|Queens Park Rangers 2 v 1 Ipswich Town|
Saturday, 9th September 2017 Kick-off 15:00
Ipswich visit brings up 100 not out – Preview
Friday, 8th Sep 2017 15:52 by Clive Whittingham
The visit of Ipswich Town on Saturday marks 100 years of QPR playing at Loftus Road – the ground the club can’t live with, and can’t live without.
QPR (2-1-2, WDLWLL, 10th) v Ipswich Town (4-0-1, WWWWLL, 2nd)
Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Saturday September 9, 2017 >>> Kick Off 15.00 >>> Weather – Mostly decent, showers round kick off >>> Loftus Road, London, W12
Damn my alcohol-addled mind. Repeatedly charged with coming up with some favourite Loftus Road memories from 25 years of attendance, it keeps defaulting to Taye Taiwo tackling Danny Graham with his face. I mean sure running all over the top of champions-elect Leeds 4-1 had heart, but Taye Taiwo tackling Danny Graham with his face had Taye Taiwo tackling Danny Graham with his face.
Rangers' first game on the ground was against West Ham on September 8, 1917, which means that, bar a brief sojourn in White City, we’ve been mostly making a mess of things but very occasionally doing something incredibly special in the same place for 100 years today. And that’s got everybody feeling very nostalgic because while men struggle to express emotions and feelings in important everyday scenarios, leading to suicide being the biggest killer of males under 50, one thing they can do is go massively over-the-top about the significance in their lives of a last-minute Paul Furlong winner in an ultimately meaningless home game against Leicester City.
To its parishioners, Loftus Road is our home against which we will not have a word said. The history of the place, the close-proximity to the pitch, the atmosphere you can get going in there even with a small crowd, it’s location in London, the feel of it at a night game… all of this stuff is, and should be, absolutely treasured by us all. As one football club after another moves into a stadium that looks the same as a dozen others in the middle of buttfuck nowhere, condemning themselves to a lifetime of traipsing three quarters of a mile through a retail park from a Harvester to a silent ground with 10,000 empty seats in it, so the uniqueness of places like Loftus Road grows in importance. Importance to the sport as a whole – we’re just lucky enough to live there.
So there’s no leg room, and the tickets are expensive because there are so few seats, and the majority of views are restricted, and the concourses are so dark and narrow as to be borderline unsafe, and the food is awful, and the queues for everything are unmanageable, and Fukushima is a veritable honeymoon destination when compared to the Ellerslie Road Toilets… but so what? I’d rather felate John Prescott after he’s spent a long, hot afternoon gardening than watch my team play in anything like the Ricoh Arena every other week.
To the bean counters, Loftus Road is a millstone round QPR’s neck. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t use “bean counters” as an insult – QPR could have done with some more prudent counting of beans when they actually had some beans to count.
The cost of maintaining the place, the cost of keeping it within Football League codes, the cost of drainage, the cost of policing and road closures… all of this is far, far higher than it would be for a new stadium. Following our two recent promotions to the Premier League it was discovered that rules and regulations brought in since our last top flight stint to appease our Sky Overlords and provide facilities for excitable no-nothing Asian correspondents whenever Man Utd came to visit meant seats had to be ripped out to accommodate new press benches, and views from the away end were obliterated by a TV studio (which has been used no more than half a dozen times since it went up) being hung from the Ellerslie Road roof. The demands of modern football, the realities of health and safety laws, the vanity of previous chairmen, has all nibbled away at the ground’s capacity to the point now where it’s barely got 18,000 seats in, and a significant amount of those can’t see the pitch properly. The line of executive boxes down the side of the pitch mask wholly inadequate hospitality facilities – QPR lose money against 30 or 40 other clubs every time they play at home because they can accommodate hundreds of people for dinner, drinks etc and we can’t. QPR no longer has a Player of the Year Dinner and Dance because there’s no room to host it at Loftus Road, and everywhere else in London is too expensive.
