|Preston North End v Queens Park Rangers|
Saturday, 4th August 2018 Kick-off 15:00
Seen this film before - Preview
Monday, 27th Nov 2017 07:48 by Clive Whittingham
With Alex Baptiste babysitting a creche rather than marshalling a defence, QPR have it all to do to avoid a fourth straight defeat at home to Brentford this evening.
QPR (5-6-7, DWWLLL, 16th) v Brentford (5-8-5, DWWWLD, 15th)
Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Monday November 27, 2017 >>> Kick Off 19.45 >>> Weather – Cold, damp >>> Loftus Road, London, W12
I come back to this example a lot, but it’s very pertinent now, considering it’s happened again exactly as it did then.
In 1990/91 QPR, under Don Howe’s management, lost all their defenders to injury. Then they lost all their replacement defenders to injury. Paul Parker, Alan McDonald, Danny Maddix, all of them injured. The team went ten matches without a win, including eight straight defeats, before scrambling a frenetic, defensively shambolic, 3-2 home win against Sunderland at Loftus Road just before Christmas.
Rangers didn’t sack Howe, because you didn’t then – or, at least, not as readily as you do now. Unless the veteran boss was going around the training ground knee-capping his own defenders in order to make the challenge of keeping Queens Park Rangers in the Old First Division even more difficult, everybody knew the problems weren’t his fault, and that any new manager would simply inherit the same packed treatment room.
Some of the ways QPR worked their way out of that hole are still talked about today. Gus Caesar, on loan from Arsenal, often named among the worst ever players to pull on the Hoops. How many other clubs remember a player that did a couple of months on loan with them in 1990? Bobby Gould, hired as assistant manager, brought a little black book of lower league contacts from which Darren Peacock and Andy Tillson emerged – all three of them still talked about fondly to this day. Peacock, a couple of hundred grand from Hereford, would join Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle for nearly £3m. Again, how many clubs can tell you who was their assistant manager in 1990? QPR stuck together, they recognised the problem, they acknowledged nobody was at fault for it, they worked their way out of it. Howe’s team lost only one of 12 after Christmas, winning eight, and formed the basis of the side that beat Man Utd and title winning Leeds 4-1 apiece the following year, then finished fifth in the inaugural Premier League.
These days, Howe would have been sacked. The new manager would have inherited the same squad, with the same problem that all of the defenders were injured, but that wouldn’t have mattered. See Everton, who sacked Ronald Koeman, with nobody in line to replace him, and are doing just as badly without him while scrabbling round trying to find somebody else to take the job on. West Brom sack Tony Pulis because they’re close to the relegation zone and a bit bored with his football, and are now looking for a relegation escape specialist (he’d be the favourite for the job if he hadn’t just been sacked from it) and seem to be considering that well-known exponent of thrilling football Gary Megson. For football clubs, and football chairmen, and football fans, sacking the manager has just become the first thing you do, the first port of call, if anything goes slightly awry. Then they work back from there.
Which brings us to QPR. Many of their own supporters expected Rangers to be right in a relegation scrap this season, many of them said they’d be absolutely delighted to finish in a safe midtable position. Lo, they are currently well above the relegation zone in midtable, Not only that but they’ve made it this far with a colossal injury list. And yet the calls are already starting for another managerial change and they will grow louder if tonight’s match with Brentford ends in a fourth consecutive defeat.
Ian Holloway, who took the job on knowing he’d have no money to spend, who has attempted to get QPR playing attractive and attacking football this season when it would have been easy to punt it long to Matt Smith and point to limited resources, who has been told to keep QPR safe in this league while the club tries to recover from years of mismanagement and has done exactly that, is under pressure. Under pressure a fortnight after beating the top two teams at home and getting nominated for Manager of the Month. Under pressure despite having ten first teamers out injured, seven of them defenders. This is football in 2017, this is QPR in 2017, and you need only look at the replies to the club changing its social media logos in solidarity with the gay community for one poxy week to despair still further at what it looks and sounds like.
When Aston Villa came here last week with three strikers injured (having bought three strikers at £12m apiece last season) but still fielding Davis, Adomah and Onomah up top it was described as an ‘injury crisis’. QPR, on a fraction of the resources, are missing their entire first choice back three and all of their replacements. Take ten first teamers away from any team in the league, they will struggle. This isn’t like when Andre Villas Boas was under pressure at Chelsea and Big Racist John was ruled out for three months, only to miraculously return within a fortnight when his mate Roberto Di Matteo was appointed caretaker – these players are all properly injured, and most of them aren’t coming back any time soon.
Holloway is far from perfect. Maddening, at times, in fact. His selections up front at Derby in the week were completely unfair on David Wheeler in just his third start at this level, and insulting to the few QPR fans who took time out to make the journey to Pride Park. His comments this week about Kazenga LuaLua not doing enough for selection rather raised the question of exactly what Kazenga LuaLua did in the second half of last season to justify being brought back for another six months when we’re meant to be saving money, we’ve already got half a dozen wide attackers, and we don’t play with wingers.
But any new manager would inherit the same injury list, the same financial restrictions, the same mandate to reduce the wage bill before all else. Only a desperate manager would take that on, or an unproven one looking for an opportunity and while that latter option may seem attractive when you look at the work of somebody like David Wagner you have to wonder whether the QPR job is suitable for such a green candidate and whether the club would be capable of finding the right one. The last five managers here have all struggled to get a tune out of the squad, that either means the manager isn’t the main problem or the club isn’t very good at picking managers – either way you’d logically conclude it’s probably best to stick with the one we’ve got.
