|West Bromwich Albion 7 v 1 Queens Park Rangers|
Saturday, 18th August 2018 Kick-off 15:00
Loftus Road, zero days without a major incident - Preview
Friday, 17th Aug 2018 18:10 by Clive Whittingham
Just another standard week at Queens Park Rangers ends on Saturday with a visit to free-scoring (and free-conceding) West Brom, fresh from a Premier League relegation.
West Brom v QPR
Lancashire and District Senior League >>> Saturday August 18, 2018 >>> Kick off 15.00 >>> Weather – Cloudy, dry >>> The Hawthorns, West Bromwich
I’m sorry to have to call you in again so soon Mr and Mrs Rangers, but I’m afraid since we last spoke on Tuesday your errant child has been acting up again.
There was the shock win in the League Cup against Peterborough, then the resignation of Tony Fernandes as co-chairman, and the return to a previous white knight Amit Bhatia as the club figurehead. Ryan Manning, who finished last season strongly and many would like to see in the team, was then loaned to Rotherham United, who like it or not are a relegation rival to us as we stand here today. Meanwhile Angel Rangel, a 35-year-old Spanish full back released by a fellow Championship club where he was a living legend, has been signed to apparently play in front of our existing youth team graduate right back Osman Kakay, who’s been doing alright for most people’s money. Then Sean at the Box Office had his account hacked so the club started sending out rogue, virulent emails to its supporters on – don’t open the attachment was the advice, if only we’d done the same with the season ticket renewals was the universal reply. And there’s been a ramping up, via national radio and QPR podcast interviews, of the campaign to secure the Linford Christie Stadium just to the north of Loftus Road for our increasingly necessary new stadium.
And that’s since Tuesday. It’s Friday today. Friday.
The biggest news amongst it, at face value, is the return of the popular Bhatia to a prominent role at the club. Although exactly what the role is remains to be seen, with the day to day running of the club presumably, given their titles, falling to Lee Hoos and Les Ferdinand and the ownership still lying almost entirely with the Tune Group and Ruben Gnanalingam in particular. It will be, as it has been for sometime, Gnanalingam calling the shots if he wants to, and if he continues to put money into the club and convert the debt to equity his stake and influence will only grow as Fernandes’ diminishes. That’s been going on for sometime, while Fernandes has continued to be the public face of the consortium. It will take some time to convince the sceptical that this isn’t purely a PR move designed to take the heat off Fernandes and lift the mood of the club a little bit, shuffling the deckchairs on the Titanic as it were, rather than a serious, palpable change.
Fernandes had noticeably come to the end of his tether with the stream of criticism and abuse he receives regarding QPR on social media (and, at times, it seems, website like this one). After he’d, somewhat bizarrely, decided to address his final flurry of Tweets, including basically his resignation, to the LoftforWords feed therefore copying us into all the replies he got for the next 48 hours, you can see why. Mountains of it, pouring in, all hours, some of it abusive, almost all of it fucking nonsense. We’ve said for ages he shouldn’t be on there, at least in a QPR capacity, and just two days of getting to read all the replies he gets made us understand why he was even less. It gives him a totally unfair reflection of what QPR fans in the ground, in the pub, on the train, in the away ends think, feel and say.
There’s a piece to be written on his reign when it’s over, but as we’ve said it’s not – he still owns a third of the club personally, and nearly 100% of it with his business partner Gnanalingam. There are a million valid criticisms of his time here – chief among them the amount of money that has been spent and what we’ve got for it. Not all of it his/Tune’s money either, six huge cash payments to the club by way of three Premier League television deals and three Premier League prize money settlements, have been squandered and the first four of those were won through a promotion achieved by QPR under Neil Warnock before he got here. That was QPR’s money, as was the parachute money received since, and that’s all gone as well. It’s cost him and Tune, and they haven’t leveraged that debt against the club yet, which is fantastic news. But it’s cost QPR as well, it’s cost them money they won fairly and in some style, money which could have set the club up for life, but instead did the same for a bunch of wanker footballers.
