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Preston North End 1 v 0 Queens Park Rangers
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Where we’re coming from - Preview
Tuesday, 13th Mar 2018 08:07 by Clive Whittingham

A third full league debut goal for one of the U23s gave QPR a 1-0 win at the weekend to take the pressure off two difficult away matches – so does it really matter where Eze, Smyth and Oteh came from?

Aston Villa (20-9-7, WLDWWW, 3rd) v QPR (11-10-15, LWLLDW, 16th)

Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Tuesday March 13, 2018 >>> Kick Off 19.45 >>> Weather – Dry, cool >>> Villa Park, Birmingham

In a season of few highs, occasional lows and a lot of mediocrity, one highlight for the long-suffering congregation has been the progression of members of the club’s Under 23 side into the first team. Rangers have given first team minutes to Ilias Chair, Ebere Eze, Darnell Furlong, Ryan Manning, Aramide Oteh and Paul Smyth this season with several of them now counted as first team regulars – unthinkable just a few years ago when we were doing things like picking Luke Young at centre half for his first appearance in two years rather than give Max Ehmer one game in a meaningless end of season run out.

Eze’s stylish winning goal against Sunderland on Saturday was the third time one of those players has scored a crucial goal on his first full league start for the club following Smyth’s emphatic winner against Cardiff on New Year’s Day and Oteh’s bundled effort at Burton shortly after that.

This is, unquestionably, a positive – QPR have little choice but to try and find first team players this way having been priced out of the market, particularly for strikers, and have shown some ability to do that this year. But you’ll notice I’ve referred to them as ‘members of our Under 23 side’ as opposed to “youth team/academy graduates” because faced with the possibility of having to admit QPR have done something quite well, or even worse still praise something Chris Ramsey and Les Ferdinand have been involved in, it’s become trendy to point out that these players actually came through the systems of other clubs – Eze was at Millwall, Oteh and Lumley at Spurs, Manning at Galway, Smyth at Linfield and so on.

You may wonder why this matters, or point out that under these standards Kevin Gallen wasn’t even a product of the QPR youth set up having started initially at Watford. But to the pedantic, contrary and those who seem to have developed a weird loathing for the club they’re supposed to support, it apparently matters a great deal and must be pointed out as soon as one of them scores while the rest of us are daring to enjoy QPR scoring a goal.

Of course, the ideal scenario is that the player arrives at QPR when he’s still just a sperm, spotted at the point of conception by a huge staff of eagle-eyed scouts who can pick the next Harry Kane out from 150 yards away the moment he spurts out of the urethra. He then stays in the academy for his entire formative years, has a nice loan with our old mate Gareth Ainsworth to polish him up at 18, and then plops straight into the first team where he stays and holds down his place for 15 years before retiring to a life of appearances on the Open All R’s Podcast. Darnell Furlong is the only one in the current crop that really fits this model, and it’s not very realistic to expect too many others to follow suit.

QPR have a category two academy, and that’s unlikely to change until and unless the new training ground at Warren Farm ever gets built - not sure where my money would go in a race between that or Elon Musk colonising Mars to be honest. That’s a problem under the disgusting and disgraceful EPPP regulations, which were forced upon the Football League clubs by the Premier League behemoths under pain of having what few scraps fall from the top table currently withdrawn.

Those rules mean that any category one academy can pretty much do as they please with players in the lower grades – watch them train, watch them play, talk to them, talk to their parents, make them offers, whisk them away with absolutely minimal compensation paid. We are surrounded by these category one academies where we are, including the death star at Chelsea which is happy to hoover up absolutely every teenager that ever looks like they might turn out to be half decent, park them at Cobham and never have them see the light of first team football again.

Even before EPPP QPR lost Dean Parrett to Spurs and Raheem Sterling to Liverpool. They were rewarded well financially in both cases, now they wouldn’t even get that. Brentford and Wycombe, two clubs that have been run far better than our own in recent times, have both decided there is no point in growing their own teenage footballers in this part of the country in this environment and closed their respective youth systems down altogether – Brentford, in particular, weary of players they’d committed months, years and hundreds of thousands of pounds to developing getting whisked away by Man City for a pittance in return.

Brentford now operate a B Team which they use for older teenagers, and are focused entirely on picking up boys aged around 17 who have fallen out of the systems at the likes of Spurs, Chelsea, Arsenal etc as QPR have done with many of the youngsters who’ve featured this season. EPPP means that is the only way clubs like ours are realistically going to be able to bring kids through without a category one set up.

So yeh, Eze was at Millwall, and Oteh was at Spurs, and Smyth was at Linfield. But don’t say it like it’s a criticism, it’s actually QPR doing something right.

Links >>> Trevor Francis hat trick – History >>> On the home straight – Interview >>> Robinson in charge – Referee >>> Running up that Hill – Podcast

QPR actually inflicted a cup upset rather than suffering one when they travelled to Premier League Villa in September 2008 in the Third Round of the League Cup. Jamaican defender Damion Stewart headed in Dani Parejo’s cross for the only goal of the game to set up a fourth round trip to Man Utd. Typically of that time though, manager Iain Dowie didn’t live to see the Old Trafford game, sacked despite winning eight of his first 15 games of the season.


