|Queens Park Rangers 2 v 3 West Bromwich Albion|
Tuesday, 19th February 2019 Kick-off 19:45
No accounting for success - Preview
Tuesday, 19th Feb 2019 12:19 by Clive Whittingham
QPR, on a five match losing run, face high flying West Brom, who beat them 7-1 in August, at Loftus Road this evening.
QPR (11-6-14, DLWLLL, 18th) v West Brom (16-9-7, DLLWDW, 4th)
Lancashire and District Senior League >>> Tuesday February 19, 2019 >>> Kick Off 19.45 >>> Weather – S’alright innit? >>> Loftus Road, London, W12
It was John Gregory who always repeated the mantra “tough times don’t last, tough people do” but the tough times Queens Park Rangers are currently wading through look like continuing a little while longer yet.
On the pitch, a five-match losing run in the league only looks like continuing with games against three of the top five in the next seven days, starting tonight against a West Bromwich Albion side that has won more away games than anybody else in the league and beat Rangers 7-1 in the corresponding fixture back in August.
Off the pitch, the latest set of QPR accounts filed last week laid bare just how difficult it’s going to be for Rangers to compete moving forwards. The club lost £37m for the 2017/18 season (the last one under Ian Holloway’s stewardship) of which £20m was the historic FFP fine which was added to the accounts as an exceptional item, with an initial payment north of £4m, and the rest due over the next nine years. For the purposes of the new FFP/sustainability rules the loss was in the region of £17m, up from £6.4m the year before.
The new rules clubs are judged by allow them to lose £39m over a rolling three season period without being in breach. Last season’s loss, coupled with the £6.4m from 2016/17, means QPR have just over £15m of loss to work with this season. However, were they to lose that full £15m, it would leave them with just £7m of leeway next season. Last season’s wage bill to turnover ratio was 98%, up from 64% the year before. This is the effect of the declining parachute payments, which will drop from £16.6m this year and last to zero next year as QPR begin a fifth season outside the Premier League. That means just to stand still and lose the same amount next season as we do this, we’re going to have to make up a £16.6m shortfall.
The only way the club is going to be able to do that while at Loftus Road is, first and foremost, continuing to reduce the wage bill. The latest set of accounts make it clear in black and white why QPR had to lose all of their senior out of contract players last summer – Jack Robinson and Nedum Onuoha chief among them – and sell goalkeeper Alex Smithies to Cardiff. The wage bill had to come down. There’s going to be more pain on that front this summer, with several first team senior players out of contract and three players who’ve been important to us on loan due to return to their parent clubs. When you’re discussing who should be retained, and who you’d like to sign permanently, do so in the context of the £39m loss limit, and the £16.6m shortfall we’re facing next season. In all likelihood we’re going to be able to retain one of them, probably Jake Bidwell, and that might be about it. You don’t want to lose Pawel Wszolek, but given his inconsistent form and the presence of two or three players in the squad who could replace him, that might be one you bite the bullet on. It’s clear that despite recent improvements, we are still paying too much out in salaries – Millwall balked at Matt Smith’s salary when they enquired about him in January.
Secondly, we’re going to have to sell players. We’re going to have to sell them regularly, and for big money. Luke Freeman, best player on the pitch against Watford on Friday, looks front and centre for that but others are going to have to follow on a semi-regular basis. It’s going to be hard to bear but when you’re losing your shit over Freeman getting linked with Blackburn and Middlesbrough (as happened last summer), do so in the context of a £39m ceiling and a £16.6m shortfall. It’s the simple facts of where we are financially and the rules of the league.
And thirdly, the kids are going to have to come through in greater and more successful numbers. Both to keep the first team competitive, and to feed the conveyor belt of departures we’re going to need just to keep ourselves under that £39m three-year limit. Ebere Eze’s drop in form since the halfway point of the season is as unfortunate for the balance sheet as it is for the team and the player.
I do think that’s all it is as well. A 20-year-old kid in his first full season as a Championship player, asked to play a lot of football all at once in the first half of the season, and now having a bit of a dip in form. He’s an attacking player with a languid style which will always leave him open to accusations of laziness, and he’s getting that thrown at him in ever more angry tones from the stands and the dingey world of social media, but I don’t see any lack of effort, just a lack of confidence. If anything, trying to drill the defensive side of the game into him this season has taken something away from the exciting talent that burst through at the end of last season and the start of this. I’m not sure I want our ten tracking back 80 yards to make a tackle in his own half – we want him up the field, doing damage. We have Cameron/Scowen/Cousins/Luongo for the tough stuff further back.
It did make me smile seeing everybody going crazy over Ilias Chair’s remarkable performance and goals for Stevenage at League Two leaders Lincoln on Saturday. Brilliant to see, unbelievable goals, getting rave reviews, exciting talent, already looked adept in our first team when used. But it’s only just over a year since we were playing videos of those two long range goals from Eze for Wycombe at Cambridge on a loop, demanding he be recalled, demanding he be put in the first team. Now, with his form waning, we’re coating him off for being lazy. Joe Lumley is having a similar thing – not a baby at 24 but still young for a goalkeeper at only 79 senior appearances and struggling with his form and confidence since the incident at Villa Park where Kodija kicked him in the face. This is enough for the Twitteratti to start describing him as an “awful” goalkeeper. We cannot afford, in any sense of that word, to just be writing these kids off like this at the first sign of trouble.
