|Stoke City 1 v 2 Queens Park Rangers|
Saturday, 3rd August 2019 Kick-off 15:00
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Friday, 2nd Aug 2019 15:32 by Clive Whittingham
An entirely revamped Queens Park Rangers side starts its 2019/20 campaign on Saturday at Stoke, a first game in charge for new manager Mark Warburton.
Stoke City (11-22-13, LDLDDD, 16th) v QPR (14-9-23, DWLLLW, 19th)
Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Saturday August 3, 2019 >>> Kick Off 15.00 >>> Weather – Bright and Breezy >>> Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire
Oi and indeed oi. Lads, lads and further lads. That’s right, we’re back. Here, as ever, to guide you through all the Josh Scowen penalty concessions, early round cup defeats to park sides and multiple defeats to Blackburn Rovers with our usual heady mix of quotes from The Office when The Office was British, quotes from The Simpsons when The Simpsons was good and graphic sexual imagery. If there’s anybody more thrilled about the return of the anal cyst on the rump of the sporting universe that is the Mercantile Credit Trophy than us then I’d hate to meet them.
In the roughly seventeen and a half minutes since we were last trotting out this nonsense for you, QPR have sold an entire squad and bought an entire new one. It’s the sort of manic mentalness that has other, properly run clubs looking down their noses at us again and whispering about the third relegation spot while Tony Incenzo proudly starts the season video with “the winds of change blew through Loftus Road”. Where’s Ray Wilkins and his red neckerchief when we need him, and it, the most eh? HE’S DONE IT, TWO ALL. STAN COLLYMORE OPENS HIS ACCOUNT.
Change in and of itself shouldn’t be feared. QPR won three matches in the whole second half of last season. They were beaten at home in consecutive games by Rotherham and Bolton. They lost more games at Loftus Road than they ever had before in the history of the club. Remember that despicable first half surrender at Norwich and wonder why we’d be in such a rush to keep hold of any of the people involved in it. John Eustace spoke at the tail end of the season about a losing mentality, and has been key to Mark Warburton’s thinking that a radical approach to this summer was needed. There are certainly questions for the director of football about why, four and a bit years deep into his plan and strategy, the squad needed blowing up to this extent but that’s the debate here, not whether or not it needed doing. It most certainly did.
There are other positives buried within the chaos. Luke Amos, in particular, looks like a dream Premier League loan, brimming with ability, with a whole career ahead of him and with it all to prove to his parent club as opposed to a 30-something on a casual wind down as we relied upon last season. We’ve sold one player we bought for £300k for £4.9m, and another we developed ourselves for just shy of £2m. That’s progress, we need more of that, for more money. There are big first team opportunities for Ebere Eze, Ilias Chair and Bright Osayi-Samuel to come. Marc Pugh seems like a nice lad. The wage bill has been cut. Joel Lynch isn’t here any more.
It’s also the weakest looking division I’ve seen at this level for years. The likes of Villa, Newcastle and Brighton are long gone. Several clubs who spent parachute payments to force their way back and failed are now starting to toss things overboard – Middlesbrough, West Brom, Stoke. Several who spent big without parachute payments to try and make it to the promised land and failed are now differing levels of fucked – Forest, Derby, Sheff Wed. Several who’ve been mismanaged for years by incompetent and/or malevolent owners cannot continue to behave as they are and get away with it – Birmingham, Reading, Hull. All three newly promoted teams have been gutted of the best players from the teams that got them here and, in Luton’s case, their manager as well. When putting the season preview together we fancied about two teams for a promotion push, and 14 to struggle against relegation. QPR only need to find three worse teams than them to accomplish the bare minimum required this season, and honestly if you can’t do that from this steaming mound of dung then you deserve everything you get.
But there is much to be deeply concerned about as well. If you weren’t a QPR fan, and you were previewing our season looking for clues among the confusion, you’d pick up on a few things.
Firstly, the level of change is unprecedented, certainly since the mad summer of 2001 when we were relegated in administration, and putting together an entirely new squad, on a reduced budget, in one transfer window, is incredibly difficult to do and hit the ground running.
Secondly, the quality of the signings, regardless of the weird surge in optimism created by the arrival of a 32-year-old from Bournemouth and a free transfer full back last weekend, is not high. Dominic Ball wasn’t deemed good enough to get in the Rotherham team over the last three years. Yoann Barbet can ping a lovely diagonal ball, but says himself he’s not a physical defender and he was bullied in the pre-season friendlies against Vienna and Boreham Wood – not particularly potent opponents. Kane and Pugh pulled up few trees in a lower mid-table Hull side last year. Lee Wallace is into his 30s, has barely played for the past two seasons, and is already injured. Jordan Hugill scored six goals in 20 starts and 17 sub apps for Middlesbrough at this level last year, and even his best season which got him the move to West Ham in the first place was only ten in 29 apps for Preston following 13 in 47 the season before. Beyond him, were he to get injured, we have a 20-year-old boy on loan from Brighton who hasn’t played in this country before.
