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Venables' Rangers beat weather, injuries and Barnsley - History
Thursday, 18th Jun 2020 17:04 by Clive Whittingham

We're back to 1981 for the memorable match this week as we look ahead to Barnsley's visit on Saturday, and there's thoughts on the QPR career of Mike Sheron who played for both teams.

Memorable Match

QPR 1 Barnsley 0, Saturday December 12, 1981, Second Division

Seven points adrift with nine matches left to play, Barnsley need wins quickly, and if history is anything to go by they couldn’t be coming to much worse places looking for the first of those than Loftus Road. Since winning here 5-0 in January 1950 (they beat QPR 7-0 at Oakwell 11 months later too) they haven’t recorded a single victory in 25 attempts. They’ve lost 22 of those, including the last 11 on the spin, and even arguably the Tykes’ greatest side of all time, which reached the Premier League in 1997, lost league and FA Cup ties in W12 during its promotion season.

For QPR, there have been some classics among the victories. Neil Warnock’s promotion season began with a 4-0 opening day win against the Reds, Jim Magilton’s weird purple patch where we became the best team in the world for a couple of weeks included a 5-2 win and an Akos Buszaky pearler, Iain Dowie started with a 2-1 win amidst a strange atmosphere and with Fitz Hall missing a late penalty for a hat trick, and of course the greatest goal of all time was scored in this fixture by one Trevor Sinclair. We’ve done a number of those in this column before, and we featured the Sinclair game for the original fixture back in March which you can read here.

In the interests of variation, and hey it’s not often we have 22 wins to pick from against anybody never mind it happening to fall at a point where we’ve been stuck indoors for three months with nothing better to do than research and write this shit, we’ve decided to roll the clock back to 1981/82 for this week’s memorable match. Not a classic by any means, but given the circumstances and context a huge victory for Terry Venables’ men. Rangers would reach the FA Cup final in 1981/82, and then go onto win the Second Division the year after and gain promotion, but Venables’ talented and supremely coached and drilled side shouldn’t really have been doing anything at all on December 12, 1981.

With the country in the grip of the sort of freeze the Daily Express might refer to as a ‘killer polar vortex Armageddon’, the Football League programme was decimated, and had Rangers’ been off as well that probably would have suited them just fine. Form had been patchy, with defeats at Bolton and Shrewsbury and a home draw with Oldham in the previous four, and injuries were biting deep into the squad. Venables was without Gerry Francis, Tony Currie, Clive Allen and Bob Hazell through injury while Simon Stainrod was suspended. Quite a list of absentees, all five remembered all these years later as genuine greats of the club’s past. Northern Irishman Ian Stewart was given his debut up front, aged 19. Barnsley, meanwhile, were one place above QPR in fourth on goal difference and had beaten First Division Man City in the League Cup during the week. They were under the charge of Leeds legend Norman Hunter.

But there was to be no postponement because, of course, QPR were at this time playing on their controversial, much-maligned plastic pitch which, for all its detractors, could merely be swept clear of snow on such days and play continue – albeit on an unforgiving, icy surface. In fact, non-league Barnet played games at Loftus Road during this era when their own Underhill pitch became unplayable. Game on then, with the snow and pitch coverings piled high at the front of the Paddocks, which was good news for the Match of the Day cameras who popped down South Africa Road with Barry Davies in tow to cover the match as an emergency fill in for that night’s broadcast.

A predictably scrappy opening saw both goalkeepers endure nervous early moments. John Burridge came for a wonder outside his box expecting a long punt to run through easily to him only for Glyn Riley to make things a little more dicey than they’d initially seemed, then Barnsley’s Bobby Horn completely missed a similar hoof down the field from Gillard only for McCarthy to swoop in and rescue the situation as the ball bounced towards the open goal.

Things didn’t get a lot happier for Horn either. Attempting an outlandish camera save off to his right from a Gary Mickelwhite speculator, he succeeded only in parrying the ball high up into the air and behind him, once more leaving it bouncing towards an open goal where it might well have ended up by itself had Tony Sealy not tried to slide in and make sure, inadvertently steering it wide of the net. Sealy’s attempt to make amends immediately by diverting John Gregory’s flick on towards goal was thwarted by Horn.

