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McClaren hanging by a thread after Bolton debacle — Report
Sunday, 31st Mar 2019 14:19 by Clive Whittingham

If you thought Stoke was bad, if you thought Rotherham was bad, if you thought QPR’s disastrous start to 2019 couldn’t get any worse, then how wrong you were.

There comes a moment in the QPR career of all our recent managers where you know time is up. They may last a few more games, a few more weeks, a few more months even, but they know, and we know, that from said moment the clock is running down to the point where the desk tidier and family photos go into the cardboard box.

For Ian Holloway, that was Millwall away last New Year. His behaviour before and after the game, his team’s performance during it, and his attempts to rectify the situation by pumping long balls at the most physical and direct team in the league, was the final straw for the senior management at the club. Holloway would last through until May, picking up some impressive wins along the way, but plans for his replacement had been made months before his departure.

For Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink it was losing 6-0 at home to Newcastle. Rafa Benitez’s team were a cut above the whole division that season, with players that had no business playing in the second tier of English football, and Hasselbaink would last several more weeks and win 2-1 at Fulham after it. But losing 6-0 at home is really quite something, and he was a dead man walking from that point on — not helped by him using subsequent international breaks to tout for lucrative after-dinner speaking arrangements in the Far East in dodgy circumstances not realising he was being taped by a journalist.

For Chris Ramsey, it was a substitution. Just before the hour of a home game with MK Dons, with the score at 0-0, he elected to take off Massimo Luongo and bring on Leroy Fer which, for reasons I can’t quite bring to mind now, had Loftus Road in open revolt to such an extent that opposing boss Karl Robinson walked down the touchline and put an arm around Ramsey in solidarity. That the change worked, and QPR won 3-0, mattered little, the people had spoken and Ramsey was gone a week later after a loss at Brentford.

And now I fear we may have just seen Steve McClaren passing the point of no return. An hour into Saturday’s home game with second-bottom Bolton and QPR, with just one win from their last 14 league games, were already bang in trouble. Losing 1-0 to a team that has already been beaten 23 times this season, had won only one of its last 18 away games, is certain to be relegated to League One come May, and hadn’t been paid their wages on Friday for the third month in a row amidst a protracted financial collapse, Rangers looked absolutely bereft. A mixture of poor players, good players completely spent, and players that couldn’t be arsed, the R’s were behind and deserved to be so.

McClaren attempted to rectify this by summoning Matt Smith from the bench, against the side he’d scored and assisted against in this fixture last season. Nothing unusual in that, Smith has made a remarkable 28 appearances from the bench already this season. Nor, really, in the choice of player to go off. Up went the board, 23 Pawel Wszolek, and off trooped the Pole, all the way from one side of the field to the other. There’s a lot of love among QPR’s home crowd for Pav which, even allowing for an undisputable prodigious work rate, is probably a little over the top for a player who has flattered to deceive of late and frequently goes missing in away matches. That, his swashbuckling run down the right wing a moment before, the situation in this game, the dire run of results since Christmas, McClaren’s struggles to make effective substitutions quickly enough in general, and the manager’s ongoing propensity to bring on strikers from the bench who like to feed on crosses but remove the wingers from wide areas who supply them to do it, formed a toxic combination that brought howls of anguish rolling down from three sides of the ground.

One of two things happened next. McClaren, and those who pilloried Ian Holloway for far less than what’s happened over the last three months and so feel the need to entrench themselves further in their support of him, invite you to believe the fourth official had made a mistake. It wasn’t meant to be Pav going off at all, it was meant to be… let me see here…. ah… yes… 22 Angel Rangel. 22, not 23, of course. Curse John Eustace’s slovenly handwriting. Now, to be fair, that substitution makes more sense. Rangel was playing his first game since tearing his thigh in December so was always likely to be withdrawn early, taking a defender off for an attacker when losing 1-0 at home is reasonable, 22 is very like 23 when scribbled down, and Wszolek can cover at right back as well as attack down that side. But it did seem rather odd that Wszolek was able to walk the full width of the pitch, and an announcement of his withdrawal was made over the public address system, and he was halfway over the line and shaking Smith’s hand, before McClaren, amidst an absolute uproar, started waving his hands in the air and saying there’d been a mistake. It also conveniently ignores that when 2-0 down at Brentford earlier this month, McClaren made exactly that Smith for Wszolek substitution there. In fact, of Smith’s substitute appearances this season, he’s come on for Wszolek on four previous occasions, and has replaced Ebere Eze on a dozen others. McClaren does frequently put Smith on in place of players who could supply him. And McClaren does frequently remove Wszolek to make adjustments to his team midway through the second half — of the Pole’s 28 starts this season he’s been substituted in 15 of them after 45, 77, 81, 71, 76, 45, 71, 76, 62, 77, 73, 86, 69, 74 and 60.

