|Bristol City 2 v 0 Queens Park Rangers|
Saturday, 17th August 2019 Kick-off 15:00
The ides of August - Preview
Friday, 16th Aug 2019 21:07 by Clive Whittingham
QPR travel to Bristol City on Saturday with the mood increasingly upbeat after a bright start to the season, but with history weighing heavy upon the club's shoulders.
Bristol City v Queens Park Rangers
Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Saturday August 17, 2019 >>> Kick Off 15.00 >>> Weather – Overcast and should stay dry after a dire Friday >>> Ashton Gate, Bristol
At a little before 19.00 last night I discovered that we didn’t have a History column on file for this fixture.
Now at this point I’d usually crack that old gag about both regular readers being disappointed to learn that time and day job constraints usually restrict me to cutting and shutting the previous season’s History column with the most recent games, chopping in a new Memorable Match or featured player for the Connections bit as and when international breaks gave me the chance to research it. But then, even both regular readers don’t pay any attention to the History column, despite the slavish, meticulous work that’s gone into it over the last 14 years, so I doubt they’d care. Imagine, in the context of me deciding to plough on and write one regardless, my delight at finding that QPR and Bristol City have played 89 times. Eighty nine times.
But, to be honest, I quite enjoyed journeying back to a time when Bristol City were our mortal enemies, when Scott Murray was an unplayable world beater requiring tripling up, when Leroy Lita was a future England international to deal with as best we could, when Christian Roberts was a pesky troll and when Brian Tinnion was a gobshite who shot his mouth off too soon. There’s an article ready to be written for A Kick Up The R’s about players we feared and/or loathed during that sobering, replenishing three years in Division Two and then immediately forgot all about after promotion, if only I wasn’t too busy cutting and shutting History columns to write it.
The game that sticks in my mind most, the game that we featured as the Memorable Match in this week’s column (read it, read it damn you, ungrateful bastards, you don’t own me… Catch the moon. Catch the moon and bring it down. Bring it down.) was the opening day of the 2007/08 season at Ashton Gate. I was still doing QPR home and away from Sheffield back in those days and I both relished and dreaded that opening day fixture in equal measure.
I dreaded it because that war was supposed to have been won. It was, from 2002 to 2004 a pitched battle between Queens Park Rangers, Cardiff City, Plymouth Argyle, Brighton and Hove Albion and Bristol City for three promotion spots. The five of us came in on the tale end of monied Reading and Wigan storming up through the division, and there were of course other protagonists involved – we beat Oldham to get to the 2003 play-off final and lose, but did you remember that the following year Bristol City reached the final by beating Hartlepool over two legs? Me neither. Do you remember how handy Swindon were around that time? But essentially, four of us made it up over the course of 18 months and Bristol City missed the boat.
City lost to Brighton in that final, having been beaten by Cardiff in the semis the year before, and that rather felt like their lot. Manager Danny Wilson departed, and their best players started to be picked off – Scott Murray to Reading, Tommy Doherty controversially to our good selves, which felt like a coup until he started strangling everybody he came within reaching distance of. These were back in the days where the old Rivals message boards were a big thing, and Bristol City’s fans (and players, looking at you Tinnion you silly old goat) had given it such a big dick swing during a spring winning run of 11 matches - that included four separate last minute goals - that when Plymouth and QPR went up together regardless it fostered a weird bond between those two sets of fans, and a weird hatred of City. Internet, serious business, I know, but the QPR fans and Plymouth fans invading the City message board together in a sea of POP schadenfreude still comes up in conversation today. That was, until Sky bought Rivals and deliberately wrecked it because it competed with the Sky Sports website.
But now, in August 2007, here they were, back again, seeking revenge. Regenerated, rejuvenated and rescued from the brink of relegation down to the fourth tier by a young Gary Johnson who’d done amazing things for Yeovil and was now leading a City charge back up the leagues that would actually finish with them one Dean Windass worldie away from a Wembley play-off passage to the Premier League. They even had Scott Murray back. Fuck, maybe we shouldn’t have taken the piss so hard. That wasn’t us that hung the painted bed sheets from the motorway bridges, that was the Plymouth lot. Green Gob and all them. Honest.
