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Queens Park Rangers 1 v 0 Wigan Athletic
SkyBet Championship
Saturday, 25th August 2018 Kick-off 15:00
Borrowing time – Preview
Friday, 24th Aug 2018 20:23 by Clive Whittingham

QPR, with four defeats from four games to start the season, are now hanging their hopes on loan deals from Premier League reserve teams as a vibrant Wigan team arrive in W12.

QPR v Wigan Athletic

Lancashire and District Senior League >>> Saturday August 25, 2018 >>> Kick Off 15.00 >>> Weather - Sunshiiiiiiiiine >>> Loftus Road, London, W12

How are you finding it so far?

Mr Steve says Saturday’s game at home to Wigan Athletic is “our toughest test so far”. Given that we lost one of the (by default) lesser tests 7-1 last Saturday, that’s a concern.

It did give me brief, glorious hope though. Hope that I’d dreamt the last seven days. “Toughest test so far,” is the sort of thing managers who’ve made a good start to the season say to keep expectations under a bit of a lid. “Well, we’ve done well so far, but don’t be counting your chickens just yet because this Wigan team are bang at it…” That sort of thing. Telling us a newly promoted side coming to our ground will be our “toughest test so far” at the end of a week in which we’ve played twice, lost twice, scored once and conceded ten doesn’t really sound right does it? Maybe this was all a figment of my alcohol, stress, anxiety-riddled imagination. But no, it’s all there on the Soccerbase.

Not for the first time in his career, stuff Steve McClaren says bears little resemblance to the reality of what’s actually happening in front of our eyes. It’s like his media-trained rhetoric escapes out of that little tear in the fabric of reality through which Patrick Agyemang once poked eight goals in six starts. He seems very calm. I’m looking at his team and thinking it’s well ablaze. It’s really burning mate, what we gonna do? I know they’ve got to say something, but exactly how much tougher is it likely to get than a 7-1 loss? (Asking for a friend.)

The impact and influence of managers can be massively overstated. QPR sack them all the time without getting any better, suggesting that they weren’t the problem in the first place. But they’re not completely irrelevant, and you only need look at Klopp’s Liverpool, Mourinho’s Man Utd, Allardyce’s West Ham, Pulis’ Stoke, Warnock’s QPR to see teams becoming the physical, footballing embodiment of their manager and his style. Lazy, spent, busted, greedy, bent dinosaurs like That Tosser Redknapp give it the “once they’re over the white line, what can I do?” abdication of responsibility, but it’s not true. Not completely.

Look at Ian Holloway’s QPR last year, often chaotic and nonsensical but frequently capable of coming from behind to claim points, and on two occasions capable of coming from 2-0 behind to salvage something from home games. Then compare it to the reaction of Mr Steve’s QPR to going 2-0 down to Bristol City on Tuesday. Imagine Mr Steve as Leonidas in 300, replacing the “tonight we dine in hell” tubthumper with “now, look, there’s an awful lot of them, and only 300 of us, and I’ve got a thigh strain”…

The first thing McClaren did after getting the England job was get his teeth sorted. And though there have been successes since then, that idea that he looks and sounds the part but chokes on opening night persists. All talk no walk. All image and no substance. Talking well about a game he keeps failing at.

One of two things have happened since he was appointed. We’ve either been spun an absolute PR lie about getting him in as a coach to work with the younger players and build on what happened at the end of last season, take what we saw against Birmingham and Norwich at Loftus Road and add consistency of message, team selection and approach. Or, that was the genuine intention, but we’ve now gone into a full blown panic. Neither of them are good news.

Ilias Chair, Bright Osayi-Samuel, Ryan Manning, Paul Smyth and now Osman Kakay were playing, and now are not. Manning has already been loaned out to Rotherham. Smyth, after one poor 45 minute start against Sheff Utd, is being linked with a similar move to Portsmouth. Kakay has been replaced by 35-year-old Angel Rangel. Chair hasn’t played a single minute. McClaren talks about the needs of “these young players” but he’s now only picking one of them, Ebere Eze, and one cannot wait to see how he crowbars Tomer Hemed and Nahki Wells into his favoured 4-2-3-1 set up without dropping him as well.

It looks, and sounds, and feels like we’ve gone back to that old QPR trick of changing the manager, getting in a big name that everybody has heard of, and bowing down to everything he says he wants and needs. And usually if it looks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck, it’s a fucking duck.

This is bad for a club like us because all these sorts of managers in these sorts of situations ever want and need is three of four more “experienced” (nee expensive) players. Managers know if they lose their next couple of games they get the sack, so they have no interest in blooding youngsters and giving players a chance to find their feet at first team level. They just want a short term fix that will help them win on Saturday and keep them employed. That is where we’ve been burnt before with Mark Hughes and Barry Redchapp, that’s the lesson we’re meant to have learnt, that’s what the director of football model is meant to be here for. And yet here we are apparently letting Steve McClaren sell/drop/ignore/loan out players that were doing a good first team job for us at the end of last season - players we said he’d come here to coach - while scrabbling round for Premier League cast offs on loan. A loan market, we should add, that the club has repeatedly said holds no value for us in our current situation because you have to pay loan fees and wages for players you don’t get to keep, but is now suddenly crawling bare-kneed over broken glass to get involved in.