Nice build up on the skating rink pitch before half time gave Sealy a chance to shoot low from an angle but Horn saved with his legs, then Stewart’s immaculate control and backheel on debut set up a crossing opportunity that Gregory should have done better with at the far post. Stewart was markedly less composed when Sealy’s through ball put him clear moments later though, snatching at a chance over the bar, while Burridge made heavy weather of a speculator from Aylott on the cusp of the break.

Rangers pressed at the start of the second half first through Mickelwhite’s probing run and shot that was comfortably saved, then through Gillard who tried his luck from fully 30 yards and almost found the bottom corner as Horn’s nervous afternoon continued. The deadlock was broken in Rangers’ favour by a steepling header from Flanagan off a sweeping Gillard cross on 72 minutes. No saving that, nor preventing Rangers from scrapping out a 1-0 victory through the remaining quarter hour. They’d finish fifth, league position hamstrung by a run over Christmas that included this as one of only three wins in 11 league fixtures. They did, however, battle through FA Cup replays with Middlesbrough and Blackpool, then one off wins against Grimsby, Palace and West Brom to reach the final against Spurs at Wembley, losing 1-0 after a replay. Barnsley finished sixth.

QPR: Burridge, Gregory, Fenwick, Waddock, Howe, Roeder, Mickelwhite, Flanagan, Sealy (Fereday), Stewart, Gillard

Barnsley: Horn, Joyce, Chambers, Glavin, Banks, McCarthy, Evans, Riley, Aylott, McHale, Barrowclough

Recent Meetings

Barnsley 5 Queens Park Rangers 3, Saturday December 15, 2019, Championship

The first two clean sheets of the season and successive 2-0 victories against Preston and Birmingham had threatened to move QPR into play off contention prior to the first meeting with Barnsley this season (sound familiar?) but a defensive horror show at Oakwell put paid to all of that. Bad defending by Lee Wallace and goalkeeping by Joe Lumley let Conor Chaplin in for a first after just seven minutes and although Luke Amos equalised after Jordan Hugill hit the post Chaplin was able to volley in a second for the hosts after being left unmarked at the back post from a corner – quelle surprise. He swept in a hat trick before the hour amidst more calamitous defending and although Amos pulled another back and QPR then missed three gilt edge chances to equalise the Tykes were able to pull away thanks to a Woodrow penalty and fifth from Diaby. Ilias Chair added bare respectability with an injury time consolation.

Barnsley: Sahin-Radlinger 5; Williams 6, Diaby 7, Anderson 6, Odour 6 (McGeehan 83, -); Dougall 7, Bahre 5 (Thomas 31, 7), Mowatt 7; Woodrow 8, Brown 8, Chaplin 9

Subs not used: Sibbick, Thiam, Mottley-Henry, Marsh, Collins

Goals: Chaplin 7 (assisted Brown), 18 (assisted Mowatt), 52 (assisted Woodrow), Woodrow 60 (penalty won Woodrow), Diaby 82 (assisted Brown)

Bookings: Thomas 68 (foul), Brown 81 (retaliation), Dougall 84 (handball), Mowatt 85 (dissent)

QPR: Lumley 4; Kane 4, Hall 5, Leistner 4, Wallace 3 (Wells 56, 6); Eze 4, Cameron 4 (Chair 67, 6), Amos 5, Manning 4; Osayi-Samuel 5, Hugill 6

Subs not used: Smith, Pugh, Mlakar, Ball, Barnes

Goals: Amos 12 (assisted Hugill), 54 (assisted Manning), Chair 90+4 (assisted Osayi-Samuel)

Bookings: Chair 81 (foul), Wells 85 (retaliation), Hall 89 (foul)

Queens Park Rangers 1 Barnsley 0, Saturday February 2, 2018, Championship

QPR got their annual home win against Barnsley when these sides last met, at Loftus Road, in February 2018. A typically tired effort from two poor teams post Christmas was settled early in the second half when Josh Scowen smashed in his first goal for the R’s, against the club he’d left in the summer, from long range. The celebrations were oddly muted, as most of the crowd was still appealing for the latest blatant foul on Matt Smith in the penalty area a moment before.

