End of Term Report 2019/20 – Midfielders
Thursday, 6th Aug 2020 19:30 by Clive Whittingham
Given that everybody at QPR this season is either a superb young attacker or an accident-prone defender, it’s a much shorter midfielders round up than usual, and a real mixed bag of personal performances.
7 – Marc Pugh C
Marc Pugh was a very timely addition indeed last summer. To QPR fans prone to panic at the best of times, they were not the best of times. Luke Freeman had gone and was being followed through the exit doors by Darnell Furlong, Matt Smith and Mass Luongo for money, and a dozen others for free. The new centre back pairing of Yoann Barbet and Grant Hall had not covered itself in glory on a trip to Austria, and then been absolutely torn apart by Boreham Wood’s Kabongo Tshimanga. The annual late scramble to get a striker in on loan was in full swing, with unknown Brighton-based Slovenian Jan Mlakar carrying the weight of the Rangers nation on his shoulders at this point. Some of the signings – Liam Kelly, Lee Wallace – looked optimistic at best and others - Dillon Barnes, Dom Ball – the product of a mind addled by a good, long, late-night toke on an extra-large reefer. A 2-1 win at League One Oxford was as good as the warmup results got, and Watford were about to win 2-0 at Loftus Road without breaking a sweat despite their season starting a week later than ours. Again, when assessing how Mark Warburton has done this season, it’s often quite good to look back at what sort of state we were in and what our expectations were just one week before we kicked off with an away win at big-spending Stoke.
Pugh, along with Todd Kane, signed on a free transfer, out of the blue, on the morning of that Watford game, and were paraded on the pitch before kick-off. Here was a proper signing. Revered as a modern day legend at Bournemouth, voted not only into their team of the decade but the best player in that XI, he’d risen from League One to Premier League with the Cherries and chopped his way through plenty of top flight full backs in his time. Concern about advancing years (32) were tempered by the incredible shape he’d kept himself in – his diet is so immaculate he runs an Instagram account about it – and a successful loan spell in this division the year before at Hull who, like QPR, are a difficult, bracing team to play for at this level. This was about as good as it got on a free transfer under our wage structure.
What followed was a real mixed bag. He initially struggled to get in the team at all – just one league start between the first game and November 30 at Derby. He hasn’t minded admitting, either at the time or since, that this frustrated him – he hadn’t dropped down a division and taken a pay-cut to waste a season at his age sitting on the bench – and at times after that it felt like Warburton almost included him for the sake of including him rather than because he deserved his place. Other hand, what Warbs was actually doing was cleverly and skilfully managing younger players like Ilias Chair and Bright Osayi-Samuel, withdrawing them for a couple of weeks here and there to avoid over-exposure and burnout, as opposed to his predecessor’s death-by-stoning approach to team selection.
There were some highlights – goals in 2-2 draws against Charlton and Birmingham at home – and some performances – Preston A – that made you think he was not only ready for retirement but also one of those sheltered housing complexes with a cord to pull if he had a fall in the walk-in bath. He had a sort of chugging style, which made it difficult to see how he’d ever gone past any full back, chop or no chop. But his value to the team was there in the numbers, one of only four players this season to have a positive WDL record. When we talk, as we will, about how Osayi-Samuel and Chair came back strongly from strategic spells out of the team, it was Pugh who came in for them and did a steady enough job for them not to be missed. Without him, QPR's June and July was a sloppy, tired mess.
Decent enough signing. Probably expensive in wage for what he was and what he contributed (hence the early release), but another excellent player for the younger squad members to have around and almost certainly more valuable to the team on the pitch than we’re giving him credit for here.
