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Friday, 20th Dec 2019 23:29 by Clive Whittingham

The rumours about Ebere Eze's immediate future have started in earnest as QPR prepare to welcome Charlton to Loftus Road on Saturday.

QPR (9-4-9, LLDWWL, 13th) v Charlton (6-6-10, DLLLLD, 17th)

Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Saturday December 21, 2019 >>> Kick Off 15.00 >>> Weather — Wet, grey, what do you want from me? >>> Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium, Loftus Road, London, W12

Queens Park Rangers used to be traders. They’d buy Paul Parker from Fulham for a few thrupenny bits and sell him to Man Utd and replace him with Darren Peacock from Hereford who they’d then sell to Newcastle. Andy Sinton came from Brentford for a box of Monster Munch and left for Sheffield Wednesday for £2.5m to be replaced by Trevor Sinclair from Blackpool. That’s what we did, stuff like that — David Seaman.

In the end, they came a cropper by selling Les Ferdinand, whose goals had been maintaining their place in the Premier League over and above anything else, to Newcastle. Getting £6m for a lad you bought from Hayes was the model’s biggest financial success to date, but without Ferdinand’s goals the team was relegated just as the Premier League’s television money exploded, and the result was 15 years in purgatory.

Under a hail of supporter protest and amidst declining results, QPR became paranoid about their label as a “selling club”. It was seen as a bad thing, something unbecoming of us, a neat summation of our chronic lack of ambition. Rangers went out of their way to say they weren’t a selling club at all, and started doing things like buying perennial 12-goal-a-season striker Mike Sheron for a club record fee on the back of the first and only 20+-goal-season in his entire life at Stoke. We chanted the mantra about no longer selling our best players and clung to assets until they were virtually worthless — barely £1m for Andy Impey not quite as criminal as turning £6m asset Trevor Sinclair into something we got a bit of cash, Keith Rowland and Iain Dowie for. Still one of the worst transfer deals of all time that one.

The truth then, and especially now in an FFP era, is that of course QPR were, are, and have to be a selling club. Buy low when you can, sell high when it’s strategically right, repeat. It is the only way. The problem wasn’t just that Ferdinand left, it was that a whole clutch of influential players in that team had left in too-short-a-period of time — Stejskal, Peacock, Sinton, Wilson, Wilkins and then the star striker. Manager Gerry Francis also moved on. And even that needn’t have been terminal had Rangers invested in the Kasey Keller, Alex Rae, Matt Elliott, Andy Booth, Clive Mendonca types that were readily kicking around in the transfer market at that time for the sort of prices we paid for Juergen Sommer, Ned Zelic, Gregory Goodridge, Simon Osborn and, most horrifically of all, Mark Hateley.

The whole experience has rather turned QPR into Mr Trebus from A Life of Grime, hoarding everything we can get our hands on, blindly over-valuing it all and refusing to let anybody take it from us. You go to fans forums and hear people ask the senior executives at the club to “categorically guarantee” that our best players will not be sold. You get half decent players on podcasts and spend the interview begging them to tell us they won’t be moving on in January. The simple mathematics of a club playing in the Championship with 11,000-12,000 average gates, in an old stadium that generates no revenue, with two rented training grounds, and financial fair play to contend with means that not only can they not guarantee players won’t be sold, but they actively have to sell us on the opposite — of course they’ll be sold, and it’s a very good thing otherwise the rules of the competition and our balance sheet mean we’d be a League One club before we’re a Premier League one again.

Which brings us to Ebere Eze, today linked with a move to Tottenham Hotspur by the same reporter who told us Luke Amos was coming to Loftus Road on loan before Luke Amos knew he was coming to Loftus Road on loan. Spurs’ long-time confidante David Pleat has had a big stiff hard on for Eze for sometime, and those saying that he “isn’t really a Mourinho player” completely miss the point about how clubs like Spurs spot, scout, identify and sign players in the modern era. Whether Mourinho wants him or not, whether he fulfils his undoubted potential or not, aren’t really the issues.

Young QPR fans will be heartbroken when he goes (it is when), teenage QPR fans will get all angry and start telling people on social media to kill themselves, older QPR fans will be sad that such a wonderful player to watch is no longer with us. Those who spent last season saying Eze was “lazy” will be nowhere to be seen and, if you are lucky enough to find one hiding in a dark corner, will get very aggy indeed when you remind them of the bullshit they were spouting 12 months ago. But having already done the thing where we just ignore FFP altogether to try and win promotion and then bollocksed that up by getting relegated straight back, unless you want us to be one of those clubs selling its stadium into dodgy foreign ownership in order to spend more money on rubbish footballers then selling players is the only way we get out of this situation.