Wanker footballers Fernandes has always been keen to shift the blame for onto Mark Hughes and Kia Joorabchian, among others. The idea of the naïve owner with his pants pulled down by industry sharks has endured and suits his image. Hughes was dangerously incompetent, Joorabchian saw an easy cash cow, and they are both rightly reviled at Loftus Road. But Fernandes, and Tune, wanted those big names, those big Deadline Days, those Sky Sports News appearances, those Central London press conferences with Ji-Sung Park, those Asian tours. Make no mistake about that. You can’t really say you had your pants pulled down and have learnt your lesson and then employ Harry Redknapp and do it all over again, with the same result – another promotion wasted, another big TV payment and prize money settlement squandered, and most of the parachute money subsequently spent fighting the fire, and the massive FFP fine.
And yes, before we get letters, we were excited too at the time. Junior Hoilett, Julio Cesar, Djibril Cisse, Steven Caulker, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Eduardo Vargas, Wembley… We couldn’t believe it either. We thought we’d arrived. We were loving it. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. It doesn’t make the point invalid.
That, and the way the potential Old Oak Common stadium development was approached, would be headline among our criticisms. But the majority of the abuse he cops on Twitter is about stuff like potentially selling Luke Freeman to Blackburn (it’s a good thing we’re getting bids for our players guys, it means they’re good players, we used to have to pay the buggers to leave) or not “announcing Ravel” or whichever new flavour of the month footballer the masses think is suddenly going to come in and turn the whole club around now. That is unfair, and you can see why he was sick of it.
We wait to see whether Bhatia is simply a new lightning rod for that ‘content’, or whether he’s actually going to run the club and change its direction. It’s a very similar situation to the one he was parachuted into last time. Back then the Bernie and Flavio dreamteam had turned toxic, the fans were in open revolt, the team was in freefall, the whole thing was going tits up. The narrative is that Bhatia took over, brought in Ishan Saksena, appointed Neil Warnock, and took the team to the Premier League just 18 months after it was losing league games to Peterborough and Scunthorpe with Tamas Priskin and Marcus Bent on loan up front. He then cemented his popularity by resigning when the evil Briatore breezed back in and jacked up the season ticket prices. How true that narrative is, how much influence Briatore and Ecclestone maintained at an arm’s length, has never quite been pinned down, but it made for a good movie.
That’s us being rather sniffy about a very likeable guy, who really seems to have been bitten by the QPR bug, who we’re glad is back involved and whom we’d have absolutely loved to have bought the club from Bernie and Flavio when his family tried just before the promotion was secured. But this club has been to hell and back so many times it’s got frequent flyer miles, and both QPR and its board of directors are known for their fondness of a good PR trick, so you’ll forgive our scepticism at this point.
On the pitch, the logic of adding a great and experienced pro like Rangel to a young squad shorn of many of its senior figures makes sense. We’ve spoken all summer about the impact losing not only stalwarts of your team but also leaders of your dressing room all at once can have on a young squad, and Rangel’s reputation off the field is flawless. The idea of bringing in a player of his age when we’ve got a youngster doing well in his position, and another to return in a couple of months time, less so. If Swansea thought he could still do it at this level he’d presumably still be there. How much he’s going to play, how well he does, will be known only in time.
We were rather more perturbed by the decision to let Ryan Manning go out on loan, though that’s probably because we're firmly in ‘find three teams worse than us’ mode at the moment and Rotherham are on that increasingly short list as it stands. We have a lot of midfielders, we have a lot of midfielders that can sort of do a bit of everything, and Manning is both of those. While I’d like to see him playing for our first team, it’s hard to say who you’d drop (Luongo is currently in the bad books after a slow start to the season, but that’s all it is – two games). And while you’d prefer maybe Sean Goss, Ilias Chair (who’s vanished), maybe even Jordan Cousins, to go out rather than Manning, it’s also about who other teams want. You can only sell, or loan, what others want to buy. Best case, we go soaring up the table, Manning arrives back next summer with 40 Championship games under his belt (or comes back in January when Mass is at the Asia Cup).
Let’s see, as Tony used to Tweet.
QPR won 4-1 on their last visit to this ground in 2015. Not even they know quite how they did it.
Team News: Steve McClaren said nice things about Pawel Wszolek and Conor Washington after the midweek cup shock against Peterborough, making life easy for weary journalists writing dull team news sections up and down the country – “pushing for starts” is the technical term. Angel Rangel has signed on after his summer release by Swansea but Osman Kakay has impressed in three games so far so there’s a decision to be made there. Attempts to bring Brighton striker Tomer Hemed in on loan have so far come to nought.
Scottish winger Olly Burke scored in the midweek League Cup win against Luton making life easy for weary journalists writing dull team news sections up and down the country – “pushing for a start” is the technical term. Defender Allan Nyom has been loaned out to Legannes which may open the door to a return for Craig Dawson despite him spending the summer trying to force a move away from the club.
