have shrugged off prophecies of doom to stick four points on the board against two teams that were in the play-offs last season. It makes Wednesday night a good deal more interesting than it looked on paper when the fixtures came out and shows that even when you are doing the right things, there’s still no guarantees of success – particularly in this division.

Links >>> German lessons from Huddersfield – Oppo Profile >>> Norwich go German – Interview >>> Clint Hill interview – Podcast >>> Bruno’s knockout punch – History >>> Langford in charge – Referee

Never get tired of seeing this one. Which is just as well as it’s the only clip we’ve got.

Saturday

Team News: They’re still trying to untangle Idrissa Sylla’s neck so he’s not travelling and Yeni Ngbakoto remains sidelined with an ankle problem - though Yeni has still been called up by Dr Congo (inventor of Um Bongo) for the forthcoming international break. Grant Hall’s knee tendinitis is likely to keep him out until after the international break. Even Jordan Cousins’ mum has forgotten who Jordan Cousins is. Steven Caulker is being eased back in with half pints of Bass shandy.

Persistent scourge of QPR Alex Pritchard is mercifully out after an ankle operation while Jamal Lewis has knee knack. Ivo Pinto (gigantism), Tom Trybull (dodgy curry) and Timm Klose (too many Ms) are all out while Wes Hoolahan has been trying to reach an organic breakfast cereal from the top shelf of the Norwich Waitrose for two days now.

Elsewhere: The Mercantile Credit Trophy’s early rounds have been a chastening experience for some who expected more, while others who went in fearing the worst are having a lovely old time. Ipswich Blue Sox, for instance, awful last season and beaten 6-1 by Charlton in pre-season, beat the Millwall Scholars 4-3 last night with a goal two minutes from time (bet that went daaaaghn wewll at The Den) to make it three wins from three. Perhaps less surprisingly, Sporting Wolverhampton did likewise at Tigers Tigers Rah Rah Rah and the Eighth Annual Neil Warnock Farewell Tour is starting to feel a lot like the Third Annual Neil Warnock Farewell Tour as they beat Sheffield Red Strips to maintain a 100% start.

Not such happy times for Big Racist John and the Boys who lost 2-1 at Reading last night and have one point from three games played. Astonishing really to think that signing a huge collection of big name players who were decent in 2008 on extortionate wages hasn’t brought immediate success. If only there was a blue and white hooped case study they could have looked to for guidance on such matters.

Brentford, whose equivalent of this website had them down to finish third this season, shipped a ninety-eighth-minute goal at home to Bristol City last night and they too only have one point from three games played so far. ‘Arry’s “impossible” job with the Birmingham Bad Knees continued with a 0-0 draw at home to the Bolton Brassics brought about entirely by the club’s unwillingness to let him sign more players – you may be itching to point out that Bolton are under a transfer embargo and not allowed to sign any players at all but you can hush your damn mouth.

Everybody else is happily settling into the middle of the road where almost all of them will stay for the rest of time/until May. Barnsley got their season off and running at the third attempt by beating the Nottingham Trees 2-1, the Derby Sheep were 1-0 winners at home to Preston Knob End but still (despite the £7m capture of Tom Lawrence, dear at half the price) look slow to me, and the Champions of Europe drew 0-0 at home to Tarquin and Rupert and their travelling thousands. Champions Middlesbrough beat Nigel Clough’s Burton Albion 2-0.

Two games tonight including our own. The Sheffield Owls have stuttered to begin with while Sunderland have gone off a lot better than many (ok, us) expected.

Referee: Oliver Langford, usually one of the Championship’s more lenient officials, sent five players off in six games in the middle of last season including Robbie Brady, very harshly, in Norwich’s New Year’s game at Brentford. He soon reverted to type however and those were his only red cards of the season. He refereed QPR three times in 2016/17 and all three ended in QPR wins which is quite something given our form. Full details here.

Form

OPta’s QPR supporting stats man Jack Supple (@JTSupple) tells us…

Norwich: Norwich have lost just one of their last 14 home league games against QPR (W10 D3), including a 4-0 hammering on the final day of 2016-17. They’ve started this season with a 1-1 draw at Fulham and 3-1 home loss to Sunderland. Last season their total of 85 goals scored was bettered only by Newcastle and Fulham, with champions Brighton and the rest of the play-off sides all scoring fewer. They beat Reading 7-1, Blackburn 4-1, Brentford 5-0 and Forest 5-1 along the way. However, they conceded 69, which is five more than relegated Wigan, and a total only surpassed by Rotherham and Forest. With the third best attack in the league, they were ninth with a goal difference of just +16. Sunderland winning 3-1 here with 29% of the possession and just five shots on target suggests the leaks in that defence haven’t quite been plugged yet.


QPR QPR have won just once in their last 11 away league games (D3 L7) and are eight without a win on their travels in the Championship since the 4-1 success at Birmingham in February. Since his debut in February, Luke Freeman has provided more assists (five) and created more chances (30) than any other QPR player. Since the start of last season Massimo Luongo has made 126 tackles in the Championship, the third highest individual total behind David Edwards and Luke Ayling. At the weekend, Ian Holloway named an unchanged starting XI from the season opener at home to Reading – the R’s haven’t named an unchanged line-up in three consecutive league games since April 2011 under Neil Warnock (Barnsley, Derby, Cardiff).

Prediction: This year’s Prediction League is being sponsored by The Art of Football and we’ll be handing out prizes from their QPR Collection at the end of October, January and to the overall winner. Last year’s winner Southend_Rss tells us…

“The games are coming thick and fast and straight away we go in to another tough away game. We will want some sort of revenge after the last time we played there. However, they had a blip against Sunderland and I'd expect a reaction from them. Unfortunately I can see a defeat with this one, let's hope my personal bad start continues.”

Craig’s Prediction: Norwich 2-1 QPR. Scorer – Conor Washington

LFW’s Prediction: Norwich 2-2 QPR. Scorer – Conor Washington

The Twitter @loftforwords

Pictures – Action Images


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terryb added 09:43 - Aug 16
Thanks Clive.

My expectations for tonight are that we will be far better than we were in May!

I would be very happy with a point, but if we continue to show that we are competitive I will be (reasonably) happy.

An unchanged side please!

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stuabd added 10:48 - Aug 16
Thanks, Clive. A great piece again.

I was just thinking about that article you wrote a few years back about how important the first 15 (?) games are in terms of how the top teams perform over the season. I remember you gave some examples of how teams had started well, then been mediocre and kind of crawled over the line. I think watford might have been one of the examples you gave. I know you've written loads over the last few years, but if you did remember the title or something, I'd love to re-read that one. I tried a few searches but didn't come up with anything.
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Northernr added 12:09 - Aug 16
Yeh there is a history in the Championship for teams to start well and then fall away - Cardiff I think were top or thereabouts when Ray Jones scored in the last minute there and ended up 15th.
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TacticalR added 15:23 - Aug 16
Thanks for your preview.

You need some kind of continuity in a club. In theory this can be provided by knowledgeable people on the board, but we haven't had those kind of people on the QPR board for many a year. So the continuity must be provided by the Director of Football. Obviously it's all going to work more smoothly if the DoF and the manager are on the same wavelength, and fortunately that seems to be the case at QPR at the moment.
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