Caretaker-managed QPR puncture Barnsley's flying start - History
Monday, 26th Oct 2020 16:01 by Clive Whittingham
While Barnsley's greatest ever team was storming its way to the Premier League, QPR's shambles regularly beat them by three goals to something, including an Oakwell visit in September 1996.
Barnsley 1 QPR 3, Saturday September 14, 1996, First Division
There was an odd atmosphere around Loftus Road the last time Queens Park Rangers were relegated from the Premier League. Demoted following the sale of Les Ferdinand just as the television money in the top flight as about to explode you’d have forgiven the faithful in W12 for being downbeat about the situation. But with hated chairman Richard Thompson ousted and music mogul Chris Wright now in charge there was a sense of optimism around the place as a Rangers team still boasting the likes of Kevin Gallen, Danny Dichio, Andy Impey and Trevor Sinclair along with up and coming starlets like Nigel Quashie and Paul Murray began the 1996/97 campaign in the lower tier.
The optimism seemed well founded as Gallen starred in the first two matches of the season – both of which Rangers won 2-1 against Oxford and Portsmouth. Of course, as we know now, Gallen ruptured his knee ligaments in the act of scoring the winner at Fratton Park and things rather unravelled from there with Bolton Wanderers snatching a late winner at Loftus Road in a subsequent televised game and West Brom winning in Shepherd’s Bush with embarrassing ease.
Manager Ray Wilkins resigned or was sacked, depending on who you believed, in the midst of that tumultuous start to the campaign. Nick Blackburn, brought onto the new board at Loftus Road by Wright, later told A Kick Up The R’s: “It’s a complete myth that he was sacked. He resigned. What happened was, we asked Ray to come to the board meeting. We were nearly all new directors, and we asked him to set out how he worked, how many scouts he had, was he watching games, did he prefer playing, how could he play and keep himself fit and watch players, all this kind of thing. It was fine. At the end of the meeting, when Ray had gone, Clive Berlin said, ‘I don’t think Ray will make a manager’. We all said, ‘Look, come on, let’s give him a chance.’ Next morning, Ray rang up and resigned. He’d booked a flight that day to go and see a midfield player in Scotland called Dave Bowman, who played for Dundee United. But Ray cancelled the flight and resigned. We think one of the directors rang him up and told him about those comments. I know for certain it wasn’t one of the new directors. We were new to it. We didn’t really know the inside of football that well and however much you think you know about it, nothing really prepares you for it.”
That left Wilkins’ coaches in caretaker charge and so on a sunny September afternoon the R’s travelled to Oakwell to face Barnsley with Frank Sibley, John Hollins and Billy Bonds directing operations from the dugout. The Tykes were a stick to beat the relegated Premier League teams with at the time – perennial dwellers of the second tier and a real culture shock for those used to trips to Liverpool and Arsenal. In 1996/97 though rookie manager Danny Wilson had them firing on all cylinders. They’d won 2-1 on the opening day at West Brom and followed it up with successive home wins against Huddersfield and Reading scoring six goals in the process. Andy Liddell was in good form up front and the diminutive Clint Marcelle was making a name for himself. In the week leading up to the QPR game Barnsley won 2-1 at newly relegated Man City with Marcelle scoring an injury time winner and then thrashed Stoke 3-0 at Oakwell to move top of the table.
But QPR were in fine form that day. They laid down their intentions early when Sinclair crossed from the right, Dichio nodded down and Simon Barker arrived late in the box to slam an opener past goalkeeper Dave Watson from 12 yards out after just six minutes. That lead was doubled five minutes before half time when Alan McDonald nudged Sinclair’s corner back out to him and his second attempt at a cross was nodded down at the near post for youth team graduate Mark Perry to stoop and head home unmarked from four yards out.
Any hope of a second half rally from the hosts was killed off immediately when Impey took his man to the byline, cut back infield and teed up Murray for a low drive that Watson parried into the path of Dichio who could hardly miss when presented with an open goal from point blank range. The QPR fans basking in the sun in the side stand were in raptures at this stage and when big target man Paul Wilkinson poked home Barnsley’s first goal of the afternoon with 21 minutes still remaining it was mere consolation.