Elsewhere: It’s Birmingham v Swansea on the tellybox tonight. I know right? Be still my pulsating vagina.
Then, between tomorrow and next Friday, there are 22 Lancashire and District Senior League fixtures being played on five different days and four different kick off times. What can we offer you tomorrow? Well, there’s a clash of the criminally negligent owners when Hull meet Blackburn – one to show Shaun Harvey’s Football League in its absolute finest light that one.
There’s bad blood between Sheffield Red Stripes and Borussia Norwich following last season’s meetings so that might be one to keep an eye on if you’re sick of your actual life and looking for distractions. Bristol City play Middlesbrough in the Aden Flint derby (15/2 to score at anytime) and big-spending Nottingham Trees go to newly promoted Wigan. The crowd-pleasing decision to offers us a League Cup tie between Sunderland and Sheffield Owls on a Thursday night means their game with Brentford has been shifted to Sunday. The Saturday night fair comes from Preston, who look underrated for the play-offs, against Stoke, who are perhaps slightly over-tipped based on early evidence.
Of course what really counts for coverage of our division these days is telling you Marco Bielsa’s Leeds (home to Rotherham), Frank Lampard’s Derby (away to Millwall), and Aston Villa (away to Ipswich Blue Sox) are doing so we could have just left this bit at that section. The latter fixture particularly interesting, given Town’s complete overhaul of their squad during the summer, but nervy start to the season with only one point from two games against newly promoted sides.
Reading v Bolton has been deemed unfit for human consumption.
Referee: Tony Harrington oversaw two QPR wins last season, including the victory over eventual champions Wolves, so hopefully he can keep that record up when he comes down from Cleveland to take charge of tomorrow’s game. Record and stats.
West Brom: Thanks to Sky pisballing about with the fixture list, West Brom have already played a game more than QPR in this the third week of the season and, frankly, they’ve been all over the place. They lost 2-1 at home to Bolton on day one – Bolton who only won once away from home in the whole of last season. The televised 1-1 draw at big spending Nottingham Forest could easily have finished 4-1 either way with the Baggies under the cosh for 80 minutes and then suddenly scoring and hitting the woodwork three times in the last ten minutes. An equally ridiculous, somewhat low-quality, 4-3 win at Norwich followed before a more reserved 1-0 League Cup win against League One Luton during the week. They only won three times at home during their relegation season last term and have only won one of their last nine league games on this ground – although Pards Pardew was in place for a lot of that so it hardly counts.
QPR: Rangers have won on their last two visits to The Hawthorns, once in the FA Cup (I know!) and of course that 4-1 in the Premier League last time we came here. To do so again would snap a couple of unwanted records. It would be the first league win of the season at the third attempt – two defeats to start a non-top flight season for the first time since 1970. It would be the first away win since the 3-1 success at Aston Villa in March since when the R’s have drawn one and lost five straight on the road – they of course only won three away games in the whole of last season.
Prediction: Given that QPR rarely scored more than two, and never kept a clean sheet, last season’s Prediction League should have been a doddle right? Right? Well, Elliott Cooke (@cookiee42, Elliott42) certainly thought so, leading from the front throughout despite brave chasing by JB007007 and ending up with more than 100 points. Lots of goodies from Art of Football for him then, and potentially for you this season. Everybody starts afresh now, you only need to be registered on the site to play, so here’s the link – get predicting. Meanwhile, here’s Art of Football’s QPR collection, ideal birthday present material, to peruse. They’ve kindly agreed to provide prizes to the overall winner AND whoever is top at Christmas. To help you pick here is our reigning champ Elliott with his thoughts for this week…
“Steve McClaren talked about an improved performance last weekend but I’m not convinced. With Tuesday’s shock win in the cup, it will be interesting to see if any of the players who performed well did enough to keep their place this weekend. I’m expecting a real tough ride on Saturday. West Brom look capable of scoring at will so it’s going to be another big test for our new captain and his troops. I do think we’ll score but I’m expecting a comfortable win for the home side.”
Elliott’s Prediction: West Brom 3-1 QPR. Scorer – Luke Freeman
LFW’s Prediction: West Brom 4-2 QPR. Scorer – Ebere Eze
The Twitter/Instagram @loftforwords
Pictures – Action Images
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