QPR: Smithies 7; Perch 6, Onuoha 6, Lynch 7; Wszolek 6, Robinson 6; Scowen 7, Freeman 6, Cousins 6 (Manning 67, -); Washington 5 (Bidwell 90, -), Smith 5 (Osayi-Samuel 79, 5)

Subs not used: Ingram, Baptiste, Eze, Oteh

Goals: Scowen 48 (unassisted), Robinson 90+4 (foul)

Red Card: Manning 71 (killing a man to death)

Bookings: Cousins 5 (foul)

Barnsley: Townsend 6; Yiadom 6, Mills 6, Lindsay 6, Pinillos 6 (Mahoney 80, 6); Gardner 6, Williams 6, Hammill 6 (Hedges 68, 5); Moncur 7; Bradshaw 6, Moore 6 (McBurnie 68, 5)

Subs not used: Davies, Mallan, Pearson, Thiam

Bookings: Gardner 31 (foul)

Barnsley 1 Queens Park Rangers 1, Tuesday September 26, 2017, Championship

A game littered with long range shots at Oakwell in September that season finished with one each finding the net either side of half time. QPR couldn’t do a lot about Harvey Barnes’ first time curler in the twentieth minute but banged away at the door looking for an equaliser all second half before Luke Freeman scored from similar distance late on. Pawel Wszolek lifting the ball over the bar from a presentable position was probably the worst of the missed opportunities.

Barnsley: Davies; McCarthy, Jackson, Lindsay, Freyers; Williams, Hammill, Moncur (McGeehan 71), Potts (Hedges 80); Barnes (Bradshaw 45), Ugbo

Subs not used: MacDonald, Townsend, Pearson, Thiam

Goals: Barnes 20 (unassisted)

Bookings: Williams 49 (foul)

QPR: Smithies 7; Baptiste 7, Caulker 6 (Smith 74, 5), Robinson 7, Bidwell 7; Luongo 6, Scowen 7, Freeman 7; Wszolek 4, Mackie 5 (Lua Lua 74, 5), Osayi-Samuel 4 (Washington 46, 5)

Subs not used: Lynch, Manning, Lumley, Wheeler

Goals: Freeman 86 (unassisted)

Bookings: Caulker 23 (foul), Luongo 39 (foul)

Queens Park Rangers 2 Barnsley 1, Tuesday March 3, 2017, Championship

QPR shaded an entertaining between these two sides at Loftus Road in March. Idrissa Sylla scored the opening goal of a flowing encounter quite by accident, sending the ball skidding into the net from 12 yards out while attempting to trap it. Yeni Ngbakoto forced a good save from visiting keeper Davies and James Perch hit the underside of the bar with a flying header but Josh Scowen went close for Barnsley and only a fine goal line clearance from Jake Bidwell kept out Adam Armstrong. The game looked up when MacDonald put Wszolek’s great cross through his own net but a mistake by Grant Hall let in sub Tom Bradshaw to set up a nervous finish.

QPR: Smithies 6; Perch 6 (Furlong 48, 7), Onuoha 6, Hall 5, Bidwell 7; Luongo 7, Manning 7, Freeman 8; Wszolek 8 (Washington 70, 6), Sylla 7, Ngbakoto 6 (Morrison 87, -)

Subs not used: Goss, Ingram, Doughty, Smith

Goals: Sylla 7, MacDonald og 66 (assisted Wszolek)

Bookings: Perch 14 (foul), Bidwell 83 (foul), Manning 86 (foul)

Barnsley: Davies 6; Yiadom 6, Roberts 6, MacDonald 6, Elder 5; Scowen 7, James 7, Mowatt 6 (Bradshaw 45, 7), Kent 6 (Hammill 77, 6); Watkins 6 (Hedges 73, 6), Armstrong 6

Subs not used: Moncur, Townsend, Jackson, Jones

Bookings: Hammill 85 (foul)

Barnsley 3 Queens Park Rangers 2, Wednesday August 17, 2016, Championship

Early season optimism sparked by two wins in the first two games was punctured at Oakwell as QPR blew a 2-1 lead to lose in the final 13 minutes against a bright, attacking, young Barnsley side. The hosts took an early lead through Marley Watkins but, although Rangers had hardly posed a goal threat at all for the first half of the game, penalties from Tjaronn Chery and Seb Polter gave them the lead with a quarter of an hour left to play. One spectacular Conor Hourihane free kick and a last minute Josh Scowen goal later and the game was up.

