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Hart-less QPR head for Bloomfield Road - full match preview
Hart-less QPR head for Bloomfield Road - full match preview
Friday, 15th Jan 2010 12:20

Under their third manager of the season already a demoralised QPR head north on Saturday to face Ian Holloway's highly motivated Blackpool side. 

Blackpool (7th) v Queens Park Rangers (10th)
Coca Cola Championship
Saturday January 16, Kick Off 3pm
Bloomfield Road, Blackpool

What’s this? Oh bugger, a match, a football match. God I’d almost completely forgotten we had one. Anyway yes, it is a farce and we are a laughing stock and isn’t it ridiculous that he only got five games and what a terrible way to treat a great football man yadda yadda yadda.

I have sat in this seat and tapped away on this keyboard for months now saying we need to get a proven manager and stick with him, let the manager buy the players and have total control, keep the same manager for a couple of seasons, try for more stability and all the rest of it and now my brain is weak and my fingers are bloody and sore. I’m not sorry that Hart is gone. I know it’s contrary to plead for stability and then ring the bells and cry ‘the witch is dead’ when we oust another boss after just five matches but I hate the bloke. I hate him, I always have. I thought he did a bloody lousy job as a first team manager wherever he’s been, save for one decent season with Nottingham Forest a long time ago, and he was right up there with the Gary Megsons, Bryan Robsons and Peter Reids of this world in the list of people I didn’t want within 500 miles of Loftus Road.

All this “poor Paul Hart” business on the radio and television this morning is almost as laughable as the outpouring of grief and sorrow for the way Gary Megson was treated at Bolton. All these journalists and pundits wringing their hands over the treatment of Megson and Hart by supporters of their clubs might actually like to come out of the press box, pay £30 and sit there every match watching the dross they serve up. Hart may have only been here five games but it was clear from his tactics, team selections and statements in the press exactly where he intended to take us. Five games of pelting long balls at Patrick Agyemang, particularly when he was marked by Chris Morgan for three of those games, is bloody mindless. Did Hart not watch videos of how we can play? Did he not think of maybe utilising a better system that suited the players more? Did he draw his substitutions out of a hat?

I’m sorry, good bloody riddance as far as I’m concerned. We look ridiculous, but we looked that for appointing the chump in the first place. The problem is - was the issue his style of football? Or was it perhaps that he wanted Smith, Williamson and Ashdown from Portsmouth but was instead presented with Ikeme, Cousin and Faye? Who knows?

The clear and obvious thing is that the system we use for selecting managers is not working and must be changed, as must this system of how we buy players. The finger of blame now has to point fairly and squarely at the person who recommended Hart for the position in the first place. I cannot believe that Flavio Briatore sat in his Knightsbridge office and said “get me that fella who just got sacked by Portsmouth” when Magilton left. Dowie, Magilton and Hart are surely to goodness recommendations from somewhere else? Whoever that is now needs to fall on their sword. The system this club uses to select signings and managers is clearly, and obviously flawed and failing. Persisting with it only to sack the managers it produces after tiny amounts of time is so ludicrous it is hard to believe - and yet we’ve done it three times now.

Either get a manager that works with sporting directors successfully or get a manager that doesn’t and get rid of the sporting director. Stop, for the love of God, trying to mash the two together. Whether we’ll be able to persuade anybody with any shred of credibility to come and work in this circus now remains to be seen. I hope so, if a good financial package is offered and assurances that this bloody idiotic way of running a club will come to an end, but I fear another Hart style appointment will be made in the summer. You would think that only the bad, mad, sad and desperate will take this job on now - and Hart was certainly a desperate choice.

This absolute farce is an embarrassment to our club and is making us a laughing stock - and I have a horrible feeling nobody will be laughing harder at 5pm on Saturday than the first victim of QPR’s “Italian way” Ian Holloway.

Five minutes on Blackpool
The story so far: Blackpool, by contrast to ourselves, have developed a handy knack of making good, sound managerial appointments and sticking with them in recent times. When their persuit of a reasonably big name ended in failure for Colin hendry former player Simon Grayson was given the opportunity to lead Pool and did a magnificent job. Grayson kept Pool up in 2005/06 when even that had looked unlikely when he was appointed, won the play offs in his first full season in charge beating Yeovil at Wembley, and then consolidated Pool’s position in the Championship on a tiny budget and with the world and his wife queuing up to write them off as relegation no hopers.

