|Norwich City 1 v 1 Queens Park Rangers|
Tuesday, 29th December 2020 Kick-off 19:45
Been here before - Preview
Tuesday, 29th Dec 2020 12:04 by Clive Whittingham
QPR, with manager Mark Warburton coming under heavy fire, head to league leaders Norwich, where last they were beaten 4-0 by a Premier League bound side while under the caretaker stewardship of John Eustace.
Norwich (13-4-4, WWWWWL, 1st) v QPR (4-8-9, LDLDDL, 19th)
Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Tuesday December 29, 2020 >>> Kick off 19.45 >>> Weather – Freezing, windy >>> Carrow Road, Norwich
At Wycombe it was Jacqui Oatley referring to Gareth Ainsworth as the “QPR manager” in the post match press call. After Swansea it was director of football Les Ferdinand and CEO Lee Hoos pointedly remaining in the director’s box after the final whistle, exchanging glances at each other’s phones in full view of the television cameras (which they’ll have been well aware of). It’s just starting to feel like the departure of Mark Warburton is an inevitable ‘when’ rather than a speculative ‘if’.
Had the white smoke drifted over the White City on Saturday night, as felt certain after exactly the sort of forlorn end-of-days performance from the team we’ve become accustomed to in such circumstances, then it would have almost certainly plunged John Eustace back into caretaker charge, just as he was the last time we visited Norwich City in early April 2019. It wouldn’t have been the only spooky coincidence around tonight’s trip to Carrow Road.
Back then, QPR had just dismissed Steve McClaren after a run of no wins in five, one win in 11 and three wins in 19. Warbs Warburton is no wins in eight, one win in 11, and three wins in 19. Norwich, meanwhile, were top of the Championship and heading back to the Premier League, coming into the game on a seven-match winning run. This time, they’re top of the Championship and heading back to the Premier League, coming into the game on a five-match winning run prior to their Boxing Day loss at Watford.
Let me treat you to some lines from our match preview intro to that game….
“Norwich’s has been a triumph of doing everything QPR say they’d like to do in the way it’s meant to be done. A clear and simple management structure. A sporting director overseeing the football side of the club delivering one clear and consistent message, and being allowed to appoint his choice as manager to deliver it on the field. A manager brought in through a proper, thorough, recruitment process as the best man for this particular job, and given a very clear remit which has been stuck to through difficult times. A scouting operation and player recruitment mission that doesn’t change for each transfer window and each manager - Norwich will be buying these types of players, in this age range, from these markets, and they’ll be sticking to it even if it doesn’t seem to be working at first, even if results are poor for a while. They’ve set a clear course where everybody knows their job and they’ve stuck to it. They’re out ahead of the league’s big spenders while operating at a profit in the transfer market, selling the Murphy brothers and James Maddison for big money while putting the team that will likely destroy us tomorrow together for a relative pittance.
“Here we are at QPR, having sacked one manager fulfilling the remit he was given to bring in another who immediately abandoned his, who we’ve now fired as well, waiting to see if various out-of-work managers you’ve all heard of, who have all failed miserably elsewhere, fancy doing us a favour and taking our job on. Nobody knows if it’s Les Ferdinand, Lee Hoos, Tony Fernandes and/or Amit Bhatia doing the picking, nor which of them has just done the firing. The recruitment process seems to be revolving around who’s available, who we’ve heard of, and who would want it, rather than who we might want, or what remit they might be given, or how we see ourselves and our team next season, or who interviews well. The plan in sacking Steve McClaren on Monday doesn’t seem to stretch much beyond we don’t want Steve McClaren as manager any more. Who we do want? Pah. Never mind that. Here’s a course with some chest hair.
