Charity begins at home - Preview
Thursday, 18th Apr 2019 17:43 by Clive Whittingham
QPR's shock win against Swansea moved the R's just about safe, and left us scrambling around for stuff to write about for our Blackburn preview. Luckily, you can always rely on Rangers for something.
QPR (13-9-20, LDLLDW, 17th) v Blackburn (14-11-17, WLLLWW, 15th)
Lancashire and District Senior League >>> Friday April 19, 2019 >>> Kick Off 15.00 >>> Weather – Scorchio >>> The Crisis Centre, London, W12
Three nil down inside half an hour, players being called every name under the sun, effort and commitment to the cause being questioned, one win from 17 – little more than a week ago, QPR were circling the drain. Then, suddenly, three nil up inside 16 minutes, sun shining, Tomer Hemed running around, addicts frantically looking for an untapped vein through which they can inject another season ticket renewal. They’re bastards really. I’m trying to build narrative here and they go and do that. Inconsiderate.
That victory against Swansea came just when QPR needed it most. Last Wednesday, at half time away at Millwall, with Rotherham, Wigan and Reading all winning, we were staring down the barrel of coming into this match with Blackburn on 45 points with Reading on 46, Wigan on 44 and Millwall and Rotherham level on 42. Look, my constitution is alright, I got through half an hour of Ademola Bankole goalkeeping relatively unscathed once (more unscathed than Danny Maddix did anyway), but I wouldn’t have much fancied that in the form we were in thank you very much. Particularly with our peculiarly bad record against Blackburn – no wins in 14 games and 19 years, no wins in nine meetings here going back to 1993. Peculiar not because we’ve mostly been shit, we’ve got bad records against most teams for that reason, but because they mostly have as well. It’s like never being able to beat Huddersfield, or Reading, or Preston, it’s just a bit weird really. Actually, we never beat Preston either do we? FML.
Anyway, we did win, so it’s all sunshine and cold Peroni tomorrow now. Not that it wouldn’t have been sunshine and cold Peroni anyway, you understand, despite the dodgy fridge at the Crown. It’s just that the Peroni would have been necked gratuitously in order to numb the pain and nerves of watching our dearly beloved self-immolate again, whereas now it can be necked gratuitously because we like to get drunk at the weekend to forget the pointless drudgery of a meaningless everyday existence. And that’s much better.
A game that looked like it would keep me awake all Thursday night has been turned into one that may very well put me to sleep for the latter half of Friday afternoon in one fell swoop and leaves us, and by us I mean me, with a topic for the match preview to find. Not sure what we were ever worried about really, told you the maths was on our side. Having been strongly advised against basing said article around the John Eustace’s wife version of Lone Star’s Amazed, which got an enthusiastic airing during a 0-0 draw at Birmingham back in September, we’ve had to sit and wait for QPR to come up with one of their talking points. You can always rely on them, put too much sugar in them and see what they come up with.
And lo, it was so. Wednesday morning, quite a few Rangers fans awoke to an email, claiming to be from the club, asking who the next manager should be. I mean, I’m all for fan engagement, but my word is the search really going that badly? Two weeks in, Tactical Tim doesn’t want it, agh fuck it see what that moany lot think. Rats were smelt when the tick list on offer included star of every dreadful reality programme ITV can come up with at the moment Harry ‘Arry Redknapp – just in case we fancied a second financial meltdown inside five years, just in case we’ve looked at Birmingham having nine points taken off and thought ‘ooooh, I like a challenge’.
It also included one Joey Barton. Now, I know that QPR have a self-destruct button a mile wide, a sense of accidental comic timing Tommy Cooper would have been proud of, leadership the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the Exxon Valdez spilled 10.8 million gallons of crude oil onto the Alaskan coastline, and the decision-making ability of an epileptic gnat, but the very idea that they would countenance a return to the club of one of the biggest stains on its modern day history, this time as manager, is a bit much even for us. Particularly in a week when Joseph – about three months later than we thought he’d last to be fair – has been accused of assaulting Barnsley’s forward-thinking, trend-setting, promotion chasing German coach Daniel Stendel in the aftermath of the Tykes’ 4-2 win against Fleetwood last week. Barton has denied the allegations, as he always does. Why do these bad things, false accusations, untruths, injustices and lies keep happening to such a fundamentally good person?