The perception for many was McClaren, who must surely know he’s on shaky ground given the results since Christmas, heard the reaction and shit the bed. A man whose first act as England manager was to get his teeth whitened so he looked better on television playing the PR game once more. If it was that, then his authority is shot, because the players down there will know he changed his mind. If it was a fourth official error, then how about that for timing — football’s Bad Luck Brian struck down by misfortune at the worst possible moment again. “You’ve just got me the sack,” as the late Graham Taylor once said. Either way, the aesthetics were absolutely appalling. A bench of a dozen staff, versus four in the opposite dugout who hadn’t been paid for the month, who faff around making substitutions at the best of times, engaged in farcical scenes with players coming and going and nobody really knowing what was going on. It was, as said in the Crown and Sceptre later on Saturday evening, the day McClaren died. Bye bye, hair island pie. Drove Hemed to the levee, but the levee was dry.

Not that the bloody substitution made a blind bit of difference anyway. The last time McClaren decided that Grant Hall and Joel Lynch should start together as the centre backs we were 4-0 down before half time at home to Birmingham and with Toni Leistner on the bench again here the defence was absolutely all over the show once more. Hall, shock horror, got injured early in the second half and was replaced by the German but Bolton were still battering us: Magennis missing an open goal on 58 after Sammy Ameobi had caused havoc with a low cross, Buckley hitting the underside of the bar on 66 then Taylor drawing a good save from Joe Lumley with the rebound, and finally scoring a second goal through Connolly from close range after Lumley had parried Ameobi’s shot. The entire starting back four here is out of contract this summer, and the club shouldn’t be in a rush to renew any of them. Only the bottom three and Wigan have a worse goal difference than our -15, only the bottom four and Blackburn have conceded more than our 61.

There was the odd moment in the first half, mainly when Bright Osayi-Samuel had the ball. He had half a shout for a penalty after apparently being tripped right on the edge of the box after two minutes. A scramble off a later corner was turned onto the post by Josh Scowen with the keeper beaten. But Ameobi had already drawn a save from Lumley with a long range speculator by the time Magennis angled a header over the keeper and Buckley converted from close range with a ragged defence appealing in vain for an offside flag that never came.

At one point Joel Lynch dribbled the ball straight into touch. I suppose it made a change from him passing it there.

QPR’s attack, such as it was, was stunted by the latest disgusting excuse for a performance from Tomer Hemed, who could present his chronic lack of movement across 70 pathetic minutes here to Shopmobility and qualify for a free motorised scooter. Time and time and time and time again balls were played forward only to find the Israeli international ambling back from the offside position he’d occupied during the previous attack. Rank bone idleness. The bloke fucking lives offside. McClaren’s faith in players who aren’t going to be here next season and know it is a big part of the reason this season is going south so quickly. I’d say we should only use the players that definitely will be here in 2019/20 for the remaining seven games, but then we’ve loaned most of those out.

What happened after the second goal, full disclosure, I don’t know. I’d left. I couldn’t stand it any more and I could feel myself losing my shit which nobody who pays £535 a season to sit next to me really needs so I took myself back to the Crown and nursed the free beer bottle of Peroni they decided I needed after taking one look at my face as I walked through the door. I know, from the highlights, that Bright Osayi-Samuel, again the only positive among the outfield players, drew a leg save from Remi Matthews and that McClaren’s third sub, Nahki Wells, scored a very nice goal of his own making to halve the deficit with ten minutes to go. Hopefully that will inject a bit of confidence back into his game. Wells’ mark out of ten was decided by committee after the game.

Afterwards McClaren said his team had done enough to win two matches. Exactly which two matches he’s referring to is unclear, given we’ve just had consecutive home games against Rotherham and Bolton who are just about the biggest home bankers you could have on your Championship fixture list this season and lost both of them. While we were embarrassing ourselves here, Rotherham were losing six fucking one at Derby. Another sure sign a manager is on his last legs is when they start coming out with nonsense that’s just demonstrably untrue in their post match interviews. Of the 21 shots on goal he pointed to, only seven were on target and several of those, such as Massimo Luongo’s daisy-cutter in injury time, were token gestures.

Whoever would have thought after that Stoke game that it would actually turn out to be something of a high point? That after the Rotherham debacle, things could get even worse still? That’s why we don’t give ones in the ratings kids, there’s always another few levels of fucking awfulness to dig down through yet.