That result sparked a mini-collapse from the Tykes who subsequently lost their next home league match 3-1 to lowly Grimsby prior to a run of six draws from seven matches. But Wilson’s team never went away all season and, despite QPR subsequently beating them at Loftus Road in both the league and the cup, they clinched the second automatic promotion spot behind Bolton and four points ahead of Wolves with a game to spare. QPR appointed Arsenal coach Stewart Houston as their new manager soon after this match but won just three of the next 15 and finished ninth, five points shy of sixth placed Palace who eventually won the play offs.
Barnsley: D Watson, N Eaden, M Appleby, D Sheridan (M Bullock, 45), S Davis , A De Zeeuw, C Marcelle, N Redfearn, P Wilkinson, A Liddell (D Regis, 65), N Thompson
Subs not used: J Bosancic
Goals: Wilkinson 69
Bookings: Sheridan, Davis
QPR: J Sommer, M Jackson, A McDonald, S Yates (D Maddix, 57 (M Brazier, 68)), R Brevett, S Barker, P Murray, M Perry, A Impey, T Sinclair, D Dichio
Subs not used: L Charles
Goals: Barker 6, Perry 41, Dichio 50
Bookings: Barker, Brazier
Queens Park Rangers 0 Barnsley 1, Saturday June 20, 2020, Championship
Optimism that QPR, unbeaten in six prior to the onset of Covid-19, could push for the play-offs during the summer’s behind closed doors fixtures was swiftly punctured in the first gam back against Barnsley. The visiting side were much the better of the teams, scoring through Simoes after seven minutes and going close on numerous other occasions in what would be their first win at Loftus Road in 26 attempts going back to 1950. Jordan Hugill late sitter was as close as Rangers came to a point.
QPR: Kelly 5; Rangel 5 (Kane 80, -), Masterson 5, Barbet 5, Manning 4; Amos 4 (Shodipo 46, 5), Ball 5 (Wallace 61, 5); Osayi-Samuel 5, Chair 5, Eze 6; Hugill 4
Subs not used: Lumley, Oteh, Bettache, Clarke
Barnsley: Walton 6; B Williams 6, Anderson 6, Sollbauer, Ludewig 6 (Thomas 84, -); Ritzmaier 6, Mowatt 8; Brown 8, Simoes 7 (Chaplin 46, 6), Palmer 7 (Dougall 57, -); Woodrow 7 (Styles 74, 6)
Subs not used: Radlinger, J Williams, Schmidt, Oduor, Halme
Goals: Simoes 7 (assisted Williams)
Bookings: Chaplin 90+2 (foul)
Barnsley 5 Queens Park Rangers 3, Saturday December 15, 2019, Championship
The first two clean sheets of the season and successive 2-0 victories against Preston and Birmingham had threatened to move QPR into play off contention prior to the first meeting with Barnsley last season but a defensive horror show at Oakwell put paid to all of that. Bad defending by Lee Wallace and goalkeeping by Joe Lumley let Conor Chaplin in for a first after just seven minutes and although Luke Amos equalised after Jordan Hugill hit the post Chaplin was able to volley in a second for the hosts after being left unmarked at the back post from a corner – quelle surprise. He swept in a hat trick before the hour amidst more calamitous defending and although Amos pulled another back and QPR then missed three gilt edge chances to equalise the Tykes were able to pull away thanks to a Woodrow penalty and fifth from Diaby. Ilias Chair added bare respectability with an injury time consolation.
Barnsley: Sahin-Radlinger 5; Williams 6, Diaby 7, Anderson 6, Odour 6 (McGeehan 83, -); Dougall 7, Bahre 5 (Thomas 31, 7), Mowatt 7; Woodrow 8, Brown 8, Chaplin 9
Subs not used: Sibbick, Thiam, Mottley-Henry, Marsh, Collins
Goals: Chaplin 7 (assisted Brown), 18 (assisted Mowatt), 52 (assisted Woodrow), Woodrow 60 (penalty won Woodrow), Diaby 82 (assisted Brown)
Bookings: Thomas 68 (foul), Brown 81 (retaliation), Dougall 84 (handball), Mowatt 85 (dissent)
QPR: Lumley 4; Kane 4, Hall 5, Leistner 4, Wallace 3 (Wells 56, 6); Eze 4, Cameron 4 (Chair 67, 6), Amos 5, Manning 4; Osayi-Samuel 5, Hugill 6
Subs not used: Smith, Pugh, Mlakar, Ball, Barnes
Goals: Amos 12 (assisted Hugill), 54 (assisted Manning), Chair 90+4 (assisted Osayi-Samuel)
Bookings: Chair 81 (foul), Wells 85 (retaliation), Hall 89 (foul)
Queens Park Rangers 1 Barnsley 0, Saturday February 2, 2018, Championship
QPR got their annual home win against Barnsley when these sides last met, at Loftus Road, in February 2018. A typically tired effort from two poor teams post Christmas was settled early in the second half when Josh Scowen smashed in his first goal for the R’s, against the club he’d left in the summer, from long range. The celebrations were oddly muted, as most of the crowd was still appealing for the latest blatant foul on Matt Smith in the penalty area a moment before.
