|Queens Park Rangers 1 v 0 Wycombe Wanderers|
Tuesday, 9th March 2021 Kick-off 19:00
Daring to look ahead - Preview
Tuesday, 9th Mar 2021 11:54 by Clive Whittingham
The best performance of the season, with our young technical players to the fore, has lifted the mood for Wycombe tonight, and next season as a whole. But with this club, and this country, we know where optimism usually gets us.
QPR (11-10-12 WWDLLW 16th) v Wycombe (5-8-21 LDWLLL 24th)
Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Tuesday March 9, 2021 >>> Kick Off 19.00 >>> Weather – Bright but cold >>> Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium, Loftus Road, London, W12
Bar a couple of false starts with tiny, limited crowds in December, it is now a full year since we were all together at QPR matches.
A 2-2 draw with Birmingham, and post-match drink up with our good friends from St Andrew’s, turning only briefly to wave goodbye to Gerry the landlord and the other late night stragglers in the Crown and Sceptre, fully expecting to be back the following week for Barnsley. A subsequent 3-1 away win at Preston passed up in favour of a long-promised weekend in Bath (stupid, stupid weekend in Bath). And then… nothing. A dozen tickets for Charlton away on the Tuesday, with all the associated afternoon of festivities in London Bridge that went with it, remain pinned to our kitchen noticeboard, from where we still cannot quite bring ourselves to take them down. If you’d told me then that I wouldn’t be back in the Crown for months, wouldn’t be back at the football for a year, and Gerry and others wouldn’t be there with us on the other side of it, I’d have looked at you gone out. No hyperbole and clever similes here, I simply wouldn’t have fucking believed you.
I’m always wary of writing about me and the pandemic, football and the pandemic, politics and the pandemic on here. All of us are living the pandemic every day, at every turn, on every television channel, every trip to the supermarket – more Covid-19 content is not required. I’ve stayed healthy, as have all my family and friends, and quite a lot of lockdown life suits somebody who was working themselves into an early grave, and struggles in social situations with new people. More than 100,000 people are dead, you guys reading this may know somebody, who the fuck cares about football, and whether we’re able to go to it, and what I think of it all, in the grand scheme of things? And the political situation in this country is now so polarised that Boris Johnson could literally come round to your house and shit in your gob, and some of you would still tell me it didn’t taste “that bad” and certainly no worse than the much bigger shit the other side would do given half the chance. Consequently I delete the political message board threads, try not to bring it into these articles, and feel the need to almost publish this disclaimer paragraph whenever I venture near lockdown as a topic.
For me, one of the worst parts of the last 12 months has been the false hope. I still remember thinking we might be able to squeeze in that Charlton trip, and making pub plans on the WhatsApp group, right up until the moment we weren’t, and there have been so many moments like that. The dithering and fudging of big decisions has made the lockdowns harder and longer when they have come, building up some hope that you might be able to get some freedom back, only to then take them away for longer adding disappointment to the catalogue of emotions. That, rather scandalous, month where we were literally paid to go to the pub, and restaurants, and into the city, only served to feed an enormous second wave that has cost many lives and will have seen us locked in our homes for the thick end of six months straight by the time it’s over – assuming it is this time. All the frankly fucking ludicrous rules about being able to go to the pub, but now only in a group of six, and now only if you order a substantial meal, and now only with people from your house, and now only if you have table service, and now only for two hours, and now only if you sit in the garden, and now, once more, not at all. The farcical attempt to reopen the football grounds, but only to 4,000 people if you live over there, and 2,000 people if you live over here, and now, again, not at all. All the time building hope, building optimism, hinting at light at the end of the tunnel, and then just naaaaaaaaaaah, can’t have that any more.
The one thing the UK does seem to have done well, better than pretty much anywhere else in the world, is the vaccine roll out. An astonishing number of people jabbed up against a disease that a year ago didn’t exist. Hook it to my veins, literally. We caught ourselves here at the weekend having a shifty at the top of a League One table packed with potential awaydays. August Bank Holiday in Lincoln anyone? You’re going to need a bigger boat. Weighing the play-off permutations at that level, who we’d want, how we’d get there, where we’d drink, exactly as we would have been doing with Wycombe Wanderers front and centre this time last year before the world fell apart. It’s a real shame, given the connection between the clubs, and the geography of it, that it seems Wanderers’ one and gone trip to the Championship fell in this year of all years. The reception for Gareth Ainsworth tonight would have been a special moment. But again, even allowing just that little glance down at League One and what might be coming our way next season feels hopelessly optimistic, and at risk of cursing it. Chris Whitty doing the rounds again this morning predicting a third wave in late summer, just in time for the new season. How and why that would be, when you’ve vaccinated the whole country by then, they’re going to have to get some bloody good PR people in to explain to the population because, putting it mildly, that’s not going to go down well.