Anyway, turns out, it’s from a sports marketing agency, whatever that may be, and you should not only ignore it but wonder why and how they’ve got your details to send it to you. Not right, not right at all, but nothing to get too het up about.
That, apparently, came yesterday, when the club announced it would be renaming Loftus Road next season, gifting the naming rights to a local charity of the fans’ choosing. This got a broadly positive reception on our message board, a very mixed (50/50 split) reception among the few QPR Twitter accounts I haven’t long since muted, while over on the Facepaint they’re in favour of just razing the whole stadium to the ground with everybody who came up with the idea still inside because if it can’t be called Loftus Road then it shouldn’t even exist any more and anybody responsible for calling it something else should perish. QPR Facepaint, as usual, at the more mouth-breathey end of the market, full of strong opinions from people who can't count past ten in their head without moving their lips.
I know what’s meant to happen here. When I moved house a couple of years back we hired a Transit van for a few days, so I’ve done my fair share (two days) of cutting people up at the lights with one sunburnt arm resting on the window listening to TalkSport. I’m meant to come down massively in favour or against this, it’s either the best thing or the worst thing I’ve ever heard, while Goughy, or Moosey, or Goldsteiny, or Cundyie, or Ray Parlour, takes entirely the opposite view and tells me how wrong I am until Gary or Steve or Fletch rings in from a traffic jam in that circle of hell where the M6 and M42 merge east of Birmingham to tell one or the other of us how wrong we are.
But, in all honesty, I’m not sure what I think of this.
On the one hand, it’s a bit naïve to think that this is a lovely gesture because we’re just really lovely (though, community wise, we are). It’s another nod to Hammersmith and Fulham Council about how good we are for their borough, how much wonderful work we do here, and how they really need to help us stay here by letting us have/buy the Linford Christie Stadium on the other side of the White City Estate. All of which is true, by the way. It’s also potentially useful in our ongoing battle with the league’s completely broken FFP laws. In a week when Derby dodged a huge breach of them by completing a ridiculous deal to sell their stadium to their own chairman at an enormous mark up, here QPR are giving the rights of theirs to a charity. Middlesbrough’s Steve Gibson has called a meeting of owners next week to discuss the flagrant cheating of the FFP rules by some Championship clubs – specifically Derby, Villa and Sheff Wed – while his Middlesbrough, QPR and others are having to sell players and sacrifice all sorts to comply. Doesn’t hurt to give the halo a little polish in such circumstances.
But, on the other, whatever the motives behind it, this could make a huge difference to the sort of small, locally-based charity the club are looking for. The Kiyan Prince Foundation and Shepherd’s Bush Families have figured prominently in early suggestions and they could be given an enormous boost by national exposure – every newspaper, magazine, television and radio broadcast mentioning them every week when talking about QPR, raising awareness and in turn donations and volunteering.
I’ve seen some argue completely the other way, that they not only don’t mind the ground being renamed but want to know why we’re gifting the rights when we could be selling them for money to help our ongoing FFP efforts. In all honesty, I suspect they would if they could but they can’t. If any company was willing to pay us money for us to call it Quashie’s Roti Hut I reckon we’d have done it (why have Chicken Cottage never got in touch with Fulham?) but they haven’t, so you may as well gift them because it’s a nice thing to do, because it might help with the council, because it looks good to the EFL, because it’s potentially massive for a charity and, again, possibly a bit cynical, it advertises that the rights might be available for some money further down the road and lays some PR groundwork for that. They could, for instance, have put a charity as the main shirt sponsor, as Villa and I believe Blackburn have done recently among others, but at the moment shitty betting companies do want to give us money for that so we don’t.
