|Preston North End 1 v 0 Queens Park Rangers|
Saturday, 4th August 2018 Kick-off 15:00
All sorts of stuff - Preview
Friday, 20th Apr 2018 17:41 by Clive Whittingham
Another meeting with Brentford, another loads of pre-match bravado from QPR manager Ian Holloway. Same behaviour, same result?
Brentford (17-14-12, DDWWWD, 10th) v QPR (14-11-18, DLWLWL, 15th)
Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Saturday April 21, 2018 >>> Kick Off 15.00 >>> Weather – Sunny and hot. Glory be to God. >>> Griffin Park, Brentford
It occurs to me every now and again when I’m ranting on about the design of new stadiums, the cost of tickets, the shifting of matches to antisocial kick off times at short notice and so on, that, well, football’s not really for me any more is it?
I mean, I watch it. All of it. And I have all the TV subscriptions required to do that, so they let me come along for the ride as long as I keep quiet and the direct debit clears every month. But it’s not for me. I’m like seedy uncle or eccentric god parent at a wedding – “I know, I know but he was good to you when you were a kid so just stick him somewhere at the back”.
It tells me this all the time, in a multitude of ways. Our league’s deliberate decision to play the longest distance away games on midweek nights, for example. Absolutely, hideously, mindbendingly fucking stupid from my point of view, as I book another two days off work and start looking at the prices of the “deluxe” room at the Premier Inn Blackburn/Bolton/Middlesbrough/Nebraska. But, like I say, it’s not for me, so it’s not changing. Having played at Barnsley, Sheffield and Derby on Tuesday nights this year, now we have a game three miles down the road on a Saturday. And I feel like just standing there and giving the people that decide that a really slow handclap, but it’s not for me and they don’t understand so they’d probably see me in the same category as the local nutter who hangs round the park and shouts at parked cars if I did. “What’s up with him?” “No idea.” No, you haven’t.
TV companies shifting games to Sunday mornings, Thursday nights, Saturday at 19.45. Clubs changing strips every year and charging up towards £100 for a replica of them. Wall to wall, fantastically irritating adverts for bookmakers. The disregard of cup competitions, even by teams with nothing else to play for. A £3.50 booking fee on a season ticket purchased of £535. Youth teamers with zero first team appearances earning five figures a week. Young players deliberately moving from clubs where they might play some first team football to ones where they definitely won’t. Players being dragged out of bed at 07.45 in the morning for a bowl of chicken and pasta because it’ll apparently give them some sort of advantage against an opponent who was also dragged out of bed at the same time for the same meal, but then going out that night and shoving all the cocaine, cigarettes and alcohol money can buy down or up themselves.
I understand none of this and hate all of it. But, like I say, it’s not for me, and so they get on with it, and I stand at the side feeling like I’m missing something as the sport I once loved so much moves away into the distance.
I’m happy to go on listing these things to be honest, but the game kicks off tomorrow and I don’t do missing kick offs, particularly having forked over another £27.50 to watch our team that has managed to win three times on the road all season - £39.20 per point for the regular away travellers if you're counting.
Somewhere on that list, however, would feature the never-ending cycle of interviews with managers. At the top level these guys are doing six press conferences a week – before and after their three games – as well as TV and press before and after every match as well. Of course a pre-match interview/press conference is an interview/press conference about something that hasn’t happened yet, which feels like a flawed concept to me. The content divides neatly into bland platitudes from managers desperately trying not to create a story of any sort whatsoever, and stuff that’s completely untrue from managers trying to play some sort of “mind game” or engage in the always stupendously interesting “war of words”.
The questions asked are almost always as dire as the quotes. Sky asking all the Premier League bosses what they think of the Ryder Cup so they can stitch four minutes of nothing together for Sky Sports News, for instance, a particular low point. Or Jose Mourinho running through Man Utd’s recent “Champions League heritage” in the style of Steve Coogan’s security guard as reason for his £500m team’s failure this season without a single person turning round and saying “hang on, how many Champions League quarters and semis have Seville been in lately?” another.
In this instance I understand why it’s happening. The 24-hour news channels don’t fill themselves, and nor do the “live blogs” running on a loop on all the major newspaper websites, keeping people bang up to date with how Mark Hughes thinks Southampton will be able to more successfully engage with the “business of winning Premier League football matches”. But I don’t watch them, or read them, so, again, it’s not for me.
