|Preston North End v Queens Park Rangers|
Saturday, 4th August 2018 Kick-off 15:00
You don't know what you've got 'till it's gone - Preview
Friday, 6th Apr 2018 12:08 by Clive Whittingham
QPR head to Hull City this weekend with memories of Ray Wilkins still front of mind, and several current squad members facing the end of their time at Rangers.
Hull City (9-14-17, LWWLDD, 18th) v QPR (13-11-16, DWWDLW, 15th)
Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Saturday April 7, 2018 >>> Kick Off 15.00 >>> Weather – Wet. Again. >>> West Park, Kingston Upon Hull
Perhaps the theme of the week is ‘you don’t know what you’ve got ‘till it’s gone’. That’s certainly felt like the case with the late Ray Wilkins.
To some extent the tributes paid by those players lucky enough to have been alongside him in that great QPR side of the early 1990s are nothing more than you would have expected. That said, I’m not sure any of us realised quite how remarkable his influence was on that team over five years, despite being 33 when he arrived in 1989. Team mates from the time have been queueing up to say how important he was to their careers.
But it’s the stories from the ‘normal’ people that have really brought home the mark of the man. Martyn Millard, the youth teamer who didn’t quite make it, and his story of waking from a migraine on an away trip to Coventry to find Wilkins ironing his clothes. Ben Warren the physio’s son and his tales of school holidays spent at the QPR training ground. The homeless ex-soldier on TalkSport who Wilkins stopped to speak with, bought food for and gave £20 for shelter that night where he subsequently met a charity worker who helped him rebuild his life. Nigel Quashie’s mum being bought a train ticket and mobile phone so she could see her son’s debut and speak to him afterwards. As Wilkins pointedly told Eamonn Holmes in an ITV interview post QPR-sacking when asked if he was too nice – being courteous and kind to people is not a weakness.
And yet with every passing story and anecdote raising Wilkins higher and higher in our estimation and thoughts, I can’t help but think we maybe should have told him all this when he was still alive, that we as a fan base took him for granted.
When we talk about the decline of the team from its 1992 high we mention the departures of Paul Parker, Les Ferdinand, Clive Wilson, Andy Sinton, but rarely the loss of Wilkins the player who made it all tick on the pitch and was clearly, as we’ve learnt this week, a towering dressing room presence. When we talk about our greatest players of the modern era we talk about Ferdinand, Roy Wegerle, Adel Taarabt, Ale Faurlin, Trevor Sinclair, Sinton, but rarely Wilkins despite him playing some of the best football of his distinguished career, some of the best football seen at Loftus Road, at the highest level, deep into his 30s. Christ some people still repeat the nonsense notion of “the crab” who only ever passed sideways – look at Dennis Bailey’s last minute winner at Norwich, or Bradley Allen v Leeds, or Ferdinand’s goal of both posts at Newcastle and tell me that’s a player that only passed sideways.
When we reflect on his time as manager we talk about the Mark Hateley debacle, and his insistence on picking himself in midfield at 40 ahead of Simon Osborn and others to the detriment of the team. Fair criticisms. We don’t acknowledge enough the quality of player – not just Les Ferdinand – that had left the club without adequate replacement. We mock the big-money purchase of Ned Zelic and the “versatile as an egg” quote but don’t acknowledge how singularly unfortunate it was to find the only Australian in living memory who couldn’t settle in West London, and that Zelic went on to play many years in the Bundesliga and UEFA Cup and looked very good doing it. There are strong hints from players involved at the time, but rarely any allowances made from fans for stuff going on behind the scenes at Rangers at that time that hamstrung the management. No, he didn’t do a good job, yes, the transfers in at that time were mostly very poor, but there was plenty of mitigation.
A Kick Up The R’s columnist Dave Barton said on this site this week that the way Wilkins is remembered at QPR is “a joke” and I make him right. When was the last time before this week you really read anything from anybody that wasn’t about his grating affiliation for Chelsea, his battles with alcohol, or him daring to say something on TalkSport that people disagreed with? Now he’s gone nobody has a bad word to say about him but did any of us really say enough good stuff about him when he was here?
If there’s a lesson to take from this it’s to be more like Wilkins was with people while they’re still here. People in your everyday life, and people who’ve tried their best for QPR. When the club announces one of the ‘less important’ figures from our past is being inducted into the superb Forever R’s club you see people taking the piss online, asking if Ademole Bankole is getting in next. Tony Thorpe, who scored crucial goals in a rare QPR promotion season, was mocked online for his induction only to no doubt be remembered as a “good little player” when he’s no longer around to hear it. It’s out of order and we need to pack it in.
We’ll come to feel the same way about Nedum Onuoha if, as seems increasingly likely, he’s not around next season. QPR’s straightened financial times means that we’re unlikely to be able to keep both Onuoha and Jack Robinson when their contracts expire next summer, and with Fulham sniffing around Robbo and Nedum reportedly keen to move back north it might be that neither stay.