For now, I’m inclined to go with it. The eagle-eyed among you will notice that at the top of these previews we always go out of our way to give the stadium we’re playing at its original name, or for the new grounds simply leave the name off and give a geographical location instead, because we hate the commercialisation of sport and how companies that frequently profit from people’s misery try to piggyback on the popularity of it to peddle their evil wares and make them look better. The history and tradition makes English football what it is, and why people all over the world want to watch more than their local leagues, however much money they plough into the domestic football in the US, or China. That so much of it is for sale at the right price is despicable, and is transforming it into something completely different, something completely contemptible. The Bet365 Stadium, at a club where Stanley Matthews once graced their shirt, get in the fucking sea, and take your poxy Ray Winstone ads with you, fucking parasites. But you’d have to be pretty cold hearted to argue hard against The Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium – it would be of huge benefit to them, and you can just call it Loftus Road anyway, just as we did during that weird period when it was officially known as Rangers Stadium.
QPR’s community work is second to none – a 1,000th player visit this season completed by Ryan Manning and Tomer Hemed earlier this week – and this could be a new strand of that and incredibly rewarding for the charity selected. Maybe a new one every year? If they stick to the small, local charities for whom this would make a genuine difference, then it’s something to be proud of really, and celebrated, not mithered about, whatever the ulterior motives or potential benefits the club might glean from it. I want to support a club that does stuff like this, not hammer them for it.
Anyway, if we don’t back London’s leading homelessness charity and call it The Crisis Centre then we’re missing an opportunity to be pure QPR again in my view. And it’s filled a space hasn’t it? Three previews to go.
QPR haven’t beaten Blackburn at all in 14 attempts going back to 1999/00, and they haven’t beaten themat home in ten goes dating back to 1993. Those matches have, almost without exception, been artery hardening piles of glop. In the absence of anything relevant and good to show you, here’s some outtakes from the original series of the Crystal Maze, which should be watched with sound. The bouncy tennis lady will be back for this slot next season, assuming we don’t win tomorrow.
Team News: John Eustace made five changes to his team for last Wednesday’s physical trip to Millwall, then flipped it again with the same number of alterations for the home game against Swansea. After the Norwich debacle, this freshening up of the team and horse for a course selection brought two much improved performances and positive results to arrest what looked like a terminal slide towards the bottom three. The question now is whether the team that demolished Swansea will be asked to go again here, with Ryan Manning’s impressive pair of performances at left back one of the key talking points as Jake Bidwell returns to fitness. Geoff Cameron missed out altogether last Saturday but that was for tactical rather than fitness reasons and he is fit and available to play here.
Harrison Reed has been a standout performer for Rovers this season on loan from Southampton, but he can’t possibly venture out in the sun with his complexion so with the weather set fair for the rest of the month he’s likely played his last game for the club with hopes of a permanent deal fading fast. Youngster Lewis Travis has impressed in midfield having belatedly been given a chance by Tony Mowbray, whose faith in his League One promotion winners and reluctance to give younger players a go has started to grate with supporters during a bad run in the second half of the season – stop me if you’ve heard this one before. With consecutive wins last week moving Rovers safe, he may well turn to some other academy grads over the closing fortnight with Dan Butterworth, Tyler Magloire and John Buckley all being tipped for appearances. Charlie Mulgrew has scored 11 times from centre back this season, moving him onto 27 goals in 98 league appearances for Rovers since moving from Celtic, but he was benched last week and our friends over at Rovers Chat point out that Rovers average 0.9 points a game with him and 2.08 without this season.
Elsewhere: I can’t tell you what a relief it is to have got that win last week and ceased the four-month-long descent down this dreadful league towards the fiery pit of hell at the bottom. Thanks to the 4-0 win last Saturday we can now move the ‘Elsewhere’ section back to its original purpose – moaning about how many games you play in the Championship, laughing at the pathetic quality of them, and making up childish names for the other teams. Saints be praised.