Chair will come back, Chair will play, and Chair may well turn out to be brilliant. He’s got everything going for him. But he, and Eze, and Lumley, and everybody else coming up through that U23 system, are just kids, and so they’re going to have periods where they tire, where they lose form and focus, where things aren’t going for them. That’s just how it is with young footballers, particularly when they’re asked to basically be ever-present members of the first team early in their careers, particularly when that first team isn’t very good and the pressure is on to perform and the supporters’ expectations are, at the very least, for the club to be competitive despite increasingly being a have not in a league of haves. Exactly the same people baying for Eze’s return a year ago are now slagging him off for not working hard enough, and talking up Chair. Fast forward a year’s time and will the little Belgian/Moroccan be getting panned in the same way by the same people?
When these kids have a bad time, we’ve got to go through it with them, not take against them. One look at the balance sheet tells you why.
Team News: Hard to envisage it being anything other than the same team again tonight. Joel Lynch is having another one of his sabbaticals and Angel Rangel remains sidelined so presuming we’re sticking with the back three it’s highly likely to be Furlong-Leistner-Hall again. Jordan Cousins impressed against Bristol City and Watford so should keep his place in midfield with in-form Luke Freeman and Mass Luongo, ahead of Josh Scowen with Geoff Cameron still injured. Matt Smith has eight goals and eight assists in his last 16 appearances for Rangers and is likely to lead the line again despite the head wound suffered early in the cup game on Friday night. Tomer Hemed has made substitute appearances, but looks a long way shy of match fitness.
Dwight Gayle is spending two games on the naughty step after admitting a charge of “successfully deceiving a match official” with his game winning dive against Nottingham Forest a week ago. To be fair, you can successfully deceive Lee Mason by waving a pastry around in the air so two games seems a bit harsh to me. Matt Phillips missing out on a return to his former club with an ankle knock seems as good a chance as any to bring back Simmo’s classic “if I pulled out as often as Matt Phillips I wouldn’t have to sit in the fucking family stand” line again. Because why the hell not? James Morrison hasn’t been able to get a babysitter for tonight and Hal Robson Kanu is deciding whether or not he can be arsed.
Elsewhere: Although Frank Lampard’s Derby County are hosting the Millwall Scholars tomorrow night there are no other fixtures in the Lancashire and District Senior League tonight. I know, I can’t believe it either.
Referee: John Brooks was perfectly okay with Angel Rangel kicking people straight in the face in his own penalty area last time he was here. Hopefully he’ll be feeling all benevolent again tonight. Details.
QPR: Rangers have won just two of their last 11 games, both in the FA Cup. In the league they haven’t won since beating Ipswich on Boxing Day seven games ago, and they’ve lost the last five in a row. If they lose again tonight it will be the fourth time in just over two years that the club has lost six consecutive league games. It’s not about to get a lot easier either with fourth-placed West Brom in town tonight, then a trip to fifth-placed Middlesbrough, followed by a home game with second-placed Leeds a week today. The R’s are eighteenth on 39 points, ten points north of the relegation zone with two games in hand on third-bottom Reading, including tonight’s. Reading backwards in time starting last season the Championship safety mark has been 42 (one more win), 51 (four more wins), 41 (two more draws), 42 (one more win) and 44 (two more wins). Peterborough went down with 54 points the year before that which is five wins from 15 remaining games.
West Brom: The Baggies are fourth, they’ve only lost seven times this season and only Norwich have scored more than their 64 goals. They’ve won nine times away from home already this season, more than anybody else in the league, and only lost four times on the road at Middlesbrough, Wigan, Hull (all 1-0) and Blackburn (2-1). They have had something resembling a wobble since Harvey Barnes was recalled by Leicester in January, with four wins from 11 games, but only three of those have been lost and one of those was after extra time to Brighton in the FA Cup. They’ve won three and drawn one of their last four away games and haven’t conceded a goal in any of them – 2-0 at Bolton, 0-0 at Brighton, 1-0 at Stoke and 2-0 at Villa.
Prediction: The winner of our Prediction League this year gets goodies from our generous sponsor Art of Football. Get involved by lodging your prediction here or sample the merch from our sponsor’s QPR collection here. Reigning champion Elliott tells us…
“This is a really tough time to be a QPR supporter at the moment. I just feel like everything is going against us. Slipping down to 18th doesn’t look pretty and I’d definitely take a point against a team fighting for automatic promotion here. That being said, I don’t think we’ll have enough.”
Elliott’s Prediction: QPR 0-2 West Brom. No scorer.
LFW’s Prediction: QPR 0-2 West Brom. No scorer.
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