|Queens Park Rangers 2 v 1 Leeds United|
Sunday, 6th January 2019 Kick-off 14:00
That’s magic – Preview
Friday, 4th Jan 2019 20:45 by Clive Whittingham
QPR, seeking a first FA Cup win without the aid of a replay since the Trevor Sinclair bicycle kick, take their latest swing at the historic competition against Leeds in a Super Sunday Brunch Spectacular.
QPR (11-6-9, LWWWDD, 9th) v Leeds United (15-6-5, WWWWLL, 1st)
Zenith Data Systems Centenary Trophy >>> Sunday January 5, 2019 >>> Kick Off 14.00 >>> Weather – Grey, dry >>> Travel – No Hammersmith and City Line >>> Loftus Road, London, W12
Well I hope you kids like magic, because it’s about to get pretty fucking magical around here this weekend let me tell you.
It’s that magical time of the year when Dan Walker and Jake Humphrey get to walk around on the pitch at the Deva Stadium in Chester and talk to Robbie Savage about how magical the whole thing is before Leicester City’s youth team beat the local side 5-0. It’s that magical time of the year when Mark Clemmit gets to ponce around the Warrington Town changing rooms and talk about how magical it smells and how magical it is that the home team goalkeeper is actually a quantity surveyor during the week, one in a family line going back almost two generations of quantity surveyors who also played in goal for Warrington Town. He later makes a magical mistake for the third in a 4-0 defeat to Stoke City’s reserves.
That’s right, it’s the magic of the FA Cup. The magic of the FA Cup Third Round. The magic of the FA Cup Third Round sponsored by a Middle Eastern airline that sacks its female cabin crew if they dare become pregnant in the first three years of their employment – a policy it describes as “generous”. The magic of that traditional first Saturday in January, when traditionally anybody can beat anybody, when traditionally heroes are made and legends are written, when traditionally David slays Goliath, when traditionally the giant killers come to town and when you’re traditionally more likely to see a clip of that magical Ronnie Radford goal for Hereford than you are members of your close family.
Couple of caveats, because I can see you moistening up over there. We should point out that the traditional first Saturday in January isn’t really a thing now. It’s the first Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. And that’s not just for the three live matches, plus whoever Manchester United are playing, that the domestic channels want to shift either. Oh no. Seven matches will kick off at 12.30 on Saturday, ten at 15.00, five at 17.30, another seven (including our own) at 14.00 on Sunday, one at 16.30 on Sunday and one at 19.45 on Monday. Highlights include Reading having to get to Old Trafford for Saturday lunchtime, Leicester having to get back from Newport on a Sunday evening and Arsenal, Huddersfield, Grimsby and Portsmouth stuck in Blackpool, Bristol, South London and Norwich respectively on a Saturday night. Magic enthusiasts all of them I’m sure. They’d have to be to find a train home.
This has been deemed ok because the BBC would like to run a rip-off version of the Jeff Stelling programme - except they want to do it on a Sunday lunchtime, and have some goals to show, and wheel Garth Crooks in on the end of a forklift truck to talk insufferable bollocks with Kevin Kilbane about Fulham Reserves v Oldham Athletic and Preston Reserves v Doncaster Rovers.
It’s also, in the majority of cases, been done to “suit the needs of international broadcasters”. Because if you’ve ever stood wondering where your fucking suitcase is at the Allama Iqbal International Airport in Lahore, or why they don’t employ some more customs staff to deal with the four hour queue at Dulles International Airport in the vague vicinity of Washington DC, or what time of day it is and what on earth everybody’s going on about at Narita International Airport Tokyo, you’ll know full well that one of the few things that can make that experience more bearable is a very small television stuck up in the coving somewhere showing Norwich Reserves v Portsmouth with no sound.
I do find it odd that the broadcasters, domestic and international, love the English game, and its FA Cup in particular, for its tradition, and history, and atmosphere, and it’s bloody magic, and blather on about all of this until you’d rather boil your head in the slow cooker than listen to any more of their inane bullshit – and then go out of their way to crap all over it. But then I guess it’s no different from when rich foreign businessmen buy our football clubs for their history and name and tradition and passionate support and prestige and then change the colour of their home kit because red is lucky in Malaysia, or get rid of the black cat mascot that has a story behind it and replace it with some prick in a tiger onesie that John Lewis had on offer because black cats are unlucky in Italy, or change the name of the club to the Hull Snow Leopards because they reckon the Himalayas are teeming with little boys who are desperate to support Hull City if only the club was named after a carnivorous animal. We like your football for its history and its tradition, but actually would you mind awfully just fucking that off so we can shift more lunchboxes in Vietnam? Ta.
