|Preston North End v Queens Park Rangers|
Saturday, 4th August 2018 Kick-off 15:00
That time of year - Preview
Monday, 25th Dec 2017 21:00 by Clive Whittingham
QPR hit the road again tomorrow, with a second Boxing Day fixture at Ipswich in three seasons.
Ipswich (11-2-10, LWWLWL, 10th) v QPR (6-8-9, LDLLWD, 18th)
Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Tuesday December 26, 2017 >>> Kick Off 15.00 >>> Weather – Bright, cold, windy >>> Portman Road, Ipswich, Suffolk
Ipswich on Boxing Day is QPR’s eighth match since the last international break in late November, and part of a run of ten fixtures in 44 days through to early January. It is the same story for every club. It’s excessive for the players, expensive for the supporters at the time of the year when money is tightest, detrimental to fitness and wellbeing of the footballers, harmful to the quality of the football on display and means everybody will be completely knackered by the time the end of the season rolls round and we jet off attempting to compete in a World Cup.
And I love it.
England don’t win the World Cup because they’re shit, not because they’re tired. They’ve won six knockout matches in tournaments since 1966 and will be taking such luminaries as Joe Hart, Chris Smalling and Jake Livermore to Russia in the summer – the equivalent of arriving at the first Gulf War with a pencil sharpener. We’re not not winning the World Cup because we’re tired, and Liverpool aren’t conceding goals for fun because they’re mentally fatigued, it’s because we’re shit and Klopp has made a royal mess of his defence this season in front of a goalkeeper who’d probably qualify for an assistance dog under all current tests.
Give them the mid-winter break they all bang on about and not only would England still be terrible, but we’d now be absolutely besieged with such Boxing Day delights as Tottenham v Liverpool live from the Melbourne Cricket Ground in the Premier League Australian Mid-Season Round Robin Spectacular, and Man Utd v a Malaysia Select XI live from Japan with a penalty shoot out for every 15 scoreless minutes, and Man City v LA Galaxy from a converted baseball diamond on the moon. They hate the League Cup, the FA Cup, the Europa League, and they’re growing to hate having to play the run of the mill games in the Premier League and the Champions League, because it gets in the way of where the money is, and you need your fucking head examining if you think they’d use two weeks off over winter to rest their players for fear of burn out or harming England’s World Cup chances.
Lower down, at our level, even the short hop up the A12 to Ipswich doesn’t sound that appetising for fans of QPR, currently eighteenth in the Championship. Better than that banterous time the Football League sent us to Plymouth every Christmas (loveable scamps) but still, as the rain lashes the patio doors and with the fridge still full of booze and food this doesn’t sound like a great idea.
But I’m begging you, don’t take it away from me/us. It has been a long 48 hours in the company of the tiny bit of my family that is still alive/talking to each other/not working double shifts patrolling the streets of Peckham. For background, step father previously brought my mum to tears over Christmas dinner by naming Barney’s nine darter as his greatest ever Christmas memory – this a man with three kids and two grandkids. Today, after a blazing row about whether the Queen is missing a tooth in her bottom set, a prolonged discussion took place about how the opening scene of Jurassic Park relates to the rest of the film. A recording of Michael McIntyre was later selected for pre-dinner viewing and this match preview is being written to a backing track of another increasingly heated discussion about whether some bird in Call the Midwife used to be Angie in Eastenders. Call the Fucking Midwife. Get. Me. Out. Of. Here.
But even if you love your Christmas, it’s tradition that we play football a lot during the holiday season in this country and it’s a tradition that should be protected. The money men, the rich modern players, the ranty millionaire managers, the South Koreans in their Ji Sung Park t-shirts… none of them seem to realise that the reason the Premier League, and English football in general, is so popular is because it’s been around for so long, there’s so much history around it, it means so much to so many people. This idea that people in Taiwan bloody love English football because they can’t get enough of watching teams pelt long balls at Andy Carroll, or seeing James Milner cover 16km in a match, or watching Danny Drinkwater metronome from box to box, is nonsense. It’s because of the clubs and their names and their history and the atmosphere and the tradition around it.
That’s why it’s ridiculous when foreign owners turn up at Cardiff and say they’ve got to play in red, or at Hull and say they can only unlock millions in Far Eastern backing if only they were named after a fucking tiger. If you could just change the club colours, the club name, move the club 70 miles to a more convenient market etc then it wouldn’t be the same, fewer people would care about it here and therefore fewer people would care about it elsewhere. Play the MLS for the next 100 years and come back to me – people will still be obsessed with Man Utd, Liverpool, Arsenal etc not the Wisconsin Wanksocks or the Jacksonville Jizzwizards.
We’re already destroying our cup competitions, another great tradition of English football that should add to its attraction rather than take it away. Leicester, eighth in the Premier League, already safe from relegation, not likely to trouble the top four, playing a second string team in the quarter finals of the League Cup when they’ve been drawn at home. They’ll spend the rest of the season presumably consolidating that eighth-to-twelfth zone, boring the tits of anybody still hanging around the watch them March-May. Who needs a trip to Wembley and European football next season eh?