I’m not sure whether I’d rather have been lied to, or whether they genuinely believed it and are now panicking. Neither is good and whether we successfully escape from this peril we’ve placed ourselves in or not, some really serious questions need to be asked about how we’ve gone from “this is a coaching job, working with these young players” to “I reckon that Rangel could still do a job” in such double quick time with such catastrophic results on the pitch. How we’ve gone from thrashing Villa, Birmingham and Norwich, with kids playing and scoring, to getting our arse handed to us while dropping/loaning out Manning, Smyth, Chair, Samuel, Kakay and begging Brighton to lend us their reserve, 31-year-old target man.

But then, you know, he lost his first four games as Middlesbrough manager and ended up winning the League Cup and in a UEFA Cup final, so we’ll probably all look back on this week and laugh at some point. I say silly things and turn out to be wrong all the time. Much like Mr Steve.

Links >>> Happier times – History >>> Free-scoring Wigan springing surprises – Interview >>> The Pie At Night – Reciprocal Interview >>> Hawthorns in our side – Podcast >>> Martin in charge – Referee

Here’s QPR beating Wigan and Conor Washington scoring. I know, big lolz.

Saturday:

Team News: New signings, actual strikers, riding into the rescue like Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson/Gromit in The Wrong Trousers. Of course, Mr Steve favours a 4-2-3-1 formation, so one presumes/fears that it’ll be Hemed as the ‘1’, Wells asked to play out of position wide of the ‘3’, and Eze the last of “these young players” to be ditched following Manning, Chair, Smyth, Kakay and Samuel before him. Please prove us wrong. Please. Darnell Furlong is halfway through his three month lay off by our calculations. We’re waiting to see whether the Terracotta Turnstile fancies it this week or not. Grant Hall exists only in your imaginations. And we’re offering a night of intellectual debate/soapy tit wanks with a Love Island contestant of your choice for any sightings of Sean Goss.

Wigan are expected to name an unchanged team after their 3-0 midweek win at Stoke. Darron Gibson hasn’t been tempted out of the local Spoons yet so he’s still absent (sometimes truth is stranger than the stuff we make up on here). Whatever happened to Steve Clarke?

Elsewhere: This used to be the bit of the Friday column where we laughed at just how horrendously mould-riddled the rest of this God-forsaken footballing backwater looked. Now, here we are staring up at the sunny uplands of a Super Sunday Brunch Spectacular between Rotherham and Millwall Scholars as the only team still with zero points. Listen, whichever one of you is sinning, pack it in for a bit, God is in vengeful, Old Testament mood clearly.

Sky Sports Leeds are tonight returning the classic This Is Your Life to our screens, with Tony Pulis getting the ‘big red book’ treatment as Middlesbrough play West Bromwich Albion. Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds aren’t on! I’ll be demanding a refund on my de-facto Elland Road season ticket with them heading to Borussia Norwich with nothing more than a 25-minute puff piece on the Excalibur channel on Saturday night to pacify the heaving masses.

The ongoing realisation that losing all the time for England and knocking in the odd deflected free kick against Bolton doth not a manager make, even if he can talk pwopah, is providing some light relief. Big Fat Frank’s Big Fat Derby will do well to avoid the full Preston Knob End treatment this weekend – our money’s on an away win.

Clubs that have made interesting starts… Reading, just as shit as we expected, go to Villa with one point to their name. They lose 4-0 and Paul Clement makes his own way home. Brentford, just as good as we expected, about to offload Ryan Woods but a good bet to win at the Mad Chicken Farmers. Bolton (I mean fuck me if you can do bits with Josh Magennis up front it can’t be that hard can it?) have already doubled their total of away wins from last season and can continue their remarkable beginning against a bitty Sheffield Red Stripes. Ipswich Blue Sox, completely remodelled and into a brave post-Big Mick world, still searching for their first win as they head to embargoed Sheffield Owls.

And then there’s Gary Rowett. I’m genuinely (no make up) fascinated by this one. Credited with building the Burton Albion promotion machine which we subsequently thought Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink masterminded, he was by universal opinion unfairly sacked at Birmingham when on the cusp of the play-offs. But the Brum fans didn’t particularly like his football and at Derby, a club close to his heart, he failed in the same way everybody else has failed there, with a team as slow as coastal erosion. Now given a blank cheque at Stoke – Tom Ince, Benik Afobe, now apparently Ryan Woods from Brentford – he can’t buy a win and was beaten 3-0 at home by Wigwam on Tuesday to a frosty reception from the locals. They’ll surely, surely, surely to God get off the mark at home to Allam Tigers, where Nigel Adkins is already prepping the little cardboard box for his personal effects.