16 starts, 15 sub appearances, W12 D7 L9
2 goals (Charlton H, Birmingham H), 3 assists (Bristol City H LGC, PNE H, Stoke H)
0 yellows, 0 reds
0 LFW Man of the Match Awards, 0 Supporter MOTM Awards
LFW Ratings – 5, 7, 6, 7, 7, 7, -, 5, -, 6, 6, 5, 5, 6, 7, 6, 6, 5, 6, 7, -, 6, 5, 5, 5, 5, 7, 7, 7, 7, 4 = 5.964
8 – Big Bad Luke Amos C/D
The cliched, condescending, pat-on-the-head, “oh how sweet you support a team that ISN’T in the Premier League, well maybe we can show one of your games up against Marr on a Sunday morning” television coverage the Football League gets from its host broadcaster needs trite facts to keep it ticking along.
Not for Leeds, of course. Leeds are on every day, and we get to hear absolutely everything about them and their players, in microscopic detail, delivered in an ongoing torrent, muffled only slightly by the commentator having to talk with a mouthful of Marshmallow Bielsa’s ballbag. For the rest of us, well there’s only so much research you can do on the 23 teams in between travelling to every Leeds game, watching every Leeds game, celebrating all the Leeds wins, travelling back from Leeds, and wanking yourself into a state of dehydration over the mysterious stats that make Patrick Bamford a better striker than Eddie Nketiah. So we have to make do with trite facts.
Apologies if you were offended by any bad language you may have heard just there.
Three per team is usually the going rate, and if the same team is on more than once in a fortnightly period these can be enjoyed on a loop. Did you know, for instance, that Brentford have a sleep coach? And that Pontus Jansson, when he heard that he was no-longer required at Elland Road, actually got his agent to call Brentford to see if they’d be interested, so much did he believe in their project? And that last summer, and again in January, Brentford decided, for once, to hold onto their best players, because their famed analytics department had “crunched the numbers” and decided that their chances of promotion this season if they did so were “50/50”? Well, I do, because Brentford have been on the television three times in the last couple of weeks, and so I’ve been enjoying these on repeat, in that bit where we absolutely have to stop the game so somebody can come out and disinfect the fucking crossbar.
Apologies if you were offended by any bad language you may have heard just there.
One of QPR’s three trite facts is about Big Bad Luke Amos. Legend has it that when Big Bad Luke Amos stood on the touchline at St James’ Park on the opening day of the 2018/19 season, preparing to come on as a substitute for his first, and to date only, Tottenham Hotspur appearance, Mauricio Pochettino leant across and whispered into his tiny ear just one, lone instruction: believe. Sounds far fetched doesn’t it? In this modern age where Matt Smith can’t come on in the eighty-eighth minute of a long-since-lost cause to try and shovel one into the net off his big square head without first going through a ring-binder detailing every bad choice the centre back has ever made in his life. Is it true? Who fucking knows? Too good to check. Does it matter? Not really, these cunts support QPR they’re obviously easily pleased. Believe Luke. Believe.
Apologies if you were offended by any bad language you may have heard just there.
If Tottenham did send Big Bad Luke Amos to QPR to make him believe in himself a little bit more, I’m not sure a season of toiling away in this midfield, in front of that defence, will have helped greatly. Hell, I’ve only had to watch them and I feel like a complete waste of fucking space. He looked riddled with self-doubt when he arrived, and he looked riddled with self-doubt by the end, with the sort of added mental baggage that only a year playing for Queens Park Rangers can give to a boy. If Big Bad Luke Amos’ trite fact was that he spends his spare time writing poetry that he’s then too afraid to show to anybody, now that I would believe. If they sent him here to develop physically, then they may have had a bit of a result. In assessing Big Bad Luke Amos it’s important to remember that this was not only his first ever season at Championship level having previously been loaned to Stevenage and Southend, but it was also his first season back from one of the nasty ACL explosions that we’ve become so familiar with among our favourite sons down the year. When you think of it like that, holding his own (shut up, he has) for 26 starts and eight sub apps in the middle of midfield for a Championship team for whom everything is a struggle is worthy of praise.