Thirdly, the club’s player of the year the season before last, and only full international, has been ostracised from the squad to try and force him to move before his contract expires next summer – no bids have been received.
Fourthly, Warburton’s preferred playing out from the back style was tried by QPR a year ago and failed miserably. It’s a good job Luke Amos looks good, he’s going to bloody need to be playing at the base of the midfield in this team.
If you were assessing QPR from a distance, you’d have them in the same category as Hull, Birmingham and Reading as a club that has seemed to be in decline for sometime, has had an extremely difficult summer, and wouldn’t need too much to go wrong to slip into the bottom three if any or all of the newly promoted teams are competitive. You’d also say it would be just like them to go balls deep on a transfer plan entirely geared towards building a side for Mark Warburton’s style of play, only to lose faith and sack him in short order and replace him with the far more direct Gareth Ainsworth, necessitating another complete about face.
But then, we tipped Stoke for the title last season. So what do we know?
Just the 48 games to go.
Geoff Cameron Facts no.56 in the series: The redevelopment of Stoke City’s training ground was delayed for nine months when a lesser spotted arm of the Cameron family nested in the undergrowth.
Team News: Lee Wallace has missed all the pre-season friendlies with a hip flexor problem but had an injection last week and is now back running in the gym. Ryan Manning has smashed his summer out of the park so will start at left back. Mark Warburton’s desire for another centre back hasn’t materialised at press time so Grant Hall and Yoann Barbet are likely to continue their burgeoning reign of terror at centre half. Bright Osayi-Samuel and Angel Rangel sat out training earlier this week but aren’t rated as major doubts, Todd Kane is likely to start at right back in any case. Jordan Hugill will lead the line ahead of any three from Samuel, Ilias Chair, Ebere Eze, Marc Pugh, Mide Shodipo and new Matt Smith. We’re offering a two-year contract as a Queens Park Rangers goalkeeper, with a squad number, for any sighting of Sean Goss.
Ryan Shawcross is out for most of this season with a leg amputation. Nasty business. He’ll be replaced by Liam Lindsay at the heart of the defence – a summer recruit from Barnsley who kept 21 clean sheets in League One last year. Jordan Cousins could make his Stoke debut against his former club after arriving on a free transfer.
Elsewhere: God it’s exciting isn’t it? All the new teams we haven’t played for ages like Luton and Luton. All the slight variations from last season’s kits, like Preston’s brilliant new white number, or Blackburn’s striking blue and white halves. All the new and shiny Chelsea loanees to get to know. A clean disciplinary slate for Ben Pearson to lovingly treasure for seven or eight minutes. It’s like when the manhole cover in your garden starts emitting an odd smell – you suspect it’s going to be shit, because it’s always been shit before, but you just don’t know until you prise that lid off and have a good look around down there do you?
The big reveal starts on Friday night. In an effort to ram home to you just how incredibly different this season is from last, the host broadcaster has gone with a Luton game, their first back at this level since 2007, but in doing so have reaffirmed nice and quickly that they don’t give a fuck about your football team or its supporters by deeming it appropriate for Middlesbrough to do that 440-mile round trip to it in that away end on a Friday night. But fear not, if that’s all too radical for you, Sky Sports Leeds are showing the Champions of Europe away at Bristol City on Sunday afternoon. The latest incarnation of Nottingham Florist, with another new manager and another entirely new squad of players including three expensively-acquired, highly-paid, senior goalkeepers, get a TV outing on Saturday evening against West Brom. And there’s Sky action for Borussia Huddersfield and Derby Sheep on Monday evening too.
But what about those untelevised games, I hear you ask, as if they matter to anybody? Well after a year away each, we welcome back Grimethorpe Miners' Welfare from the league below, and Tarquin and Rupert from the one above, and they’re meeting at Oakwell on Saturday at 15.00. Charlton are also back, against all the odds, and start away to the Mad Chicken Farmers.
We’re told that this might be the season Real Sporting Hanwell make a push for an actual league championship to go with their various Justice League titles picked up in recent times, taking advantage of a perfect storm of enormous transfer money coming in that they can spend and a weaker than usual Championship. Lose Neal Maupay and Ollie Watkins to Brighton and Palace respectively and the coffers will be swollen still further, though that would leave them light up front with the window SLAMMING SHUT on Thursday. Assuming they’re able to crawl out of their own arse long enough to fulfil the fixture, and Maupay and/or Watkins are available to play, they might actually be the best team Birmingham City will face all season in this week’s exciting game between two teams beginning with B.
Neil Warnock has once again stated his intention to retire back to the farm with Sharon after he’s given it just this one more go with Cardiff, making this his Eleventh Annual Farewell Tour and surpassing a record previously held by Cher. The Welsh outfit start at Wigan Warriors, who must have taken a rare coin into the Antiques Roadshow or something because they suddenly have the money for Dujon Sterling, Jamaal Lowe and Kieffer Moore between us posting our preview tipping them to finish second bottom and the season kicking off on Saturday. They also have a new mascot.