But I raise it here because, similarly, these previews don’t fill themselves, and our own Sir Ian of Holloway has had a camera stuck in front of him this week ahead of Brentford away and come out with a load of cringe about “making them do all sorts of stuff” and “absolutely chasing them until they make mistakes.” You may remember this sort of bilge from previous Brentford v QPR games as Brentford 3 QPR 1, QPR 1 Brentford 4, and QPR 2 Brentford 2.
You will also recall that after the latter, which let’s be honest was a 2-0 defeat in weird clothes, he erupted live on the television ranting about supporters who’d left the game early and, at one point, telling them not to bother coming back. I sympathised at the time, adrenalin pumping after that remarkable double injury time salvo and asked to react immediately it’s no surprise that an emotional guy got a bit emotional. But it wasn’t clever, and he’s done well to recover from it to the extent that he has – it could easily have been Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s 6-0 v Newcastle moment, rendering him a dead man walking. He is, in the eyes of some, still exactly that.
This weird attempt to stoke up a rivalry with Brentford is less understandable, and less forgiveable. More importantly, it doesn’t actually seem to be helping. Nor his baiting of the Millwall fans before the New Year’s game at The Den, which heightened tensions around an already big game and wasn’t exactly what you needed as a travelling supporter going into that situation that night – 45 minutes in the cage afterwards while Olly gets escorted to a nice warm team coach and driven out of there. What all of his comments about Brentford have in common with that game is his team underperformed, losing all of them bar the spawny escape against the Bees in the first league game this season. Outplayed, out thought, out fought, and reduced to pumping it long at Matt Smith to little avail in every case. He’s said himself that attempts to play on the emotions of his return to Bristol City, and the recent death of Ray Wilkins prior to the Hull game, didn’t work either.
Much like his team selections, you do end up just wishing somebody would tell him to wind it in a bit, keep it a bit simpler. Revving it all up and then playing as we have done recently at Griffin Park and The Den makes us, and him, look a bit muggy to be honest.
Not for me, not for me at all.
It’s been 15 years (yes really) since Marc Bircham drew his boot back in the final minute of our crucial game at Griffin Park and as we haven’t won there since we’re forced to show it here again. Be nice to have something new to cheer tomorrow lads eh? Lads? They’ve not heard me. LADS.
Team News: Shades of the dark days of September and October for QPR going into this one with five senior centre backs either doubtful or definitely out. Nedum Onuoha’s brain fart at Hull looks even worse now in the light of the current crisis as he serves the final match of three on the naughty step just as we run out of alternatives. Joel Lynch clocked off early with a hamstring complaint picked up in that same game and the equally flakey Jack Robinson is now ill apparently. Grant Hall hasn’t been seen in months. Alex Baptiste faces a late fitness test on his knee which, if failed, would likely leave Rangers scratching around with James Perch and Darnell Furlong at centre back with Osman Kakay coming in at right back. Further forward Josh Scowen and Luke Freeman are likely to return to the side having been rested for the Preston defeat.
Andreas Bjelland is likely to return from the shame of his comedy name but Alan Judge (dodgy curry) is a doubt and excellent young left back Rico Henry has been missing since September with a knee issue.
Elsewhere: Although Sporting Wolverhampton have been confirmed as champions, the Mercantile Credit Trophy really is heating up nicely as we come into the final three fixtures of the season.
Three teams can still claim the second automatic promotion spot. The Eighth Annual Neil Warnock Farewell Tour have the bird in hand with 83 points and a game in hand away at serial chokers Derby Sheep. They’re at home to Nottingham Trees at 19.45 on a Saturday night at the behest of our Sky overlords this weekend. Tarquin and Rupert have three to play, and are one point back, ahead of the game of the Championship weekend tonight at Millwall Scholars who are 17 unbeaten and have smashed their way into the top six at just the right time. Big Racist John and the Boys are the outside bet on 79 points from 43 played ahead of their game at the Ipswich Blue Sox this weekend.