Grayson was always going to attract interest from elsewhere after such a sparkling start to his managerial career and was even linked with the job as assistant to Alex Ferguson at one point. However in the end he actually dropped a division, in bitter circumstances with Blackpool initially refusing his resignation and then demanding hefty compensation, when he joined Leeds United. Grayson is a Leeds fan and started his career at the club where he is once again proving to be a shrewd operator and is set to promote Leeds back into the Championship in his first full season in charge..

Blackpool gave Grayson’s assistant Tony Parkes the chance to stake a claim for the job permanently by making him the caretaker manager through to the end of lastseason. Parkes, a seasoned campaigner and coach, mostly with Blackburn Rovers, successfully kept a mediocre squad in the league and wanted the job but was not happy with the meagre terms offered – hinting that he felt the club were making an offer because they felt they had to rather than because they really wanted him to stay. As Grayson’s permanent replacement eccentric chairman Karl Oyston and Latvian investor Valeri Belokon turned to a man with a proven track record of discovering hidden talent, getting mediocre players to excel themselves and building a competitive Championship side on a budget - Ian Holloway.

Blackpool's season so far has been quite remarkable. Tipped by many for a relegation struggle they currently lie seventh in the table. At QPR Holloway would sell the club to players like Marc Bircham and Lee Cook and persaude them to take what appeared to be a step back to join the R's rather than take up offers elsewhere. Players like Hameur Bouazza, Charlie Adam and Jason Euell have fallen for his charms at Bloomfield Road and form part of an effective and entertaining Blackpool side that plays a lot more football than Holloway's previous sides - the former QPR gaffer was very taken with Roberto Martinez's Swansea side last season and has modified his own methods accordingly.

It is disrespectful and in many ways lazy journalism to simply trot out the tired old cliches about a little club batting above its weight - but with all the respect in the world to Blackpool their geographical location, budget, ground and recent history will make it harder to persuade players like Adam and Bouazza to swap bigger clubs in London and Glasgow for life by the seaside. Holloway is the ideal man for that selling job, and his 'bad rashing' hard work ethic combined with the unwelcoming nature of Bloomfield Road to so called bigger sides in this league who perhaps don't fancy themselves quite as much when faced with a howling gale and 11 highly motivated Blackpool players has proved very effective. I'm sorry, there's just about every cliche in the book in that paragraph, but it is true in my opinion.

Pool have only lost once at home in the league this season, have beaten Newcastle and won 3-0 at Middlesbrough. They're inconsistent, but they're good watch and successful. The division's obvious success story in 2009/10.

The Manager: What more is there to say about Ian Holloway? A former player at Loftus Road Holloway cut his managerial teeth at another of his former clubs Bristol Rovers. He was desperately unlucky at Rovers to lose out in the play offs when promotion to this league seemed likely, but he made the club huge amounts of money by discovering the likes of Barry Hayles, Nathan Ellington, Jamie Cureton and Jason Roberts in non-league and other clubs’ reserve sides. That attracted QPR to him in 2001 with relegation to the Second Division and administration looming. Holloway, who beat Steve Bruce and Steve Coppell to the job, got a blank canvas at QPR, with only seven professionals left for the 2001/02 season, but no money for paint. He assembled a rag tag bunch of players along with talented assistant manager Kenny Jackett and miracle working scout Mel Johnson. QPR finished midtable in their first Second Division campaign thanks to a late surge of seven consecutive wins, made the play off final in the second and won promotion at the third attempt with a team high on effort, work rate and commitment with a smattering of genuinely talented players.

The introduction of Gianni Paladini to the QPR board and a poor start to the 2004/05 season in the Championship almost cost Olly his job but a run of eight wins in nine matches catapulted the R’s into promotion contention before they fell back into mid-table. That was about as much as Rangers were ever likely to accomplish with no money and low crowds and better equipped clubs like Wolves and Leicester started to sniff around the QPR manager. It was interest from the latter that brought an end to Olly’s time at Loftus Road, although it seemed at the time like the Loftus Road board was just looking for an excuse. He was placed on gardening leave in January 2006 and replaced by Gary Waddock, surfacing that summer at Plymouth Argyle.