Barnsley: Davies NA; Bree 6; Roberts 6, Mawson 7, White 7; Kent 8; Scowen 7; Hourihane 8; Hammil 5; Watkins 6 (D’Almeida 82, -); Bradshaw 5 (Payne 63, 6)
Subs not used: Macdonald, Moncur, Lee, Townsend, Yiadom

Goals: Watkins 4 (assisted Hourihane/Roberts), Hourihane 77 (free kick won Hourihane, conceded Luongo), Scowen 89 (assisted Payne, mistake Hall)

Bookings: Roberts 46 (foul)

QPR: Smithies 4; Onuoha 7, Caulker 6, Hall 4, Bidwell 6; N’Gbakoto 6 (El Khayati 83, -), Henry 4, Luongo 5, Cousins 5 (Washington 91, -); Chery 7 ; Polter 7
Subs not used: Ingram, Perch, Petrasso, Shodipo, Kakay

Goals: Chery 47 (penalty, won Polter), Polter 75 (penalty, won N’Gbakoto)

Red Cards: Hall 90+5 (two bookings)

Bookings: Onuoha 90+3 (foul), Hall 61 (foul), 90+5 (foul)

Barnsley 2 Queens Park Rangers 3, Saturday May 3, 2014, Championship

Barnsley were already relegated and QPR already secure in the play-off zone when these sides met at Oakwell in May 2014. But any win on this ground isn't to be sniffed at for though QPR's home record against Barnsley is imperious, wins at Oakwell have been few and far between. This one looked like it was going to be simple enough when Charlie Austin banged on in and then home defender M'voto turned a Kevin Doyle cross into his own goal but Chris O'Grady halved the deficit after half time. A mazy run and emphatic finish had many wondering why Yun Suk Young hadn't seen more game time instead of the lazy Benoit Assou Ekotto, but Rangers were made to sweat for their win by another O'Grady goal, this time lashed home from long range, in injury time.

Barnsley: Steele 6; Kennedy 6, Ramage 6, Cranie 6, M'voto 5 (Bree 72, 6); O'Brien 6, Dawson 6 (Hassell 80, -), Jennings 6, Cywka 6 (Noble-Lazarus 72, 5), Rose 5, O’Grady 7

Subs not used: Dibble, Oates, Boakye-Yiadom, Cowgill

Goals: O’Grady 54 (assisted Jennings), 90 (unassisted)

QPR: Green 6; Hughes 6, Donaldson 6, Onuoha 7, Suk-Young 7; Henry 7, O’Neil 5; Benayoun 6 (Petrasso 76, 6), Doyle 6, Traore 6 (Kranjcar 57, 6); Austin 6 (Keane 57, 5)

Subs not used: Carroll, Hoilett, Murphy, Gibbons

Goals: Austin 42 (assisted Traore), Mvoto og 43 (assisted Doyle), Suk-Young 68 (unassisted)

QPR 2 Barnsley 0, Saturday October 5, 2013, Championship

QPR cruised to a routine win against relegation haunted Barnsley at Loftus Road at the start of October that season. It was only thanks to the heroics of visiting keeper Jack Butland that the R’s weren’t in front at half time – he saved well with his feet from Charlie Austin and then sprang up to block the rebound from Ale Faurlin. But the England youth international was beaten by Austin just after the hour after Junior Hoilett had dribbled in from the left flank and forced the issue with a low cross. The game was sealed by Austin from the penalty spot after he had dribbled around Stephen Foster and forced a foul.

QPR: Green 6; Simpson 7, Dunne 7, Hill 7, Assou Ekotto 6; Carroll 7, Barton 7, Kranjcar 6 (Chevanton 88, -), O’Neil 7 (Henry 81, -), Faurlin 6 (Hoilett 62, 8); Austin 8

Subs not used: Traore, Ehmer, Jenas, Murphy

Goals: Austin 66 (assisted Hoilett), 85 (penalty – won Austin)

Barnsley: Butland 7; Cranie 6, Ramage 6 (Hassel 67, 6), Wiseman 6, Kennedy 6; Mellis 6 (Cywka 71, 6), Perkins 5, Fox 6, McCourt 7; Scotland 4 (Pedersen 54, 5), O’Grady 5

Subs not used: Noble-Lazarus, Dawson, Etuhu, O’Brien

Bookings: Mellis 59 (foul), Perkins 63 (foul)