He did so under the notorious historical weight of the Samba Diakite Memorial Millstone awarded to LFW’s pre-season tip for player of the year. That was made the week after the 2-2 pre-season friendly at Oxford where Amos had scored twice, looked full of beans, and apparently was exactly the sort of classy, box-to-box, cut-above-this-shite midfielder we’ve lacked since Ale Faurlin blew his knees apart. You stand there Dom Ball and win the ball back for Big Bad Luke who’s going to write the theme tune and sing the theme tune. Bar Barnsley away, where he suddenly scored two very nicely taken goals, that hasn’t really been the case. He hadn’t scored before that, and he hasn’t scored since. The weight of that stone has crushed stronger men than Luke.
Warbs seemed to really like him, given how many times he name checked his contribution in interviews, and blithered on about his “academy education”, and mentioned how our younger players needed to look up to the professional standards of somebody like Amos to see where you have to get to for the privilege of playing non-competitive U23 games on immaculate pitches against all the other excellent young boys from Man City/Chelsea/Liverpool. But there’s a fine line between a player doing work unseen by troglodytes like me in the stand, and a manager pretending that’s the case to protect a fragile player. I fear we may have stepped over that line a few times with Big Bad Luke. There have been times I’ve seen him coated off as “shocking” when I’ve wondered what else exactly people wanted him to do in a game, and others when I’ve rather despaired of him. He has that latter-days Jermaine Jenas ability to be ten yards away from anything that happens. I suspect he’s just too nice, too timid, a typical product of an EPPP academy. His attempted tackle that led to the second West Brom goal on the final night would have embarrassed a leper. I know for a fact there’s as much chance of me playing for Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham as there is him.
Which leaves the door open for a potential return, either on loan or permanently, which would almost certainly have the Twitterati looting shops and setting fire to parked cars. But there is just that niggle at the back of my mind that having seen Eze, Osayi-Samuel and Manning blossom from quiet beginnings and a fair chunk of supporter angst into the players we see before us today, perhaps it would be a shame for us to throw the work we’ve done and the sub-standard performances we’ve suffered with Amos this season (first year back after an ACL, I say again, because I don’t think it gets mentioned nearly enough) away by not taking him back again if it’s an option.
Maybe somebody else will reap the benefits.
Or maybe he’s just not very good.
Apologies if you were offended by any bad language you may have heard just there.
26 starts, 9 sub appearances, W8 D8 L16
2 goals (Barnsley A, Barnsley A), 0 assists
28 goals conceded, 3 clean sheets
5 yellow cards (Charlton H foul, Cardiff H foul, Blackburn A foul, Huddersfield A foul, PNE A foul), 0 reds
0 LFW Man of the Match Awards, 0 Supporter MOTM Awards
LFW Ratings – 7, 5, 6, 6, 6, 6, -, 5, 5, 7, 4, 6, -, 7, 5, 6, 6, 6, 8, 5, 7, 5, 5, 5, -, 7, 4, 5, 5, 5, 3, 6, 7, 6 = 5.677
Interactive Ratings – 5.47
11 – Josh Scowen D
When Steve McClaren arrived as manager, he believed he faced a problem in midfield. Ian Holloway had built a team around a three of Josh Scowen, Mass Luongo and Luke Freeman, crowbarring everybody else into weird and wonderful formations that all included a midfield three to accommodate them. But Freeman, Luongo, Ryan Manning, Ilias Chair, Ebere Eze, Jordan Cousins and to a certain extent Bright Osayi-Samuel, Paul Smyth, David Wheeler and Pawel Wszolek, were all a bit difficult to put in a box. They could mostly all play deep, or in any of the three positions across the forward three in a 4-2-3-1. A good few of them could play on the wing if asked, or at wing-back, or even at full-back. Most of all they all wanted to play ‘ten’. And under Ian Holloway’s madcap tombola machine selection they’d all haphazardly rotated and flitted between all of these roles, often all at once in the same game/half/ten minutes.
