|Swansea City 3 v 0 Queens Park Rangers|
Saturday, 29th September 2018 Kick-off 15:00
Ten things I hate about Pool – Preview
Friday, 28th Sep 2018 15:46 by Clive Whittingham
Recovery well and truly punctured by two dire defeats to Norwich and Blackpool, suffered without having a serious effort on goal over 180 minutes, QPR now face awkward trips to Swansea and Reading.
Swansea City (3-4-2, LLWDLD, 14th) v QPR (3-1-5, WDWWLL, 16th)
Lancashire and District Senior League >>> Saturday September 29, 2018 >>> Kick off 15.00 >>> Weather – Overcast, breezy >>> Liberty Stadium, Swansea
There was a lot of emotion floating about on Tuesday post League Cup exit at Blackpool, and the decision to house the away fans in the main stand behind the dugout didn’t do Steve McClaren many favours as he felt the full force of the sort of wrath you only produce when you’ve taken two days off work and driven to the other end of the country to be humiliated like that by your own team.
With the dust settling, and a couple of away league games to look forward to in double quick time, we’re going to try and look as dispassionately and logically as we can at why, for once, the football supporters have this right and what Steve Claridge would patronisingly refer to as the “football people” are wrong. QPR’s cup ominishambles, and this defeat at Blackpool in particular, was not only a huge wasted opportunity, it was monumentally stupid as well.
1 – The denigration of cup competitions. This is a general point covering the whole sport rather than one specific to QPR, but it’s highly relevant this week when our club has passed up a very presentable opportunity to be in the last 16 of a cup competition. We live in an era where unless you have a Sheikh or a Russian money launderer, you cannot win the Premier League (one miraculous/suspicious nine months at Leicester apart). Even clubs with the size, history and resource of Arsenal and Everton have stopped trying. That leaves the rest of the sport, some 88-odd teams in the professional game, with two domestic trophies and European football to play for. Yet they’re so fixated with this idea that the Premier League is the be all and end all that they’re wilfully ignoring them, playing weakened teams, deliberately losing games, to focus on their goal which is to get into the Premier League and then finish 17th in it every year. We’re now at the ridiculous stage where even if you are a smaller club doing well, and you are in the Premier League, you don’t want to do too well, because then you qualify for Europe, and that’s apparently a terrible distraction from the business of finishing 17th in the Premier League again. You end up with Stoke City playing European football for the first time since Stan Matthews, getting an incredible draw like Valencia, and then playing a weakened team in the away leg because they had a league game at the weekend. Football is sport and sport is about trophies and medals. Football supporters dream of Wembley, and European awaydays. This pragmatic boiling down of the sport to a bottom line on a business sheet is killing it as a spectacle. It’s boring the tits off everybody.
2 – Wasted opportunity. QPR lose to lower league teams in the cup a hell of a lot. Blackpool are merely another notch on the bedpost. Usually it happens at the first possible opportunity, and occasionally the second, but this year we made it through those two rounds against League One sides. Rangers haven’t been to the fourth round in ten years when they beat then Premier League Aston Villa and then lost narrowly at Man Utd. To draw another League One side in round three, giving you a great chance to go into round four and get another big tie, hopefully at home, was an absolute gift horse and we stared it straight in the mouth. Wasted at a time when we’re in a tough position after years of folly and having to rather grind our way through several boring league seasons in a dire Championship while we get our club sorted out. Look at the empty seats around Loftus Road, feel the apathy around the support base, and tell me this isn’t a club that could do with a few cup wins and a run into the latter stages to get the blood pumping again. Also, for a club that (justifiably) whinges about how tough things are getting financially for us, we don’t half seem keen to pass up the opportunity for a sell out midweek game at home to a Spurs, Arsenal, Man City type. Bristol City smashed club records for hospitality sales at their Man Utd and Man City ties last season. Are we skint or aren’t we? If we are, what the fuck are we playing at?
3 – Needlessly adding pressure. “Any manager would have done the same,” is a justification I’ve seen kicking around. If that’s right, they’re all idiots. Steve McClaren may not think this matters much, but the fans do, and it’ll be them putting the pressure on and chanting ‘you don’t know what you’re doing’ at home games if things go south – we’ve already heard it once this season v Bristol City already. While he can rightly point to several senior players letting him down – Josh Scowen and Jordan Cousins in particular behaved disgracefully and should be ashamed – the team he selected for that game on Tuesday was a joke. The only manager who justified writing the cups off was Neil Warnock, who subsequently delivered a promotion in the league. All the rest – Ian Holloway against Brentford and Chris Ramsay against Carlisle in particular – burnt off credit they didn’t really have with the supporters, adding pressure to their own position that didn’t need to be there. They may write it off, but the fans won’t when assessing how they’re doing. McClaren was already on thin ice with the QPR faithful, and he took a hammer and chisel to that on Tuesday night when he really didn’t need to.