QPR fans with Loftus Road are like a keen smoker with cigarettes. It’s killing us. Slowly, one game at a time, we are becoming less and less healthy than other clubs with new stadiums because of it. QPR costs £9m to run before a wage is paid, and our season ticket revenue is just £5.6m. We know it as well, but we love how it tastes and feels. Southampton, Derby, Leicester, maybe soon Brentford, drive past us with their better players, better bank balances and brighter futures, watching us smoking outside the hospital doors and think “look at those fucking idiots, they’ll be dead soon” while we close our eyes, take a long drag, and remember the noise when Jamie Mackie ran through on goal in the last minute of that game against Liverpool.
I go round and round and round with this, heart vs head vs heart vs head vs heart. You look at the accounts and the maths and you listen to Lee Hoos and you know he’s right. QPR, in their current state, with their current stadium, and their current training ground situation, require a huge hand out from their owners every year just to tick over. This is a League One club punching up the weight categories as it stands, with supporters who still believe it should be pushing for the Premier League and spending accordingly. New stadiums have been tremendous catalysts for upward momentum in places like Hull, Wigan, Doncaster, Brighton, Swansea and Stoke. We can all tell our stories about coming up the steps and seeing the pitch for the first time. We’ve all got a version of the first time my dad took me to see QPR, and the first time I went without him after his death. But Loftus Road, for all the respective ghosts and memories we cling to, isn’t fit for purpose any more. You have to choose between bathroom or beer at half time, because the facilities mean you can’t do both. When our Sheff Wed correspondent Lovely Jon Hore (6ft 6ins) was at a loose end and came to the Reading game in August we got him a seat in South Africa Road and he literally, physically, couldn’t fit into it. Ask away fans, without the connection to the place we all have, and they’ll tell you it’s “a shithole”.
But then I look at Burnley, where Hoos was before, currently doing fine in the Premier League with an equally limited ground, much lower ticket prices, much lower sponsorship potential, and think it can be done. Palace, where the POTY dinner is held in a marquee on the pitch, have made Selhurst Park work for them. Huddersfield had one of the division’s lowest budgets last year and got promoted. It can be done. It can. QPR have just been guilty of disobeying the golden rule of Moneyball – if we think like the Yankees in here we will lose to the Yankees out there. Relying on spending money, buying players, paying big wages, to get us somewhere, of course, is never going to work at Loftus Road. But it’s not the only way to remove skin from your moggy.
QPR would be dead by now without Loftus Road. Had Chris Wright’s plan to move us out towards Heathrow, into an identikit purpose built stadium, come to fruition I honestly don’t think we’d exist today, given the financial collapse that his reign led to was only recoverable because the club owned Loftus Road, and the prime bit of real estate it sits on, and could borrow against it. That was true again when Paladini was in it up to his neck before the Britatore takeover. It may well be killing us now, but it’s saved us before. If only Wright had lowered his sights and bought the land behind the School End when he had the chance – what would the ground look like now? How much better off would we be?
For all the stadium moves that have worked, there are others where the clubs have stayed exactly the same as they were at their previous places – Derby, Middlesbrough, Cardiff, West Ham. QPR are not selling out the seats or the hospitality packages they currently have, which rather begs the question why they need a load more. Elsewhere new stadiums haven’t prevented the likes of Bolton or Darlington going to the wall, and in the case of Coventry City they actually contributed to it. They’re only a good thing if you get them right.
As well as the sentimental attachment to Loftus Road, that remains the fear should QPR ever get their plans at Old Oak Common or the Scrubs off the ground. Would you trust our club, our owners, with its and their track record and budget, to get it right? Bearing in mind many of the things we adore about our current castle and would want incorporated into a new one – overhanging tiers, close proximity to the pitch, square not a bowl – would all fall by the wayside of modern design and health and safety rules. Even Brighton’s beautifully appointed new place has a concrete walkway, a set of advertising hoardings, a perimeter track, another set of hoardings, and 10 yards of grass before you get to the touchline – because that’s how stadiums are built these days, however shit it may seem to you and me. As Hoos says, if you applied for planning permission for Loftus Road now – an 18,000 capacity football stadium on a four acre site – you’d never get it. When they look at sites for a potential new stadium, they consider nine acres “tight”. Start a thread on our message board about new stadiums and people will talk fondly about Genoa or Boavista. Ask the money men, or the architects, and they’ll swoon over The Emirates.