Again working with meagre resources Holloway assembled a hard working and attractive Argyle side that included the likes of David Norris, Akos Buzsaky and Peter Halmosi, he also rediscovered his knack of unearthing genuine goal scorers when he brought in Sylvain Ebanks Blake from Man Utd for £250k. By the middle of the 2007/08 season though, 18 months after taking the job, Holloway seemed to be becoming frustrated with the lack of resources at Home Park and the prospect of losing the majority of his talented players at the end of the season – in the end, after his departure, Plymouth lost nine of their starting eleven in summer 2008. Despite ruling himself out of the once again vacant Leicester job to such an extent that he branded anybody who thought he would leave Plymouth to go there “an idiot” he moved to the Walkers Stadium in January 2008. Clearly having never read the play through to the end Holloway declared he was pleased to finally be in King Lear after years of acting in Eastenders – he was right of course, though not in the way he wished or intended, as Leicester ended up dead in the end and relegated. Holloway was sacked.

Although he may have been attracted at the time by the lure of a big club like Leicester, who would have perhaps given him plenty to spend on players had he kept them up, Holloway is probably now coming round to the idea that he is better battling away as the underdog. At Blackpool he has taken over one of the division’s more unfashionable clubs where perhaps the wages he is able to offer players are not quite what many of the other teams at this level put on the table and has taken the fight to them. His success at QPR was built on imperious home form and Bloomfield Road is a fortress for them this season with only one defeat. Slated by sections of the QPR crowd towards the end of his tenure for clear tactical deficiencies, Holloway has always been able to cover many of his failures with his motivational ability but has adopted a more easy on the eye brand of football with the Tangerines that has made them one of the division’s most entertaining, as well as most hard working and committed, teams to watch.

Three to Watch: I try, when writing these previews for corresponding fixtures, to pick three different names for this section than I did first time around – however I am, on this occasion, going to keep Ian Evatt and Charlie Adam.

You see I am fascinated by the potential new look centre half partnership at Blackpool between Evatt and the third player I’m going to mention Andy Butler. Evatt we know all about. Signed by Holloway at QPR from Chesterfield in the summer of 2005 but quickly dropped and transfer listed during 2005/06 – first by Holloway and then by Gary Waddock. Evatt, I always thought, was quite harshly done to at Loftus Road and didn’t do very much wrong although he clearly suffered at this level from a distinct lack of pace and turning circle of super tanker proportions. He was loaned, and then basically given away, to Blackpool for nothing and he has been a steady rock at the heart of their defence ever since.

Of course when Holloway arrived at Blackpool one of the first questions he was asked was about Evatt, who he clearly didn’t rate at Loftus Road and had subsequently written about in his autobiography stating that he had mentioned in passing to QPR chairman Gianni Paladini that he quite liked him only to find Paladini had immediately gone out and bought him while Holloway was on holiday. The man Holloway actually wanted at QPR that summer was Scunthorpe United’s young centre half Andy Butler. Holloway had been seen at Scunthorpe’s final match of 2004/05 when they sealed promotion at Shrewsbury but ultimately with Man City also sniffing around Butler the price got too high for cash strapped Rangers and they went for Evatt instead.

Ultimately Butler stayed where he was and suffered a very bad injury. He’s never really been back in the Scunthorpe team since, spent time on loan at Grimsby, and then joined Huddersfield on a free at the start of last season. Butler has been by no means out of the picture with Lee Clark’s side, and has made more than 50 appearances in a season and a half, but they have allowed him to join Blackpool where presumably, once Evatt returns from his suspension, the pair of them will actually play together four years on from that sorry saga at QPR. That former Blackpool centre half Kaspars Gorkss is likely to oppose them on Saturday for QPR adds further intrigue.

Anyway as ever it’s more of a team thing and work ethic that is doing the business for Holloway and Blackpool this season but it is hard to ignore Scottish midfielder Charlie Adam all the same. Signed in the summer for £500k from Rangers after a successful loan at Bloomfield Road last season the attacking midfielder has been one of the division’s outstanding players this season and is sure to start attracting interest from clubs who’d like to think they are bigger than Blackpool very soon. He has nine goals from midfield this season in 23 starts and is a huge threat to us this weekend. Scored a lovely footballing goal at Cardiff last time out that QPR fans who write Holloway off as a long ball manager may want to sit down and have a look at when they get chance.