“Can you imagine QPR being able to pick out an innovative coach from within the German game? As Norwich did. As Huddersfield did. As fucking Barnsley did? Can you imagine us being one of those clubs like Swansea when Huw Jenkins was on top of his game, or West Brom when Dan Ashworth was running the show, constantly scouting for managers that fit the remit and style of play they wanted, so if they did lose the one they already had they had a list of those they wanted ready to go and the transition was swift and seamless? Nah, we bounce from spending gazillions of pounds under Harry Redknapp to giving Chris Ramsey the academy coach the job. Then we go from trying to buy bargains from lower European divisions under Jimmy Floyd Hasselaink to not really liking foreign players very much at all under Ian Holloway. Then we go from starting to get some of the kids in the team under Holloway to going out and spending big money borrowing 30+ year old Premier League nearly men under Steve McClaren. It’s mental. Mental.”
Getting on for two years ago that. There’s been another change of manager, and at least two switches in recruitment strategy since then. The initial pitch under Mark Warburton was that we could be a place, like Swansea, where Premier League clubs send their kids on loan, and we brought in Matt Smith from Man City, Jack Clarke and Luke Amos from Spurs, and went hot and heavy for Eddie Nketiah from Arsenal. One year on there isn’t a single loan player in the squad.
I write this stuff until I’m blue in the finger tips, but the manager is not the main problem at QPR. He may annoy you with his team selections, substitutions and post match comments, but Steve McClaren, Ian Holloway, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Chris Ramsay and Harry Redknapp annoyed you with their team selections, substitutions and post match comments as well. All were sacked, all were replaced, and all their replacements were sacked, and the results never got better. They didn’t even get better short term, by way of new manager bounce - Warbs two wins in first seven, Schteve lost first four league games conceding 13 goals, Holloway won one and lost six of first seven, Hasselbaink no win in first eight, Ramsay one win then five straight defeats, Redknapp one win in seven, Hughes one win in nine.
The pressures on the balance sheet caused by the tiny old stadium, the ancient rented training ground, the average attendances, the added London costs and so on, in an era of FFP make getting QPR out of this predicament difficult enough. We now pay a wage bill in the bottom five in the Championship, and are in the bottom five of the Championship as a result. It needs some exceptionally clever thinking and skilful management, of the team, the recruitment and the club, to get us out of here, but it is possible and has been done – Brentford, Burnley, Barnsley, Bristol City, some other teams not beginning with B as well. While we continue to sack the manager as often as we do, replacing him with somebody of an entirely different style from a list of the usual suspects, switching the recruitment strategy from window to window, having this huge turnover of players every year to suit whichever manager and recruitment strategy is flavour of that window, we will keep ending up back here.
We all know what the score was last time as well…
Links >>> Norwich on course – Interview >>> Bruno’s knockout – History >>> Langford in charge – Referee >>> Norwich Official Website >>> The Pink ‘Un – Local Press and Forum >>> Eastern Daily Press – Local Press >>> My Football Writer - Norwich City >>> Along Come Norwich - Blog
Geoff Cameron Facts No.123 In The Series – At Geoff Cameron’s house the peanut bowl is freshened hourly.
Below the fold
Team News: QPR continue to present a relatively clean bill of health with Luke Amos and Charlie Owens the long term absentees, Osman Kakay on the short term list and Lee Wallace isolating in the vulnerable elderly demographic. Warbs Warburton switched to a back three with wing backs for the weekend defeat to Swansea but hinted at a return to the 4-2-3-1 for this tough trip away to the league leaders.
Norwich signed a full 11 players in the summer transfer window and that’s proved a prescient move as injuries have bitten into their squad harder than most so far this season. That crisis is starting to ease now though with Lukas Rupp (stubbed his toe on the end of the bed), Ben Gibson (stepped on a Lego brick), Kieran Dowell (incident with a set of hair straighteners) and Xavi Quintilla (bite marks after being mistaken for a Mexican dish) all returning recently and goalkeeper Tim Krul apparently in line for his first start since a 3-2 win at Stoke back in November. Spurs loanee Oliver Skipp has double booked himself with a Niles Crane look-a-like contest across town and is a doubt.
Elsewhere: One win, four draws, five defeats, and a missed November pay roll later and the Tony Pulis revolution is over at Sheffield Blue Stripes. Failure to read the room while talking about the need to spend money in January (they’re not paying the players you’ve already got Tone) put him on thin ice, although chairman Dejphon Chansiri’s insistence last night that “the performances have not been at the level expected since Tony Pulis took over” would strongly suggest he’s actually got no idea who Tony Pulis is. Still, goodnight sweet prince, too beautiful for this cruel new world, sacked just before his date on the Thirteenth Annual Neil Warnock Farewell Tour this evening.