QPR: Smithies 7; Perch 6, Onuoha 6, Lynch 7; Wszolek 6, Robinson 6; Scowen 7, Freeman 6, Cousins 6 (Manning 67, -); Washington 5 (Bidwell 90, -), Smith 5 (Osayi-Samuel 79, 5)
Subs not used: Ingram, Baptiste, Eze, Oteh
Goals: Scowen 48 (unassisted), Robinson 90+4 (foul)
Red Card: Manning 71 (killing a man to death)
Bookings: Cousins 5 (foul)
Barnsley: Townsend 6; Yiadom 6, Mills 6, Lindsay 6, Pinillos 6 (Mahoney 80, 6); Gardner 6, Williams 6, Hammill 6 (Hedges 68, 5); Moncur 7; Bradshaw 6, Moore 6 (McBurnie 68, 5)
Subs not used: Davies, Mallan, Pearson, Thiam
Bookings: Gardner 31 (foul)
Barnsley 1 Queens Park Rangers 1, Tuesday September 26, 2017, Championship
A game littered with long range shots at Oakwell in September that season finished with one each finding the net either side of half time. QPR couldn’t do a lot about Harvey Barnes’ first time curler in the twentieth minute but banged away at the door looking for an equaliser all second half before Luke Freeman scored from similar distance late on. Pawel Wszolek lifting the ball over the bar from a presentable position was probably the worst of the missed opportunities.
Barnsley: Davies; McCarthy, Jackson, Lindsay, Freyers; Williams, Hammill, Moncur (McGeehan 71), Potts (Hedges 80); Barnes (Bradshaw 45), Ugbo
Subs not used: MacDonald, Townsend, Pearson, Thiam
Goals: Barnes 20 (unassisted)
Bookings: Williams 49 (foul)
QPR: Smithies 7; Baptiste 7, Caulker 6 (Smith 74, 5), Robinson 7, Bidwell 7; Luongo 6, Scowen 7, Freeman 7; Wszolek 4, Mackie 5 (Lua Lua 74, 5), Osayi-Samuel 4 (Washington 46, 5)
Subs not used: Lynch, Manning, Lumley, Wheeler
Goals: Freeman 86 (unassisted)
Bookings: Caulker 23 (foul), Luongo 39 (foul)
Queens Park Rangers 2 Barnsley 1, Tuesday March 3, 2017, Championship
QPR shaded an entertaining between these two sides at Loftus Road in March. Idrissa Sylla scored the opening goal of a flowing encounter quite by accident, sending the ball skidding into the net from 12 yards out while attempting to trap it. Yeni Ngbakoto forced a good save from visiting keeper Davies and James Perch hit the underside of the bar with a flying header but Josh Scowen went close for Barnsley and only a fine goal line clearance from Jake Bidwell kept out Adam Armstrong. The game looked up when MacDonald put Wszolek’s great cross through his own net but a mistake by Grant Hall let in sub Tom Bradshaw to set up a nervous finish.