I relished that day though. I relished it because I thought we’d win. It looks absolutely ludicrous now with hindsight but I, and many others, went through that summer of 2007 in very high spirits. The way we’d finished 2006/07, streaking away from the relegation zone in fine style with away wins at Leicester and Coventry, home wins against Cardiff, Luton and Preston, bred optimism that momentum was building. Danny Cullip was the new Alan McDonald, Adam Bolder and Martin Rowlands the best central midfield pairing in the league, Dexter Blackstock was pinging them in from 25 yards against PNE, Michael Mancienne had chosen to return amidst heavy competition for his signature and he’d brought Israeli international Ben Sahar with him into the bargain – the loan signing of the season, no doubt (we hadn’t met his mum at this point). We’d spent some money too, bringing in cult hero Lee Camp permanently, and signing Simon Walton who’d been a star child at Leeds and bought for big money by Charlton who were now offloading obviously brilliant players because they’d bollocksed their finances.
This was going to be great, I told myself, despite the evidence staring me straight in the face. This was going to be great, I told myself, despite Lee Cook, who’d carried the team for the previous 18 months, being sold to Fulham at a knock-down fee that kept the Can’t Pay We’ll Take It Away camera crews away for another week or so. This was going to be great, I told myself, because Daniel Nardiello had looked half decent against us for Barnsley and John Curtis used to play for Man Utd and Chris Barker had been part of a surprise Colchester team that had taken the league by storm the year before. This was going to be great, I told myself, despite Gianni Paladini seizing power of the club from two died-in-the-wool QPR fans and immediately using it to funnel money to agents he was friends with/owed money to, for obviously sub standard signings. This was going to be great, I told myself, as we started that season with Nardiello on one wing, Stefan Moore on the other, and a defence that included Zesh Rehman along with the aforementioned Barker and Curtis.
And you know what? We got a point at Ashton Gate on that first day. Despite the atmosphere, despite their hatred of us, despite their desperation to beat us and ram our mocking words back down our throats, despite the big money summer signing of Lee Trundle, despite Scott Murray’s glorious last minute ‘winner’… despite it all, Damion Stewart equalised with the last kick. And we lost our shit behind the goal, stumbling over the backless seats and detaching our knee caps as we went. Not a care in the world.
But, of course, that QPR team was absolute dog shit. Probably the worst I’ve seen since taking up a season ticket here in 1992. It won none of its first nine, Bristol City away being the highlight amongst it. Gregory was sacked, several of those players are still mentioned in passing as a our least talented of all time, and we were only saved from certain relegation and bankruptcy by Flavio Briatore’s takeover midway through September.
I bring all of this up now not just because we’re back in Bristol tomorrow, not only because I’m contractually obligated to file a preview for each game, but because it still scares me how hopeful I was for that season and how joyous I felt after that last minute equaliser all those years ago. I remember being absolutely devastated on the train down from Sheffield that morning to learn that Sahar wouldn’t be starting for us up front after all, presumably because his mum’s golf club had a fucking function on or some such shit. Sahar turned out to be a complete non-event, and time and experience has taught me that what happens in that first week in August is about as relevant as what happens in that middle week of February. People get way too carried away with it. Reading and Hull City were both promoted from this division in successive seasons despite both losing 3-2 at home to Plymouth on the opening day – and yet we still place so much stock in what goes on at this time of year.
QPR lost their first four matches of last season and conceded 13 goals doing it. It was the worst start to a season in the history of the club. They won only three of their last 22 games in the Championship, starting the day after Boxing Day. They still weren’t relegated. By contrast, Bristol City won just three of their first 12 home games last season, and still nearly made the play-offs. I look at our start this season, and how enthusiastic people are getting about it, and I think we’re three games in of which we’ve won one. Huddersfield are already talking about sacking their manager after three games, one of which was at ours last week that we didn’t win. The rush to judge, particularly in August, is frenetic.