4 – It doesn’t work. Cup runs build confidence and momentum that far outweigh any negative aspects of fixture congestion or injury risk. Prior to last season, the League Cup quarter finals had featured a Championship side that went on to win promotion in the same season for four years running (Newcastle 16/17, Hull 15/16, Bournemouth 14/15, Leicester 13/14). In 17/18 Bristol City were able to transform themselves from a relegation candidate the previous season into a play-off contender, as well as reaching the semi-finals, knocking four Premier League teams on the way. After the Brentford humiliation last year, our lovely rested first teamers lost 2-1 at Cardiff on the Saturday anyway and won just one of the next nine. The Carlisle exit in 2015 was followed by one win in five. We won one and lost four of six after losing to Burton in 2014. QPR have been unlucky in the recent past to lose Ale Faurlin and Jamie Mackie to bad injuries in cup ties, but they lost Simon Walton and Richard Ord to horror injuries in pre-season friendlies and we still play those, they lost Rowan Vine and Chris Plummer to career-defining injuries in training sessions and we still have those, they lost Clarke Carlisle and Richard Langley to exploded knees in one match v Fulham and we don’t rest players whenever they come to town. You can get injured anywhere.
5 – A demoralising message. Bright Osayi-Samuel was the man of the match against Bristol Rovers in round two by a country mile. He tore the visitors apart. His reward for this since has been 13 minutes of league action when we were desperate against Norwich. Away at a crap Birmingham side, well on top but drawing 0-0, we elected to sit back and waste time for the final half an hour, even sending Geoff Cameron on as an extra centre back at the end to defend against a team that hadn’t had a serious shot on goal all match. Would it have killed us to give Bright 30 minutes there to try and win the game? That sent a clear, damaging message out to the players in the second string which came home to roost on Tuesday – play however you like in the League Cup, you won’t be getting picked on Saturday regardless. McClaren’s comments after Blackpool were pure Harry Redknapp, placing all the blame on the players and saying they’d passed up an opportunity to push for the first team, having already made it clear through the treatment of Samuel and Wszolek in previous rounds that they had no chance of making the first team anyway. Here’s Redknapp after we’d been bummed to death by MK Dons at Loftus Road a few years ago, spot the difference: “I have big-name players who believe they’re better than they are, who bang on my door insisting that I should play them. Well, they had their chance and they blew it. I made nine changes from the team who drew at West Ham last week.” Slinging a scratch team together of players who’ve not played for weeks, never played together in that system or shape, many of them out of position, and pretending it’s an opportunity for them is bullshit. It’s not.
6 – What manager wants manager gets. McClaren was meant to be brought in to work with and improve these young players, and so far he’s done little but demoralise and call them out while demanding a series of expensive loan signings. Paul Smyth, a star of last season, benched even for this game, now has close family members speaking out about the situation on social media. We got rid of Holloway, in part, because he was seen as too erratic to develop a young squad and brought in an experienced coach to work with our young stars. Look at the state of them already. We appear to be accelerating back towards a model of what manager wants manager gets, and that’s lethal at a club in QPR’s position. We sack managers so often all they’ll ever want is something that helps them in the next four games, because if they lose them they’ll be out. What manager wants is almost always going to be three new signings, mostly strikers, but QPR don’t have the money to compete in the transfer market. You end up signing loads of loads of players you don’t really need (Hemed and Wells, when we only really needed one of them, forcing Luke Freeman and Ebere Eze to play out of position a case in point) and spending money you don’t have. You end up with a massively bloated squad full of players signed by different managers with different ideals as different short term fixes. This approach with Hughes and Redknapp has already buried the club in the ground for ten years once, and now midway through the process of extricating ourselves we seem to want to go back to it, with Steve McClaren first up with the chequebook. It’s madness.