QPR 4 Barnsley 0, Saturday August 7, 2010, Championship

Neil Warnock's QPR side started their march to the Championship title with a convincing 4-0 win against Barnsley on the opening day of the 2010/11 season – although the scoreline didn't quite tell the full story. Debutant goalkeeper Paddy Kenny, perhaps a little rusty after a year out with a drugs ban and nervous having only just arrived from Sheffield United, dropped a routine cross in his six yard box on the stroke of half time which should really have seen Barnsley go in at the break level. Then after half time Fitz Hall inexplicably punched a ball clear inside his own area but referee James Linnington failed to award a penalty kick. To exacerbate the visitors' frustration two of QPR's four goals came from the spot – Adel Taarabt was obviously fouled during a typically mesmeric run in the first half and Heidar Helguson converted, then in the second the Moroccan took responsibility and made it 3-0 although had Linnington played on through a foul on Helguson the ball had ended up in the net anyway. Between those two goals Jamie Mackie had scored his first for the club when goalkeeper Luke Steele fumbled the ball at the worst possible moment, and Hall swept in a fourth from a low Hogan Ephraim cross with nine minutes remaining.

QPR Kenny 5, Orr 7, Hall 6, Gorkss 7, Hill 7, Ephraim 7,Derry 7 (Leigertwood 79, 6), Faurlin 7, Taarabt 8 (Parker 77, 6),Helguson 7 (German 83, 5), Mackie 7

Subs Not Used: Cerny, Clarke, Connolly, Borrowdale

Booked: Orr (tripping)

Goals: Helguson 41 (penalty, assisted Taarabt), Mackie 53 (assisted Ephraim), Taarabt 63 (penalty, assisted Helguson), Hall 81 (assisted Ephraim)

Barnsley Steele 5, Hassell 2, Shackell 5, Foster 4, McEveley 2,Hammill 6 (Neumann 76, 5), Doyle 5, Lovre 5 (Butterfield 86, -),Devaney 5 (Hume 46, 6), Colace 7, Gray 6

Subs Not Used: Preece, Dickinsone, Boulding, Potter

Booked: Foster (foul, penalty concession), McEveley (professional foul)

Barnsley 0 QPR 1, Tuesday April 12, 2011, Championship

Things were very different by the time the two teams met again in April. QPR eventually built a 19 match unbeaten run at the start of the season and had led the division pretty much since day one, but a 4-1 defeat at lowly Scunthorpe on the Saturday before a trip to Oakwell hinted at a few jitters starting to set in. When Adel Taarabt scored a fine first from long range in the very first minute of the game all seemed well with the world, but the match turned into a backs to the wall effort from that point on with Kaspars Gorkss particularly impressive in the face of 89 minutes of Barnsley attacking and a truly horrific display from match referee Tony Bates. Barnsley hit the post twice, including once through Jacob Butterfield from long range in injury time at the end of the game, and had two very decent penalty appeals for handball waved away.

Barnsley: Steele 6, Trippier 7, McShane 5, Shackell 7, Hill 6 (McEveley 77, 5), Mellis 6 (Clark 77, 6), Doyle 6, Butterfield 7, Haynes 6, Harewood 5, Gray 6 (Noble-Lazarus 82, -)

Subs Not Used: Preece, Foster, Arismendi, O'Brien

Booked: Butterfield (foul)

QPR: Kenny 7, Orr 7, Gorkss 8, Connolly 7, Hill 7, Derry 6, Faurlin 6, Routledge 6, Taarabt 6 (Ephraim 69, 6), Smith 6, Helguson 7

Subs Not Used: Cerny, Buzsaky, Agyemang, Hulse, Miller, Shittu

Booked: Taarabt (foul/reaction)

Goals: Taarabt 1 (assisted Routledge)

Previous Results

Head to Head >>> QPR wins 28 >>> Draws 11 >>> Barnsley wins 16

2019/20 Barnsley 5 QPR 3 (Amos 2, Chair)

2017/18 QPR 1 Barnsley 0 (Scowen)

2017/18 Barnsley 1 QPR 1 (Freeman)

2016/17 QPR 2 Barnsley 1 (Sylla, MacDonald og)

2016/17 Barnsley 3 QPR 2 (Chery, Polter)

2013/14 Barnsley 2 QPR 3 (Austin, Mvoto og, Suk Young)

2013/14 QPR 2 Barnsley 0 (Austin 2)