When we first met him, McClaren talked in laborious detail about managers who like chaos, and managers who like control. It didn’t take a psychiatrist to work out Ian Holloway likes chaos, and McClaren was keen to stress he was a control man. He wanted his players to have clearly defined roles in the 4-2-3-1 system, not to be constantly rattling around all the positions bar goalkeeper and centre back. The one he thought he could be sure about was Josh Scowen. ‘The Rat’ would happily stand in front of the defence as the deepest of the deep midfielders, protecting the back line and kicking people, fetching the ball from the back four and shifting it quickly, simply and efficiently onto more skilled team mates to do things with. The George Thorne from his Derby team reincarnated. Only, Josh had grown rather weary of doing Luongo and Freeman’s water carrying in Ian Holloway’s team and he too now had designs, expressed in the press and to McClaren himself, on the sort of more advanced role he’d excelled in at Barnsley and Wycombe. Josh, too, dreamed of playing ten, as it turned out.
McClaren was fairly exasperated, borderline angry, by this and used Scowen sparingly. When he was sacked, caretaker manager John Eustace not only recalled him but also pushed him higher up the field. His reward was good showings, particularly at Millwall away, and on the last day at Sheff Wed where he arrived late in the box and scored. That was enough for him to not only start the season under Mark Warburton, but start in one of the attacking midfield positions – remarkable really when you consider the players we had available who subsequently came to dominate. Sadly for Josh, he developed an unhappy knack of missing really good chances to score, most notably a header to put us 2-0 up in the first half at Stoke, and a very presentable one at the School End against Huddersfield in the first home game when he was subsequently hooked after 55 minutes.
The harder he tried, and you won’t find many players who try harder, the worse he got. For all the support I’m about to profess for him, he only played genuinely well in a game once last season (Blackburn at home, we gave him eight) though he did depart with one of only four positive WDL ratios in the squad this season. Soon the scapegoat hunters and Twitter trolls had a new prey in their crosshairs. Like Joe Lumley, the abuse he got online became so intolerable he deleted his account, leaving his proud but frustrated father to fight his corner, which he did with genuine anger and heartfelt anguish that was met with a growing tide of bile in return. Absolute respect to him, imagine being that parent and seeing that about your child. In a season that’s gone relatively well for QPR, two players, one from our youth team and one who’s worked his way up from non-league, have received grief so over-the-top and frequent, from their own supporters, that they’ve given up and walked away from the platform. That’s Chelsea levels I’m afraid lads.
He signed off with a random wonder goal at the Loft End against Swansea in the FA Cup on one of those sorts of days where everything QPR touched turned to goal. Met perfectly, on the volley, on the turn, it fizzed into the far top corner with Van Basten/Cureton v Coventry levels of speed, swerve and satisfaction. It was a thing of absolute beauty. Josh didn’t celebrate. Miserable, family member in near daily online fights with fans, scoring a goal like that when neither he nor we needed it after missing a clutch of much presentable chances in August when the opposite was true… he was done. He knew it, we knew it, and so desperate was he to leave in the end that he went to the other end of the country and made the ultimate modern-day career killing move by joining Sunderland. The football equivalent of trying to cure your problems by running away to join the circus. There he’s made just a solitary start and three sub appearances.
“AH HA” his online detractors cry, “can’t even get in the Sunderland team, toldjya he was shite”, and perhaps they’re right. But I loved Josh when he arrived from Barnsley, I thought he showed what an effective player he can be at this level under Holloway and Eustace, and but for a couple of unfavourable managerial changes, a touch more sharpness in front of goal in the early weeks of the season, and dare I say possibly with a little more support from supposedly his own fans, things may have turned out differently. Even if they hadn’t, some of the stuff that went on left a bad taste in my mouth.
A bit of a crying shame for me, Clive.