QPR: Smithies 6; Perch 6 (Furlong 48, 7), Onuoha 6, Hall 5, Bidwell 7; Luongo 7, Manning 7, Freeman 8; Wszolek 8 (Washington 70, 6), Sylla 7, Ngbakoto 6 (Morrison 87, -)
Subs not used: Goss, Ingram, Doughty, Smith
Goals: Sylla 7, MacDonald og 66 (assisted Wszolek)
Bookings: Perch 14 (foul), Bidwell 83 (foul), Manning 86 (foul)
Barnsley: Davies 6; Yiadom 6, Roberts 6, MacDonald 6, Elder 5; Scowen 7, James 7, Mowatt 6 (Bradshaw 45, 7), Kent 6 (Hammill 77, 6); Watkins 6 (Hedges 73, 6), Armstrong 6
Subs not used: Moncur, Townsend, Jackson, Jones
Bookings: Hammill 85 (foul)
Barnsley 3 Queens Park Rangers 2, Wednesday August 17, 2016, Championship
Early season optimism sparked by two wins in the first two games was punctured at Oakwell as QPR blew a 2-1 lead to lose in the final 13 minutes against a bright, attacking, young Barnsley side. The hosts took an early lead through Marley Watkins but, although Rangers had hardly posed a goal threat at all for the first half of the game, penalties from Tjaronn Chery and Seb Polter gave them the lead with a quarter of an hour left to play. One spectacular Conor Hourihane free kick and a last minute Josh Scowen goal later and the game was up.
Barnsley: Davies NA; Bree 6; Roberts 6, Mawson 7, White 7; Kent 8; Scowen 7; Hourihane 8; Hammil 5; Watkins 6 (D’Almeida 82, -); Bradshaw 5 (Payne 63, 6)
Goals: Watkins 4 (assisted Hourihane/Roberts), Hourihane 77 (free kick won Hourihane, conceded Luongo), Scowen 89 (assisted Payne, mistake Hall)
Bookings: Roberts 46 (foul)
Goals: Chery 47 (penalty, won Polter), Polter 75 (penalty, won N’Gbakoto)
Red Cards: Hall 90+5 (two bookings)
Bookings: Onuoha 90+3 (foul), Hall 61 (foul), 90+5 (foul)
Barnsley 2 Queens Park Rangers 3, Saturday May 3, 2014, Championship
Barnsley were already relegated and QPR already secure in the play-off zone when these sides met at Oakwell in May 2014. But any win on this ground isn't to be sniffed at for though QPR's home record against Barnsley is imperious, wins at Oakwell have been few and far between. This one looked like it was going to be simple enough when Charlie Austin banged on in and then home defender M'voto turned a Kevin Doyle cross into his own goal but Chris O'Grady halved the deficit after half time. A mazy run and emphatic finish had many wondering why Yun Suk Young hadn't seen more game time instead of the lazy Benoit Assou Ekotto, but Rangers were made to sweat for their win by another O'Grady goal, this time lashed home from long range, in injury time.
Barnsley: Steele 6; Kennedy 6, Ramage 6, Cranie 6, M'voto 5 (Bree 72, 6); O'Brien 6, Dawson 6 (Hassell 80, -), Jennings 6, Cywka 6 (Noble-Lazarus 72, 5), Rose 5, O’Grady 7
Subs not used: Dibble, Oates, Boakye-Yiadom, Cowgill
Goals: O’Grady 54 (assisted Jennings), 90 (unassisted)
QPR: Green 6; Hughes 6, Donaldson 6, Onuoha 7, Suk-Young 7; Henry 7, O’Neil 5; Benayoun 6 (Petrasso 76, 6), Doyle 6, Traore 6 (Kranjcar 57, 6); Austin 6 (Keane 57, 5)
Subs not used: Carroll, Hoilett, Murphy, Gibbons
Goals: Austin 42 (assisted Traore), Mvoto og 43 (assisted Doyle), Suk-Young 68 (unassisted)
QPR 2 Barnsley 0, Saturday October 5, 2013, Championship
QPR cruised to a routine win against relegation haunted Barnsley at Loftus Road at the start of October that season. It was only thanks to the heroics of visiting keeper Jack Butland that the R’s weren’t in front at half time – he saved well with his feet from Charlie Austin and then sprang up to block the rebound from Ale Faurlin. But the England youth international was beaten by Austin just after the hour after Junior Hoilett had dribbled in from the left flank and forced the issue with a low cross. The game was sealed by Austin from the penalty spot after he had dribbled around Stephen Foster and forced a foul.