2010/11 Barnsley 0 QPR 1 (Taarabt)

2010/11 QPR 4 Barnsley 0 (Helguson, Mackie, Taarabt, Hall)

2009/10 Barnsley 0 QPR 1 (Leigertwood)

2009/10 QPR 5 Barnsley 2 (Buzsaky 2, Leigertwood, Watson, Simpson)

2008/09 Barnsley 2 QPR 1 (Delaney)

2008/09 QPR 2 Barnsley 1 (Hall 2)

2007/08 Barnsley 0 QPR 0

2007/08 QPR 2 Barnsley 0 (Vine, Agyemang)

2006/07 Barnsley 2 QPR 0

2006/07 QPR 1 Barnsley 0 (Rowlands)

2003/04 Barnsley 3 QPR 3 (Furlong 2, Kay og)

2003/04 QPR 4 Barnsley 0 (Gallen, Rowlands, Ainsworth, Thorpe)

2002/03 QPR 1 Barnsley 0 (Pacquette)

2002/03 Barnsley 1 QPR 0

2000/01 QPR 2 Barnsley 0 (Kiwomya, Crouch)

2000/01 Barnsley 4 QPR 2 (Kiwomya 2)

1999/00 Barnsley 1 QPR 1 (Rose)

1999/00 QPR 2 Barnsley 2 (Darlington, Steiner)

1998/99 Barnsley 1 QPR 0

1998/99 QPR 2 Barnsley 1 (Langley,Gallen)

1996/97 QPR 3 Barnsley 2* (Peacock, Spencer, Sinclair)

1996/97 QPR 3 Barnsley 1 (Spencer 3)

1996/97 Barnsley 1 QPR 3 (Barker, Perry, Dichio)

1982/83 QPR 3 Barnsley 0 (Gregory, Sealy, Flanagan)

1982/83 Barnsley 0 QPR 1 (Allen)

1981/82 Barnsley 3 QPR 0

1981/82 QPR 1 Barnsley 0 (Flanagan)

1964/65 QPR 3 Barnsley 2 (Bedford 3)

1964/65 Barnsley 0 QPR 0

1963/64 QPR 2 Barnsley 2 (Bedford 2)

1963/64 Barnsley 3 QPR 1 (Bedford)

1962/63 Barnsley 0 QPR 0

1962/63 QPR 2 Barnsley 1 (Large 2)

1961/62 QPR 3 Barnsley 0 (Bedford, Keen, Evans)

1961/62 Barnsley 2 QPR 4 (Bedford, Angell, Towers, Evans)

1960/61 QPR 4 Barnsley 2 (Bedford, Andrews, Evans, Keen)

1960/61 Barnsley 3 QPR 3 (Whitfield 2, Bedford)

1959/60 QPR 1 Barnsley 0 (Andrews)

1959/60 Barnsley 2 QPR 1 (Bedford)

1951/52 QPR 1 Barnsley 1 (Smith)

1951/52 Barnsley 3 QPR 1 (Hatton)

1950/51 QPR 2 Barnsley 1 (Waugh, Smith)

1950/51 Barnsley 7 QPR 0

1949/50 QPR 0 Barnsley 5

1949/50 Barnsley 3 QPR 1 (Addinall)

1948/49 Barnsley 4 QPR 0

1948/49 QPR 2 Barnsley 2 (Addinall 2)

1909/10 Barnsley 1 QPR 0*

* - FA Cup

Connections

Mike Sheron >>> QPR 1997-1999 >>> Barnsley 1999-2003

After relegation in 1996, QPR’s attempt to bounce back to the Premier League at the first attempt had fallen flat. Under the new ownership of multi-millionaire Chris Wright they’d held onto their star attraction Trevor Sinclair despite dipping out of the top flight, and supplemented him with big money purchases John Spencer and Gavin Peacock from Chelsea who both hit the ground running in W12. But the controversial early season departure of player manager Ray Wilkins, dithering on squad improvements when money was available by his replacement Stewart Houston, and the uneasy dynamic created by Houston bringing his former Arsenal boss Bruce Rioch across with him in a role reversal as assistant meant a talented Rangers team could only finish eighth in the First Division. A gross underachievement for the talent available.