There are three matters outstanding across the final four games of the season. The top three has to become the top two, and although Borussia Norwich fans have gone into some weird panic mode and started coating off their manager and their own players after two draws against relegation threatened teams they remain seven points clear of third placed Sheffield Red Stripes with 12 left to play for. The Champions of Europe are sandwiched in between, four points behind Norwich, three ahead of Chris Wilder’s team.
The Red Stripes, reeling after conceding a last second equaliser to Millwall Scholars last weekend, go first tomorrow with a 12.30 game against a Nottingham Trees side very firmly on the beach already. A big chance, therefore, to go above The Spy Who Loved Me on goal difference prior to Bielsa’s boys playing Wigan Warriors at home at 15.00. If they both win then presumably the mentalists up at Carrow Road who’ve taken time out from turning every home game into a flag parade to start abusing youth team graduate Todd Cantwell, and miracle-working manager Daniel Farke for daring to pick him, will be in a full on meltdown by the time their evening game with the Sheffield Owls rocks around at 19.45. Odd bunch.
West Brom are in the same position we found ourselves in in 2014 – expensively assembled squad that’s played its own way out of the automatic promotion reckoning but is well secure in the top six and therefore just marking time for the play-offs. Their game at home to Allam Tigers is basically a dead rubber. Big Racist John and The Boys, meanwhile, have been revitalised by the return to fitness of Ickle Jack Gwealish and although it’s only a four point gap, they look a shoo in for the play-offs themselves now after eight straight victories. They’re at Bolton this weekend, which is as good as a gimme against a side that will be relegated with a defeat the day after the EFL deemed Laurence Bassini – a man who was banned from owning football clubs after bringing Watford to the brink of extinction – a “fit and proper” owner to go in there. Bassini will have had to provide proof of funds for that takeover, which will take some doing given he’s admitted publicly this week he doesn’t actually know the extent of Wanderers’ debt. Another big win for Shaun Harvey’s EFL that one, I give the first winding up order of his reign nine months.
Issue two is the final play-off spot which, although the Allam Tigers and Sheffield Owls are technically still in touch, looks like one from three. Bristol City were in form before being cheated out of the Villa game by referee Scott Duncan with a nonsense penalty award last weekend – given Duncan’s award of a spot kick to Sheff Utd for very little at Loftus Road in August, and his failure to then give us one for the blatant handball in the last minute at Wigan, I’m going to take some convincing that he actually knows what the rules around kicks from the penalty mark actually are. Pulisball looked dead in the water after a dire run of form, but they’ve suddenly come good with two quickfire wins and although Frank Lampard’s Derby County look to be in the midst of their usual collapse at this time of year they got a win last weekend as well, albeit only against Bolton. So Bristol City have possession of sixth spot with 65 points prior to a midday game with Reading, Boro are a point back and have a wretched Stoke side at home at 15.00, while Frank Lampard’s Derby County on 63 go to Birmingham.
At the bottom Ipswich Down are indeed now down officially ahead of their trip to Preston Knob End. Bolton, as said, will be this weekend in all likelihood – if only they’d fucked the fuck off a year ago and let us keep out trip to Burton Albion and their lovely town full of lovely pubs. That leaves issue three, the final relegation spot, which is currently occupied by Rotherham on 40 points ahead of a trip to Swanselona. Their manager, Graham Potter, being touted as the next man up in the Shooting Fish In a Barrel World Championships today with Celtic apparently keen.
Wigan Warriors, as said, are on 42 points, one place ahead of Rotherham, with a tough trip to the Champions of Europe. Millwall Scholars, also on 42, we haven’t mentioned, mainly because they’re at home to Justice League Leaders Spartak Hounslow so there’s really little point – that’ll probably be the hardest game they’ve had in this, or any other season, so the points they need will have to come from the other three matches. Reading are on 44 prior to that trip to Bristol and Birmingham are just about safe on 46 despite the nine point deduction for an aggravated Redknapp ahead of their game with Frank Lampard’s Derby County.