QPR: Green 6; Simpson 7, Dunne 7, Hill 7, Assou Ekotto 6; Carroll 7, Barton 7, Kranjcar 6 (Chevanton 88, -), O’Neil 7 (Henry 81, -), Faurlin 6 (Hoilett 62, 8); Austin 8
Subs not used: Traore, Ehmer, Jenas, Murphy
Goals: Austin 66 (assisted Hoilett), 85 (penalty – won Austin)
Barnsley: Butland 7; Cranie 6, Ramage 6 (Hassel 67, 6), Wiseman 6, Kennedy 6; Mellis 6 (Cywka 71, 6), Perkins 5, Fox 6, McCourt 7; Scotland 4 (Pedersen 54, 5), O’Grady 5
Subs not used: Noble-Lazarus, Dawson, Etuhu, O’Brien
Bookings: Mellis 59 (foul), Perkins 63 (foul)
QPR 4 Barnsley 0, Saturday August 7, 2010, Championship
Neil Warnock's QPR side started their march to the Championship title with a convincing 4-0 win against Barnsley on the opening day of the 2010/11 season – although the scoreline didn't quite tell the full story. Debutant goalkeeper Paddy Kenny, perhaps a little rusty after a year out with a drugs ban and nervous having only just arrived from Sheffield United, dropped a routine cross in his six yard box on the stroke of half time which should really have seen Barnsley go in at the break level. Then after half time Fitz Hall inexplicably punched a ball clear inside his own area but referee James Linnington failed to award a penalty kick. To exacerbate the visitors' frustration two of QPR's four goals came from the spot – Adel Taarabt was obviously fouled during a typically mesmeric run in the first half and Heidar Helguson converted, then in the second the Moroccan took responsibility and made it 3-0 although had Linnington played on through a foul on Helguson the ball had ended up in the net anyway. Between those two goals Jamie Mackie had scored his first for the club when goalkeeper Luke Steele fumbled the ball at the worst possible moment, and Hall swept in a fourth from a low Hogan Ephraim cross with nine minutes remaining.
QPR Kenny 5, Orr 7, Hall 6, Gorkss 7, Hill 7, Ephraim 7,Derry 7 (Leigertwood 79, 6), Faurlin 7, Taarabt 8 (Parker 77, 6),Helguson 7 (German 83, 5), Mackie 7
Subs Not Used: Cerny, Clarke, Connolly, Borrowdale
Booked: Orr (tripping)
Goals: Helguson 41 (penalty, assisted Taarabt), Mackie 53 (assisted Ephraim), Taarabt 63 (penalty, assisted Helguson), Hall 81 (assisted Ephraim)
Barnsley Steele 5, Hassell 2, Shackell 5, Foster 4, McEveley 2,Hammill 6 (Neumann 76, 5), Doyle 5, Lovre 5 (Butterfield 86, -),Devaney 5 (Hume 46, 6), Colace 7, Gray 6
Subs Not Used: Preece, Dickinsone, Boulding, Potter
Booked: Foster (foul, penalty concession), McEveley (professional foul)
Barnsley 0 QPR 1, Tuesday April 12, 2011, Championship
Things were very different by the time the two teams met again in April. QPR eventually built a 19 match unbeaten run at the start of the season and had led the division pretty much since day one, but a 4-1 defeat at lowly Scunthorpe on the Saturday before a trip to Oakwell hinted at a few jitters starting to set in. When Adel Taarabt scored a fine first from long range in the very first minute of the game all seemed well with the world, but the match turned into a backs to the wall effort from that point on with Kaspars Gorkss particularly impressive in the face of 89 minutes of Barnsley attacking and a truly horrific display from match referee Tony Bates. Barnsley hit the post twice, including once through Jacob Butterfield from long range in injury time at the end of the game, and had two very decent penalty appeals for handball waved away.
