Oh, you again – Preview
Tuesday, 14th Jul 2020 13:33 by Clive Whittingham
Game seven of nine in lockdown sees Queens Park Rangers, who please dear God bottomed out with their display against Sheff Wed on Saturday, take on Luton Town who have lost more games and conceded more goals than anybody else in the league.
Luton (12-8-23, DWDLDW, 23rd) v QPR (15-8-20, LLLWLL, 16th)
Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Tuesday July 14, 2020 >>> Kick Off 19.45 >>> Weather – Grey >>> Kenilworth Road, Luton, Bedfordshire
‘Bring football back to raise the morale of the nation’ they said. Coming soon, a free weekly boot to the genitals to raise the morale of the nation. An extended version of Question Time to air three times a week to raise the morale of the nation. A £50 monthly tax on oxygen to raise the morale of the nation. Free videos of your worst enemy banging your other half (and making a much better job of it than you do) to raise the morale of the nation. All beer to be replaced by Carling to raise the morale of the nation.
Six games into lockdown, my morale has been raised quite enough now thank you very much indeed and I’d like this to go away again please. And yet still it comes, with all its substitutions and water breaks and cardboard cut-out fans and piped in crowd noise and many, many, many Queens Park Rangers defensive calamities. The only saving grace is we’re spared the VAR as well. We play again tonight, at Luton, and on Saturday, against Millwall, and next Wednesday, against West Brom. A relentless gushing torrent of warm diarrhoea. From third top scorers in the league, with a bright young attack, dreaming of a surprise play-off push not a month ago, to now fully expecting to finish on three successive defeats to nil. I’m trapped in a footballing gimp suit, air running out, frantically racking my brain to remember the safe word. Whatever the answer is, it’s not Ball and Amos together in midfield.
Once you step away from social media I think there’s a good deal of understanding about the restrictions the club faced, even before the pandemic. We know it has been fighting to bring the wage bill down from its astronomical £80m p/a high of the Harry Redknapp era to a more manageable sub-£20m p/a. That’s necessitated huge turnover of players and the departure of some we’d have loved to keep. We know that our spending is restricted by FFP, and at the same time the market for Championship players – particularly strikers – has been inflated by big clubs coming into this division with large parachute payments, leaving us frequently relying on loans who have produced mixed results.
There have been many mistakes made. Some of the recruitment, particularly when we had parachute payments ourselves, has been poor. Even in straightened times money has been wasted on expensive Premier League loans who either underperformed (Hemed, Smith, Amos) or weren’t needed in the first place and we had no use for (Clarke). It has been wasted on gambles that didn’t pay off (Washington), signings that looked sound on paper but struggled (Angella, Tozser), and signings that looked fucking stupid at the time and turned out to be exactly that (Konchesky, Jay Emmanuel Thomas). Recruitment elsewhere, most notably elsewhere in West London, has been far superior to ours, albeit at clubs that have been going through their building process for longer and weren’t starting from such a shambolic mess in the first place.
We still hire and fire managers too often, and still jump from one type of manager to a completely different character as we do it, making it difficult to build any kind of cohesion or house style. Warnock to Hughes to Redknapp to Ramsey to Hasselbaink to Holloway to McClaren to Warburton in ten years is mental if we’re being honest – such a range of characters, experience and playing styles.
But to halve a wage bill and then halve it again, to take a club from being completely reliant on spending big money on big names to one capable of competing on free transfers, loans and other people’s academy cast offs, and to do it while consolidating in the middle of a tough division like the Championship is not easy, and it has been achieved with only very brief, occasional flirtations with the relegation battle. Other clubs did not do such a good job.
We know the problems caused by Covid-19. Senior squad members departing early, momentum built in February and March stalled, a very quick return to action after just a couple of weeks of segregated training, no home crowd at Loftus Road, opponents mostly with their Championship status on the line, Jordan Hugill’s injury, the U23s on furlough, players with expiring contracts or pending big moves worried about injury. We get it, we’re not unaware of the context.
But the performances mostly haven’t been anywhere near the standard this club should demand of itself. The showings against Barnsley, Charlton and Wigan were nowhere near and frankly the display turned in against Sheffield Wednesday was a complete embarrassment.