Plague counts for the postponement of Millwall Scholars at home to Watford, and seven fixtures in League One, making that decision to start the season without a firm vote on what we would do if it had to be suspended again look shrewder by the day. Rotherham, however, say they are being forced to take the field tonight against Barnsley, despite several players testing positive and others having to isolate, under the threat of a points deduction. Manager Paul Warne expects to name just four subs. What could possibly go wrong?
‘Awww isn’t that nice, good old Wycombe, what an achievement, love Gareth Ainsworth, hope they do well’ is quickly turning into ‘we could do with those grubby long ball merchants getting beat here’ for people of a QPR persuasion – Cardiff carry our hopes and dreams at Adams Park tonight. Huddersfield v Blackburn, Luton v Bristol City and Preston Knob End v Coventry are also football matches that are happening.
Birmingham 0-0 Derby County.
Four of Norwich’s nearest rivals at the top of the table all meet in two matches tomorrow night. Second placed Swanselona are at home to Reading while Justice League leaders Spartak Hounslow will almost certainly be the best team Bournemouth have played all season.
And of course we wish Nottingham Florist’s super slim-line squad of 780 safe travels on their way across to Stoke.
Referee: Oliver Langford, last seen awarding us a penalty while waving away Rotherham’s appeals for one of their own, is the man in the middle for this one. Been to nearly as many QPR games as me this bloke. Details.
Norwich: The Canaries have won 12 and drawn three of their last 17 games. The 1-0 loss at fellow high flyers Watford on Boxing Day snapped a run of five successive league wins (four 2-1s and a 2-0) which is more than QPR have managed all season and leaves Norwich four points clear of Swansea at the top of the table as we approach the halfway point of the season. Like Swansea, they haven’t tended to give anybody a hiding to this point, scoring three goals in a game on only two occasions and not at all in the last eight fixtures. After three clean sheets in a row through November they’ve only recorded one shut out in the last nine matches as well. Six of their 13 wins this season have been 2-1. Bournemouth, Brentford, Reading and Blackburn have all scored more than Norwich’s 29, while Swansea, Bournemouth, Watford and Boro have all conceded fewer than their 19. Daniel Farke’s team have scored nine times in the final ten minutes of games this year, winning them an extra 15 points without which they’d currently be level with Huddersfield in fourteenth. They have converted five penalties this season from four different takers (Hugill v Rotherham, Pukki v Boro and Reading, Buendia v Luton and Vrancic v Coventry). Jordan Hugill hs made four league starts, ten sub appearances, and scored once.
QPR: It’s now eight games without a win for QPR since the 3-2 success against Rotherham, eclipsing the seven match winless runs between September 18 and October 27 this season and October 22 and November 30 last season. The last time QPR went eight without a win was December 12-January 12 2015/16 at the start of the Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink era, and they haven’t gone nine without success since the final nine matches of the 2012/13 Premier League relegation year. QPR have won four times this season, in 22 games. The wins they have managed, bar the opening day against hapless Forest, have been traumatic affairs, with comfortable leads almost blown against poor Cardiff and Rotherham sides, and a last-minute winner in a conveniently timed fixture at Derby just as they were at their lowest ebb and trying to get Phillip Cocu the sack. That is their only away win 11 league and cup road trips. Going further back, it’s six wins in 31, and nine in 44. That’s relegation form, and QPR have been in it for almost exactly a full calendar year now, since the memorable 1-0 win against Leeds at Loftus Road on January 18. Rangers have lost their last three visits to Norwich, conceding ten and scoring none, including two 4-0 defeats. Since Devon White’s late 4-3 winner here in 1993/94 Rangers have won just one of 16 visits, losing 12 and conceding four goals on four separate occasions. Norwich have scored 33 goals across those 16 fixtures, more than two a game on average.