I can’t wait to go down to Bristol tomorrow with 1,600 of you lot and see if what looks like a very bright, promising, enterprising QPR team can continue to be bright, promising and enterprising against a side that is suffering from a late transfer window purge of its star defender. But that schadenfreude that was once the doyen of an easily-avoided message board has now permeated the whole sport, and our whole lives, and there’s a queue of people waiting to call you on it. What was the dread at returning to Ashton Gate for one match, is now the feeling after every post, article, comment in the pub… Every social media platform, piped into your phone 24/7, desperate to call you out on something you thought a fortnight ago that now isn’t true. In one way or another, we seem desperate to sap the enjoyment from our sport – be it VAR, social media, Fantasy League or Graeme Souness.
If QPR are rubbish tomorrow and do lose, as most would have anticipated us to do in this fixture three weeks ago, everybody that’s dared to get excited about how we’ve played in the first fortnight will be set upon by those weirdoes that seem to rejoice in us being shit because it makes them right. And if we were to win, you just know that suddenly several hundred people that would never have dreamed of going to Sheff Wed at the end of the month will suddenly be clogging the trains and away end with their “banter”, and cocaine off any flat surface they can find, and screamed abuse at anybody who isn’t singing quite as much as they are, and, ultimately, vile abuse for the players if they don’t live up to heightened expectations.
It’s why that League Cup game gave me so much pleasure during the week. Yeh we’re not defending well, yeh it’s playing like an U23 game, yeh it’s a bit of a shambles. But by God it was entertaining, and fun, and good to watch, and the die hards were there to see it. So who cares?
Beware getting too carried away, one way or the other, with what happens in August.
Links >>> The Bristol Strangler – History >>> Tricky start for Robins – Interview >>> The life of Ryan – Podcast >>> Jones in charge – referee >>> Bristol City official website >>> The Exiled Robin – Blog >>> One Team In Bristol – Message Board >>> Bristol Post – Local Paper
Geoff Cameron Facts No.59 in the series: While captaining the Punxsutawney Groundhogs, Geoff once headed winning goals in 17 consecutive 1-0 home vistories.
Team News:Lee Wallace remains sidelined with his hip issue, though it would be a brave man to drop Ryan Manning the way he’s playing at the moment. Several players gave mark Warburton food for thought with their performances in the cup during the week with Ilias Chair surely pushing Josh Scowen hard for his starting position and Todd Kane doing like wise to Angel Rangel down the right side.
We take this opportunity, as it’s the only section of our site he ever appeared on, to bid a fond farewell to Sean Goss. Myth? Legend? A figment of our imagination? Who’s going to claim all these fucking prizes we’ve got piled up around the place? So many questions, so few answers. We were going to offer a flight in the Bristol Hot Air Balloon Festival with Gerry Francis as your guide this week as well. If, and it does remain if in our minds, he does indeed exist, I don’t think anybody will have looked quite such a twat turning up to work as he did today at Shrewsbury in that car of his since Patrick Agyemang spent 18 months commuting to a loan spell at Stevenage (30 appearances, one goal) in his personalised reg Bentley. Good luck Sean, that twentieth senior league start is surely just round the corner now.
Not two weeks ago I was sitting here writing that few teams in the Championship could boast a defence as good as Bristol City’s. Since then Adam Webster has been sold to brighton without adequate replacement, Jay Dasilva who they brought in from Chelsea on a permanent deal has been ruled out for five months with a stress fracture of his leg and now right back Pedro Pereira is a doubt with a dead leg. You’re welcome Robins. Lee Johnson made six changes for the second league match at Birmingham after losing the first one comfortably to Leeds, and shuffled his pack again for the midweek cup game at QPR, so God knows what’s coming next. It’s unlikely to include Matty Taylor, the former Bristol Rovers striker is mulling a move to Oxford, but could well see a start for youngster Han-Noah Massengo – the 18-year-old signed for enormous money from Monaco on the transfer deadline was mesmeric in defeat in W12 on Tuesday.
