|Queens Park Rangers 3 v 2 Luton Town|
Saturday, 14th September 2019 Kick-off 15:00
Eze Chair combo exciting QPR ahead of Luton visit – Preview
Friday, 13th Sep 2019 16:20 by Clive Whittingham
QPR are back in action at Loftus Road on Saturday, in grave danger of becoming an entertaining and attacking team that’s worth watching. Spoiler alert…
QPR (3-1-2, DLLWLW, 8th) v Luton Town (2-1-3, WLLWWW, 15th)
Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Saturday September 14, 2019 >>> Kick Off 15.00 >>> Weather - Sunshine, lollipops and rainbows, everything that's wonderful is what I feel when we're together >>> Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium, Loftus Road, London, W12
Ilias Chair, according to the club’s official website, is 158cm tall and weighs 53kg, which in the sort of old money we’ll soon be using to measure our food rations is somewhere between 5ft 1in and 5ft 2ins tall and 8st 3lbs. As one message board wit put it, I’ve done bigger shits than that.
Good things often come in small packages though and in Chair Rangers seem to be onto a very good thing indeed. The well-connected Sean Gallagher reports a new three-year contract is imminent, with his current deal due to expire in 2020, and that cannot come soon enough if his performance at Sheffield Wednesday was anything to go by.
One further ahead of him on the production line, Ebere Eze got his first taste of life in the England U21 squad last week having moved up from the U20s to cover injuries.
The England youth set up is working itself into an awkward spot at the moment, with inspirational technical director Dan Ashworth now at Brighton, replaced by Southampton’s Les Reed who throughout his career has seemed more adept at networking his way into plum jobs than actually achieving anything in them. The England U21s regularly reached the latter stages of tournaments under Gareth Southgate and both the England U20s and U17s won World Cups, all under Ashworth’s reign, but things have been on something of a slide since culminating in the summer crash and burn for the U21 side when they were booted out of the Euros at the group stage, finished off by a farcical 4-2 loss to Romania. Aidy “people talk about wonderful tippy tappy football but I don’t see it” Boothroyd is, scandalously, still the manager of that team. If his record, demeanour and style of football weren’t enough to show what a travesty that is, treat yourselves to his chapters in Michael Calvin’s excellent book on football management Living on the Volcano in which he manages Northampton Town, very badly, and comes across as a bullying arse. Reed and the FA chose to throw the players under the bus, branding them arrogant, over the summer, rather than confront the man in charge, who’d said the thing he was most looking forward to about the tournament was showcasing how good British coaches – specifically him – are to the rest of the world. That went well.
It is, nevertheless, a fantastic achievement for Eze. After some considerable debate we believe it’s the first QPR player in that England U21 squad since Clarke Carlisle won three caps in 2000/01. I have a vague recollection of Richard Langley getting a call up around the same time without playing, though can find no record of that, and Lee Camp kept goal in the first match at Wembley Stadium in between one loan spell at Loftus Road ending and a permanent move being agreed. (After press, David Scriven writes to tell us Jack Robinson got a cap while on loan at Huddersfield from QPR).
The call up is reward for the new stronger, more adept, more effective Eze we’ve seen in the opening games this season. Physically he looks stronger, positionally more intelligent, and in front of goal more dangerous. If he is indeed going to be good enough, then all of this was inevitable. He’s ageing, through 19 and 20 to 21, and he’s growing in experience, from 30 starts in his professional career a year ago to more than 70 now. Simple rules of biology and sport suggest he’d become consistently better the more he played and the older he got and it’s why it was so ridiculous that so many people were willing to write him off quite so quickly for being “lazy” during his inevitable peaks and troughs in form while playing in a struggling team last season. I’ve seen some admit to doing that lately, but back it up by saying he was lazy last season and he’s not this, like somebody came in during one of the summer nights and shoved a load of work ethic up his arse. Lads, the game’s up, you were talking bollocks and now you look silly, it’s ok, I talk bollocks and look silly all the time, the trick is to admit it, not double down.