Take away our Christmas football and you’ll not only harm the sport in this country and its appeal again, but you’ll also fail to achieve the rest and recuperation for the players you so desire – because they’ll all be on a 10,000 mile plane journey the second the whistle goes on their December 20-ish game. Make them play for their money, make them play a lot for it, and to hell with the quality of it – it’s not very good anyway.
And besides, they’re planning on watching Judi Dench: My Passion for Trees here tomorrow.
Highlights from QPR’s 2-0 win on this ground in the 1983/84 season.
Team News: Jamie Mackie, with three goals in three league starts against Ipswich, returns from his three match spell on the naughty step after the harsh sending off at Preston to retake his place in the random ballot for striking places. James Perch remains sidelined with his dislocated knee and you’ve more chance of playing pick up sticks with your butt cheeks than seeing Joel Lynch turn out in a Christmas fixture. Steven Caulker would play, but that Glenmorangie gift set he bought and wrapped for himself isn’t going to drink itself.
Ipswich have Cole Skuse (humouring inlaws) unavailable while Danish defender Jonas Knudsen vanished four days ago leaving only a vague out of office reply in his wake.
Elsewhere: Yes that’s right it’s another full round of domestic football following immediately behind the last and immediately before the next, cruelly forcing the multi-millionaires to play another 90 minutes of sport and savagely denying their clubs the chance to fly them to California/Australia/Malaysia and play glamourous shirt selling friendlies in front of the sport’s target audience. Pesky real football, constantly getting in the way.
It’s a full dozen games on the same day in the Mercantile Credit Trophy, starting with the Millwall Scholars welcoming Sporting Wolverhampton at 13.00, and ending with north London car dealership Brent Ford hosting Big Racist John and the Boys in the evening.
In between, two clubs who sacked their managers after playing each other at the weekend – Middlesbrough and Sheffield Owls – start their new lives at home to Relegated Bolton and away to Nottingham Trees respectively.
That’s about as interesting as it gets in the most run of the mill fixture list I think this God-forsaken division has ever churned out – Barnsley v Preston Knob End, Birmingham v Borussia Norwich, and Bristol City v Reading are just three of the matches taking place purely so people can escape their in laws. See also Nigel Clough’s Burton Albion hosting the Champions of Europe, Allam Tigers v Derby Sheep and Sheffield Red Stripes against Sunderland.
Taquin and Rupert got each other tickets for the Eighth Annual Neil Warnock Farewell Tour for Christmas.
Give it 48 hours, and we’ll be doing it all again.
Referee: Andy Davies is the referee for this one, just as he was for the first meeting between these two sides this season. That’s very much the calm before the storm as everybody’s favourite short man syndrome sufferer Keith Stroud is the wholly irresponsible pick for our New Year’s trip to Millwall. Details here.
Ipswich: Town started the season with five wins from their first five matches after a dire season last term where Mick McCarthy frequently came under heavy fire from his own supporters. They subsequently went on a run of seven defeats from nine games, including the 2-1 loss at Loftus Road in September. More recently they’ve levelled off and come into this game on a run of four wins, two draws and three defeats from their last nine. That includes three wins in the last five and they’re unbeaten at Portman Road in four (W3) since losing the Old Farm Derby here to Norwich in October. Overall in Suffolk this season they’ve won seven, drawn one and lost three of 11.
QPR: The win away at Birmingham before Christmas was QPR’s first on the road in 11 attempts this season (D4 L6) and the first in 18 trips away from Loftus Road dating back to Last February… also at Birmingham. Rangers lost 3-0 on this ground last season despite playing quite well, but they’ve won six and drawn four of their last 15 visits to Portman Road since football began in 1992. They come into this game having taken four points from six, but that win and draw against Birmingham and Bristol City snapped another six match winless run – the third time that’s happened since Ian Holloway returned to the club 13 months ago. That controversial late penalty awarded to City at Loftus Road at the weekend exacerbates a run of just three clean sheets this season and only five since Holloway came back as manager. Rangers are also yet to score more than two in a game this season. QPR haven’t won away from home on Boxing Day since Alec Stock’s men triumphed 2-1 at Plymouth in 1967 – 18 attempts ago.
Prediction: The winner of this year’s Prediction League will be furnished with goodies from The Art of Football, but if you don’t fancy your chances then you can browse their QPR Collection here and purchase something instead.
Our correct call of 1-1 with Bristol City on Saturday was the eleventh time this season either myself or our reigning Prediction League champion Southend Rsss has called it right this season (LFW – Bristol City H, Brentford H, Derby A, Bolton A, Sunderland A, Fulham H, Ipswich H; Craig – Birmingham A, Villa H, Barnsley A, Cardiff A). Given that QPR never keep a clean sheet but rarely get thrashed, and never score more than two, it basically limits the predictions to about half a dozen scores between 0-0 and 2-2 but still, we’re not doing bad as we turn for home.
Craig’s Prediction: Ipswich 1-0 QPR. No scorer.
LFW’s Prediction: Ipswich 2-1 QPR. Scorer – Matt Smith
The Twitter @loftforwords
Pictures – Action Images
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