Links >>> Blackpool Official Website >>> Blackpool Message Board >>> Travel Guide

Recent Meetings:
At Loftus Road on the opening day of the season QPR were both lucky to escape with a draw, and unlucky not to win the game. They were lucky to get the point they did from a 1-1 because they equalised late and the goal when it did come, Peter Ramage’s one and only strike for QPR so far, was a mishit cross that deceived the goalkeeper. However having said that QPR had been the dominant force for much of the match and Ben Burgess’ first half opener after defensive hesitancy was against the overall run of play of the game.

QPR: Cerny 6, Ramage 7, Hall 6, Gorkss 6, Borrowdale 7, Routledge 6, Rowlands 7 (Agyemang 60, 7), Mahon 6, Balanta 7 (Buzsaky 56, 6), Helguson 5 (Vine 56, 5), Taarabt 6
Subs Not Used: Putnins, Stewart, Connolly, Ephraim
Booked: Helguson (foul), Routledge (foul), Buzsaky (foul), Hall (obstructing goalkeeper)
Goals: Ramage 86 (assisted Vine)

Blackpool: Rachubka 8, Crainey 6, Evatt 6, Baptiste 6, Edwards 6,Vaughan 6 (Clarke 73, 6), Adam 6, Southern 6, Euell 7, Burgess 7,Taylor-Fletcher 7 (Ormerod 68, 6)
Subs Not Used: Gilks, Eardley, Martin, Nardiello, Demontagnac
Booked: Adam (foul)
Goals: Burgess 37 (assisted Taylor-Fletecher)

The last meeting between these two sides at Bloomfield Road was almost a year ago to the day when QPR defied their poor away form and wild weather conditions to record a comfortable 3-0 win. Wayne Routledge’s strong wing play set up Heidar Helguson for a first half headed opener and the Icelandic international, more than used to playing in the driving sleet that battered the players and uncovered QPR fans throughout the night, made it two after half time when he slid in a penalty after a foul on Lee Cook. Hogan Ephraim added a deserved third five minutes from time in what was one of QPR’s best away performances of the season.

Blackpool: Rachubka 7, Barker 6, Evatt 5, Edwards 5, Harte 3 (Crainey 64, 4), O'Donovan 5 (Nemeth 59, 5), Fox 5, Vaughan 6, Martin 4 (Owens 46, 6), Campbell 6, Taylor-Fletcher 6
Subs Not Used: Gilks, Baptiste

QPR: Camp 7, Connolly 6 (Hall 88, -), Stewart 7, Gorkss 8, Delaney 6, Routledge 8, Cook 7, Leigertwood 7, Mahon 7, Miller 6 (Ephraim 54, 7), Helguson 7 (Blackstock 75, 7)
Subs Not Used: Bulmer, Di Carmine
Booked: Cook (foul), Routledge (kicking the ball away)
Goals: Helguson 17 (assisted Routledge), 58 (penalty) Ephraim 90 (assisted Cook)

Head to Head:
Blackpool wins - 3
Draws – 8
QPR wins - 13

Previous Results:
2009/10 QPR 1 Blackpool 1 (Ramage)
2008/09 Blackpool 0 QPR 3 (Helguson 2, Ephraim)
2008/09 QPR 1 Blackpool 1 (Blackstock)
2007/08 QPR 3 Blackpool 2 (Buzsaky, Vine, Rowlands)
2007/08 Blackpool 1 QPR 0
2003/04 Blackpool 0 QPR 1 (Rowlands)
2003/04 QPR 5 Blackpool 0 (Ainsworth 2, Langley, Gallen, Palmer)
2002/03 Blackpool 1 QPR 3 (Langley 3)
2002/03 QPR 2 Blackpool 1 (Langley, Clarke og)
2001/02 QPR 2 Blackpool 0 (Langley, Gallen)
2001/02 Blackpool 2 QPR 2 (Griffiths 2)

Played for both clubs:
Trevor Sinclair
Blackpool 1989-1993
QPR 1993-1998

Although Tricky Trev was born in London he signed his first pro-contract with Blackpool and became the club’s youngster ever debutant when he made his first appearance for the team on 19 August 1989 aged just 16 years and five months. He became an instant hit with the Tangerines and three years later helped the team win promotion via the play-offs from the old division four after a Wembley victory against Scunthorpe. Soon scouts were circulating as the big boys began to take note of Blackpool ’s wing wizard, who wasn’t hard to miss with his distinctive dreadlocks.