The cup competitions in this country are dead (in the case of the League Cup) and dying in the case of the FA Cup. The money on offer in the Premier League, even for being shit all season and finishing seventeenth, is now the be all and end all and anything that even barely hints at obstructing your path to the glorious sunny uplands of cobbling together 12 top flight victories while losing 6-0 to Man City is to be immediately suppressed. You now get Leicester City, perfectly safe and bored in the middle of the Premier League, fielding a weakened team for a League Cup quarter final at home. With everything that’s gone on there this season, how poignant would it have been to end the season maybe lifting a trophy at Wembley? Nah, didn’t fancy it. There’s a seventh place to maintain (although don’t maintain it too well because then you’ll end up in the Europa League and have to deliberately duck out of that next season as well).
There are things the authorities could do to help. The League Cup first and second rounds, for instance, being crammed into an August already containing four league fixtures straight after the summer break doesn’t encourage anybody to take them seriously. Why not switch the first round to the last Saturday in July, when crowds would be bigger because of the weekend kick off and where managers currently usually play their strongest team in the final friendly. Stronger teams, competitive fixture, Saturday game… just a thought.
What you do about the Third Round of the FA Cup though, is anybody’s guess. Tacked onto the end of a ludicrous Christmas schedule of four league games in a week – again, there’s no incentive for anybody to do anything other than rest players. I’d say make it the big comeback weekend after a midwinter break. But then we know full well that lot from The Best League In The World (which Richard Keys takes time out from banging his daughter’s mate behind his wife’s back to tell us to cap up) would simply use such a break to shoot off all over the world and play exhibition matches on converted baseball diamonds while Julia Roberts tells MUTV what a “fantastic human being” Paul Pogba is. They’d still rest them for the cup game anyway, tired from all the flying no doubt.
You could, of course, give that fourth and final Champions League spot to the FA Cup winner. It’s a nonsense that you get anything for finishing fourth anyway, why not give it to somebody who’s achieved something. You know, won a trophy, won a medal, what sport’s meant to be about. See how seriously clubs take it then. Sadly, the Premier League wields so much power you’re more likely to get a reboot of Good Will Hunting in which Diane Abbott plays the Matt Damon role off the ground. They’ve even successfully lobbied and pressured the end of replays in some (soon all) rounds and with each move like that, each immoral title sponsorship deal, each big Premier League match scheduled live on TV two hours before the final kicks off, each Bristol City v Huddersfield game shifted to some ridiculous time so some two bit channel in Kenya can show it, you devalue football’s oldest, most historic competition a little bit more. If the people who are entrusted with running the thing don't care about it, why should the clubs? A thousand cuts later, you’re flogging a corpse, and thinking ‘ah that’s a shame, I used to quite like him’.
QPR, as always, were well ahead of the curve in all this of course. Twenty two (yup) years ago Trevor Sinclair chucked himself up in the air 20 yards out and scored the goal of all time. It will never be bettered, as hard as they keep trying, by Ronaldo, Messi, Bale or anybody else and it certainly won’t ever be topped by anybody in QPR colours and so the club immediately threw its hands up in the air, declared the FA Cup completed and unworthy of any of our further efforts. Too bloody right as well. We lost the next round at Wimbledon, and haven’t won an FA Cup game outright ever since. We were the first to give up. Trendsetters to the last.
It’s usually at this point that I talk about what a crying shame this is. How if we’re only going to finish sixteenth in this stupefying boring division every year why not rest players for a league game and go for the cup instead. How I crave a QPR at Wembley in a proper cup moment more than anything else – Cardiff, Wigan, Portsmouth, Barnsley, Tranmere, Bradford and Swansea have had them recently so it’s not far fetched. How I dream of one of those poxy Europa League campaigns that other clubs just toss away – just one group stage, we can lose every game, that’s all I ask. How it drives me bloody mad to see us sling a team together that’s never played with each other before and lose to Blackburn, Forest, Blackburn, Luton, Forest, Luton Blackburn, Luton, MK Dons, Blackburn, MK Dons, Blackburn and fucking Blackburn every sodding year. How it just doesn’t work and doesn’t achieve what we want it to achieve when we do rest players for the cups - see point four.