I expect the same thing to happen to Chair this season. Periods of glorious form in which we think we’ve landed ourselves the next Fifa cover star, and then moments of tiredness or poor decision making in the dog days of winter that make us wonder whether we’ve simply overhyped another mediocre youngster through desperation to see us developing our own players again. Warburton’s cautious use of the Moroccan so far this season has frustrated – he’d have been way more use to us at Bristol City than Matt Smith was – but it’s a better, proper, approach to bringing a young player on, as opposed to McClaren’s hang ‘em flog ‘em technique of playing Eze in every second of every game in 2018/19. I just hope that section of the crowd, and more pointedly the internet, have learnt from Eze and are willing to cut Chair more slack than 30 senior starts before they begin judging him.
If not, treat yourself to Marcus Bean on this week’s excellent podcast, who says that even when he was coming through the ranks at Rangers in the days before Twitter, Facebook and smart phones, stuff that people would say about you on dial up internet would have an effect on your performances. If players, as Marcus did, go looking for that, on message boards, in fanzines, on social media or wherever, then they’re kind of setting themselves up for a fall. We shouldn’t all just clap along with everything QPR and QPR players do, there has to be space for fair comment. But when it starts venturing into outright abuse, or you’re copying the players themselves in on your criticism, and particularly when we’re talking about young players, we need to be better than we were with Eze at times last season when it comes to Chair and others.
Firstly because, despite the fetishization of recruitment as the be all and end all in modern football, we have little choice but to bring them through, and hopefully others like them. Sky, Fifa, Football Manager, Fantasy League, Twitter, Jim White and all the #announceRavel bottom feeders may have you believe that you need to be signing players and selling players on a near constant basis otherwise you’re not doing it right. We’ve seen clubs – Brentford, Huddersfield, Lincoln, Wycombe – successfully trade themselves up through the levels, often while closing youth systems down entirely. But it’s not easy to do, there are far more Scunthorpe and Ipswich cases than success stories, and QPR have a financial history and unique FFP situation which hamstrings them in it. We would not, under any circumstances, be able to afford finished articles in Eze or Chair’s position. As we’ve seen, to bring in attacking players now we’re either looking at loans, punts on lower league prospects, or picking up academy fall outs and developing them. Even the loans are expensive, and often turn out like Tomer Hemed, and the lower league prospects are far more likely to be Conor Washington than Charlie Austin. We should keep trying with both, but we also have no choice but to mix that with lots of Ezes and Chairs in the hope we can sell some of them for big money. If Eze can get around the ten goals and ten assists mark this season, we’ll be fending bids off with a big stick next summer and that’s exactly what we need.
And secondly because it’s fun. It may not go well tomorrow - Luton are scoring freely, have this season’s Scot Hogan-type in James Collins, and we won’t get anywhere defending the way we have been doing – but I’m excited to go and see us play. Football styles and formations run in fashion cycles like anything else. I remember when Rafa Benitez’s deep-tight-narrow approach to trying to win the league with Liverpool led the Premier League to be an unwatchable dirge, until Ian Holloway got there with Blackpool and almost kept a team with Alex Baptiste and Ian Evatt as its centre backs in the “best league in the world” (c Keysie Keyes, when he’s not having an affair behind his poorly wife’s back) scoring loads of goals and slinging men forward. Suddenly everybody became more attacking. Although the Tweet that’s done the rounds with Rochdale’s exceptional goal at Southend last week and Pep Guardiola’s influence on the English game is rather patronising to Rochdale, and also ignores the fact that Southend are proving once and for all that Kevin Bondy Bond is only any use for driving Harry Redknapp around and playing the piano at the end of his press conferences, it is clear that the trend in football at the moment is for 4-2-3-1 formations or variations of it and attacking, passing football.
QPR have the manager for it, and a lot of the players, and have been frequently great to watch so far as a result. Good news for Eze and Chair, and for the long-suffering supporters. Enjoy it and encourage it while we can.
Links >>> Free scoring Luton make solid return – Interview >>> Even Paul Parker scored – History >>> The view from the Pu – August >>> Smells like Bean spirit – Podcast >>> Simpson, eh? Referee >>> Luton Town official website >>> Hatters News – Blog >>> Luton Outlaws – Message Board >>> Luton Supporters Trust
Geoff Cameron Facts No.64 in the Series – Geoff moved even Tony Leistner to tears at the club’s Harlington training ground this week when he belted out Bartok’s Violin Concerto No.1 using only his tight hamstring and a breadstick from the canteen.