Is Onuoha perfect? Certainly not. He’s a decent Championship centre back, good without the ball, bit of a liability with it. But decent Championship centre backs aren’t that easy to come by when you’ve got little money to buy them with, and our bad run of results this season coincided with Onuoha’s unavailability. He’s another the players who’ve played with him, to a man, speak of highly as a great captain and dressing room presence while supporters who’ve never met him or been in that dressing room say he’s not a “pwopah leadah” because he’s not screaming and shouting at people on the field. He’s made more than 220 appearances for our club, carried himself well, played very well by and large, captained the side and represented himself QPR in exemplary fashion. And for that he’s got a load of over the top criticism for the faults in his game.
I hope we find budget and persuade Onuoha to stay. If we’ve learnt anything this week it’s that you don’t realise how important somebody is, or how much you miss them on and off the pitch, until they’re not there any more.
A trademark sizzling two yarder from Idrissa Sylla in the very last minute of the game won the first meeting between these sides for QPR back in August.
Team News: Ian Holloway has hinted at chances being given to youngsters Ilias Chair and Bright Osayi-Samuel (fair enough) and 32-year-old Alex Baptiste just as the back four has got settled and is playing well (stop fiddling around you’ll break it). Idrissa Sylla made his first appearance since December form the bench on Easter Monday but Jamie Mackie and David Wheeler remain sidelined long term.
Elsewhere: The biggest date on the Eighth Annual Neil Warnock Farewell Tour so far is tonight in South Wales with league-leaders Sporting Wolverhampton in town. Wolves are six points ahead of Cardiff with a superior goal difference but Cardiff have a game in hand at hapless Derby Sheep to play so a win tonight puts them in sight of the title. Taquin and Rupert are five points further back in third awaiting any slips ahead of their trip to Sheffield Owls on Saturday.
Given the levels of incompetence in recent weeks I’m not sure you really can call them a ‘chasing pack’ but for what it’s worth Big Racist John and the Boys are fourth and travel to Borussia Norwich, the Sheep are fifth and host Bolton, and Middlesbrough are sixth hosting Nottingham Trees. It’s Millwall Scholars who look likely to gatecrash that six more than most despite a Bank Holiday draw at Ipswich Blue Sox – The Wall are at home to Bristol City who are one point and one place above them at the start of play.
At the bottom it’s looking bleak for Nigel Clough’s Burton Albion who are eight points adrift of safety, but it’s Birmingham they need to catch and Birmingham they play this weekend so who knows. Sunderland also have 31 points meaning they have to win at least four of their last six to catch up with the Blues, starting at the Champions of Europe this weekend. Barnsley occupy the third relegation spot, five points shy of Birmingham, and they get an early kick off with Sheffield Red Stripes to try and lay down a marker on Saturday. Bolton, already mentioned, and Reading, at home to Preston Knob End, also have 39 points but are resting a little easier these days.
Brentford being easily the best team Ipswich Blue Sox have played this year rounds off the weekend fixtures before another full volley straight in the gob on Tuesday night.
Referee: Geoff Eltringham has been a regular with QPR over the past couple of seasons, and has mostly been very good. Last seen officiating our 2-1 loss at title-chasing Wolves. More details here.
Hull: When Hull City lost 3-1 at Middlesbrough in mid-February, they looked bang in trouble. They’d won just one of 11 and two of 19 in the league stretching right back to October and were firmly ensconced in the bottom three. But they come into this game on a run of three wins, three draws and two defeats from eight games which has lifted them to eighteenth and seven points clear of the drop zone. They’ve taken two points this week from difficult games with promotion-chasers Aston Villa and Wolves so it seems a bit of a corner has been turned. At home they’ve won six, drawn eight, and lost six overall but have only lost one of their last 11 here in all comps.
QPR: Rangers have only lost one of the last six, winning three but their away form remains patchy with one win from six and two from nine. The Easter Monday thrashing of Norwich was the first time the R’s have scored more than two at home this season, and the first time they’ve scored four since the 5-1 thrashing of relegated Rotherham a year ago. Massimo Luongo took 58 games to score once for QPR and had two in 97 prior to his recent run of four in seven games.
Prediction: It would have been a bold man to predict a 4-1 win against Norwich on Monday, so no change at the top of this year’s Prediction League where the gap is just one point in the quest for goodies from The Art of Football. If you’re not in the running you can browse their QPR Collection here and purchase something instead. This week our reigning champion Southend_Rsss tells us…
“Well what a result that was. That second half was superb and everything in the team just clicked. When we play with confidence like that it really is a joy to watch. So it was hard to pick a MOTM from that performance, however Matt Smith got the nod from me. The Norwich back line just couldn’t handle him and he was a constant menace. Deserved the standing ovation when he went off the pitch as well. “A trip to Hull will more than likely bring us back down to earth. However now with the confidence running through the side, if we start strongly and on the front foot, we should get something out of this game. The pressure is off now and the players should be able to express themselves. According to rumours, Holloway is fielding players that he wants to keep for next season. So we should start to figure out for ourselves over the last run of games, just who is in the plans for next season. I’m gonna go for an away win nonetheless.”
Craig’s Prediction: Hull 1-2 QPR. Scorer – Ebere Eze
LFW’s Prediction: Hull 1-1 QPR. Scorer – Matt Smith
The Twitter @loftforwords
Pictures – Action Images
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