By some miracle, I think that’s all the games mentioned. Some of them twice. Every one of them with something riding on it. Except ours. Oh, and that Ipswich one. Still, best league in the world right? Tell your friends.
Referee: Tim Robinson is a regular on the Championship circuit, and at QPR games in recent seasons, but this is the first time we’ve had him in the league this season. He was, however, in charge for Josh Scowen’s nadir at Blackpool in the League Cup and while he was exceptionally generous to The Rat that night he is, in general, a bit of a fusspot. Details.
QPR: Rangers’ random 4-0 win against Swansea last weekend was their first in seven matches, and only their second in 18 league games dating back to Boxing Day. It was their biggest margin of victory since beating Rotherham 5-1 in March 2017 and it puts them eight points clear of the bottom three with 12 left to play for – safe in all but name and just four points away from our natural habitat of sixteenth. Just to further highlight the Jekyll and Hyde nature of this QPR team, only the bottom three have conceded more than our 65 goals this season and yet the clean sheets against Millwall and Swansea were the thirteenth and fourteenth shut outs of the season which puts Joe Lumley fourth in the league for clean sheets kept in 2018/19. No wonder his agent is feeding stories out about him going here there and everywhere. If the defence can repeat the dose against Blackburn tomorrow it will be the third time this season we’ve kept three consecutive clean sheets – Ipswich A, Sheff Wed H and Villa H in October and then Forest A, Ipswich H and Reading H in December. Don’t get too carried away though – as if you would – Rangers have lost five, drawn one and now won just two home games in the league since the turn of the year.
Blackburn: Rovers have a good record against QPR, though the games are rarely anything to write home about. Rangers are without a win in 14 attempts home or away dating back to the 1999/00 season when goals from Stuart Wardley and Kevin Gallen at Ewood Park sealed a 2-0 win for the away team that proved to be the final act of Brian Kidd’s managerial reign there. Since then Rovers have won eight and drawn six, including three separate FA Cup Third Round victories against the R’s – including the last three. At Loftus Road, four of the last five meetings have been drawn. QPR have scored one goal or fewer in 11 of their last 14 games against this opponent but they’ll rarely have a better chance to start putting that right than this Saturday. Although Tony Mowbray’s side come into the game on the back of consecutive wins against Derby at home (2-0) and Forest away (2-1) they were needed to arrest a run of nine defeats and just a single win from 11 games that had threatened to plunge Rovers into relegation trouble – their season very much mirroring our own in that they were just two points off the play-offs just after the turn of the year but have suffered an inexplicable collapse since. That run began with a 5-2 thrashing down the road at Brentford when they led 2-0 early, and taking severe beatings away from home has been a persistent problem for them this season: Brentford scored five; Bristol City, Preston and Sheff Wed have all scored four; Rotherham, Sheff Utd, Leeds, Wigan and Swansea have all scored three. Their 45 goals conceded on the road this season is by far the worst record in the league (bottom two Bolton and Ipswich have shipped 40 each), though they have picked up five wins away from Ewood at Hull, Stoke, Bolton, Millwall and Forest. Three of those were prior to October 6 mind you. They’ve lost five and drawn one of their last six away games, exactly the same record Swansea arrived with a week ago.
Prediction: With just four games left the top ten in our Prediction League are separated by just ten points, with WokingR just out in front. We’ve never had a race as tight since we started running the comp. The winner 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 reckons…
“Well who saw that coming!? Who knows what this season has left to show us so I’ll sit firmly on the fence here and go for a score draw..