And then there’s the whole ‘what do we go to football for?’ side of this as well, which I’ve already whittered on too long to go into now. QPR aren’t going to win the Premier League, and have no interest in either of the cups, and that wouldn’t change greatly if they moved to a new stadium. As they’ve found in Derby, Middlesbrough, Sunderland and elsewhere, you can end up just watching pretty much what you always watched before, just in a shiny new stadium. And when your stadium is so well-located, so ingrained in the fabric of the club, so magical as ours is to us, is that really worth it? Would you still feel as compelled to go and watch Nedum Onuoha do that panicky chipped pass up to Matt Smith as you do now if it was happening in a half empty stadium at Willesden Junction every week? Would being safe in the knowledge that they’ve shifted a few more chicken supremes downstairs make up for not being at Loftus Road? I’m genuinely asking, not preaching.
Round and round and round. Heart v head.
Whatever happens, we’ll always have that night against Oldham. And Taye Taiwo tackling Danny Graham with his face.
Links >>> 100 years in our favourite place – Column >>> Ian Holloway Interview >>> Big Mick’s last laugh – Opposition Profile >>> Ipswich’s surprise start – Interview >>> Francis’ QPR on top of their game – History >>> Davies in charge – Referee
A thing of pure beauty and majesty…
Team News: In theory QPR have three signings made on the transfer deadline ready to make a debut here, although with Paul Smyth away on international duty with Northern Ireland U21s all week (and considered more of an U23 team prospect at this stage anyway) and Bright Osayi-Samuel also still very young and inexperienced at this level it’s likely only Exeter’s David Wheeler will be considered for starts straight away. Massimo Luongo has, as usual, started the season well, but if he stays true to the form of the last two campaigns he’ll now struggle following his first round-the-world trip with Australia this season. Jordan Cousins would be a decent replacement, but is only just back in training after his latest hamstring issue. Grant Hall’s return is close, but no cigar this week, Joel Lynch also remains a doubt.
Ipswich’s season started with promising youngster Andre Dozzell being ruled out for the whole campaign on day one, and injuries have continued to mount ever since. Summer signing Tom Adeyemi is finally set to make a debut this weekend after struggling to locate Ipswich on a map but his fellow former Cardiff City-man Emyr Huws is out with an ankle injury, though surgery is not required. Problems have been particularly acute at centre half where Luke Chambers (gangrene), Tommy Smith (no, not that one) and Adam Webster (leprosy) are all on their way back to fitness but likely to still miss out this weekend. Tristan Nydam had the fish on international duty with England U19s last week and is now also ruled out.
Elsewhere: Right, enough of that international football bollocks, time to knuckle back down to this crucial fifty seventh round of Championship action. You can tell it’s important, because we’ve started putting the league placings in at the top of the match preview. We’re into that vital last eight months of the season now where every single point matters and any hint of a three-match losing run must immediately be treated as a crisis and necessitate the immediate removal of whichever idiot manager oversaw it.
For instance, Theresa May is already chairing a meeting of the Cobra Committee to discuss what on earth we’re to do with Borussia Norwich whose brave new German-led era has yielded just four points so far, and a 4-0 loss to the Millwall Scholars last time out. They’re at home to the Birmingham Bad Knees this weekend, who bought a whole new team for ‘Arry to not turn up to train during the week on deadline day, including promising youngster Sam Gallagher - £43,000 a week cheap at half the price.
I was going to use the Bolton Brassics for that bit, but given they’ve financially collapsed again, have just two points to their name, have Champions Middlesbrough at home this weekend and probably won’t get out of the bottom three now they’re there for the rest of the season I reckon that is actually a bit of a crisis, no sarcasm required.