The pressure was on Houston and Rioch to secure promotion in their first full season in charge, and by and large they turned to their former Highbury stable to do it. Matthew Rose and Lee Harper both moved from North London while Steve Morrow joined towards the end of the previous season, controversially replacing 20-year club veteran Alan McDonald who was denied a chance to finish his career as a one club man and instead, disgracefully, was allowed to join Swindon Town on a free transfer. The big target of the summer, however, was Stoke City striker Mike Sheron, a player Houston felt would guarantee promotion if added to a forward line that had lost Danny Dichio at the end of his contract but still included the prolific Spencer and a returning Kevin Gallen who’d missed almost all of the previous campaign with a knee ligament explosion sustained while scoring a late August winner at Portsmouth live on Sky.

It was, in hindsight, an early example of QPR chasing a bright, shiny flavour of the month against all logic. Sheron was a decent player. He’d had four years in the top flight with Man City after graduating from trainee status, making 98 starts and 24 sub appearances in Sky Blue. Fellow top flight outfit Norwich City paid £1m for him in 1994 and another 38 appearances came for the Carrow Road outfit before a half million pound switch to Stoke in the First Division in 1995. He was, however, never a particularly prolific scorer of goals. His 122 outings for City brought 29, one every four and a bit games, or 11.5 goals in a standard 46-game league season. He got seven in his single season at Norwich, one every five and a bit games, just over nine if averaged out across 46 matches.

It was only at Stoke, and more specifically only the 1996/97 season at Stoke, and more specifically still only the first half of the 1996/97 season at Stoke, that he hit a particular purple patch. He scored 23 goals in 46 appearances that season, way above any previous average he’d managed and his total by the time he left the Potteries was 39 goals in 72 starts and five sub appearances. A big chunk of all of that, however, came in the first few months of that First Division season. He scored six in his first five games, ten in his first ten, and by Boxing Day when he scored the only goal in a 1-0 win against Barnsley he was already on 18 for the season. In the second half of the campaign, immediately prior to joining QPR, he bagged five in 20 games, which was the sort of form he’d displayed throughout his entire career prior.

Nevertheless, he was Houston’s man, and Stoke were able to extract a club record fee of £2.35m for his services from the newly monied Rangers. By way of comparison, across London that same summer, Charlton Athletic paid just £700,000 to Grimsby Town for another First Division striker Clive Mendonca. He’d been prolific for years, scoring 31 goals in 84 starts for Rotherham before bagging 66 in 181 starts and six sub apps in Grimsby colours. From 1992 to 1997 Mendonca had shown himself a player capable of consistently maintaining an average better than a goal every three appearances in the second tier. Charlton would go on to win promotion to the Premier League in the 1997/98 season, Mendonca scored 28 times in 46 appearances including a hat trick in the play-off final victory against Sunderland.

QPR, meanwhile, began to crash and burn. It started well for Houston in 1997/98, with four straight wins through September culminating in a midweek home victory against Portsmouth which put the R’s second in the table. But they won one of the next nine and two of the next 14 and Houston was dismissed. The early pace setters that year were West Brom, but their manager Ray Harford was not tied down to a long term contract and, like Houston before him, couldn’t believe that a team with Gallen, Spencer and Sheron to pick from up front couldn’t win promotion from the First Division. He’d promised Nick Blackburn and the QPR board as much after the Baggies’ 2-0 defeat at Loftus Road in September and talked himself into the hotseat in West London once the vacancy arose. A Valentines Day return to the Hawthorns for a 1-1 draw later that season won’t be quickly forgotten by any Rangers fan who ran the gauntlet that day.

It was becoming clear that QPR were working themselves into trouble. The early splurge, and a succession of enormous contracts handed out to promising academy graduates like Mario Lusardi and Michael Currie, hamstrung the club financially. Things unravelled so fast that when Mark Kennedy arrived on loan from Liverpool later that year and transformed the team, the club couldn’t afford to pay the £1m to keep him permanently at the end of the month-long loan spell. Harford scratched around for signings like Tony Scully, George Kulscar and Ian Barraclough, and the team went into a deep nose dive. It stayed up on draws. From a 2-0 loss at Port Vale on September 27, QPR won only four more games all season out of 40 league and cup games. With Vinnie Jones and Neil Ruddock drafted in late, they secured survival with six consecutive draws through March and April culminating in the dramatic Jamie Pollock 2-2 which sent City down instead. A 5-0 win against Middlesbrough, 11 games out from the end of the season, proved to be the final win that term.