If Sam Allardyce catches sight of that thing it'll take six men to hold him down.
Two new managers face off in South Wales as Swanselona take on the Allam Tigers. Swansea have gone all trendy and forward thinking again with England U17 World Cup winner Steve Cooper, a man comprised almost entirely of teeth, as their man to replace Graham Potter. Hull, meanwhile, have settled for whoever is desperate and stupid enough to come and work for their wanker owners – Doncaster’s Grant McCann in this instance.
Eight in and eight out for the Millwall Scholars, including Big Posh Matt Smith, as they look to turn things around from a difficult 2018/19. They start with Preston Knob End, whose £2m Friday deal for wind up radio inventor Trevor Bayliss from Coventry looks exactly the sort of shrewd bit of business they do all the bloody time.
Reading v Sheffield Owls looks like full blown AIDS.
And we’re off…
Referee: Having refereed Stoke’s final game of last season, a 2-2 draw with Sheff Utd, Geoff Eltringham is straight back to the Potteries for the first match of the new campaign. Details.
Betting: Our tame professional odds compiler Owen Goulding offers us the following advice… “I read with interest how many QPR fans are completely at a loss to work out how this season will develop. Being paid for the privilege of having said opinion, I can assure you I am in much the same boat. One thing I do think is it’s going to be an entertaining season for followers of the Hoops one way or another. The complete overhaul of the team is something that was needed but that decision now needs to be seen through as its going to take time to settle. The way Warburton is setting up indicates to me that QPR will be playing with a lot of pace and energy but this will also leave them open at the back.
“Starting the season with a trip to Stoke on paper wouldn't usually be a first choice but it’s probably the best time to take on the Potters. Another team who have pretty much completely overhauled their team over the summer, the locals are very unsure of how this complete change of approach is going to pan out. Add a horrific injury to Ryan Shawcross last week and the natives are getting very nervous prior to the season opener. This game looks to have goals in it, and so I’m looking towards Luke Amos who has showed enough intent to get forward in pre-season to make the 17/1 to score anytime currently on offer very appealing. However, I have noted we have looked pretty vulnerable from set-pieces in the recent friendlies and so I'll also be having an interest on Danny Batth - the towering centre-half for the Potters - to get on the scoresheet at 18/1 also. My only other bet will be Over 2.5 Goals at a tempting 11/10.
“For the record, my Ante Post bet of the season is Luton to be relegated. You cannot underestimate the importance of Jack Stacey, James Justin and Alan McCormack in their rise to the Championship . All have now departed and for my money, they have failed to replace any of them adequately.”
STOKE V QPR BETS
Luke Amos to score anytime 17/1 - Paddy Power/Betfair Danny Batth to score anytime 18/1 - Paddy Power/Betfair Over 2.5 goals 11/10 - Paddy Power/Betfair
Luton Town to be relegated - 4/1 Generally Available.
Stoke: The Potters drew 1-1 with Duisberg then beat lower league sides Wrexham 3-1, Tranmere 2-0 and Lincoln 2-1 before losing 2-1 to Leicester in their final friendly which included that horrific leg break for Ryan Shawcross. QPR at home followed by Wigan and Charlton feels like a particularly generous bit of fixture scheduling for Nathan Jones’ men to hit the ground running with. Between Boxing Day and the end of last season Stoke won only three times in 25 games, and none at all in the last six. They did draw 13 of those though, including four of the last five. Overall at home last season they won eight, drew nine and lost six and nicked our precious sixteenth position from us.
QPR: QPR lost to Austria Vienna (3-1), Boreham Wood (2-1) and Watford (1-0) in a challenging pre-season that also included a 2-1 win at League One Oxford. Their win at Sheff Wed on the final day of last season was a fifth away win of the campaign, up from three the year before, but was one of only three league victories achieved in the second half of the season. Rangers conceded 70 goals last season for the second year in a row and lost a club record 11 home games. Their four defeats and 13 goals conceded from the first four games was the club’s worst ever start to a season.
Prediction: WokingR just pipped KensalRiseR to the post to win last season’s Prediction league, which is ack for a new season and once again sponsored by Art of Football. Get involved by lodging your prediction here or sample the merch from our sponsor’s QPR collection here.
“How the bloody hell do you predict or call this? We don't know the team, we don't know the players and, with more players seemingly arriving every day, we've no idea what we might have to choose from come Saturday. The only thing we do know is that we don't win opening games of the season and we don't win away so I’m going with a 2-1 defeat with Luke Amos scoring ours if he's even on the pitch.”
Woking’s prediction: Stoke 2-1 QPR. Scorer – Luke Amos
LFW’s Prediction: Stoke 2-0 QPR. No scorer.
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