But, you know what, we’ve already spaffed our chance this season. Blackpool was the big error of judgement, Blackpool was the big mistake. We’re in with a shout of a surprise play-off spot and a shock promotion to the Premier League with this CEO at the club would be potentially transformative. Steve McClaren, rightly or wrongly, has picked the same team every week and after four games over Christmas some of them will be running on fumes. Nahki Wells, in particular, carries the whole second half of the season on his shoulders – I’d give Aremide Oteh a run instead. Not a complete change of 11, not a nonsense side, but a couple of changes.
Ian Holloway picked his strongest team in this round last year and lost anyway – it’s just what we do. It’s magic.
Geoff Cameron Facts #20 – While in the youth set up at the Dallas Duckbills Geoff scored a far better overhead kick than Trevor Sinclair’s, but there’s no video footage of it because television hadn’t been invented then.
Team News: Schteve got a good going over after the Blackpool debacle, and at the subsequent fans forum, so has been at pains to point out that he will be taking the cups more seriously from now on. Which is a bit awks really, because quite a few of his team could do with a rest – Ebere Eze, Luke Freeman and Jake Bidwell have played every game, Toni Leistner has missed one and Joel Lynch only two. He’s specifically mentioned Joe Lumley (still play acting from New Year’s Day presumably), Darnell Furlong and Nahki Wells as needing a bit of a sit down and a cuddle so expect Matt Ingram in goal, maybe Osman Kakay at right back and either Matt Smith or (hopefully) Aremide Oteh up front. I’d have Bright Osayi-Samuel in for one of those advanced attacking three as well, probably Wszolek given his injury at Villa though preferably Luke ‘Lukey’ Freeman. One would think Ryan Manning was recalled from Rotherham with a start here in mind as well. Geoff Cameron, Tomer Hemed and Angel Rangel are the long term injury absentees. Cup games like this always rear the prospect of an actual sighting of Sean Goss, and we’re offering two tickets on the Piers Morgan speaking tour of Aleppo for anybody who spots him (we’re hoping Morgan will be forced to fulfil this engagement if it happens).
Leeds are covered in injuries themselves, finally running out of steam after a remarkable seven straight league wins and suffering two consecutive defeats over the New Year weekend. Barry Douglas (Championship signing of the season) is ruled out medium term after having his hand re-attached after a farming accident. Kalvin Phillips, who crocked Geoff Cameron in the league meeting between these two in December, is also out with a big dose of karma. Pontus Jansson is refusing to emerge from the house until called by his Lord Beelzebub. Kemar Roofe, six goals in three games against QPR, is being left out to at least try and make the game competitive. Pablo Hernandez and Mateusz Klich are being rested.
Given all that, Marcelo Bielsa (God how can you not love him?) has decided to name his starting 11 two days before the game. So it’s going to be Bailey Peacock-Farrell whoooa hooooaa; Shackelton, Halme, Ayling, Davis; Forshaw, Baker; Clarke, Roberts, Alioski; Harrison.
Elsewhere: Ah, yeh, we’ve rather spaffed our load on this with that earlier rant haven’t we? Curse that lack of forward planning. Anyway, as it took so long, and the day job was a bit of a swine today, it’s Tranmere 0 Totteham Reserves 1 at half time already, which is good going.
Early games tomorrow, for all you lucky people at Lahore Airport, include Brighton Reserves v Bournemouth Reserves in an exciting battle of teams both beginning with B – one of them £19m lighter after buying Dominic Solanke today, right you are. Burnley v Barnsley is… ah, right, gone a bit big and early on that one too haven’t we? Man Utd Reserves v Reading is obviously the game everybody wants to watch on their tellybox. Sheffield Owls v Luton Bastard Town and what will almost certainly be a lovely, friendly encounter between West Ham and Birmingham conclude the early games along with West Brom and Wigan Warriors who both begin with W and Shrewsbury v Stoke who both begin with S. Unprecedented. The sort of magic you only get at this magical time of year.
