|Queens Park Rangers 2 v 0 Nottingham Forest|
Saturday, 12th September 2020 Kick-off 15:00
Back to work – Preview
Friday, 11th Sep 2020 20:24 by Clive Whittingham
Without fans, without an agreed-upon way of settling the season should it have to be suspended again, football returns tomorrow just six weeks after it went away because something, something, something… the Euros.
QPR (16-10-20, LLDWDL, 13th) v Nottm Forest (18-16-12, LDDLLL 7th)
Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Saturday September 12, 2020 >>> Kick Off 15.00 >>> Weather – Big ball of gas burning high in the sky >>> Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium, Loftus Road, London, W12
In 1943 the American psychologist Abraham Maslow wrote a paper called A Theory of Human Motivation in which he came up with a “hierarchy of needs” that human beings require. There were five of these, and the base needs that anchored the pyramid were obvious: physiological needs like food, water, shelter, sleep; and safety needs, like being safe. At the top of the pyramid were “esteem needs” such as prestige and feelings of accomplishment, and “self actualisation needs” like achieving one’s full potential. But in between, linking them, integral to the pyramid structure, were “belonging and love needs”. Humans need to love and be loved. And they need to belong.
I’m going to print a few copies of this Hierarchy of Needs out, and roll them up very tightly to make it easier for me to shove it up the arse of the next person who cocks their head on one side and says “really, why?” when I turn down their terribly important Saturday meet/drinks/birthday/stag do/wedding because I’m busy that day, and every Saturday, because Saturday is the day I go to QPR games, home and away. The clue’s in the name, it’s a football club, and it’s where I, and we, fulfil our need to belong.
We’re certainly not here for the results because, well, look at the results. And while we may have got hooked in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s because of the football, we’re not still here for that either because for the vast majority of the last 25 years, well, look at the football.
It is possible to convince ourselves, and it’s at least partly true, that it’s some sort of sadistic emotional investment. That the prolonged periods of incompetence, disappointment and pain only make the brief flurries of success even more exciting when they pay out. I saw a video of us all recently, together in the side stand at Aston Villa, as Luke Freeman collected the ball and freed himself into space, and we all leant forward with a collective “gowoooooonnnnnnn”, before the moment of silence, and then the realisation that he’d queefed one in from 30 yards, at which point we all lost our damn minds. That feeling is missing, still, as we start this new season, and people who have never experienced it and don’t live for it won’t understand, but those who have and do will know exactly what I mean.
But, equally, I’ve had brilliant days in excellent pubs, riotous fun on rattling trains, life affirming experiences with wonderful people, going to see us lose in Oldham and Wigan. We went to Burnley, and drank in a pub that wasn’t even a full level above being the landlord’s living room, and while they didn’t “do food” and had no menu he produced us a pie and peas lunch from somewhere. Then after the game we dropped back in to find he had prepared carrier bags laden with large, icy cold bottles of imported Budvar, pork pies, and Scotch eggs, for our train home. I think he charged us about a score, and it fed half a dozen people all the way back to London. There was a hand towel in the gents toilet the colour of AIDS, that greeted you by name as you walked in, and gave you the history of the place while you pissed. We spent the trip home trying to fit Richard Dunne’s name into 80s power ballads. What was the score? Absolutely no fucking idea.
Football is back tomorrow for people who never went to football in the first place. Football is back tomorrow for people who think it’s outrageous that a few old soaks have been moved off Soccer Saturday, because that’s where they get their football from and they’ll miss Matt Le Tissier poking his head up out of his Fox News rabbit hole to scream “CHAAAANCE, GOOOOOOOOALLLL” while somebody else is talking. Football is back tomorrow for people who reckon they “support” Arsenal, but want Manchester United to win tomorrow because they’ve triple captained “Rashford” this week. Those people never understood why we took two days off work to go to Swansea and watch QPR draw 0-0 on a Tuesday night anyway, so they certainly won’t get why Sky’s mawkish “I am sport, and I am returned” adverts are akin to a doctor inviting us to watch our loved one being operated on via a small screen in an adjacent room.
