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Norwich City 1 v 1 Queens Park Rangers
SkyBet Championship
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.
“We say it all the time when Brentford tear us a new arse: team and club with plan will always beat the one without one in the end.

“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.

Form

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.


Prediction: We’re indebted to The Art of Football for once again agreeing to sponsor our Prediction League and provide prizes. You can get involved by lodging your prediction here or sample the merch from our sponsor’s QPR collection here. Congratulations OxheyR for leading the league at Christmas, qualifying him for our first prize give away of the season. Last season’s champion Mase, sadly spot on v Swansea, offers us this…

“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.

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stneotsbloke added 13:20 - Dec 29
Little doubt that the recruitment has been poor but let's not forget that c.£5 million has been spent on Dykes, Bone, Kelman, Dickie and Willock. Hve to wonder whose decidio it was to but those players, Warbs, the Board or a stir the pot mix of all three.
Les and Lee aren't blind, they know as well of the rest of us that we're sinking so fast and we're in a real relegation battle. To have any chance we must use the January window to strengthen with players who are proven fighters and, crucially, fully fit to go straight into the team.
As for Warbs. I agree that changing managers may not be the answer but we're clearly fast approaching stick or twist time.
As an aside.
If we keep BOS until the end of the season we can apparently get compensation for him when he does leave for nothing. Where does the compo money come from and how much is it ?.

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tomers added 13:26 - Dec 29
I strongly believe we should stick with Warburton. They are his players (on a low budget). As you say changing the manager is no guarantee of success. I like him. We have an attractive style of play. We often dominate games. We’ve been unlucky. Didn’t Don Howe lose 8 in a row once and then things worked out. Losing games can obviously cause a negative spiral in moral and back biting but we need to ride it out. One or two new players in the coming window could be crucial. We are lacking in confidence in the final third. Things need addressing but we should keep faith in Warbs and we’ll be stronger in the long run.
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E15Hoop added 13:32 - Dec 29
Leonid Slutsky looks just like my Dad! Thankfully, I look just like my Mum (minus the 36B boobs, thankfully..)

I feel much more comfortable sharing this deeply personal information with you all than actually talking about this f*cking game.. I think I'm morphing into Clive..
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WokingR added 13:44 - Dec 29
In which case can you tell us a little more about your mum ?
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E15Hoop added 13:55 - Dec 29
Haha! She was a beautiful pint-sized platinum blonde. Would love to have fixed you up, Woking, but sadly she died young of liver cancer..

Would have been her 78th birthday today, as it happens - RIP..
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SimonJames added 14:36 - Dec 29
"... A sporting director overseeing the football side of the club delivering one clear and consistent message...".
Is Sir Les' job to ensure an improvement in the football? And if so, to what extent has he succeeded since he was appointed?
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gigiisourgod added 14:56 - Dec 29
At least we won’t be getting pumped in pink
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Patrick added 15:37 - Dec 29
Well the jury is certainly out. A few thoughts:
*Few recent managers have been able to select a crew as Warbs has. This is Warburton's squad. What they do, he owns.
*The stat about losing more home games than winning is really damaging.
*We scored goals for fun last season which made up for a shocking defence. The defence is still shocking but we can't buy a goal. That's not a happy combination.
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TacticalR added 18:01 - Dec 29
Thanks for your preview.

Unfortunate that we have to play the team in first place after playing the team in second (Swansea). Unfortunate that it feels like we haven't learnt much since you last wrote your Norwich preview in 2019.

If we're going to improve we'll have to do it in incremental steps, because we just didn't have the quality where it mattered against Swansea.

Somebody needs to pay close attention to Buendia and not let him roam free on the edge of the box.
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Burnleyhoop added 18:02 - Dec 29
As horrific as the stats are, we need to stick with Warburton until at least the end of Jan. We are likely to get a good tonking tonight which will no doubt bring the usual crew screaming for blood, but, with a few shrewd additions in January and some “winnable” games to come, the picture could look completely different in six weeks time. If nothing changes, he deserves the bullet.
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Jules4367 added 18:36 - Dec 30
Whichever manager we have he/she will not prevent the R's letting in a goal within 5 minutes of the start or end of either half. That is wholly on the players and their mental attitude, awareness and concentration. How many times have I heard someone take the words out of my mouth by shouting 'wake up Rangers!' How many times do we have to watch the players (whomever they are) not having the mental awareness and or alertness to fight from the kick off to the final whistle of each half? You know the goal is coming, don't you?! I know its coming, whoever the manager is knows its coming, the board know its coming, the press know, Jeff Stelling knows and- here is the point - the OTHER TEAM KNOWS!!
The only one's who put their hands to their heads as the instinctive sign of surprise and the Ranger's players which body language translates as either 'How the heck did that happen' or ' Crikey, it has happened again!' - but it is definitely a surprise to them.

Unfortunately the weak mental mindset doesn't only affect the defenders. Concentration by the strikers and midfield is also lacking. The commentators always comment, there is time left for one last chance - ONE LAST CHANCE and anyone with mental capacity whose job each week - what they are paid for - is to ensure that the ball goes into the goal MUST be alert for that opportunity and stay focused. Good strikers do this, knowing that they can relax once they have done their job.
So, in my opinion, it is not the manager who sends the team to sleep - it is the players.

If I mess up in my job - I am accountable. If I am not doing something correctly, missing targets, etc i have to practice or retrain until I can hot my targets and do my job- without fail.

When do you see or hear the players being accountable ? I kicked the ball over the bar when all I needed to do was to do my job and what I am paid to do! So I am going to go out there every day and work harder- but more so I am going to stay alert.

If I don't do my job correctly and let a goal in either and or at the start and or end of either half- I am going to hold myself accountable and donate 25% of my wages for that week to the NHS or a local school and be professionally accountable for my actions!.

If I miss a sitter or cross a ball that no one has any chance of connecting with, within the last 5 minutes of either half then I haven't done my job well and I shall consider myself accountable and will practise in my own time until I get it right and will not accept full payment for my job as I haven't done what I was paid to do!

No- its not the manager !!!

In closing, back in the mid 60's and early 70's five minutes before the end of the game, the lights would be switched on in the old stand opposite the mudbank and a roar of encouragement would go around the ground as if to wake the team up and warn them or spur them on- strangely this often worked!

Keep Warburton but make players accountable and ensure that they are alert at the kick off and five minutes from the end!








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