We’ve seen down the road at Brentford how a club with limited resources, small stadium, London overheads and so on can trade its way into a position of strength by regularly buying low and selling high, not becoming too attached to players and turning down offers at the height of their value. The Bees got £12m for Scott Hogan for goodness sake. QPR, having not sold a player for money for ages, have at least fetched in some decent profit recently for Alex Smithies and Luke Freeman, though nowhere near as much as the fees Brentford were able to extort for players like Chris Mepham and Ezri Konsa, and nowhere near as frequently either.

This makes Eze absolutely crucial. He’s young, he’s British, he’s under contract, and he’s properly fucking talented. This is a serious player in the current market. We haven’t had one like him for quite some time, and while Ryan Manning and Ilias Chair and a few others have immense promise themselves there’s nothing that looks quite like him coming up through the ranks behind him. It’s a once in a decade talent, not to be shovelled on for £5m-£6m to tide us over for one summer with lame excuses about “worth what the market says he’s worth” and “only one club interested”, and not to be handed over to a Premier League club for some money plus a clutch of players they don’t want and we don’t particularly need in part exchange. With due respect, this is a different kettle of fish to Smithies and Freeman altogether.

He’s going to have to go, and we’re going to have to get used to that idea and not harangue the club for it. Whether it’s this January, or in the summer, or next January, doesn’t really matter, but what is important is extorting a serious, serious wedge from somebody for him. Not only that, but then using it wisely, not bringing in a new clutch of Zelics and Hateleys. Norwich were able to bring in north of £20m for James Maddison, a deal their sporting director said at the time “averted disaster” for the club but one that subsequently enabled them to shrewdly build a team that won them promotion to the Premier League, at which point income ceases to become an issue overnight.

That’s the blueprint to aspire to. Watching Eze grow into the player we’re seeing before us each week now has been a joy. What happens to him next will make or break our club for the next five years at least.

Links >>> Injury crisis — Interview >>> Allen dynasty — History >>> Donohue in charge — Referee >>> Clive Allen — Interview >>> Charlton official website >>> South London Press — Local press >>> Into The Valley — Message Board >>> Forever Charlton — Blog

Geoff Cameron Facts No.78 in the Series — Geoff reads a book a week.


Team News: Yoann Barbet has suffered a set back in his comeback from an injury that has sidelined him since just prior to the loss at home to Brentford. Liam Kelly, however, is fit and available bringing up the goalkeeping conundrum again in the wake of Joe Lumley’s wild performance at Barnsley.

Charlton’s injury list is as long as the District Line, and when Sam Field was added to that during the week for “getting his foot stuck in the ground” I started to wonder whether they’d stolen our spoof team news. Lewis Page (head stuck in the clouds), Josh Cullen (thumb stuck up his arse), Jake Forster-Caskey (values stuck in the past) and Erhun Oztumer (life stuck in a rut) are all also out. Jonny Williams pulled something in training but it turned out to be married so he’s away dealing with that. Joe Ledley, recently picked up on a free transfer, might be fit enough to play some part. Likewise star striker Lyle Taylor at the end of a week when he’s made it clear he’ll not be signing a new contract, setting half the division on free transfer alert. Chuks Aneke is busy arguing on the internet about whether Die Hard is a Christmas film. Tomer Hemed is fasting, or having a hernia op, or going to Lego Land, or whatever his fucking excuse is this week. Lee Bowyer is ill — no I’m not kidding.

Elsewhere: Middlesbrough v Stoke was everything you ever thought it would be and more for your Friday night.

Among the Saturday 15.00s the two stand-out games are Kitty and Tabitha welcoming the Champions of Europe to the Cottage for a pre-Christmas soiree, and West Brom hosting Justice League leaders Spartak Hounslow in what will almost certainly be their toughest game of the season. Quite why you’d televise Neil Harris’ Cardiff against Ben Pearson’s Preston Knob End ahead of those two I’m not sure, but then Sky Sports Leeds have just made me sit through that Boro v Poke war crime so God only knows what’s going on in their scheduling department.

More on that later. But first, Hayes and Yeading v Wayne Rooney’s Derby County at 15.00. Or Millwall Scholars v Grimethorpe Miners’ Welfare. Or Lutown v Swanselona. It’s a veritable smorgasbord of quality on Saturday. Jarrod Bowen FC are at home to Birmingham and Cowley sisters Danni and Nikki are at home to Nottingham Florist who’ve responded to a 4-0 party at QPR by going four without a win and were 4-0 down before half time to Sheffield Owls last week.

The Owls are in action in the Super Sunday Brunch Spectacular against Bristol City.