For us, football is the farthest thing from back. I’ve preferred it this summer when it hasn’t been happening. If Keith Stroud falls in the forest and I’m not there to hang over the front of F Block and laugh in his face, does he really fall over at all? It’s now just like everything else. We’ve got a Zoom call with the New York office at 13.30, then we’re streaming QPR Forest at 15.00. It used to be a day cleared, a nonsense journey, bad decisions made wilfully and deliberately, pubs discovered in back streets, friends made for life and stories recounted forever. Have we told you about the time we accidentally got them to put gay porn on in Mabel’s Tavern because LFW official photographer Neil Dejyothin (not a salaried position) had a mate who reckoned that channel number had a hooky feed of the pay per view boxing? We were once refused admission to Flares Newcastle you know, the only documented and recorded example of such a thing taking place. Now football’s something I schedule in an hour-by-hour planner. Two hours of QPR there, then an oh-so-hilarious work quiz. We score against Plymouth and I’m sort of happy, and we concede against Plymouth and I’m kind of sad. In my living room. Then I do something else. I ruptured my oesophagus and nearly bled to death in the night celebrating Jamie Mackie’s goal against Liverpool.
I see all kinds of strong opinions about how QPR will do this season. Outpourings of angst and emotion around a certain relegation campaign, and way over the top optimistic predictions of play off pushes. I cannot bring myself to get overly excited, upset, or even engaged with either. Having spent this week producing 30,000 words of Championship preview I found three teams I liked (Norwich, Brentford, and Millwall) and at least a dozen who wouldn’t need too much to go wrong to go down. One of them starts -12. If you get relegated from this Championship, this season, you must be really fucking awful. But at the end of it I just felt a bit numb. What relevance is it to me if we start next season at Liverpool or Rochdale, if I’m not there? There’s no excitement, no engagement. Watching QPR now is like watching your mate play as them on Fifa, and if you’ve ever had the misfortune you’ll know there is nothing in this world more boring than watching somebody else play a computer game. It’s over there in the corner on my television, and they’re wearing the right colours, and I obviously want them to win, but if they don’t I’m over it roughly three quarters of a second after the final whistle and actually quite grateful for the chance to use the television for something else.
Football now feels like work to me. It’s back because it needs to be financially. Sky need something to show to keep the subscriptions going, football needs something to give them to keep the television money flowing. Is it right? No. Is it any good? No. Is it even safe? No. But money talks. So you’re being peppered with this idea that fans want football back, and here it comes, and you love football don’t you, and look at all the football, and the Championship is “back”. Then presented with sterilised banality. Just the same as you’re currently being bombarded with Murdoch press think pieces about how your daily commute is “part of you”, and “good for your mental health”, and you “miss it really” in an attempt to convince you that £200 a month of Great Northern Trains arserapery is actually nourishing for the soul in some perverse way and you haven’t at all enjoyed not having every single day of your life dictated by their ever escalating fares and constant inability to employ enough drivers to get you home.
There are vague promises of limited crowds back at football in October, but only as long as you’re able to complete three rounds of the Krypton Factor to enter a ballot for a ticket in an undetermined part of the ground at an undetermined price with no reference, weight or consideration given to your length of service or number of games attended. Groups of more than six are to be punished by a public stoning from Monday as the infection rate rises again, because we didn’t deal with it properly in the first place. Meanwhile, by way of complete and absolute contradiction, we’re also being cajoled into getting back to the office, having successfully proven we can work from home over the last six months. Because otherwise all the Prets might close.
A reckoning is coming because it’s either safe for me to get the train and sit in the office or its not, it’s either safe for me to “eat out to help out” or it’s not, and if it is safe then it’s also safe for me to sit in a socially distanced, open air, football ground. You can’t promote one and deny the other.
You need us to get back to work? Fine. We need to get back where we belong.
Links >>> Season Preview 2020/21 – Contenders >>> Season Preview 2020/21 – Midtable >>> Season Preview 2020/21 – Strugglers >>> Can’t we be friends Mark? – Interview >>> Ferdinand’s big Easter – History >>> Forest’s year again – Interview >>> Here we go again – Podcast >>> Robinson gets opening day – Referee >>> Official Website >>> Nottingham Post – Local Press >>> LTLF – Message Board >>> Bandy and Shinty – Fanzine >>> Forza Garibaldi – Blog >>> LFW Reciprocal Interview >>> Matchday with Max – YouTube Channel
Geoff Cameron Facts No.104 In the Series – Geoff goes straight into the Ray Wilkins Memorial League of Great Captains at #386, behind Cook, Mainwaring and Scarlet but well ahead of Planet and Birdseye.