7 – Us and them. McClaren has quickly gone from talking about “these young players” to lording it over a few senior players and his loan signings while coating the others off for their performances in what few opportunities they have had. Nahki Wells, Tomer Hemed and Geoff Cameron are all short of match fitness and could do with minutes, but were all deemed to be above needing to travel to Blackpool on a Tuesday night. He’s made it clear by ignoring Samuel and Wszolek for the first team after they played well in the previous cup rounds that there is his team, and all the rest, and never the two shall cross. By putting players, any players, up on a pedestal above others, you risk splitting the dressing room. By putting players who almost certainly won’t be here in a year’s time on a pedestal above those who will, you risk creating massive problems for yourself down the line. This time next year, if McClaren is still here, presumably his plan would be to try and get players of Hemed and Wells standard in on loan again, except that the parachute payments have ended by then so we’ll be doing it with even less money than we have now and will have to accept signings of a lesser standard or turn back to the players we have here permanently who have been sitting on the side lines for a year getting demoralised and fed up. This comes back to point six: McClaren’s bothered about the next four games only. This model doesn’t work at QPR and we were supposed to have moved away from it with good reason.
8 – Laughing stock. Whether we like it or not, we’re seen by the rest of the sport as a basket case. The club that never wins away, the club that blew three goes at the Premier League, the club that wasted all the money it got from those seasons, the club that got billionaire owners and got worse, and the club that always loses to lower league teams in the cup. We want to attract more supporters with loads of competition on our doorstep, we want to attract talented kids in a huge city where we’re surrounded by better academy set ups, we want to attract better players and we want better managers to consider us an option. You don’t do any of that by being a laughing stock, and Tuesday night was laughable.
9 – Contempt for supporters. I don’t know if Steve McClaren has had a look around him at all in the games so far, but there’s nobody out there. Huge swathes of the ground completely empty for all four home matches so far. Away ends, Birmingham apart, boiled right back down to the 500 hardcore who’ll go regardless. Never mind not attracting new fans, you risk alienating the few that are sticking with you by doing things like Tuesday night when they’ve gone all the way to the other end of the country and won’t get back until sparrow fart the following morning. QPR are an expensive team to watch. I’ve read and heard anger about Tuesday from the most loyal, died in the wool, calm and pragmatic QPR fans on the circuit. Shitting on your diehards isn’t smart, it isn’t smart at all, and it’s happened too often. For those supporters who have also given up on the cups, would rather us concentrate on the league and don’t mind things like Tuesday night, I’d love to see the day when we miraculously do reach a final and hear all the sob stories about how suddenly 40,000 people want a ticket and can’t get one.
10 – Momentum. McClaren and his players deserved credit for turning the club’s worst ever start to a league season into a run of four wins and a draw. Defeats such as the ones we suffered at West Brom, weeks the likes of which subsequently transpired after that, can have very profound affects on players and teams which they struggle to recover from. To work so hard to get back from that, stick ten points on the board, build a bit of hope again, calm everybody back down, get some confidence and belief back in the team, and then toss it all away again as we have done over the past two games is mind-blowingly stupid. After Norwich, any plans to treat Tuesday as a reserve game should have been ditched. It should have become an important first team fixture and a chance to get back on the horse. Instead we’ve now lost two out of two, not even had a proper shot on the goal in 180 minutes, and wound the fan base back up again. We’re now going into two away games in four days with confidence damaged, several players very unhappy with their treatment, and a lot of fans demanding better and wanting to see some improvement. Momentum gone, pressure back, fans angry again, and all so needless. A response is demanded at Swansea tomorrow, where even one win from the last two would have many seeing it as a bit of a free hit.
Geoff Cameron Facts #4 – Whenever Geoff plays against Millwall it takes him 40 days and 40 nights to recover sufficiently to play again.
Team News: With all those naughty little boys Steve McClaren was brought in to develop and improve rightly scalded and banished to the U23s until we piss away our FA Cup place in January, we’re thankfully back to the glorious loaned future of our club this weekend with the big hitters back in. Tomer Hemed and Nahki Wells will start up front necessitating Luke Freeman and Ebere Eze to make the best of winger roles again. Jordan Cousins’ rank stupidity during the week sees him on the naughty step for one match, though Josh Scowen hardly covered himself in glory at Blackpool either so one suspects it may be Massimo Luongo and Geoff Cameron in midfield, assuming ten days is sufficient time for Cameron to recover from playing one game of Championship football. Angel Rangel is likely to return from his thigh injury in time to face the club he served with such distinction. Darnell Furlong and Mide Shodipo are the long term absentees. Congratulations to Handsome Rob for spotting Sean Goss first during the week and winning that luxury holiday for himself and his lovely girlfriend on Steve McClaren’s hair island. The chances of ever seeing him again (Sean that is, not Rob) after Blackpool are surely limited so we’re doubling down and offering a Jake Bidwell shampoo and male grooming set for anybody who spots Goss this week.