What else do we have for you? Swansea v Bristol City? You like? Forest v Birmingham is on the tellybox on Saturday night if not. That’s your lot though. There’s nae porn on it.

Referee: Steve Martin co-wrote and starred in the 1986 comedy western movie Three Amigos, directed by John Landis. Filmography.

Form

QPR: Form? Form?! Shepherd’s Bush hasn’t seen ‘form’ like this since the Great Plague. It was already the worst start to a league season in the history of the club, even before Bristol City gave us a proper porking on Tuesday night. QPR have played four, lost four, scored twice and conceded 13 in four games so far. The goals are going in at a rate of one every 27 minutes, and the trend of conceding between 35-55 last season has festered rather than subsided. Rangers conceded 28 of their 70 goals last season in that pleasure window (35, 36, 37, 38, 38, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 45, 45, 45, 45, 45, 45, 47, 47, 48, 48, 50, 50, 51, 52, 52, 54, 55, 55) and have already shipped six of the 13 conceded so far immediately before or after half time again. Nahki Wells has scored on all three of his league appearances at Loftus Road prior to Saturday (QPR 1-2 Huddersfield, February 11 2017; QPR 1-1 Huddersfield, December 28 2015; QPR 2-1 Huddersfield, January 18, 2014). Our friend and colleague Jack Supple (@JTSupple) at Opta tells us he has scored 102 goals in 278 appearances in English football, while Tomer Hemed has scored 28 and assisted 10 in 82 appearances at Championship level.

Wigan: Goals have been flowing at both ends for Paul Cook’s Wigan side so far this season, culminating in Tuesday’s big 3-0 win away to newly relegated, big-spending, title favourites Stoke City. They’ve won two, drawn one and lost one of their league games so far with a 3-2 loss at Villa and that 3-0 win at the Britannia as their two away matches so far. They’ve scored ten goals in their four games so far, conceding seven, with a 3-1 League Cup defeat at Rotherham chucked into the mix as well. Will Grigg and Nick Powell have scored three goals each already – QPR have scored twice between them in total. The teams have met on this ground eight times in history, with Wigan winning just the once in 2003. Rangers have won five and drawn one of the last six meetings here, which includes a play-off semi-final victory in extra time in May 2014.

Prediction: Well, this year’s Prediction League really looks like it’s going to reward the pessimists/realists/people who watch QPR play regularly out from the rest of you hopeless romantics doesn’t it? Elliott Cooke (@cookiee42, Elliott42) won last year and claimed the Art of Football goodies. Get involved here or sample the merch from our sponsor’sQPR collection. They’ve kindly agreed to provide prizes to the overall winner AND whoever is top at Christmas. Reigning champ Elliott tells us…

“After sitting through another 90 minutes of absolute garbage, I’m really struggling to stay positive about our prospects this season. I thought we actually played well first half until they scored but as soon as that went in, the game was over. With Wigan beating Stoke comfortably away from home on Wednesday, we could be right up against it again.

“The signings of Hemed and Wells cheered me up slightly – I rate Wells highly and he’s used to scoring at Loftus Road! Both players have a very decent record in this division. I just hope we don’t end up with two players who know they’ll go back to their parent clubs at the end of the season and when (not if) we’re battling relegation towards the end of the season, they don’t throw in the towel.

“My only hope for Saturday is that one, possibly two of our new signings start, and play a major role. It’s clear we’re going to concede for fun this season so we’re going to have to rely on these two for large periods. I’m going for a high scoring draw.”

Elliott’s Prediction: QPR 2-2 Wigan. Scorer – Tomer Hemed

LFW’s Prediction: QPR 0-2 Wigan. No scorer.

The Twitter/Instagram @loftforwords

Pictures – Action Images

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OxheyR added 23:41 - Aug 24
Thanks Clive, Summed up perfectly (unfortunately)
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SimonJames added 10:42 - Aug 25
Managerial dilemma solved... Leonidas!
100% commitment from the players, zero back chat from the fans, and the board would never dare to sack him.
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snanker added 10:46 - Aug 25
Cheers Clive another drubbing it is then ! Hoping my life long Gull mate is right and rates Hemed a decent goalscorer and we might put 1 in the net as for the other end well.....
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TacticalR added 13:13 - Aug 25
Thanks for your preview.

The depressing thing is that despite the ups and downs, I felt that we were beginning to forge a bit of an identity last season.

I was more upset by the sacking of Holloway than I realised, even before the ramifications of the sacking (in terms of a change in direction) were apparent.

It doesn't particularly matter if the actions of the board are due to lies or panic. The schizophrenic lurches are the same. For the record I think it's the more the former in the sense that they are still in thrall to big names and will throw everything overboard at the behest of a big name. Perhaps they lie to themselves.
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