“This trip - about as welcome as the Prime Minister's Christmas Eve 'miracle' - was always going to be a steep challenge at the best of times. Norwich look like they mean business in returning to the Premier League this year, and even at my most optimistic I can't see us providing much resistance against a stronger, well drilled and consistent side. A miserable end to an awful year.”
Mase’s Prediction: Norwich 3-0 QPR. No scorer.
LFW’s Prediction: Norwich 4-0 QPR. No scorer.
The Twitter/Instagram @loftforwords
Pictures – Action Images
Please report offensive, libellous or inappropriate posts by using the links provided.
You need to login in order to post your comments
Blogs 31 bloggers
Letters from Wiltshire #26 by wessex_exile
Well, after a piss-poor Xmas period so far for the U’s, culminating in the Roots Hall horror show on Boxing Day, let’s hope the U’s have burned off those festive calories and are raring to go. They’ll certainly have to be at their best against a Cheltenham side aiming to force their way into the automatic promotion places. In other news, we now finally have confirmation that there will be a trade deal in place with the EU once Brexit arrives in 2021. It remains to be seen whether it’s a good deal or not, and more to the point, who for, but at least it’s not the economic uncertainty of no-deal.
Letters from Wiltshire #25 by wessex_exile
A little earlier than usual, but as we approach the end of what has been a most difficult year for everyone, I’ll keep the introductory editorial brief, as I’m sure you will all be very busy in the coming days rescuing what you can from this pandemic-ravaged festive period. I simply wish you all peace on earth, goodwill to all (yes, even our South Essex cousins), and here’s to a happy, prosperous and most importantly healthy 2021 for us all.
Letters from Wiltshire #24 by wessex_exile
Welcome to our last match before Christmas. With South Essex going into Tier 3, by the time we take to the pitch at Roots Hall, it’ll be another behind-closed-doors match. With the Tier 3 boundary creeping inexorably closer, one wonders how long the JobServe will hold out and still be able to allow fans to attend. Robbie is doing all he can to make it possible for supporters to attend, and I confess I’m seriously considering our January 2nd match against Tranmere. In other news, I’m relieved to read that the FA will not take disciplinary action against Colchester United after a shameful minority chose to boo players and officials taking the knee, in the words of the EFL “as they highlight the inequality and injustice experienced by the Black Community”. I noticed a tiny minority chose to boo at our mid-week match at the Abbey Stadium, but I was pleased to hear they were immediately drowned out by the remainder of the 2,000 cheering and applauding. I admit I’m a little anxious about today…
Letters from Wiltshire #23 by wessex_exile
As I’ve been providing updates on the ongoing US presidential election, it is worth mentioning that the Electoral College votes have now been cast, which formally confirms Biden as the new President-elect. Normally a formality, as the losing candidate has usually long-since conceded defeat, but these are far from normal times, and America has far from a normal lame-duck President. Still, at least the threat of members of the Electoral College ignoring the popular vote in favour of an outcome demanded by Trump has failed to materialise. In the UK, new Covid tiers were announced this week, with London going into Tier 3. Colchester stays in Tier 2, but only just, with as far north east as Maldon, Braintree and Chelmsford also moving into Tier 3 – and as if you need reminding, Tier 3 means no supporters at matches.
Letters from Wiltshire #22 by wessex_exile
Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat…hence I’m a bit late today, following the inevitable Christmas tree hunt – the decorating will have to wait until later I reckon. In the news, despite my confident assurance several weeks ago that Trump appeared to be grudgingly starting to accept that he had lost the US presidency election, he’s since doubled-down on his baseless accusations of election fraud – without obviously providing a single shred of evidence to back it up (and how could he, there isn’t any). His latest apoplectic tirade, just today, follows the Supreme Court telling Texas just where they can stick their egregious lawsuit demanding that Biden’s victories in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Georgia be thrown out in favour of Trump. From a global perspective, it is deeply troubling that no less than 126 republican congressional representatives signed an amicus brief supporting the challenge. Trump will leave the White House in January, but they will stay at the heart of the US government, and I don’t think that’s good news for democracy, nor even the rest of the world. Ho hum…
Queens Park Rangers Polls