The privileged few left with a 15.00 Saturday kick off include Big Racist John and the Boys against Swanselona, Bolton v Walsall (roll up, roll up), The Scum Down The Road Reserves v Nottingham Trees, Frank Lampard’s Derby County v Southampton Reserves, Everton Reserves v Lincoln (that could be the one), That Wanker Barton against Real Wimbledon, Gillingham against the Ninth Annual Neil Warnock Farewell Tour and Pulispall v Peterborough. Bolton v Walsall looks one of the worst things I’ve ever seen in my life.
Of the Saturday evening games we haven’t mentioned, Mike Ashley’s Sporting Goods Emporium is at home to the Mad Chicken Farmers in the Fit and Proper Owner derby. One that we have, but we’re doing again for personal gratification, is Crippled Alice Reserves at home to the mighty, miiiiiiiiiiiiighttttttttttyyyyyyyyyy Mariners. Come on Town, Harry Haddocks at the ready.
Sunday, of those not already mentioned, Millwall Scholars v Allam Tigers. Big crowd in for that one. John Still resigned as Barnet manager before Christmas which was inevitable really – the pressure of managing that club while Martin Allen is out of work is too much for anybody to bear. They’re at Sheffield Red Stripes. Non-league Woking have a pay day at home to Watford Reserves – good for them, pwopah tie that one. Rotherham are at Man City Reserves.
And the whole thing is rounded off with Wolves Reserves v Liverpool Reserves on Monday.
Referee: One of the better Championship referees is Geoff Eltringham, although he did allow Kemar Roofe to punch the ball into the net for an equaliser v Nottingham Forest last time he had them so rules may be a little fluid on Sunday. Wings and tings.
QPR: Only Plymouth Argyle have been knocked out of the FA Cup at the Third Round stage as many times as QPR (49). Four ties have been won with replays in the 23 years since they last won a tie outright – Torquay 2000, Luton 2001, MK Dons in 2012 and West Brom in 2015. Other than that Rangers have exited the world's oldest knockout competition at the first possibly opportunity to the following opposition in this order: Middlesbrough H (97/98, Third Round replay), Huddersfield H (98/99, Third Round), Swansea A (01/02, First Round), Vauxhall Motors H (02/03, First Round replay), Grimsby A (03/04, First Round), Forest H (04/05, Third Round), Blackburn A (05/06, Third Round), Luton A (06/07, Third Round replay), Chelsea A (07/08, Third Round), Burnley A (08/09, Third Round replay), Sheff Utd H (09/10, Third Round replay), Blackburn A (10/11, Third Round), Everton A (13/14, Third Round), Sheff Utd H (14/15, Third Round), Forest A (15/16, Third Round), Blackburn H (16/17, Third Round) and MK Dons H (17/18, Third Round). QPR have therefore won four matches out of 33 across 22 years, scoring just ten goals in that time and conceding 56. Six of the defeats were to teams from at least one division lower.
Leeds: Rangers haven’t lost in five matches (W3 D2) since losing 2-1 at Elland Road at the start of December. For the Whites, that was a fourth win in a row and they went on to make it seven on the spin with subsequent successes against Bolton (1-0), Villa and Blackburn (both 3-2). They were 2-0 down in the Villa game and 2-1 down in the 91st minute against Blackburn. Away from home this season they’ve won seven, drawn three and lost three – the best road record in the Championship, ahead of Sheff Utd who have won seven, drawn two and lost four. They have, however, hit a bit of a wall over the New Year period with a 2-0 home loss to improving Hull and a 4-2 New Year’s Day defeat at Nottingham Forest.
Prediction: No Prediction League this week being a cup game so you’re stuck with me for this as well, 3,000 words deep and still ploughing on. Worth pointing out at this point that should West Brom beat Wigan or QPR beat Leeds (HA!) then our Saturday home game with the Baggies at the end of January will be off. Similarly, if either QPR (HA!) or Leeds make it through to round five, then our scheduled league meeting here in February will also be bumped to midweek. With all that, and everything else, and your dinner, in mind the worst possible outcome here is a draw and a replay at Elland Road a week on Tuesday. So that’s what we’re going for. It’ll be Lynch as well won’t it? He’ll have a hand in this somewhere.
LFW’s Prediction: QPR 1-1 Leeds. Scorer – Joel Lynch.
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Pictures – Action Images
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