Below that, everybody down to eleventh is still in with a technical shout of play-off football. Middlesbrough join Millwall on 69 points in fifth ahead of their visit to Derby, who have fallen apart this season in spectacular style even by their standards. From pushing automatic promotion at Christmas they’re now seventh and dropping like a particularly large sack of shit from a very tall building.
Everybody in the hunt for fifth and sixth has played 43 games so three points back from Millwall and Boro we have our conquerors from last week Preston Knob End who are at home to Borussia Norwich. Also on 66 points, in ninth, Sheffield Red Stripes, who go to a Birmingham side desperate for points at the other end of the table which we’ll come onto shortly. Then it’s Brentford on 65, despite being the best team anybody has played all season, and Bristol City on the same ahead of their game at home to the Allam Tigers.
Down at the bottom it’s Sunderland in dead last requiring snookers on 34 points, six adrift of safety with nine left to play for. They do have a home game with Nigel Clough’s Burton Albion this weekend though who are one place and one point above them. Surely curtains for the loser there, and relegation will be confirmed for the loser there if Birmingham and Bolton get anything from their games. Barnsley are rallying third bottom, they have 38 points which is two from safety, and a game in hand at Nottingham Trees next week. For now it’s a local derby with the Champions of Europe who turned it in long ago. Birmingham and Bolton on 40 we’ve already mentioned at home to Sheffield Red Stripes and Sporting Wolverhampton. Reading are stll technically involved on 43 as they go to the Sheffield Owls.
All of which means that at this late stage of the season there isn’t a single one of the 12 matches on the list this weekend that means nothing to anybody – although ours runs it fairly close. What a time to be alive.
Referee: Senior Championship referee Andy Madley, who recently stepped up to the Prem with a Watford v Bournemouth appointment, is in charge of this one. The last QPR game he oversaw was the 1-1 draw with Bristol City at Loftus Road just before Christmas when the visitors were awarded a controversial late penalty. More details here.
Brentford: This time last year Brentford came into the match on a run of one defeat in six, including four wins, as they made a late surge towards the play-offs which ultimately fell short. They’re in an almost identical position now, unbeaten in six including three consecutive 1-0 wins against Bristol City, Ipswich and Nottingham Forest. They are currently four points shy of Millwall in sixth with nine left to play for – although of course Millwall can stick another three on that if they beat Fulham at The Den tonight. The Bee’s have only won one of the last four and two of the last seven at Griffin Park and while they’ve only lost three times on this ground all season it’s too many draws (ten) which have held them back. The two points lost in dramatic circumstances at Loftus Road earlier this season contribute to 24 the Bees have given up from winning positions this year – the most in the league.
QPR: Broken record time – QPR have only won three away from home all season (drawn six, lost 12) which is the worst record in the division apart from Bolton (one win, nine draws) and Birmingham (three wins, four draws). Having looked like they’d turned a corner with the win at Villa and draw at Fulham last month, they’ve responded by losing to Reading and Hull without scoring (0-1, 0-4). The defeat on Humberside was the second 4-0 defeat of the season away from home following the defeat at Nottingham Forest before Christmas. Preston’s equaliser at Loftus Road last weekend was the sixth time Rangers have conceded in first half stoppage time this season and adds to a total of 27 goals (out of 64 in total) conceded between 35 and 55 minutes. Rangers have won just two of their last 24 London derbies away from home – at Fulham last season and Chelsea in 2013. QPR are tied with Aston Villa for the most headed goals in the Championship this season – 16 each.
Prediction: After leading the Prediction League all season, Elliott42 was finally usurped by JB007007 after the loss at Hull with the finishing line in sight. If you’re not in the running you can browse the QPR Collection at competition sponsor Art of Football and purchase something instead. This week our reigning champion Southend_Rsss tells us…
“Changes to a winning side, that never works, which showed last weekend against a well drilled and set up Preston side. If we had kept the changes to maybe just the goalkeeper then I would have accepted that. Now we go to Brentford on the back of a defeat and I expect we will revert back to the side that beat Sheffield Wednesday. If it’s that lineup then I fancy us. If it’s not, then we won’t come away from Brentford with anything I imagine.”
Craig’s Prediction: Brentford 1-1 QPR. Scorer – Idrissa Sylla
LFW’s Prediction: Brentford 3-1 QPR. Scorer – Matt Smith
The Twitter @loftforwords
Pictures – Action Images
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