Monday December 23, Blackburn Rovers v Wigan Athletic. My word. Just cruel. The Mad Chicken Farmers have won six and drawn one of the last eight to climb into play-off contention. Super League mainstays the Warriors are without a win in ten (D4 L6) - a run that has featured ten goals conceded in the final ten minutes of games, including four in injury time. One nil up at Luton with three minutes to go, they lost 2-1. One nil up at home to Reading with ten to play, Puskas scored 80, 80 and 84 to win it for the visitors. Stoke and Swansea both beat them 2-1 with 90th minute goals.

There’s always somebody worse off than yourself, and often they live somewhere like Wigan.

Referee: It’s Matt Donohue’s first season as a regular Championship official and he’s already had these teams twice each. He was in the middle for QPR’s 3-1 home win against Wigan, and 3-0 away loss at Cardiff, while Charlton have had him for a 1-0 home loss to Birmingham and a 2-2 draw at West Brom when he sent off Nathan Ferguson and awarded the Addicks a last minute penalty. Details.


QPR: Prior to the visit to Derby, QPR were without a win in eight and had just lost 4-0 at home to Nottingham Forest. It was the tenth consecutive game in which they’d conceded at least two goals, and a 24th match in a row without keeping a clean sheet. At Pride Park an improved defensive showing brought a 1-1 draw, and it was followed by the first clean sheet of the season at home to Preston and the second away to Birmingham (both 2-0) in short order. Which all made the shambolic 5-3 loss to basement dwellers Barnsley last weekend, with all the same familiar failings back to the surface, all the more surprising and random. The Preston win was only QPR’s fourth in 13 home games in all competitions this season.

Charlton: Pre-season relegation favourites Charlton lost none of their first six league games this season (winning four). They followed that with two wins and a draw from six, including a 1-0 homer against Leeds and a 3-0 victory over Derby. They also drew 2-2 at Fulham. As injuries mounted a run of ten without a win began at Bristol City where Charlton surrendered a 1-0 lead to lose 2-1 in the last minute against ten men. They’ve now lost seven and drawn three of ten. All three of the draws have been 2-2 and they include blowing a 2-0 lead at home to Cardiff, and surrendering a 2-1 lead to an injury time own goal against Hull. They went 180 minutes without conceding a goal across two games with Middlesbrough and Huddersfield but still managed to lose both games 1-0 with a goal in the first minute of the former and the last minute of the latter. Away from home Lee Bowyer’s side has won twice (2-1 at Blackburn on day one and 2-0 at Reading), drawn three and lost five. They’re without a win in five away games and have lost the last three against Middlesbrough, Luton and Middlesbrough. Charlton have conceded goals in injury time in four of their last seven games turning a win, two draws and a loss into a draw and three defeats.

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…

“I'm all in favour of squad rotation and keeping things fresh but, let's at least stick to a system we now know works. If we play four at the back I'm confident in a 3-1 win with Eze continuing his scoring run. If he reverts back to three or five across the back then we have every chance of a repeat of the Barnsley game so, let's hope for the former.”

Woking’s Prediction: QPR 3-1 Charlton. Scorer — Ebere Eze

LFW’s Prediction: QPR 2-1 Charlton. Scorer — Ebere Eze

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snanker added 10:27 - Dec 21
Charlton are coming for a bit of CPR to revive their season. Ho,ho,ho indeed...merry Xmas all

TacticalR added 12:26 - Dec 21
Thanks for your preview.

I wonder if the problem was not so much the club having the wrong attitude, but more that after our downfall from the Premiership we didn't have the players to sell once Sinclair & co had gone?

When Thompson owned the club I think the fans were right to fear that the wrong sale at the wrong moment could lead to indefinite exile, and that's what happened (and we know that Jim Gregory had already tried to flog Les Ferdinand to BeÅŸiktaÅŸ).

In retrospect what seems wrong is that we didn't have a strategy to scout and develop players. A tectonic shift in football had started prior to which we had been on a level playing field with other London clubs. We were focused on where we used to be and did what so many clubs are still doing and kept patching things up in an attempt to get back to the top. The problem now is that it is very difficult to do things under your own steam with FFP in place - a few clubs like Burnley have managed to do it, others like Wolves and Leicester have bypassed the system.

At least with Eze I hope we can pick our moment and not get ripped off by Tottenham.

Anyway, back to today's game...the fact that Charlton haven't won in an age isn't good.

P.S. Situations where David Pleat gets a hard on don't usually end well.

Burnleyhoop added 12:51 - Dec 21
Perfect summation of our fall from grace and more importantly, how poor decision making exacerbated it’s continuation.

My hope is however, that if (when) we lose one of the finest talents we have ever seen at QPR, we have a manager and board that have the nouse to rebuild the squad sensibly and which allows us to make steady progress that may at some point be capable of having a decent shot at promotion.

Ultimately, we need a big money sale to build and develop, but in the meantime I will enjoy watching the rare talent of Eve flourish elsewhere, admittedly with a tear in the eye.

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