It was QPR who swooped for the midfielder and he joined Gerry Francis team as a replacement for Andy Sinton who had moved on to Sheffield Wednesday. Sinclair’s explosive pace and tricky feet soon meant he was a permanent fixture in the R’s first-team during Francis reign and became one the clubs star attractions. When QPR were relegated in 1996 Sinclair stayed and tried to help the club bounce back but no avail and moved back to the big time two years later with West Ham. Of course Trev is best remembered for the amazing bicycle-kick volley against Barnsley that won the BBC goal of the season in 1997 beating David Beckham’s famous halfway line goal in the process.

After West Ham Sinclair went on to play for Manchester City and won 12 England caps including four appearances in the 2002 World Cup. Sinclair suffered with injuries late in his career and hung up his boots for good after being released by Cardiff the season before last – helping the Bluebirds to an FA Cup final in his final campaign as a pro. - AR

Links >>> QPR 1 Blackpool 1 Match Report >>> Blackpool 0 QPR 3 Match Report >>> Match Report Archive >>> Connections and Memories

This Saturday
Team News: QPR may have Lee Cook back on the bench after six months on the sidelines with a knee injury - his comeback has been delayed by the cold weather which has seen a couple of reserve games postponed. Rowan Vine is out for another couple of weeks with a stomach injury while Martin Rowlands and Gavin Mahon are long term absentees.

Rob Edwards and Ian Evatt were both suspended for the draw at Cardiff last week but return to the Blackpool fold this Saturday. Stephen McPhee and Billy Clarke are both injured in attack and winger hameur Bouazza is away at the African Nations Cup with Algeria.

Elsewhere: Just for a change, Newcastle are on the television this weekend – their game with West Brom is Sky’s Monday night offering. New Sheff Wed boss Alan Irvine starts life at Hillsborough with a South Yorkshire derby against in form Barnsley, who are gaining on us fast after starting the season with five defeats and a draw from their first six games. Nottingham Forest, unbeaten in 16 matches, can move to within two points of Newcastle on Saturday if they beat Reading who may suffer a little hangover from their incredible win at Liverpool on Wednesday. Peterborough v Derby has the look of a relegation six pointer.

Referee: Ooooh it’s our old favourite Trevor Kettle, plodding along over the horizon whistle in mouth and card in hand. Not that this fixture ever hinted at being some free flowing, football master class but expect Kettle to whistle like hell, every 30 seconds, for every tiny little thing. Past offences against QPR are detailed below.

Links >>> Whistling Kettle in charge >>> Dean Sturridge Memorial Injury List >>> Arthur Gnohere Discipline Counter >>> Referee League

Blackpool: It is hard to pin down Blackpool’s form as they have been very inconsistent. In their last 20 matches they have won eight, lost eight and drawn four. They have beaten Newcastle, Nottingham Forest and Middlesbrough, and lost to Barnsley, Crystal Palace and Ipswich twice. A couple of things don’t change though – Ian Holloway still goes out of the FA Cup at the first stage (Ipswich this season), and his teams are still really tough to beat at home. That Barnsley defeat is their only one at Bloomfield Road so far this season in the league and Scunthorpe (4-1), Sheff Utd (3-0), Plymouth (2-0), Peterborough (2-0), Newcastle (2-1) and Coventry (3-0) have all been beaten – only Newcastle kept the deficit down to a goal as you can see. They have lost two and drawn one of their last three on this ground though if you want a glimmer of hope.

QPR: Rangers have just one win from their last 11 games coming into this match. They have kept just one clean sheet (against Preston) in 20 matches and haven’t had a shut out in 16 attempts. Away from home they have won none of their last five and lost three of those. They have conceded 19 goals in their last eight matches.

Prediction: One thing you cannot be against an Ian Holloway team is undercooked. I have grave, grave fears about just what the score could be here. Holloway will have his team really fired up and a combination of that, home advantage and dreadful weather conditions could result in a very big score against our players who are completely demoralised, totally out of form and playing in a system that doesn’t suit them. This could be a big one as far as I’m concerned.
Blackpool by three

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Photo: Action Images

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