Barnsley: Steele 6, Trippier 7, McShane 5, Shackell 7, Hill 6 (McEveley 77, 5), Mellis 6 (Clark 77, 6), Doyle 6, Butterfield 7, Haynes 6, Harewood 5, Gray 6 (Noble-Lazarus 82, -)
Subs Not Used: Preece, Foster, Arismendi, O'Brien
Booked: Butterfield (foul)
QPR: Kenny 7, Orr 7, Gorkss 8, Connolly 7, Hill 7, Derry 6, Faurlin 6, Routledge 6, Taarabt 6 (Ephraim 69, 6), Smith 6, Helguson 7
Subs Not Used: Cerny, Buzsaky, Agyemang, Hulse, Miller, Shittu
Booked: Taarabt (foul/reaction)
Goals: Taarabt 1 (assisted Routledge)
Head to Head >>> Barnsley wins 17 >>> Draws 11 >>> QPR wins 28
2019/20 QPR 0 Barnsley 1
2019/20 Barnsley 5 QPR 3 (Amos 2, Chair)
2017/18 QPR 1 Barnsley 0 (Scowen)
2017/18 Barnsley 1 QPR 1 (Freeman)
2016/17 QPR 2 Barnsley 1 (Sylla, MacDonald og)
2016/17 Barnsley 3 QPR 2 (Chery, Polter)
2013/14 Barnsley 2 QPR 3 (Austin, Mvoto og, Suk Young)
2013/14 QPR 2 Barnsley 0 (Austin 2)
2010/11 Barnsley 0 QPR 1 (Taarabt)
2010/11 QPR 4 Barnsley 0 (Helguson, Mackie, Taarabt, Hall)
2009/10 Barnsley 0 QPR 1 (Leigertwood)
2009/10 QPR 5 Barnsley 2 (Buzsaky 2, Leigertwood, Watson, Simpson)
2008/09 Barnsley 2 QPR 1 (Delaney)
2008/09 QPR 2 Barnsley 1 (Hall 2)
2007/08 Barnsley 0 QPR 0
2007/08 QPR 2 Barnsley 0 (Vine, Agyemang)
2006/07 Barnsley 2 QPR 0
2006/07 QPR 1 Barnsley 0 (Rowlands)
2003/04 Barnsley 3 QPR 3 (Furlong 2, Kay og)
2003/04 QPR 4 Barnsley 0 (Gallen, Rowlands, Ainsworth, Thorpe)
2002/03 QPR 1 Barnsley 0 (Pacquette)
2002/03 Barnsley 1 QPR 0
2000/01 QPR 2 Barnsley 0 (Kiwomya, Crouch)
2000/01 Barnsley 4 QPR 2 (Kiwomya 2)
1999/00 Barnsley 1 QPR 1 (Rose)
1999/00 QPR 2 Barnsley 2 (Darlington, Steiner)
1998/99 Barnsley 1 QPR 0
1998/99 QPR 2 Barnsley 1 (Langley,Gallen)
1996/97 QPR 3 Barnsley 2* (Peacock, Spencer, Sinclair)
1996/97 QPR 3 Barnsley 1 (Spencer 3)
1996/97 Barnsley 1 QPR 3 (Barker, Perry, Dichio)
1982/83 QPR 3 Barnsley 0 (Gregory, Sealy, Flanagan)
1982/83 Barnsley 0 QPR 1 (Allen)
1981/82 Barnsley 3 QPR 0
1981/82 QPR 1 Barnsley 0 (Flanagan)
1964/65 QPR 3 Barnsley 2 (Bedford 3)
1964/65 Barnsley 0 QPR 0
1963/64 QPR 2 Barnsley 2 (Bedford 2)
1963/64 Barnsley 3 QPR 1 (Bedford)
1962/63 Barnsley 0 QPR 0
1962/63 QPR 2 Barnsley 1 (Large 2)
1961/62 QPR 3 Barnsley 0 (Bedford, Keen, Evans)
1961/62 Barnsley 2 QPR 4 (Bedford, Angell, Towers, Evans)
1960/61 QPR 4 Barnsley 2 (Bedford, Andrews, Evans, Keen)
1960/61 Barnsley 3 QPR 3 (Whitfield 2, Bedford)
1959/60 QPR 1 Barnsley 0 (Andrews)
1959/60 Barnsley 2 QPR 1 (Bedford)
1951/52 QPR 1 Barnsley 1 (Smith)
1951/52 Barnsley 3 QPR 1 (Hatton)
1950/51 QPR 2 Barnsley 1 (Waugh, Smith)
1950/51 Barnsley 7 QPR 0
1949/50 QPR 0 Barnsley 5
1949/50 Barnsley 3 QPR 1 (Addinall)
1948/49 Barnsley 4 QPR 0
1948/49 QPR 2 Barnsley 2 (Addinall 2)
1909/10 Barnsley 1 QPR 0*
* - FA Cup
Mike Sheron >>> QPR 1997-1999 >>> Barnsley 1999-2003
After relegation in 1996, QPR’s attempt to bounce back to the Premier League at the first attempt had fallen flat. Under the new ownership of multi-millionaire Chris Wright they’d held onto their star attraction Trevor Sinclair despite dipping out of the top flight, and supplemented him with big money purchases John Spencer and Gavin Peacock from Chelsea who both hit the ground running in W12. But the controversial early season departure of player manager Ray Wilkins, dithering on squad improvements when money was available by his replacement Stewart Houston, and the uneasy dynamic created by Houston bringing his former Arsenal boss Bruce Rioch across with him in a role reversal as assistant meant a talented Rangers team could only finish eighth in the First Division. A gross underachievement for the talent available.