It’s not the first time we’ve turned a promising spring with a deal of optimism into a limp season end that leaves fans angry and the squad apparently facing another complete restructure. I’ve seen a multitude of suggestions for why this keeps happening. The club’s hot and heavy public rejection of the return date, then release of Marc Pugh and Grant Hall on the eve of the lockdown fixtures, has come under fire for sending out a defeatist message and attitude that the players have simply followed. But that doesn’t explain why it happened to Steve McClaren, and Ian Holloway two years in a row.
By, rightly, setting QPR up as a stepping stone club for young players to come in, be polished up, and move on for big money, are we perpetuating an attitude problem? Once they’ve performed, been scouted, got their interest and their moves lined up, do they just mark time, resulting in these end of season downturns? I completely understand why we’ve ended up relying on loans as much as we have, but are you again setting yourself up with players who come the dog days of the season already have more than half an eye on where they’ll be the following year and making sure they’re fit for that? Is the team, actually, simply not good enough, and it requires such an effort through the first two thirds of the season just to scrape together the 50 point survival target that by the time they get there they’re exhausted, spent, and having nothing left to give in the remaining games?
I don’t know. I’m sure we’ll debate it long into what’s left of the summer. We can’t keep getting to this point in seasons, writing the whole squad off as “shocking” and then trying to replace 16 players again. It was a miracle we managed it so successfully last year and the close season this time is likely to be far shorter, with greater financial restrictions to contend with. 2020 is not the year you want to be attempting wholesale surgery on a squad. But we also cannot perform like we did against Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday. Standards have to be set and maintained higher than that.
Sigh. Three to go.
Links >>> Barker gets Francis off mark – History >>> Last chance saloon – Interview >>> Martin in charge – Referee >>> Luton Town official website >>> Hatters News – Blog >>> Luton Outlaws – Message Board >>> Supporters Trust
Geoff Cameron Facts No.100 In The Series – Geoff would rather have a tarantula lay eggs in his ear than listen to Sky Sports’ commentary of Leeds promotion sealing win against Barnsley on Thursday night.
Team News: QPR are close to having Jordan Hugill and Lee Wallace back from their respective hamstring issues and were waiting to hear on both prior to setting off for Luton today. Without Hugill it would once again be a choice between young Aramide Oteh, who has struggled when used recently, or cobbling together a forward line from a collection of wingers and attacking midfielders again. Deshane Dalling, who could only have been used had Rangers no other fit professionals who had previously played his position, as per the league rules, has extended his loan with Cork in Ireland. The same applies to Paul Smyth, who finished his spell with Wycombe with a promotion last night, Senny Dieng who is back from Doncaster and Niko Hamalianen who is back from Kilmarnock.
Elsewhere: Three rounds of the Mercantile Credit Trophy left and every team in it can still mathematically escape from it one way or the other – although once you factor Wigan Warriors’ points deduction in we become the exception to that rule as Allan Tigers and Lutown play each other on Saturday.
Wigan’s attempt to escape from relegation twice in the same season has so far brought four points from six since their plunge into admin was announced. They’ve got Allam Tigers tonight which you would think needs to be a win if the great escape is on. Hapless Hull move from this game to Lutown on Saturday, while Wigan go on and meet fellow strugglers Charlton, so still all kinds of permutations down there. Charlton’s midweek game is tomorrow at Birmingham, who are matching QPR every step of the way in the Give A Shit Summer Stakes – 12 without a win now and four straight defeats.
Cowley Sisters Danni and Nikki seem to be desperately trying to play their way back into trouble, beaten at home by Lutown at the weekend, and they’re at the hit and miss Sheffield Owls tonight. The Twelfth Annual Neil Warnock Farewell Tour rolls into Reading in an 18.00 kick off.
At the other end of the table all Leeds eyes on West Brom v Tarquin and Rupert who meet in the early televised game. Awaiting a West Brom slip tomorrow, Justice League leaders Racing Club de Kew Bridge have won their last 37 games in a row and will almost certainly be the best team Preston Knob End have played all season. A West Brom defeat and a Bees win sees them gatecrash the top two with just two matches remaining.