Team News: Lyndon Dykes scored on his second appearance for Scotland in the Czech Republic on Monday, but also left the field clutching his back in the 67th minute. Thankfully this was just an impact injury and he has been training ahead of a competitive home debut tomorrow. George Thomas has also trained this week after sitting out since the Wimbledon friendly with a tweaked quad, although in his interview with us during the week Warbs Warburton suggested that a lack of pre-season prep will probably see the new arrival from Leicester start on the bench.
Quite where we are with Ryan Manning and Bright Osayi-Samuel who the hell knows any more. Warburton has made a point of repeatedly stating, in public, over the summer that players will not be picked if they’re just intending to run contracts down to a pre-contract deal somewhere else in January and then a cheap or free move out of here next summer. But he’s also been at pains to say that he’s not referring specifically to Bright and Ryan, the two most high profile first teamers whose deals expire next year and have so far refused extensions. Whether both, either or neither will start tomorrow is about as clear as mud but Paul Smyth has impressed in cameos during QPR’s pre-season and Niko Hamalainen made a full international debut in Finland’s midweek win against the Republic of Ireland. Don’t be surprised if one, or both, get a chance here.
Geoff Cameron has been named captain and will return, along with Yoann Barbet, after both sitting out at Plymouth. Rob Dickie will make a home debut.
Nottingham Forest have responded to a poor end to last season in the same way they respond to everything – by signing another clutch of expensive, ageing players. Luke Freeman will make his first return to Loftus Road since a departure a year ago after Forest agreed to pay his full Sheff Utd salary to take him on a season long loan deal. Loyal Taylor is also set for a league debut for Forest having got his dream free transfer move from Charlton into a colossal weekly wage at the City Ground. Tyler Blackett is the youngest of their half dozen summer arrivals at 26 and four of the players signed are already 30. They carry a squad of 30 senior professionals into the new season.
Elsewhere: Middlesbrough, hence forth known as the Thirteenth Annual Neil Warnock Farewell Tour, started last season with a Friday night 3-3 at Luton and they’re first up again tonight at Watford who’ve brought an incredible squad down to the second tier with them but exactly what remains of that come the end of the transfer window remains to be seen.
All manner of intrigue among an opening Saturday fixture list – and Preston v Swansea as well.
Two early games, including the clash between Walt Disney fairy-tale Wycombe Wanderers and fellow newly promoted team Rotherham. The Royal Botanical Gardens of Kew’s Sporting Orient will have to recover from the disappointment of last season, learn to cope with being favourites rather than undogs, and beware any latent epileptics among their number potentially flushed out at a crucial moment by the seats in their new stadium, as they restart up at Birmingham. Thomas Frank is 100% certain they will win, and we suspect they might be the best team Brum play all season.
Barnsley have become the Twitter analytic accounts’ jizz sock over the summer with predictions as high as sixth for their season following a strong recovery under Austrian manager Gerhard Struber in lockdown. But they have once again sold a star player – Jacob Brown – to Stoke on the eve of the new campaign and with Cauley Woodrow and Alex Mowatt also being linked away they wouldn’t be a particularly safe bet yet. They start at home to Lutown, who have Nathan Jones back in charge for a full season and have already added Sheff Utd starlet Rhys Norrington-Davies to their number as he tries to reinstall a diamond and wing backs system.
Bournemouth are the least tipped of the relegated teams to bounce back. Long serving miracle worker Eddie Howe departed over the summer saying the club needed a fresh start, and the club promptly disagreed and handed the job to his assistant Jason Tindall who has one failed spell as Weymouth manager to his name. £80m in back transfer fees are owed and departures surely won’t end at Callum Wilson’s Newcastle move this week – somebody will eventually cotton on to David Brooks being the best player they have there. Blackburn haven’t even been mentioned in passing but they look short in key areas ahead of their trip to Dean Court.
Bristol City have overspent and are playing the “invest in youth, progressive style of play” tune we’ve heard time and time again. Chris Martin (Burger King is back on Deliveroo!) will lead the line against a newly promoted Coventry side who I suspect might bloody a nose on the opening day. Sheffield Owls start their climb back from a 12 point deduction at Cardiff, who I quite fancy. Not as much as Millwall though, whose shrewd summer recruitment gets an early test at home to Stoke who have spent three years trying to shift ageing, over-rated, over-paid, wage-bill burdens only to go out and add Steven Fletcher, John Obi-Mikel and James Chester to their ranks.