There were no excuses for this. Bar Geoff Cameron pulling out sick, this was a fully fit squad. The fixture congestion has eased now, this was our first game for two weeks. The Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday sequence is over, all that precious “time on the training ground” McClaren talks about was available to them in spades over the last fortnight. That weird run of games where we suddenly had to play six of the top eight all at once is over, our last three home games have been against twenty third, twenty second and fourteenth and we’ve taken one point.

The only reason QPR aren’t in serious relegation trouble already after one win from 15 games is because the three or four teams at the bottom of the league are so unbelievably awful — though still good enough to beat us. With two away games now at champions-elect Norwich and Millwall at The Den it’s pretty clear the only way we’ll stay out of it is if they continue to be so for another seven games.

This QPR team has completely gone.

Links >>> Ratings and Reports >>> Message Board Match Thread

QPR: Lumley 6; Rangel 5 (Smith 62, 5), Hall 3 (Leistner 49, 4), Lynch 3, Bidwell 4; Scowen 5, Luongo 5; Wszolek 5, Freeman 5, Osayi-Samuel 6; Hemed 3 (Wells 70, 6)

Subs not used: Ingram, Furlong, Cousins, Eze

Goals: Wells 81 (unassisted)

Bolton: Matthews 6; Olkowski 6, Wheater 6, Beavers 6, Taylor 6; Williams 7, Connolly 7; Ameobi 8 (Donaldson 89, -), Buckley 7 (Noone 80, -), O’Neil 7; Magennis 6

Subs not used: Alnwick, Little, Oztumer, Wilson, Connell

Goals: Buckley 35 (assisted Magennis), Connolly 71 (assisted Ameobi)

Bookings: Connolly 75 (foul)

QPR Star Man — Bright Osayi-Samuel 6 Becoming a bit of a running theme this. The only bright (sorry) spot in a dire performance, causing the opposition problems by running with purpose, getting to the byline, beating his man and delivering into the area.

Referee — Geoff Eltringham (Durham) 8 Continuing his excellent run of performances in QPR games with another calm, unfussy, unobtrusive display.

Souls on board 13,603 (350 Bolton approx.) My God.

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dannyblue added 14:49 - Mar 31
Hemed has been gash up to now, but I actually thought he was better yesterday. He won some headers and held it up a few times and even sprinted which I haven't seen before. I think he hasn't been fully fit and was brought back too early (obviously one of SM's faves). This was by no means a good performance, but I didn't think it was especially worse than anyone else's this time. Thanks as ever for the report.

Northernr added 14:52 - Mar 31
Well I guess we see different things in the same game, as always was the case in football. I was embarrassed on his behalf yesterday, I thought he was abject.

francisbowles added 15:07 - Mar 31
That sums it up very well. Lynch and Bidwell were terrible, although Bidwell tried, Hall also very poor. Confidence rock bottom, playing with fear for several weeks now. That February fixture list did for us, even the pitch is worn out.

I think with all the players out of contract, it is time to start planning for next season.
A decision on SM's future needs to be made and, if he is going, acted upon now so that someone else can start to choose players for next season.

francisbowles added 15:09 - Mar 31
Just seen Dannyblue's comment and I agree a bit better and looking a bit slimmer around the 'hips'.

Ned_Kennedys added 15:34 - Mar 31
"It was, as said in the Crown and Sceptre later on Saturday evening, the day McClaren died. Bye bye, hair island pie. Drove Hemed to the levee, but the levee was dry."


My brother and I had a good laugh in the Brewdog as the Bolton fans moaned about the prices of their £5.80 for a half pint craft beers then left virtually all of it untouched as they were already so pissed: the laughs were on us at the game though.

E15Hoop added 15:55 - Mar 31
Clive: just picked up Schteve's post match comments as reported by Football. London:

"I said to the players in there that I’ve never experienced it. Generally through experience you know what to do and you’ve got tricks up your sleeve, but I’m running out of tricks so we better find another one for next week."

I think he may have just put his head firmly in the noose and tightened the rope..

DavieQPR added 16:04 - Mar 31
Glad to read your report because I am left speechless. Just nothing. Mind is just numb.

hateley_legend added 17:00 - Mar 31
Great report as ever, on a desperate afternoon of football. McClaren and his dayglo green cast of thousands have surely reached the end of the line - inexcusable to set up against a truly dire Bolton side with the midfield three way too deep and (the abject) Hemed totally isolated up top, with no team-mate in the same postcode as him should the ball ever stick (which it didn't, at all). If ever there was a game crying out for a number 10 to exploit the space in front of David f*cking Wheater and co, this was it. Eze or Freeman, I don't mind which. Just. Play. Further. F*cking. Forward. Home to Bolton, where an early goal (or two) for us would have killed them off for sure, and this was the scale of our ambition? Joke tactics. The minute we're mathematically safe - assuming we have it in us to stagger over the line - it must be P45 time for Steve, and time to usher in another poor sod to pick up the pieces again.

richranger added 17:12 - Mar 31
Including Hemed and Lynch wasn't a team selection, it was a suicide note.

nix added 19:02 - Mar 31
Thanks Clive for writing this report under the circs. Absolutely agree with every word.