10 starts, 10 sub appearances, W8 D6 L5
1 goal (Swansea H FAC), 1 assist (Blackburn H)
16 goals conceded, 0 clean sheets
3 yellow cards (Stoke A foul, Forest H foul, PNE H foul)
0 LFW Man of the Match Awards, 0 Supporter MOTM Awards
LFW Ratings – 6, 5, 5, 6, 5, -, 6, 6, 8, 7, 7, 5, 5, 5, 4, 6, 6, 6, 7, 6 = 5.842
12 – Dom Ball A/B
Dom Ball was a great concern to me last summer.
Firstly, because Warbs Warburton had managed him at Glasgow Rangers, and in Watford’s academy, where he also coached with Ball’s father. This signing of players purely because the manager likes them and they go to the same golf club/masonic lodge/wife-swapping circle worked under Neil Warnock but has seen QPR get very badly burned since under the Mark Hughes-Kia Joorabchian axis of cuntery and then the Harry Redknapp brown envelope swapsies club.
Secondly, because ‘what manager wants manager gets’ doesn’t work at QPR. Rangers change manages so often, and almost always flit from one style of manager to his polar opposite in doing so, that if you let them sign who they want they go for short-term, quick fixes designed with only the next six games in mind to try and avoid the sack and almost certainly completely unsuitable for the way their successor will want to play and therefore surplus to requirements almost from the moment they walk through the door.
Thirdly, because we were meant to have got away from points one and two. The director of football model is meant to protect against it, with a more longer-term, over-arching view of who we buy and sell, so that you don’t, for instance, buy Idrissa Sylla and Yeni Ngbakoto for Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink only to then appoint Ian Holloway as manager, or buy Matt Smith for Ian Holloway only to then appoint Steve McClaren as manager. And yet here we were, again, bringing in a player we never would have looked at in a million years, if he wasn’t known to whoever the manager was at the time who thought he was a “terrific lad”.
And fourthly, most importantly, Dom Ball wasn’t meant to be very good. He’d been released by Spurs. He’d been unable to get into the Rotherham team over the course of three seasons which included campaigns in League One and a Championship relegation season. He’d had several patchy loan spells at Aberdeen and Rangers in the Grand Celtic Procession. When points one to three are in play and the player you’re bringing in is a bit shit, they become all the more important and troublesome.
Except, Dom Ball wasn’t shit at all. You didn’t always notice him, and as we said in Geoff Cameron’s write up there is a noticeable improvement in our defence when you park somebody in front of it whoever that somebody is, but Ball’s 1.057 goals conceded a game is by far and away the lowest in the squad among those we count that statistic against (goalkeepers, defenders, anybody playing defensive midfield in a 4-2-3-1, 4-1-4-1, 4-1-3-2 formation when the goal is conceded). An old friend of mine remarked pre-Millwall away that he’d been impressed with Ball and at that point, I confess, I’d been a bit sniffy about him, but I watched him closely that day and he did vital, unseen, unheralded work in a 2-1 away win.
He’s strong, and physical, which our team lacks in almost all areas. He windmills around tackling people and being a bit mouthy while Luke Amos stands in the corner trying to pluck up the courage to ask that girl out. He developed a knack of perfectly executing goal-saving sliding tackles, most notably right in front of us at Huddersfield away, and it would be nice if he could teach Yoann Barbet the technique. The results, the winning, really seem to matter to him, charging around the field like a mad man at times to protect single goal leads. Against Millwall in lockdown I’m not sure he’d ever have recovered if their disallowed injury time equaliser had counted, so much effort had he put into getting QPR to that point in that match leading 4-3 – potentially two assists if you count the little pass for Manning’s goal (we don’t) and an all-action performance that covered every blade of grass on the pitch. He got what will almost certainly become his traditional one goal of the season away at Luton in lockdown, sealing a point he and we really deserved.