The pressure was on Houston and Rioch to secure promotion in their first full season in charge, and by and large they turned to their former Highbury stable to do it. Matthew Rose and Lee Harper both moved from North London while Steve Morrow joined towards the end of the previous season, controversially replacing 20-year club veteran Alan McDonald who was denied a chance to finish his career as a one club man and instead, disgracefully, was allowed to join Swindon Town on a free transfer. The big target of the summer, however, was Stoke City striker Mike Sheron, a player Houston felt would guarantee promotion if added to a forward line that had lost Danny Dichio at the end of his contract but still included the prolific Spencer and a returning Kevin Gallen who’d missed almost all of the previous campaign with a knee ligament explosion sustained while scoring a late August winner at Portsmouth live on Sky.
It was, in hindsight, an early example of QPR chasing a bright, shiny flavour of the month against all logic. Sheron was a decent player. He’d had four years in the top flight with Man City after graduating from trainee status, making 98 starts and 24 sub appearances in Sky Blue. Fellow top flight outfit Norwich City paid £1m for him in 1994 and another 38 appearances came for the Carrow Road outfit before a half million pound switch to Stoke in the First Division in 1995. He was, however, never a particularly prolific scorer of goals. His 122 outings for City brought 29, one every four and a bit games, or 11.5 goals in a standard 46-game league season. He got seven in his single season at Norwich, one every five and a bit games, just over nine if averaged out across 46 matches.
It was only at Stoke, and more specifically only the 1996/97 season at Stoke, and more specifically still only the first half of the 1996/97 season at Stoke, that he hit a particular purple patch. He scored 23 goals in 46 appearances that season, way above any previous average he’d managed and his total by the time he left the Potteries was 39 goals in 72 starts and five sub appearances. A big chunk of all of that, however, came in the first few months of that First Division season. He scored six in his first five games, ten in his first ten, and by Boxing Day when he scored the only goal in a 1-0 win against Barnsley he was already on 18 for the season. In the second half of the campaign, immediately prior to joining QPR, he bagged five in 20 games, which was the sort of form he’d displayed throughout his entire career prior.
Nevertheless, he was Houston’s man, and Stoke were able to extract a club record fee of £2.35m for his services from the newly monied Rangers. By way of comparison, across London that same summer, Charlton Athletic paid just £700,000 to Grimsby Town for another First Division striker Clive Mendonca. He’d been prolific for years, scoring 31 goals in 84 starts for Rotherham before bagging 66 in 181 starts and six sub apps in Grimsby colours. From 1992 to 1997 Mendonca had shown himself a player capable of consistently maintaining an average better than a goal every three appearances in the second tier. Charlton would go on to win promotion to the Premier League in the 1997/98 season, Mendonca scored 28 times in 46 appearances including a hat trick in the play-off final victory against Sunderland.
QPR, meanwhile, began to crash and burn. It started well for Houston in 1997/98, with four straight wins through September culminating in a midweek home victory against Portsmouth which put the R’s second in the table. But they won one of the next nine and two of the next 14 and Houston was dismissed. The early pace setters that year were West Brom, but their manager Ray Harford was not tied down to a long term contract and, like Houston before him, couldn’t believe that a team with Gallen, Spencer and Sheron to pick from up front couldn’t win promotion from the First Division. He’d promised Nick Blackburn and the QPR board as much after the Baggies’ 2-0 defeat at Loftus Road in September and talked himself into the hotseat in West London once the vacancy arose. A Valentines Day return to the Hawthorns for a 1-1 draw later that season won’t be quickly forgotten by any Rangers fan who ran the gauntlet that day.
