|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 #48 by wessex_exile
“And now the end is near, and so we face the final curtain…regrets, we’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention”. Not quite right Paul Anka, probably more than a few, but otherwise a fair assessment of where the U’s are today. It’ll be interesting to see how we perform with the relegation monkey finally off their back – I’m not expecting miracles, particularly with Tranmere needing at least a point to guarantee making the play-offs, but they’ll certainly be more nervous than we will be, so can we make that count? This will be my last blog of the season, and not yet sure what I may or may not do for next season, but suggestions are always welcome.
Letters from Wiltshire #47 by wessex_exile
Here we are, at the penultimate game of the season, and our last game in front of the cardboard U’s faithful at the JobServe. It has been a long, difficult, and definitely strange season, which frankly I’ll be glad to see the back of. That’ll we’ll be here again in August is definitely going to be something to celebrate, but I suspect we’re facing a summer of significant rebuilding both on the pitch, and possibly off it too. I won’t be the only one, but the biggest oddity for me has been being able to watch every single game – not always easy viewing, but something I’ve never done before, and probably never will again. But it doesn’t really make up for not being there in person, the long train journey away-days, meeting fellow U’s and other supporters, and of course sharing a beer or three. Fingers-crossed we can return to the terraces in 2021/22.
Letters from Wiltshire #46 by wessex_exile
That was quite a week for us all then. In the space of four short but remarkably tense days we have gone from having to take shoes and socks off to check how many more points we need to guarantee survival, or whether we would even achieve it, to breathing a huge sigh of relief knowing we’re almost there. But close of play this afternoon, whether by our own actions or the failure of others, I am sure survival will be confirmed. Of course, Tuesday night not only all but guaranteed it, it also virtually condemned local rivals Southend United to non-league football for the foreseeable. Looking at the host of fully professional former football league sides currently battling it out for the two promotion slots out of the National league (including Hartlepool, Torquay, Stockport, Wrexham, Chesterfield and Notts County), it is not going to be a walk in the park for Southend to return any day soon.
Letters from Wiltshire #45 by wessex_exile
Tonight, Colchester United face Southend United in what may not necessarily be the most important game of our respective histories (though it’s certainly very close), but is almost certainly the most important Essex derby ever. However this season pans out, by the end of it there’ll either be only one team in Essex, or worst case scenario, none at all. If the U’s win, then Southend will be 9pts behind with just three games to go, and a minimum of a -12 goal difference to overturn if they want to overtake us. Certainly mathematically possible, but that would rely on a remarkable turnaround in their form, form that they’ve shown precious little sign of achieving so far this season. The stalking horse is Grimsby, with their game in hand, who have rather belatedly shown an improvement in form, so their match against automatic promotion chasing Morecambe tonight is equally important, particularly if we want to avoid the unthinkable, with both Essex clubs dropping out of the league.
Letters from Wiltshire #44 by wessex_exile
So here we are, as the nation mourns the passing of His Royal Highness, Duke of Edinburgh, the U’s face the first of two season-defining moments, with our late kick-off match at home to Walsall. Before then, no doubt many will have been focused on events elsewhere, not least the early kick-offs for Grimsby (at home to promotion-chasing Bolton Wanderers), and particularly Essex rivals Southend United, who faced a tricky visit to Exeter City – still very much in the hunt for at least a play-off spot. As I finalise this blog, I know that Grimsby have beaten Bolton 2-1, and Southend earned a credible 0-0 draw in the West Country. More to the point, the U’s will know this too. Whilst I can’t help but feel that will ought to be to our advantage, it surely must also put additional pressure on a squad whose confidence is paper-thin. We must hope that Hayden Mullins, assisted by Paul Tisdale, get their heads right, and send the lads out this evening fired up with self-belief.
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