It’s hard playing for QPR at the moment. Every win feels like trying to shit out a bowling ball, every defeat slips out like post-curry slurry from a prolapsed rectum. You need people like Dom Ball to get you there: a winner, grateful for a chance at this level, loving every minute of being out there, desperate to get the result, proud to play for the club, keen to impress, not above knee-capping anybody who gets in his way. Like a boxer dog we rescued from a cardboard box under a railway bridge. He became something of a cult hero to the supporters, to the point where he went from nowhere near as bad as we expected through to not quite as good as everybody is making out. But he had an excellent, wholly unexpected, pleasantly surprising first campaign as a QPR player and is now deservedly and justifiably discussing a new and improved contract.
That doesn’t mean the concerns go away, just that Dom Ball has been a good signing. Even among the Hughes cluster-fuck we stumbled across Ryan Nelsen. Going from Neil Warnock to Mark Hughes to Harry Redknapp to Chris Ramsay is pretty batshit, but even under Les Ferdinand as director of football we’ve bounced from Ramsay to Hasselbaink to Holloway to McClaren and now Warburton. Eight managers entirely different in styles, experience, mannerisms and how they set their teams up and want them to play. Some appointed by the director of football and CEO who run the club, some foisted upon them by the people above them who write the cheques. Players like Toni Leistner have been so in favour one minute we make them club captain, and then one change of manager later so out of touch with the direction we’ve pivoted in that we’ll swallow a chunk of their salary just to cut them. Since relegation from the Premier League we’ve gone from looking for bargains in Europe to letting Gary Penrice pick up the next big thing in Leagues One and Two to loaning in a “team of men” from the Premier League and now apparently back to manager driven signings.
There have been obvious improvements as well. We develop players now, and sell them for money, as opposed to lazily trying to buy proven entities who subsequently loiter around until the end of their contract not contributing unless we pay them to piss off. Luke Freeman, Ebere Eze, Alex Smithies, Bright Osayi-Samuel, Ilias Chair – these are success stories that we simply weren’t producing prior. Last summer was a huge effort. We turned over a large amount of players, replacing two thirds of the squad and team in one transfer window while at the same time reducing the wage bill again, coming out the other side with a better, more attractive, more entertaining team. But overall, over several seasons, the recruitment has left something to be desired. Thankfully Dom Ball’s attitude, application, drive, determination and performances made him one of the exceptions to that, rather than the absolute epitome of it.
33 starts, 2 sub appearances, W12 D7 L16
1 goal (Luton A), 2 assists (Millwall H, West Brom A)
37 goals conceded (1.057 a game), 3 clean sheets
6 yellow cards (Bristol City H LGC time wasting, Leeds A repetitive fouling, Boro H foul, Sheff Wed H foul, Huddersfield A foul, Sheff Wed H foul), 0 red cards
4 LFW Man of the Match Awards (Boro H, Sheff Wed H, Bristol City H, Huddersfield A), 0 supporter MOTM awards
LFW Ratings – 5, 5, 4, 6, 6, 8, 6, 5, 5, 6, 6, 5, 6, 6, 8, 7, 4, 6, 7, 7, 5, 8, 7, 7, 7, 6, 5, 5, 5, 6, 4, 3, 6, 8, 6 = 5.88
Interactive Ratings – 5.77
19 – Ilias Chair B (choice of coats A*)
Look, Ilias Chair banged in a goal at the Loft End against Derby County this season that was inadvertently set up by Wayne Rooney. Afterwards he did a post-match interview in a white fur coat, camera angled down to get him in frame, where he described said goal as “strictly business”. Nobody does that and gets a low mark. I’m just a man, I’m only human.
There’s been a lot of criticism floating around in this year’s End of Termers so far. The goalkeepers have been fairly shambolic, the defence is a hotch-potch mess, the mixed bag of midfielders have given us cause to question the club’s recruitment strategy and use of the loan markets. There are all the positives to come as we move onto our sparkling attack, and that starts here with Chair who is in this ‘midfield’ category purely for presentational purposes to even out the numbers.