There’s quite a battle developing for the final play off place too. Nottingham Florist are all but there with 69 points in fifth ahead of their Wednesday clash with Swanselona, but then just three points separate Cardiff in sixth on 64 from Bristol City in eleventh on 61. As well as seventh placed Swans on 63 going to The City Ground, Cardiff host host Wayne Rooney’s 24 Hour Prozzy and Parmo who are tenth on 61. Millwall Scholars are ninth on 62 ahead of their home game with the Mad Chicken Farmers. Bristol City were clearly glad to be rid of Lee Johnson, winning 3-0 at Boro at the weekend, and they face a poor Stoke team at Ashton Gate.
Then it’s all eyes on Elland Road on Thursday teatime where Sky Sports Leeds are preparing to pour a vat of boiling semen over an unsuspecting Championship public as Marshmallow Bielsa’s men finally seal their precious promotion at home to lowly Grimethorpe Miner’s Welfare. If you haven’t ventured out of the house to sample the newly re-opened restaurants yet, this might be a good time.
Referee: Steve Martin, who starred as Inspector Clouseau in the 2006 remake of the classic detective franchise The Pink Panther, is in charge of this one. Details.
Luton: Once you factor in Wigan’s forthcoming 12-point deduction then Luton are third bottom on 44 points, one point and a chunk of goal difference shy of Hull City one place above them. Given they’ve lost more games than anybody else in the Championship this season – 23 – and conceded more goals than any other team – 79 – it’s pretty remarkable they’re still in with such a shout of survival with three games left to play. Two of those are at home, against QPR here and then Blackburn on the final night next Wednesday – QPR have lost five of the last six and apparently given up on life, Blackburn also have nothing to play for and have won one and lost three of their last five. In between comes a final away game at Hull, on which the whole thing seems to hang. Luton’s home form during lockdown has not been good. Prior to the shutdown they beat Derby 3-2, Brentford 2-1, Shef Wed 1-0 and drew 1-1 with Stoke in their last five fixtures on this ground. Since the restart they’ve drawn 1-1 here with Preston and Barnsley and been beaten 5-0 by Reading. That defeat to the Royals made it 8-0 on aggregate against the Berkshire side in the league this season and was the fifteenth time Luton have conceded three or more goals in a game – a run that includes a 7-0 loss at Brentford. It was, however, their only defeat in their last nine games with five draws and three wins coming into this one. The two wins they have managed during the summer have been away from home, 1-0 at Swansea and 2-0 at Huddersfield.
QPR: The abject surrender at the hands of Sheff Wed at the weekend was QPR’s twentieth league defeat of the season, the same as bottom of the table Barnsley. Only Charlton (21), Hull, Stoke (both 22) and Luton (23) have lost more. The three goals conceded also took Rangers through the 70 goals against marker for the third consecutive season. Only Luton (79) and Hull (75) have conceded more. Mark Warburton’s side are able to maintain their lower midtable position largely through the lack of draws – only Stoke (seven) have drawn fewer than our eight this season. With QPR it really is one thing or the other. The win at Middlesbrough nine days ago was QPR’s seventh on the road this season – they haven’t managed eight since the 2013/14 promotion season and have games against Luton and West Brom in the next week to try and post their best set of away results since Neil Warnock’s all conquering 2010/11 team won ten on the road. They’ll have to improve the attack to do it though. Rangers’ 60 goals scored is still only bettered by the top three Leeds (69), West Brom (74) and Brentford (78) but they’ve only scored twice since football resumed in June, both from the now-injured Jordan Hugill, and have only registered 15 shots on target across six matches, five of those in the game at Middlesbrough. QPR have won three of the last five meetings with Luton 3-2, including the first meeting between the sides at Loftus Road in September. This is our first competitive visit to Kenilworth Road since January 2007 when we lost an FA Cup replay here 1-0 to a Zesh Rehman own goal. Now he was fucking dreadful.
Prediction: This year’s Prediction League 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. Our reigning champion WokingR tells us…
“Oh ffs! Another one? Already? How can anyone be expected to come up with anything positive when that last performance, and the one before that are still festering away. How Clive lifts himself to write a whole report I don’t know. This is going the same way as the last few. An opposition who need the points and are actually showing some fight, against a side who long since stopped caring.”
Woking’s Prediction: Luton 3-0 QPR. No scorer.
LFW’s Prediction: Luton 2-0 QPR. No scorer.
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