Team News: Lee Wallace is finally in contention for a QPR debut after missing all of the pre-season and competitive games so far with a hip injury. Whether he’ll be able to displace Ryan Manning, who’s become one of the most productive players in the Championship at left back in his absence, remains to be seen. There is, of course, the option to slot Wallace in on the left side of the three centre backs if Warburton decides to stick with the defensive switch that worked so well in the second half against Wigan and again at Sheff Wed – Yoann Barbet would be vulnerable in that situation, he admitted this week that if he “keeps giving penalties away the manager will drop me”, which is reassuring. No team in the country has conceded as many from spot kicks as QPR so far this season. Nahki Wells scored twice for Bermuda against Panama during the international break but was back in training with the team on Thursday, as was Ebere Eze after his first England U21 call up and Ilias Chair following a trip away with Morocco U21s. Geoff Cameron and Luke Amos were also both training on Thursday after hamstring problems but Mide Shodipo and Charlie Owens are out medium term with knee problems.
Martin Cranie is fit to return on the ground he once graced on loan after three games out with jogger’s nipple.
Elsewhere: Six games into the new season so high time we had some new managers to throw on the fire.
Step forward Borussia Huddersfield who’ve been the one to take the plunge and find out whether Danny and Nicky Cowley are, indeed, miracle working Graham Taylor’s for the modern era, or just fortunate to have landed at a well-run, well-financed club with an excellent scouting set up, languishing several levels below where it really should be, at just the right time. If you’d watched the Imps in 2017/18, culminating in a play-off semi-final loss to Exeter, punting balls up to 6ft 3in Matt Rhead, who used to work in the JCB digger factory, you’d have wondered what all the fuss is about. But they’ve refined that team as it’s climbed through the leagues, introducing cultured, well-spotted footballers like Tom Pett, our own former charge Bruno Andrade, Jack Payne, Jake Hesketh and Lee Frecklington. You don’t go from Conference to fifth in League One in five years, bloodying plenty of Chanmpionship and Premier League noses in cup competitions along the way, without having a manager with something about him.
In many ways it’s a shame they’ve decided to take the plunge with Huddersfield – former Premier League team with parachute payments, granted, but one that was batting well above its level being there. Plus, I was looking forward to Sincil Bank next season. Gareth Ainsworth and Newport’s Mike Flynn lead the betting for that vacancy, while the Cowley’s start on Sky Sports Leeds on Sunday lunch time at home to Sheffield Owls.
The Owls have a new manager of their own, finally getting round to replacing Steve Bruce with Garry Monk after the air rather went out of Lee Bullen’s encouraging caretaker stint with that home loss against QPR. Monk is one of those managers who seems to take on strange jobs, well beneath his skillset, and then not last very long in them. The missing piece of that puzzle turned up over the summer when Birmingham and Middlesbrough both went public after an investigation by The Times, subsequently closely followed by a third of Monk’s former clubs Leeds, saying that his penchant for signing players represented by his own agent was the root of the problem. Middlesbrough, in particular, allege that Monk prioritised his agent’s clients (namely Cyrus Christie) over players the club would rather have signed instead, and then used the advantage of being able to see what both parties were holding at the negotiating table to ratchet up deals at the club’s expense so that signing and agent’s fees were nice and lucrative. With all that going on, at least two Football League clubs taking legal action, and Monk denying the whole thing and looking to sue them back for defamation, it’s eyebrow raising that Sheff Wed would want to go near him with a shitty stick, and absolutely incredible that once again the EFL are asleep at the wheel and happy to wave this appointment through no questions asked.
Mind you, EFL has other concerns to deal with at the moment, with Middlesbrough threatening to sue them for not enforcing their own financial rules in allowing PSV Derby to sell their stadium back to themselves at enormous mark up to avoid FFP breaches. Further down the line Derby will suffer for using that lifeline to continue ploughing money into transfer fees and wages of players, if those players don’t get them to the Premier League – which at the moment it doesn’t look like they will. It’s the equivalent of putting a sticking plaster over a dashboard warning light and means they need to go up soon or face years of financial issues in fairly short order. That quest for promotion is your live Friday game tonight, with the Eleventh Annual Neil Warnock Farewell Tour rolling into town.