Elsewhere: Curse my low self esteem and lack of self belief for not following through with my assertion that Lincoln would definitely win at Borussia Huddersfield on Tuesday night with an actual bet. What if, this time, we place the bet and spend the winnings. You know, on things that we like? Whaaaaaaaaaaat a dickhead.
Anyway it moves Borussia’s manager Jan Siewert into the endangered category, with a dreadful end to last season and a winless start to this. Well get more of an idea exactly what we’re facing with The Terriers this season when they face Jean Paul and Tabitha at home this evening, live on Sky Sports Leeds, but I suspect they might be in a spot of bother.
Amongst the other clubs that have started slowly when better was expected of them, Poke City go into their home match with the Derby Sheep having lost two from two in the league so far. Nottingham Florist’s cast of a thousand footballers have one point to their collective names so far ahead of a home match with Birmingham. Spartak Hounslow lost to Brum on day one, won at Middlesbrough last week, and will almost certainly be the best team Allam Tigers face all season at Griffin Park tomorrow. Boro, meanwhile, with a draw and a loss in the league so far, go to the Mad Chicken Farmers who have also lost both league games to this point.
Grimethorpe Miners’ Welfare at home to Charlton is a clash of two sides tipped for struggle who’ve looked surprisingly good so far. Wigan Warriors beat Cardiff on day one and haunted the Champions of Europe at Elland Road last April so that’s an intriguing rematch at the DW. Sheffield Owls are happily proving that this needing a manager lark is a load of old tut, two wins so far ahead of their trip to Millwall Scholars.
Lutown against West Brom and Swanselona v Preston Knob End are also football games taking place this weekend.
The Eleventh Annual Neil Warnock Farewell Tour rolls into Reading for Sky’s Super Sunday Brunch Spectacular at 12.00.
Referee: Robert Jones from Merseyside, who you wouldn’t want to mess with looking at the physique of the guy, is in charge of this one. He’s been pretty good when we’ve had him so far, bar one afternoon where Ben Pearson offered him two weeks in his Tuscan villa in return for turning a blind eye to the attempted murder of Ebere Eze. Details.
Bristol City: The three goals conceded by6 Bristol City at Loftus Road on Tuesday continued a leaky defence theme that started manifesting itself in the summer. They’ve already shipped seven goals in three competitive games this season – three each against Leeds and QPR - after a pre-season which included a 4-3 win down at Forest Green Rovers and a comprehensive 5-0 home stuffing by Crystal Palace. City finished eighth last season, four points shy of the play-off places with 70. That was, to some extent, based more on their away form where they won 11 times on the road (only Norwich managed more with 12). At Ashton Gate they won eight, drew eight and lost seven with Middlesbrough, Stoke, Sheff Wed, Preston, Birmingham, Leeds and Derby the victorious team. They started last season at Ashton Gate with four defeats, five draws and just three wins in their first 12 home games but then promptly went on an 11-match winning streak culminating in the controversial success against QPR in February.
QPR: Rangers have taken four points from their first two league games, winning at Stoke and drawing with Huddersfield, after a pre-season in which they only won once away at Oxford – Austria Vienna, Boreham Wood and Watford all beat QPR over the summer. Their penalty shoot out victory against the Robins on Tuesday sets up a second round tie with Portsmouth – the last time we met these two sides in the early rounds of the League Cup, we went on to reach the FA Cup final that same season. Away from Loftus Road Rangers won five games last season, up from three the previous year, but they lost this fixture in 2018/19 thanks to a nonsense injury time penalty awarded against Darnell Furlong.
LFW’s Prediction: Bristol City 2-2 QPR. Scorer – Jordan Hugill
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