Huddersfield have decided a six-week summer is the ideal time to rip the whole thing up and go down a new-age approach with an unproven geezer who hung around with Marcelo Bielsa for a bit. They start at home to Norwich who’ve signed 11 players and are cast iron favourites for an immediate return. 0-4. Reading said ‘hold my beer’ and conducted their strategic review halfway through the break, so don’t put too much faith in their prospects at Wayne Rooney’s 24 Hour Beer and Brass.
Referee: An early test for Lyndon Dykes’ robust style of play as Tim Robinson and his fetish for penalising the attacking team at corners comes to town on day one. Case history.
QPR: Rangers set a club record for home defeats in a league season in 2018/19 by losing eleven, the last of which was Nottingham Forest’s 1-0 success at Loftus Road in the April of that season. Things improved in 2019/20 with a home record of 9-5-9 although, again, only three teams (Birmingham, Hull Reading) lost more on their own patch. QPR finished thirteenth in the Championship table which was six places and seven points better than the year before. They won two more games and scored 67 goals compared to 53 the campaign before. However only Luton and Hull conceded more than Rangers’ 76 – the third season in a row the R’s have shipped 70 or more goals across a league term. Their lockdown form was particularly troubling, losing five of the first six behind closed doors and only scoring two goals, but they came home with a wet sail with draws away at Luton and West Brom and a 4-3 home victory against Millwall.
Forest: Only West Brom and Millwall (17) drew more than Forest’s 16 last season and it was a whole slew of those ties in the final third of the campaign – seven of their last 14 matches finished level – that took a seemingly unassailable play-off position and blew it up when an attempt to get a 0-0 at Barnsley went off in their face in injury time. They lost at Oakwell again by the same 1-0 scoreline in their League Cup game last week which brings them to Loftus Road on a run of seven without a win (L4 D3) either side of the truncated summer break. They’ve done well on this ground of late though, winning their last three visits and scoring ten goals in the process. Their 4-0 win here before Christmas was QPR’s heaviest defeat of the campaign. Nobody lost fewer away games in 2019/20 than Forest with four, though the defeats weirdly seemed to come at the division’s worst teams – Huddersfield, Birmingham, Wigan and most damagingly Barnsley.
Prediction: We’re indebted to The Art of Football for once again agreeing to sponsor our Prediction League and provide prizes. The squad is updated and you can get involved by lodging your prediction here or sample the merch from our sponsor’s QPR collection here. Mase won an unbelievably tight title race last season to become the first person to win the competition twice in the 16-year history of the site. He therefore knows the drill for the next nine months, and offers us the following for tomorrow…
“A new season starts under lockdown. I think we will be dangerous at both ends, much like last season. I'm hoping for a point and an entertaining game but fear that Forest may overpower us. Luke Freeman will definitely be involved in a goal if he plays for them.”
Mase’s Prediction: QPR 2-2 Forest. Scorer – Lyndon Dykes
LFW’s Prediction: QPR 2-2 Forest. Scorer – Lyndon Dykes
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Letters from Wiltshire #35 by wessex_exile
As many were predicting, time finally ran out for Steve Ball mid-week, after the U’s lost 2-1 at home to Exeter City. Although a considerable improvement in score-line compared to the 6-1 thrashing they handed out at St James Park earlier in the season, apart from the first 10-15 minutes and very brief glimpses throughout the remainder of the game, it was a poor performance, leaving Robbie Cowling with no choice. After a brief interlude, Robbie named Wayne Brown as our new Interim Head Coach (that’s caretaker as far as I’m concerned), and after an even briefer interlude, Robbie and Wayne in a joint statement put to rest any lingering concerns about Wayne’s attitude to race. If Wayne can show the same sort of leadership on the training ground and in the dressing room as he used to show for the U’s on the pitch, I am certain he’s going to do very well in the job.