Goodness, we’ve babbled on a bit there haven’t we. Let’s rattle through a few of the shit ones shall we? Hull FC, sixth in the Super League and in appalling form, face red hot Wigan Warriors, just two days after Adrian Lam’s side defeated Castleford. Middlesbrough v Reading. Kill it before it lays eggs. Mad Chicken Farmers at home to Millwall Scholars. Yuck. Surprise package Charlton are at home to Birmingham, who are just as bad as everybody thought they would be.
The Saturday lunchtime game comes from Craven Cottage where Wills and Binky are having West Brom round for one of their garden parties by the river. Crystal glass all round chaps, no plastic tumblers here. Poke City, with manager Nathan Jones surely on his last legs now, hunt a first league win of the season at home to in form Bristol City. Pools panel verdict – away win. Swanselona, fresh from pipping Leeds to their annual August league title, play Nottingham Florist’s Cast of a Thousand Footballers who haven’t started badly themselves. The Champions of Europe are left to play second fiddle on Sunday lunchtime in a local derby with Grimethorpe Miners’ Welfare.
Justice League leaders Spartak Hounslow travel all the way up to Preston Knob End where I strongly suspect they’ll be the best team PNE have faced all season.
We go again next Saturday where I want you to start bracing your loins now for the prospect of Reading at home to Blackburn Rovers. I know, I know. I’ll get somebody to mop that puddle up for you.
Referee: Jeremy Simpson, a bit of a pain in the arse during his previous QPR appointments, is in charge of this one. It’s only his second match since the opening day of the season which suggests an injury of some sorts. Details, stats and history available here.
QPR: Rangers’ 3-1 home win against Wigan last time out here in the league, retrieved from 1-0 down at half time, is their only victory at Loftus Road this season in five league and cup games. They’ve also drawn with Huddersfield (1-1) and Bristol City in the cup (3-3) as well as losing to Swansea (3-1) and League One Portsmouth (2-0). That continues a worrying trend from last season when the R’s lost a club record 11 home league games across the season. Away from home, they’ve won two of three, 2-1 at both Stoke and Sheff Wed, as they set off in pursuit of last season’s away win total of five. That Sheff Wed victory prior to the international break means both Rangers and Luton come into this one on the back of two consecutive Championship victories. QPR trailed in both their games and the last time they came from behind to win two consecutive games was under John Gregory in 2006 when they beat Palace 4-2 at home and followed it up with a 3-2 away success at tomorrow’s opponents Luton (hat tip, @qpr_stats). Mark Warburton’s team hasn’t kept a clean sheet in eight matches this season, conceding 14 goals in that time. Jordan Hugill’s five goals in six games is the best scoring start to a QPR career since Jamie Mackie bagged six in his first six in 2010/11.
Luton: The Hatters started life back at this level with a televised 3-3 thriller at home to Middlesbrough on opening night, one of four league and cup games in which they’ve scored three goals already this season (Ipswich H 3-1, Barnsley A 3-1, Cardiff A 3-0). Away from home in the league so far they’ve lost 2-1 at Cardiff, 1-0 at Sheff Wed and won 3-1 at Barnsley where they were 2-0 up after four minutes and 3-0 after half an hour. They subsequently won at Cardiff in the cup 3-0. At home since that Boro game they’ve beaten Ipswich 3-1 in the cup, lost 2-1 to West Brom, and beaten Huddersfield 2-1 in controversial circumstances. Last season they topped League One with 94 points from 46 games, including an unbeaten home record of 16 wins and seven draws. On the road they won 11, drew six and lost six. Their pre-season friendlies saw them win 3-1 at Welwyn, 2-1 at Bedford, 2-0 at Martimo, and then take a 5-1 humping at home to Premier League Norwich.
Prediction: Our Prediction League this year is sponsored by The Art of Football. Get involved by lodging your prediction here or sample the merch from our sponsor’s QPR collection here. Last year’s champion WokingR says…
“Hopefully a nice and easy to predict home win this week. Luton have had an average start but most wins have been against teams you'd expect to struggle down the bottom. If we kick on from what we've shown recently we will, hopefully, just be too good for them. A comfortable 2-0 with Hugill continuing where he left off at Sheff Wed.”
Woking’s Prediction: QPR 2-0 Luton. Scorer – Jordan Hugill
LFW’s Prediction: QPR 3-3 Luton. Scorer – Ebere Eze
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