Bersant Celina, who scored a pearler for Ipswich against QPR last season, is a doubt with a roach infestation. Leroy Fer is struggling to leave the house for fear of being relegated again so is a doubt to face his former club. Summer signing Joel Asoro attempted a comeback in a second string game against Villarreal during the week but suffered a crocodile bite so is out again. Little Tom Carroll is fit to face the club he spent time on loan with but, thankfully, Wilfried Bony (too rich) and Jefferson Montero (too cold) are long term absentees.
Elsewhere: Two games for your viewing pleasure on the tellybox tonight. Champions of Europe, champions in August again, continue their victory parade at the Sheffield Owls. The ongoing tragi-comedy about the filthy, stinking rich football manager left to bitch and moan about only being able to select from the likes of Yannick Bolasie and Tammy Abraham and still being expected to get results at Championship level rolls into Bristol City. That leaves ten games for tomorrow, including the televised evening fixture between Rotherham and Stoke – I know, I know, it’s like Beatlemania all over again right – which is actually a relegation six pointer the way the table stands now, with Stoke’s hideously expensive squad not gelling at all to this point.
Now, something surely has to give at St Andrew’s this week, where Ipswich Blue Sox are still without a win, and Birmingham have only won once – albeit at the Champions of Europe in surprise circumstances last week. Can Paul Hurst finally get off the mark? If he does it piles more pressure on Preston who’ve started the season surprisingly poorly and are at home to West Brom this weekend seeking their first win since the opening day of the season. Millwall, also struggling, welcome Sheffield Red Stripes while Allam Tigers, basically dead in the water, are at home to Pulisball.
Rounding up the surprise packages in the early stages of the league – newly promoted Blackburn in twelfth are at home to Nottingham Trees, Bolton have signed Roid Dyer on a short term deal following his release from Burton ahead of their home game with Big Fat Frank’s Big Fat Man Utd conquerors (didn’t look much fun to me, who needs cup runs) while Wigan Warriors up in fifth go to Borussia Norwich.
No surprise at Brentford’s flying start, we tipped them from miles out, and you’d expect them to roll over Reading reasonably easily. Catch 20 minutes of kip after that because we go again with another full round of midweek fixtures afterwards.
Referee: It’s Kevin Friend this week, gracing us with his presence from The Best League In The World (Richard Keys stopped sucking on his daughter’s best mate’s tits long enough to tell us we had to cap that up). Details here (of the referee, not of Keysie’s banterous sex life).
Swansea: With the likes of Bony, Montero an Celina all injured it’s little surprise that goals are proving rather a problem for Swansea. They haven’t scored in three matches now, two of those finished 0-0 including last time out away at Middlesbrough, and the other was decided in favour of Stoke (1-0) by one that was obviously offside. In all, they’ve failed to score in six of their ten games this season in all competitions including five of the last six. They don’t lose often though, only once in the league and once in the cup so far. At home they’ve beaten basement dwellers Preston (1-0), drawn with Leeds (2-2) and Forest (0-0) and lost to Bristol City and Crystal Palace (both 0-1). They’ve kept five clean sheets so far and only Middlesbrough (three) have a better goals against column than Swansea’s (six).
QPR: Only Ipswich and Rotherham (both six) have scored fewer goals than QPR and Swansea (seven) this season. Only Stoke, Hull (both 16) and Preston (18) have conceded more than Rangers’ 15. From unbeaten in five, with four wins, QPR have now lost two on the spin without scoring, and without having a proper effort on target in either game. They took four points from their last two away games in the league, with a 0-0 at Birmingham and 2-1 win at Bolton providing as many points in 180 minutes as QPR had won away from home in the previous 11 games. Last season they won just three times away from home, and they haven’t returned from Swansea with three points since 1981, eight visits ago (L4 D3).
Prediction: Elliott Cooke (@cookiee42, Elliott42) won last year’s Prediction League to claim the merch from our sponsor Art of Football, but we both got caught out by the demon hope against Norwich a week ago. 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…
“A week in the life of a Rangers fan. This time seven days ago everything looked like it was going in our favour and now back to back defeats without scoring, it all looks doom and gloom again. It really is a love hate relationship. Our away record at Swansea, as with many Championship clubs is truly dreadful. We haven’t beaten them away since 1981. A win quite a bit before my time so I’m hoping that I’ll be going to the Liberty to witness QPR’s first win there. However, I’m realistic enough to know this probably isn’t going to happen.”
Elliott’s Prediction: Swansea 3-1 QPR. Scorer – Nahki Wells
LFW’s Prediction: Swansea 0-0 QPR. No scorer.
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