Team News: Jack Robinson was withdrawn at half time during Saturday’s home win over Sunderland with a dead leg and is unlikely to play here with Joel Lynch poised to replace him at left centre back. Jamie Mackie and Idrissa Sylla both made their comebacks from medium term injuries in the U23s’ draw with Millwall on Monday but aren’t ready for a first team return just yet. David Wheeler is a long term absentee.

Had the original game gone ahead QPR might have faced a Villa side without Albert Adomah (knee) and Gentleman Jack Grealish (knob rot) but the former has responded to treatment and the latter has completed his course of antibiotics and ointment and both have returned to the team with spectacular effect – Villa have won two matches since, scoring seven goals in the process, including Saturday’s mauling of Wolves.

Elsewhere: Half a dozen games which fell victim to the weather last week will be replayed on Tuesday with issues at both ends of the table to be addressed. Sporting Wolverhampton, now one win from five and the gap to third-placed Villa down to seven points, will surely be confident of getting back on the horse against lowly Reading. The Eighth Annual Neil Warnock Farewell Tour waits to take advantage in second, but they have a tougher assignment away at Brentford. Sheffield Red Strips can give their faltering play-off hopes a boost with a home win against Nigel Clough’s Burton Albion.

Should Albion take anything that piles pressure on Allam Tigers who are at Ipswich Blue Sox, and Barnsley who are at home to Borussia Norwich.

Referee: Tim Robinson is a regular at QPR games over the past couple of years, and is clearly being lined up for a promotion from this division given the amount of top Championship games and TV dates he’s been getting. But his pedantic nature, flurry of cards, complete aversion to any physical contact at corners and long, drawn out conversations with players can make him a bit of a pain and in our game with Cardiff on New Year’s Day he lost the plot entirely. He arrives into this fixture fresh from awardin four increasingly farcical penalties in the weekend clash between Norwich and Hull. Details here.


Villa: Steve Bruce’s team are absolutely flying at the moment. They’d won seven straight in the Championship prior to a little blip when they lost at Fulham and drew at home to Preston – both fellow play-off chasers. Since then they’ve won three in a row scoring four at Sheff Wed, three at Sunderland and four against league leaders Wolves at the weekend. They’ve kept six clean sheets in that run of 12 games and no team in the league has lost as few at home as Villa who’ve only been beaten here once, 1-0 by Sheff Wed back in November.

QPR: Well let’s get this over with again then. QPR’s away form is abysmal. Only Birmingham (11) have lost more than Rangers’ ten on the road this season, only Bolton (one) have won fewer than our two. Since the turn of last year QPR have won three times on the road, twice at Birmingham City and once at Burton. Since Ian Holloway returned as manager the away record stands at five wins, seven draws and 20 defeats. Rangers have lost seven and won four of the last eleven, and have been beaten in three of the last four coming into this game including the last two. The home defeat to Aston Villa before Christmas was part of the latest six-match horror run that this time included five defeats and a lucky draw against Brentford. Rangers lost six in a row twice last season and Villa, along with Derby, were involved in both as well as this season’s pre-Christmas slump. Rangers have kept three clean sheets in their last seven matches having only recorded four all season prior to that.

Prediction: Elliott42 held on to win The Art of Football Prediction League goodies for the second third of the season and will now set off down the home straight hoping to make it a clean sweep. If you’re not in the running you can still browse their QPR Collection here and purchase something instead. This week our reigning champion Southend_Rsss tells us he’s sticking with his prediction from the originally scheduled fixture a week ago…

Craig’s Prediction: Aston Villa 3-1 QPR. Scorer – Matt Smith

LFW’s Prediction: Aston Villa 3-0 QPR. No Scorer.

The Twitter @loftforwords

Pictures – Action Images

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2Thomas2Bowles added 09:45 - Mar 13
Clive Allan was also raised from an embryo.

Antti_Heinola added 10:46 - Mar 13
Spot on today Clive.
Can't believe some people are talking like that about the U23s. Eze was rejected by Millwall - is it not a skill to spot him, pick him up and develop him? Ludicrous. People said they wanted us to go back to the old days - well, taking players from other youth clubs was all we did in the 80s and 90s - and we didn't do it very ethically either, by all accounts.

TacticalR added 15:02 - Mar 13
Thanks for your preview.

It sounds like some won't be happy until we have a full-blown eugenics program to create our own footballing master race.

Interesting that we have ended up doing roughly the same thing as Brentford, even though we've still got a youth academy. Presumably that means that better players are being discarded by these production line academies than we (or Brentford) can produce or attract in the first place. I guess in a place like London with so many football clubs there is always going to be a degree of cross-fertilisation - East London boy Terry Venables began his career in the Chelsea academy. Having said that I would draw the line at taking anyone from Tottenham.

Myke added 22:48 - Mar 13
Great piece Clive. Really informative. The dubious value of stats is well highlighted also in the 'most winning managers' segment , when you consider our three most successful managers, Jago, Sexton and Venebles don't feature. I'm well happy writing this after our shock 3-1 win at Villa (even happier with Manning out-jumping Terry for the opening goal) and look forward to reading your report.
Tactical - what about Hall - does he fall into that category or was he a commoner garden transfer?

extratimeR added 00:03 - Mar 14
Very well explained Clive!

Financial common sense as well.


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