Elliott’s Prediction: QPR 1-1 Blackburn. Scorer – Tomer Hemed
LFW’s Prediction: QPR 1-1 Blackburn. Scorer – Luke Freeman
The Twitter @loftforwords
Pictures – Action Images
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Letters from Wiltshire #48 by wessex_exile
“And now the end is near, and so we face the final curtain…regrets, we’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention”. Not quite right Paul Anka, probably more than a few, but otherwise a fair assessment of where the U’s are today. It’ll be interesting to see how we perform with the relegation monkey finally off their back – I’m not expecting miracles, particularly with Tranmere needing at least a point to guarantee making the play-offs, but they’ll certainly be more nervous than we will be, so can we make that count? This will be my last blog of the season, and not yet sure what I may or may not do for next season, but suggestions are always welcome.
Letters from Wiltshire #47 by wessex_exile
Here we are, at the penultimate game of the season, and our last game in front of the cardboard U’s faithful at the JobServe. It has been a long, difficult, and definitely strange season, which frankly I’ll be glad to see the back of. That’ll we’ll be here again in August is definitely going to be something to celebrate, but I suspect we’re facing a summer of significant rebuilding both on the pitch, and possibly off it too. I won’t be the only one, but the biggest oddity for me has been being able to watch every single game – not always easy viewing, but something I’ve never done before, and probably never will again. But it doesn’t really make up for not being there in person, the long train journey away-days, meeting fellow U’s and other supporters, and of course sharing a beer or three. Fingers-crossed we can return to the terraces in 2021/22.
Letters from Wiltshire #46 by wessex_exile
That was quite a week for us all then. In the space of four short but remarkably tense days we have gone from having to take shoes and socks off to check how many more points we need to guarantee survival, or whether we would even achieve it, to breathing a huge sigh of relief knowing we’re almost there. But close of play this afternoon, whether by our own actions or the failure of others, I am sure survival will be confirmed. Of course, Tuesday night not only all but guaranteed it, it also virtually condemned local rivals Southend United to non-league football for the foreseeable. Looking at the host of fully professional former football league sides currently battling it out for the two promotion slots out of the National league (including Hartlepool, Torquay, Stockport, Wrexham, Chesterfield and Notts County), it is not going to be a walk in the park for Southend to return any day soon.
Letters from Wiltshire #45 by wessex_exile
Tonight, Colchester United face Southend United in what may not necessarily be the most important game of our respective histories (though it’s certainly very close), but is almost certainly the most important Essex derby ever. However this season pans out, by the end of it there’ll either be only one team in Essex, or worst case scenario, none at all. If the U’s win, then Southend will be 9pts behind with just three games to go, and a minimum of a -12 goal difference to overturn if they want to overtake us. Certainly mathematically possible, but that would rely on a remarkable turnaround in their form, form that they’ve shown precious little sign of achieving so far this season. The stalking horse is Grimsby, with their game in hand, who have rather belatedly shown an improvement in form, so their match against automatic promotion chasing Morecambe tonight is equally important, particularly if we want to avoid the unthinkable, with both Essex clubs dropping out of the league.
Letters from Wiltshire #44 by wessex_exile
So here we are, as the nation mourns the passing of His Royal Highness, Duke of Edinburgh, the U’s face the first of two season-defining moments, with our late kick-off match at home to Walsall. Before then, no doubt many will have been focused on events elsewhere, not least the early kick-offs for Grimsby (at home to promotion-chasing Bolton Wanderers), and particularly Essex rivals Southend United, who faced a tricky visit to Exeter City – still very much in the hunt for at least a play-off spot. As I finalise this blog, I know that Grimsby have beaten Bolton 2-1, and Southend earned a credible 0-0 draw in the West Country. More to the point, the U’s will know this too. Whilst I can’t help but feel that will ought to be to our advantage, it surely must also put additional pressure on a squad whose confidence is paper-thin. We must hope that Hayden Mullins, assisted by Paul Tisdale, get their heads right, and send the lads out this evening fired up with self-belief.
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