It was becoming clear that QPR were working themselves into trouble. The early splurge, and a succession of enormous contracts handed out to promising academy graduates like Mario Lusardi and Michael Currie, hamstrung the club financially. Things unravelled so fast that when Mark Kennedy arrived on loan from Liverpool later that year and transformed the team, the club couldn’t afford to pay the £1m to keep him permanently at the end of the month-long loan spell. Harford scratched around for signings like Tony Scully, George Kulscar and Ian Barraclough, and the team went into a deep nose dive. It stayed up on draws. From a 2-0 loss at Port Vale on September 27, QPR won only four more games all season out of 40 league and cup games. With Vinnie Jones and Neil Ruddock drafted in late, they secured survival with six consecutive draws through March and April culminating in the dramatic Jamie Pollock 2-2 which sent City down instead. A 5-0 win against Middlesbrough, 11 games out from the end of the season, proved to be the final win that term.
Sheron scored against Boro and City. He also bagged two late goals to drag Rangers back from 2-0 down to draw a televised Good Friday clash at high flying Sunderland. He was seen as a failure, an expensive flop who struggled to cope with the pressure of the price tag and what was expected of him, but in actual fact his final total of 11 goals in 41 games (playing in a dreadful team) was exactly what we should have expected from him looking across his career stats. He’d been that sort of Dexter Blackstock-type dozen-goals-a-season man for the first seven years of his career, had one purple patch at Stoke, and was now back to scoring 11 times a season again.
In another year of struggle for Rangers in 1998/99 he started sluggishly, came reasonably good around November with seven goals in 14 games, and was then sold for a reported fee of £1.5m and a considerable financial loss to Barnsley in January where he scored twice in 17 appearances through to the end of the season. In 1998/99, from 44 league and cup appearances for two second tier clubs, Mike Sheron scored, you’ve guessed it, 11 times.
And so that average continued. He stayed with Barnsley for four years, making 172 appearances and scoring 40 goals (a goal every 4.3 games, 10.6 goals in a 46 game season). He spent the 2003/04 season in the Second Division at Blackpool, making a debut at Loftus Road in sweltering conditions on the opening day when the Tangerines (ill-advisedly wearing all-black in 100 degrees) were beaten 5-0 by Ian Holloway’s promotion-bound R’s. Despite not scoring at all in his first 18 games for Steve McMahon’s side, Mike Sheron finished that season with 50 appearances to his name. And 11 goals.
The 2004/05 campaign was spent a division lower with Macclesfield where 40 outings yielded… six goals. God you’ve no idea how much I wanted that to be 11 as well. The point stands though. Sheron isn’t fondly remembered at Loftus Road, was seen as an expensive mistake, lamented as our last role of the big-money dice before the financial walls closed in on the club, and is viewed as somebody who under performed and let us down somehow. The simple, mathematical fact is QPR bought a 10-12 goal a season striker in Mike Sheron and that’s exactly what he turned out to be for them, and three other clubs after us. We’d been blinded by a hot streak at Stoke into thinking he was something else, a mistake we’d be destined to repeat more than a decade later with Peterborough;s Conor Washington.
Sheron finished his playing career with brief stints at Shrewsbury and Warrington Town, and is now coaching in the youth set up at Blackburn Rovers.
Others >>> Josh Scowen, QPR 2017-2020, Barnsley 2015-2017 >>> Cole Kpekawa, Barnsley 2016-2017, QPR 2014-2016 >>> Peter Ramage, Barnsley (loan) 2014-2015, (loan) 2013, QPR 2008-2012 >>> Martin Cranie, Barnsley 2012-2015, QPR (loan) 2007 >>> Neil Warnock, QPR (manager) 2010-2012, Barnsley 1976-1978 >>> Akos Buszaky, Barnsley (loan) 2012, QPR 2008-2012 >>> Matt Hill, Barnsley 2010-2011, QPR (loan) 2010 >>> Tommy Williams, QPR (loan) 2009, (loan) 2002-2003, Barnsley 2004-2005 >>> Jamie Cureton, Barnsley (loan) 2008-2009, QPR 2004-2005 >>> Chris Barker, QPR 2007-2008, Barnsley 1999-2002 >>> Leon Knight, Barnsley 2006-2007, QPR (loan) 2001 >>> Daniel Nardiello, Barnsley 2005-2007, (loan) 2008, QPR 2007-2008 >>> John Curtis, Barnsley (loan) 1999-2000, QPR 2007 >>> Kevin Gallen, QPR 2001-2007, 1994-2000, Barnsley 2001 >>> Nigel Spackman, Barnsley (manager) 2001, QPR 1989 >>> Ian Evans, Barnsley 1979-1983, QPR 1970-1974 >>> Peter Springett, Barnsley 1975-1980, QPR 1962-1967
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