Harbour added 20:23 - Mar 31
Hemed was awful the number of crosses into the box and he was nowhere to be seen was embarrassing. Terrible performance two dire teams slogging it out hard to tell who was the team in the bottom three appeared tobe in the blue and white. Not convinced we have not already declared on 44 points as Clive said we will only survive if the teams below us continue with current form.

extratimeR added 20:36 - Mar 31
Yes, fully agree with above, thanks for putting time into recording the bloody awfulness that is going on at our club, yes, worse than Rotherham, (that surely is impossible).

I have really tried to get my head round what is going wrong, and what's happened to the team, is it a dressing room problem? is their a problem with the loan players?

Hemud has obviously been a very expensive mistake from day one, Wells has been played to death, Cameron, yes good, but have a look at any stat analysis on players age and likelihood of injury in the Championship.

I've no idea whether the above is relevant or not.

His treatment of Bright this season has shown poor judgement, (its a credit to Bright that he has survived McLaren's time here).

Yes Clive that's it for McLaren, Norwich, and Sheffield Wednesday away? don't think so.

I'm glad I share your opinion about the necessity of alcohol before watching Championship football!

Cheers Clive!

Myke added 21:39 - Mar 31
Thanks Clive for report.So okay let's sack McClaren. It's clearly no longer working. And appoint... who exactly? With what remit? And if said remit isn't working after FOUR games do we rip it up and start again? And if that doesn't work (but we are still in the Championship) do we sack the manager? And what remit will the next one have? And if said remit isn't working after FOUR games will we rip it up and start again? And if... well you get my drift

Marshy added 00:32 - Apr 1
Hemed was absolutely useless. He has had every chance to impress and failed miserably. He shouldn’t be picked again. Where was the defence for the two goals. Lynch just has no positional sense, or any clue about what’s going on around him. How McClaren could drop Leistner in favour of Lynch is totally unfathomable. Not that Leistner is that great either, but at least he’s got some intelligence as a player. Bidwell probably had his worst game for the club that I can recall.

With the substitution debacle, I guess we will never truly discover what McClaren originally had in mind. Although it probably was to take Pav off. But quite honestly, we were that bad, even if he could have brought on all 7 substitutes at once, we probably would have still lost the match.

McClaren is supposed to have this great reputation for his coaching ability. Well I have seen nothing to suggest in the last 2 home games that this is in anyway remotely true. By his own admission, due to the international break he has had a lot of time with the players on the training pitch for coaching. To my mind he has enhanced reputation for making players worse! He has to now go. It’s just a question of when.

Perth_R added 02:26 - Apr 1
Fantastic as always Clive.

QPR Star Man – Bright Osayi-Samuel 6 Becoming a bit of a running theme this. The only bright (sorry) spot in a dire performance, causing the opposition problems by running with purpose, getting to the byline, beating his man and delivering into the area.

Suppose he will be on the bench for next game then.

snanker added 08:29 - Apr 1
Cheers Clive don't know how you stayed as long as you did watching that tripe. Words fail me. I have kept pretty schtum and not waded into McLaren but enough is enough and Norwich must be licking their lips with a final trouncing at Carrow Road to be his death knell. Wouldn't Millwall just love to stick it to us as well and to be honest it is what we deserve. No light only a deep dark tunnel.

Phil_i_P_Daddy added 10:19 - Apr 1
I’ve been sick of our revolving door managerial (let alone player) policy for years, but when doing nothing is no longer an option what choice does the board have?
The performances (let alone results) against Stoke, ROTHERHAM and (post two week international break!) BOLTON speak for themselves.
I don’t know what the answer might be, but it clearly isn’t McLaren. Sorry.

Paddyhoops added 10:30 - Apr 1
McLaren's a dead man walking after that performance.
I thought the Rotherham game was as low as we could go but we managed it admirably again on Saturday.
Sadly nobody offered us a free peroni when we entered the Crown and Sceptre not long after the game ended. Although I have to say their chicken pad thai was the highlight of the day. ( They're are other thai outlets in the area)

E15Hoop added 12:50 - Apr 1
And he's gone...Usual rubbish coming out from the board which flies completely in the face of what they were saying when they brought him in (surprise, surprise...) We are truly up the proverbial creek without the proverbial paddle...

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