Win tonight and he’ll be a hero again, and people will wonder what the panic was about. Lose, and people will want him chopped. That’s how short termist football, and football fans, have become.
Highlights from QPR’s 3-0 victory in this fixture in March 2016 with goals from Junior Hoilett, Seb Polter and Tjaronn Chery.
Team News: QPR’s injury problems in defence are now at an unpredecented level. Exiting long term absentees Nedum Onouha (hamstring explosion), James Perch (floppy knee), Steven Caulker (drowned in a vat of wine) and Grant Hall (glass tendons) have been joined by Joel Lynch (smashed foot), Darnell Furlong (scared knee) and Niko Hamalainen (pukeahontas). Massimo Luongo and Jordan Cousins should return to the midfield after missing the trip to Derby in midweek.
Brentford to follow.
Elsewhere: I think we’re going last this weekend, although the Derby Sheep play the Ipswich Blue Sox and Reading play Barnsley tomorrow so, as ever, it’s difficult to know where one bit of the Mercantile Credit Trophy ends and the next begins – like when your Terry’s Chocolate Orange gets left by the fire and congeals into a big chocolate cricket ball.
The Eighth Annual Neil Warnock Farewell Tour got a 2-0 win at Nottingham Trees yesterday – mark Warburton’s team continues its search for a first draw of the season. Could be worse, you could be Leonid Slutsky, whose dream job in English football is turning into a predictable nightmare at the Allam Tigers – 2-0 up and lost 3-2 at home to Bristol City on Saturday, the Russian now faces the chop.
A win for Sunderland at Nigel Clough’s Burton Albion – wonders never cease. Sporting Wolverhampton’s annihilation of Relegated Bolton less surprising. Reading’s 0-0 draw with the Sheffield Owls less interesting. Sheffield Red Stripes only drawing at home wit Birmingham coupon busting.
There were 2-0 wins for the Champions of Europe at Barnsley, and “injury hit” Aston Villa at home to the Ipswich Blue Sox. No win in five now for Borussia Norwich however after their home draw with Preston Knob End. A 3-0 win for the Derby Sheep at Middlesbrough probably the result of the weekend. Tarquin and Rupert got a 1-0 win and managed to keep most of the good silver under lock and key for the visit of the Millwall Scholars.
Referee: Steve Martin, who co-wrote and starred as Inspector Jacques Clouseau in the 2006 remake of The Pink Panther and its subsequent sequel, gets his second QPR appointment of the season following last month’s 1-1 draw at Sunderland. Details of that and his recent stats are available here.
QPR: After consecutive wins against the top two in the league, four games unbeaten and one defeat in seven, QPR have quickly slipped to three straight defeats against Forest, Villa and Derby. The 2-1 loss to Villa here last time out was the second home defeat of the season following the earlier loss to Fulham – Rangers have beaten Ipswich, Hull, Wolves (all 2-1), Sheff Utd (1-0) and Reading (2-0) at Loftus Road so far this season. They’re hamstrung by their away form, with the loss at Pride Park extending the run without an away win to 16 games which is the worst ongoing run in the country at the moment. Rangers have conceded 11 times between 40 and 55 minutes in games this season.
Brentford: It took the Bees eight Championship matches, until September 23, to register a league win this season since when they’ve won five, drawn four and lost only one of ten games. A run of three straight wins at Preston (3-2), Birmingham (2-0) and home to Leeds (3-1) was ended by defeat at Cardiff (2-0) and a draw at home to lowly Burton (1-1) in the last two matches. Away from home so far they’ve won two, drawn three and lost three. No team in the division has had more shots on goal than the Bees so far this season.
Prediction: The winner of this year’s Prediction League will be furnished with goodies from The Art of Football, but if you can’t wait that long or predict QPR matches then you can browse their their QPR Collection here and purchase something with 20% off this Black Friday week using the code BF20 – don’t say we don’t do anything for you. Reigning champion Southend Rsss tells us…
“A night to forget at Derby. With changes to the side and trying something new, sometimes it pays off and sometimes it doesn’t. But it was a drab performance and really frustrating - you just can’t see where our first away win is going to come from. Injuries at the back just puts pressure on a side that cannot keep a clean sheet, thus relying on the forwards to score more than a goal to give us any chance.
“It’s frustrating that we just don’t seem to get the tactics right at the moment. We play a lump up top and don’t play wide attacking players to pump crosses in. Or we don’t play them and the lump gets isolated. Then you get the situation at Forest, where we would attack through the middle and then panic and not have a shot, play the ball wide to an unnatural wideman who puts a cross in for no-one to get on the end of. Washington should be latching on to a through ball not waiting for a cross that he’ll never get on the end of. The balance isn’t right and with the problems at the back, I can imagine it’s hard to work this out as it’s a constant unsettled side.
“Holloway is a great man/team motivator.. However if you can’t select a team and build from the back first due to injuries you’ve already got two hands tied behind your back. Very frustrating and credit to the 300 odd fans that went up to Derby.
“Brentford then. Derby game, under the lights, on Sky… great!!! I’m praying for us to do the business but we just can’t stop conceding and there’s a bit of pressure on the team now to stop this run of defeats. We need a solid team performance and the fans will need to get their voices across to the players. Brentford are a team to me, like Southend are, a niggly itch that won’t go away. I’m going for a draw in this one. I might have to get saggy chop’s tombola machine out at this rate to start selecting a first goal scorer - its picked Mackie, so there we go...”
Craig’s Prediction: QPR 1-1 Brentford. Scorer – Jamie Mackie
LFW’s Prediction: QPR 2-2 Brentford. Scorer – Matt Smith
The Twitter @loftforwords
Pictures – Action Images
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