Between those two lie Nigel Clough’s Burton Albion, shorn of their best player Jackson Irvine by the Allam Tigers on deadline day and their record signing Liam Boyce through a season-ending injury. Things look bleak for them as they embark on a horrible September of difficult fixtures, starting with The Champions of Europe away. Well Run Brentford are second bottom, and lost three of their better players on the last day of the transfer window, but have been playing well enough to fancy their chances away to Big Racist John and the Boys.
If the Ipswich Blue Sox can win at Loftus Road on Saturday then it’s all Suffolk eyes on the Eighth Annual Neil Warnock Farewell Tour which has started with five wins from five to top the division, and this weekend rolls into Tarquin and Rupert’s summer lodgings. Sporting Wolverhampton aren’t far behind as they welcome the Scholars, while the Sheffield Red Stripes (away to Sunderland) and the Nottingham Trees (away to the Sheffield Owls in the Saturday evening TV game) have also both started well.
I’d talk about Reading v Bristol City if I thought any of you gave the slightest shit, but as you don’t that only leaves the Derby Sheep v the Allam Tigers which your mrs will be delighted to hear is live on the tellybox at 19.45 tonight. Stay safe kids.
Referee: Andy Davis, who has a real mixed bag history with QPR including the 6-0 home defeat by Newcastle last season, is in charge of this one. Unusually, it will mean he’s refereed Ipswich’s last two away games having also overseen their recent League Cup loss at Crystal Palace. Full details and stats here.
Our stats man, Opta editor and QPR fan Jack Supple, tells us…
QPR:September used to be a productive month for the QPR team of the 1990s, but Rangers haven’t won any of their last 13 matches in September in all competitions (D6 L7) since a 2-0 win over Middlesbrough in 2013. Better news, QPR have won seven of their last nine Championship fixtures at Loftus Road (L2), scoring 2+ goals in each victory. The R’s have won their last four home league games against Ipswich, with each win coming under a different manager (Neil Warnock, Harry Redknapp, JFH and Ian Holloway). No Championship player has provided more assists than Luke Freeman (7) since he made his QPR debut in February.
Ipswich: Only Birmingham and the bottom two scored fewer goals than Ipswich’s 48 last season, and yet Town have started this campaign in free-scoring form with 12 goals from seven games in all comps including four in an away win at Millwall in August. In the league they’ve scored nine goals from just 34 shots, and conceded only four from 82. In their recent 2-0 home win against Brentford the visitors had 65% of the possession and 22 shots on goal compared to just five from Ipswich. Ipswich haven’t kept a clean sheet in their last 12 away league games against QPR, since Richard Wright recorded one on the opening day of the 1997/98 season.
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, who was spot on with his Cardiff score and scorer, tells us…
"I actually hate the international break, just like I imagine most on here do. Playing smaller nations for easy three points and qualification for a competition that we subsequently fail in is a real grind. I've been to the last two tournaments too and gone through the let down and disappointment. Give me QPR and week in week out football, that's my drug..
“Watching the interviews with our new signings, I believe Wheeler is going to become a very shrewd signing and a player that the fans will relate to and back positively on the pitch. A very Holloway-type of signing and yes the big step up could be a gamble but I've heard good things about this player from a manager at work, whose son is heavily involved with Exeter and also held the player in high regard.
“We return after the break playing a very tidy Ipswich side, managed by the old smoother Mick McCarthy. Ipswich have changed their style this season and I reckon this will be a pretty entertaining game with both sides attacking throughout. Both teams will score in this game and I'm going to stick my neck on the line and go for…
Craig’s Prediction: QPR 3 - 1 Ipswich. Scorer – Matt Smith
LFW’s Prediction: QPR 2-1 Ipswich. Scorer – Luke Freeman
The Twitter @loftforwords, @JTSupple
Pictures – Action Images
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