He, and Ebere Eze, are the absolute textbook example of the direction we need to go and how we need to behave on that journey. First, we’ve spotted something in somebody the Premier League trawlers have missed on their eco-system wrecking trawl of the seabed. In Eze’s case, it’s the languid-styled black kid being written off as lazy by a white, male-dominated, scouting, coaching and recruitment network for reasons I couldn’t possibly even begin to speculate upon here. In Chair’s case, it’s that he’s five-foot one inch tall. Having snapped them up regardless, we’ve developed them in our U23s, sent them out on excellent and productive loans at lower league clubs that suited them, and then not been afraid to put them straight into our first team and leave them there to cut their teeth, make their mistakes, and come up to the level required, rather than panicking and dropping them after half a dozen games at the first signs of trouble. What we have now in Eze is a £20m footballer with two years still to run on his deal. There is no reason at all why we can’t be saying the same about Chair in 12 months’ time – given he’s had a much more consistent 2019/20 than Eze did a 2018/19, albeit under vastly superior management and coaching.
I’ve been to just about every minute of Ilias Chair’s senior career so far and one of many compliments I could pay him is I’ve never noticed how small he is. You do not see him get bullied in the same way you do with Big Bad Luke Amos, or Man City Matt Smith. He’s got an arse the size of a moon of Jupiter, which he plants about a foot and a half off the deck with his feet apart and you wouldn’t be able to shift with a JCB digger. Sure, when Dom Ball gets ideas above his station and starts pinging “passes” at him six feet off the ground from 30 yards away, bigger boys pile in over the top and beat him in the air. But can you ever actually remember him getting muscled out of anything? Brushed aside? I can’t. His balance is immaculate, he glides in and out of situations with a silky smoothness so natural you just don’t even notice him doing it. Once My Chemical Hugill had blown his hamstring out in lockdown we ended up settling on Chair as a false nine. A false nine! This is the Championship, and he’s borderline dwarf (what’s a goblin?) and he just got on with being effective, creative and strong all over again. His assist for Ebere Eze’s goal against Millwall was the best sex I’ve ever had.
There were dips, but I love the way Warburton managed him, taking him out of the team when people were baying for him to be picked, often replacing him from the start or the bench with Marc Pugh who many didn’t have a lot of time for. But he always came back from those rests stronger, in stark contrast to the way Eze was flogged to death in public the year before. I’d like some more goals – a cutely worked 20-yarder against Hull at home the only real taste of the Goal of the Season competition he’d been running alone at Stevenage the year before. But at 22 he’s now got 73 senior appearances under his belt already, playing in tough leagues for middling teams, and 12 goals. With Ebere Eze and Bright Osayi-Samuel almost certainly leaving it’s all there for him to step up and be whatever he wants to be.
As much as we criticise elements of the recruitment, contract negotiations, and plenty else besides (and we have, and do, and will again, contrary to the “in the club’s pocket” reputation we have in some quarters) it’s important to acknowledge when they do get it right, and Ilias Chair so far is front and fucking centre of how you’re meant to do things.
30 starts, 15 sub appearances, W14 D9 L21
5 goals (Bristol City H LGC, Barnsley A, Hull H, Stoke H, Derby H), 8 assists (Swansea H, Wigan H, Luton H, Boro H, Cardiff H, Swansea H, Blackburn A, Millwall H)
3 yellow cards (Wigan H diving, Barnsley A foul, Blackburn A foul), 0 reds
6 LFW Man of the Match Award (Pompey H LGC, Hull H, Swansea H, Blackburn A, Charlton A, Millwall H), 2 Supporter MOTM Awards (Hull H, Swansea H)
LFW Ratings – 7, 8, 6, 7, 7, 7, 7, 7, 6, 6, 6, 8, 7, 6, 6, 5, 6, 6, 5, 6, 6, 6, 7, 8, 8, 5, 7, 6, 7, 7, 6, 7, 6, 7, 6, 7, 5, 6, -, 6, 5, 4, 6, 8, 7 = 6.409
Interactive Ratings – 6.17
Others >>> If you thought Big Bad Luke Amos was lightweight, goodness knows how you coped with Matt Smith, an 11-year-old boy picked up on loan from Manchester City (yes, really, I checked) last summer. He made four starts and six sub appearances (I know, I was surprised) and contributed the square route of fuck all. Couldn’t feature through the autumn and winter because it was too windy.