Letters from Wiltshire #34 by wessex_exile
I won’t dwell on Robbie’s latest message to the supporters – we’ve all read it, and we’ve all probably drawn our own conclusions about what it doesn’t say as much as what it does. To me, bottom line, I suspect the clock is now ticking for Steve Ball (at least), turn around this terrible form pretty damn quick, or start clearing out your locker. Regardless of personal opinions on any of the individuals concerned, I would like to think none of us actually wants to see people made redundant in the current climate. But, these are difficult times that require tough decisions. If Steve Ball is up to the job and can turn this around, I’ll be more than happy to support him. If he’s not, he has to go before irreparable harm is done…and we all know what that will look like, we’ve been there before…
Letters from Wiltshire #33 by wessex_exile
Today we face a trip to Crawley, not usually a venue that bears fruit for the U’s it has to be said. In nine visits we’ve only won once in the league, and once in the League Cup. Of course, we’ll all remember that League Cup victory, indeed many of us were probably there to see us progress through to 5th round and the dream fixture against Manchester United at Old Trafford. All of our goal-scorers that night, Luke’s Norris and Gambin, and Cohen Bramall (okay, technically an O.G.), are no longer with us, so let’s hope at the very least that recent departee and subsequent returnee Frank Nouble can bag another like his late equaliser against Mansfield. Steve Ball commented during the week about how tight the league is at the moment, and he’s right that a couple of back to back victories would see us move significantly up the table away from danger – but we’ve got to win them first Steve – something we’ve failed to do since our 1-0 victory at Scunthorpe on December 8th.
Letters from Wiltshire #32 by wessex_exile
Fifty years ago yesterday, Colchester United of the 4th Division pulled off the greatest cup giant-killing ever, beating 1st Division Leeds United 3-2 at Layer Road. Watched by 16,000, and the Match of the Day cameras, Dick Graham’s U’s, a rag-tag band of mostly aging journeymen, defied the odds to defeat arguably the greatest club side in Europe at the time. “The greatest cup giant-killing ever” is a bold claim, and over the years various football magazines and websites have run their own polls of which was the greatest. Whilst that day at Layer Rd always features, as the years have gone by other feats fresher in the memory have been put forward as a candidate – we probably all remember Ronnie Radford’s screamer against Newcastle, Sutton’s exploits, or even Bradford City quite recently at Stamford Bridge – but these pale into insignificance when you pause to reflect on the Don Revie side that we beat that day. Sprake, Cooper, Charlton, Hunter, Lorimer, Giles etc – all full internationals, all household names – the only one missing was Billy Bremner, and that was because he was injured. By comparison, all we had to offer was Ray Crawford – at his peak arguably on a par with some in the Leeds side, but that peak had been ten years earlier playing for Ipswich and England. Eleven heroes didn’t just try and hold out against Leeds United, they took the game to their illustrious opponents with such tenacity, grit and no small amount of flair, and before we knew it, the U’s were 3-0 in the lead. As legs tired, Leeds got back into the game with goals from Hunter and Giles, but we held firm – typified at the death by Graham Smith pulling off an impossible save to ensure the U’s achieved the greatest cup giant-killing ever!
Letters from Wiltshire #31 by wessex_exile
And so the dust settles on another transfer window closing, and despite (my) expectations that the possibility of incoming business was going to be remote, we have instead seen a veritable flurry of activity, with no less than three coming in. Big Frank Nouble, making a very welcome return on loan from Plymouth Argyle, of course needs no introduction. Neither really does feisty Brendan Sarpong-Wiredu, here on loan last season, and this time signed full-time from Charlton Athletic for an undisclosed fee. Actually paying hard cash for someone did come as a surprise, presumably offset by the sale of Cohen Bramall to Lincoln for a similarly undisclosed fee. However, the fact that the Addicks have insisted on not only a sell-on clause, but a rarely used buy-back clause too, suggests (a) Wiredu’s signing fee probably wasn’t too high, and (b) Charlton are protecting those finances with these clauses. The last one, which would have been a complete surprise for me were it not for a contact leaking me the news earlier yesterday, is left-back Josh Doherty on loan from Crawley. Josh was only announced once outgoing left-back Bramall was confirmed, and presumably his loan is directly related to part-time fashion model, TV and radio celeb and former left-back Mark Wright signing for Crawley on a non-contract game-by-game basis in December. We have also released seven from the academy, Ollie Kensdale, Miquel Scarlett, Sammie McLeod, Michael Fernandes, Ollie Sims, Danny Collinge and Matt Weaire, and I’m sure we all wish them the best for the future.
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