Sheron scored against Boro and City. He also bagged two late goals to drag Rangers back from 2-0 down to draw a televised Good Friday clash at high flying Sunderland. He was seen as a failure, an expensive flop who struggled to cope with the pressure of the price tag and what was expected of him, but in actual fact his final total of 11 goals in 41 games (playing in a dreadful team) was exactly what we should have expected from him looking across his career stats. He’d been that sort of Dexter Blackstock-type dozen-goals-a-season man for the first seven years of his career, had one purple patch at Stoke, and was now back to scoring 11 times a season again.

In another year of struggle for Rangers in 1998/99 he started sluggishly, came reasonably good around November with seven goals in 14 games, and was then sold for a reported fee of £1.5m and a considerable financial loss to Barnsley in January where he scored twice in 17 appearances through to the end of the season. In 1998/99, from 44 league and cup appearances for two second tier clubs, Mike Sheron scored, you’ve guessed it, 11 times.

And so that average continued. He stayed with Barnsley for four years, making 172 appearances and scoring 40 goals (a goal every 4.3 games, 10.6 goals in a 46 game season). He spent the 2003/04 season in the Second Division at Blackpool, making a debut at Loftus Road in sweltering conditions on the opening day when the Tangerines (ill-advisedly wearing all-black in 100 degrees) were beaten 5-0 by Ian Holloway’s promotion-bound R’s. Despite not scoring at all in his first 18 games for Steve McMahon’s side, Mike Sheron finished that season with 50 appearances to his name. And 11 goals.

The 2004/05 campaign was spent a division lower with Macclesfield where 40 outings yielded… six goals. God you’ve no idea how much I wanted that to be 11 as well. The point stands though. Sheron isn’t fondly remembered at Loftus Road, was seen as an expensive mistake, lamented as our last role of the big-money dice before the financial walls closed in on the club, and is viewed as somebody who under performed and let us down somehow. The simple, mathematical fact is QPR bought a 10-12 goal a season striker in Mike Sheron and that’s exactly what he turned out to be for them, and three other clubs after us. We’d been blinded by a hot streak at Stoke into thinking he was something else, a mistake we’d be destined to repeat more than a decade later with Peterborough;s Conor Washington.

Sheron finished his playing career with brief stints at Shrewsbury and Warrington Town, and is now coaching in the youth set up at Blackburn Rovers.

Others >>> Josh Scowen, QPR 2017-2020, Barnsley 2015-2017 >>> Cole Kpekawa, Barnsley 2016-2017, QPR 2014-2016 >>> Peter Ramage, Barnsley (loan) 2014-2015, (loan) 2013, QPR 2008-2012 >>> Martin Cranie, Barnsley 2012-2015, QPR (loan) 2007 >>> Neil Warnock, QPR (manager) 2010-2012, Barnsley 1976-1978 >>> Akos Buszaky, Barnsley (loan) 2012, QPR 2008-2012 >>> Matt Hill, Barnsley 2010-2011, QPR (loan) 2010 >>> Tommy Williams, QPR (loan) 2009, (loan) 2002-2003, Barnsley 2004-2005 >>> Jamie Cureton, Barnsley (loan) 2008-2009, QPR 2004-2005 >>> Chris Barker, QPR 2007-2008, Barnsley 1999-2002 >>> Leon Knight, Barnsley 2006-2007, QPR (loan) 2001 >>> Daniel Nardiello, Barnsley 2005-2007, (loan) 2008, QPR 2007-2008 >>> John Curtis, Barnsley (loan) 1999-2000, QPR 2007 >>> Kevin Gallen, QPR 2001-2007, 1994-2000, Barnsley 2001 >>> Nigel Spackman, Barnsley (manager) 2001, QPR 1989 >>> Ian Evans, Barnsley 1979-1983, QPR 1970-1974 >>> Peter Springett, Barnsley 1975-1980, QPR 1962-1967

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gigiisourgod added 11:19 - Jun 19
Very good, must admit I was in the expensive mistake camp. Thought we over payed and he underperformed, whilst based on this well presented argument we merely overpaid and he performed as he always did.
1

Phil_i_P_Daddy added 13:30 - Jun 24
Well researched Clive 👍🏻👏🏻
Puts Sheron’s time with us in context.
A new series of articles beckons...?
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