When I talk about players leading sheltered lives in giant Premier League academies, emerging blinking into the light in their mid-20s having never played a serious game of football in their entire lives, it’s this I’m talking about. Players like this. A footballing veal calf. Forcing the water board to take out adverts on the tube reminding you not to flush him down the toilet because it’ll block the pipes if too many of them build up down there. Subsequently made two substitute appearances on loan at a relegated Charlton side having been cut loose in January. Almost certainly rich enough to buy, sell and drink you, me, and everybody else reading this piece under the table. It’s not right this. Not right at all.
Among our own collection of kids Charlie Owens impressed in pre-season training, featured in League Cup games against Bristol City and Portsmouth, and then blew his knee out again. He doesn’t seem to get a lot of luck this kid, and just when the lockdown and summer fixtures seemed to offer him an Osman Kakay-style shot at redemption it turned out the previous treatment had been a failure and he’d been requiring a new operation and another six to nine month lay off. Can somebody just go round and stroke the boy’s hair please.
Faysal Bettache came on in shameful team performances against Charlton and Wigan under lockdown, then got his rewards with a very late outing in the Millwall win. He played deep midfield and looked tidy enough.
Deshane Dalling enjoyed ten minutes of flicks and tricks with QPR already 5-1 up against Swansea in the FA Cup and has since been loaned to Cork – a spell that has recently resumed post lockdown. Do I want to be watching a team with a maverick winger called Deshane Dalling in it? Yes. Yes I do.
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Would you like to appear here as a Welsh football writer? by KeithHaynes
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Letters from Wiltshire #04 by wessex_exile
After last weeks’ solid point away against Bradford City, tipped by many to be strong promotion contenders, we now face another stern test against fallen giants Bolton Wanderers. Okay, giants may be stretching it a tad, but these guys have won the FA Cup four times, the League Cup twice, and the Charity Shield and Football League (Sherpa Van) Trophy once apiece. Christ, they were in the Premier League just eight years ago. But, they are where they are for a reason, and Saturday is all about 11 v 11, literally on a level playing field…
Letters from Wiltshire #03 by wessex_exile
So here we are, the drôle de guerre is over, the real battle is about to begin. Can we take any positives from the opening exchanges so far? I think so, the style is good, albeit Noah is right that the work in the final third needs considerable improvement if we are going to capitalise on our tippy-tappy triangles in midfield. But we’ve played some decent sides, far better sides than we should expect to face in League 2, and we haven’t been beaten out of sight yet, so let’s see what today brings against a side I think will be there or thereabouts come May next year.
Letters from Wiltshire #02 by wessex_exile
Three days on from our early Carabao Cup exit at the Madjeski, we prepare to start the next cup competition at Fratton Park – at least we can’t be out of this one by full-time – well, not tonight anyway. For those that gain perverse pleasure from such things, had we prevailed against Reading, only Luton Town would have stood between us and another match against Manchester United! Of course, we wouldn’t have done, because we’d be in a completely different strand of reality, and thus a completely different cup draw, but no harm in a bit of Whatiffery.
Letters from Wiltshire #01 by wessex_exile
Here we are then, at the start of a new season, curiously this time already well into September. I plan to continue (time permitting) writing blogs for each matchday, but with the season already considerably compressed, and matches as a result coming thick and fast, my apologies in advance if I don’t make it for every single game.
Queens Park Rangers Polls