What I am interested to see is how many others are like my group. So desperate are we to get back together, get back to football, get back to travelling, get back to pubs, that news of the Crown and Sceptre’s partial reopening in April has us considering a half day off work to go down and watch the Rotherham away game on iPads. I can’t see me missing a game next season, again assuming this isn’t another false dawn, and cannot wait to be involved in that late charge for the platform at Euston, or raiding the bar in the Blackburn Premier Inn, or working out cheaper ways to get to Barnsley by splitting tickets. Forest Hooters, hungover Sundays, pretending all the way back from Preston or Derby or Sheffield that there’s a chance we won’t all be piling into Mabel’s for Match of the Day. Bring it to me, I need it.
But for others, I wonder. My brain has normalised this new way of life to such an extent that actually the thought of commuting again, going to conferences again, being out and about again, playing football with my mates again, being out of bed beyond 9pm again, brings me out in a weird sort of anxiety. You certainly notice the difference financially for not going out for 14 hours and getting steaming drunk following a football team around the country two or three times a week. I wonder how many others, how many of you, have normalised not going to the football, have realised you perhaps don’t miss it quite so much, have realised how much money it saves and what else that can be spent on. Even before all of this I would see mates of my dad who used to be home and away when he was in his prime, slowly drift away from it – the away games are always the first to go, then you’re picking and choosing your home games, and before you know it you’re not going at all. Will people, particularly the older among our support base, or those who live out of town, feel safe and have that desire to travel on trains and tubes again, sit in football crowds again? Are we really going to be allowed to just go back to that in August, or are there going to be all manner of protocols, masks, social distancing, and hassle, further damaging the experience? How many will come back? How many will think sod it?
I dare say had I asked this in December, when QPR drew 1-1 at Wycombe as part of a dire run of ten without a win, there’d be a few more thinking of not bothering than there are now, with Rangers seven wins from 11 and looking like a young team with great promise for 2021/22. The 52 point mark is well within sight now, potentially achieved even before the March international break, and it would take all manner of horrors for QPR to even flirt with the relegation zone from here. But I hope the next couple of months are more than what we’ve come to dub the Mykonos-slog – get to 52 points, put the cue on the rack, and mentally get off on holiday. You see it so often from teams. QPR’s form over the closing games of last season was appalling. With the home games we’ve got, starting with this one, there’s plenty of opportunity for us to finish strongly and push on into the top half of the table, playing good football as we did at Bristol City on Saturday with players like Chris Willock, Ilias Chair, Sam Field, Rob Dickie, Seny Dieng and others right to the fore giving you something to look forward to coming back to in August.
As we start to look at season ticket renewals, and think about what exactly our lives are going to look like on the other side of this, there’s more riding on QPR’s remaining fixtures than simply which bit of the middle of the Championship we land on.
Links >>> And then the band began to play – History >>> I’ll be back – Interview >>> Hooper gets Wycombe game – Referee >>> Wycombe Official Website >>> Gasroom – Forum >>> Bucks Free Press – Local Paper >>> Chairboys Central – Blog
Geoff Cameron Facts No.135 In The Series - Geoff wouldn’t let you sleep in his room if you were growing on his ass.
Below the fold
Team News: Jordy De Wijs lasted an hour of his QPR debut, his first game since November 29 in the FA Cup for Hull at Stevenage. He replaced Geoff Cameron who didn’t travel, but did train on Monday and should in theory be back available for this one. With Lee Wallace and Osman Kakay now well over their reaspective mid-term injuries it’s a clean bill of health for Rangers bar the long term absentees Luke Amos, Charlie Owens and Little Tom Carroll. Sam Field and Chrissy Willock both impressed when given starts at the expense of Lyndon Dykes and Dom Ball at the weekend, though it is of course a much bigger physical challenge playing Wycombe as opposed Bristol City.
After wrestling with a hefty injury list for much of the season, Wycombe are now only missing January newbie Jordan Obita.
Elsewhere: We’ve long been looking at the table lamenting where we’d have been if only that game against Wycombe had taken place and been won when it should have done, well now it’s time to piss or get off the pot. Rotherham’s latest Covid issues sees their game with Lutown off and means there are only two other games this midweek, with the Mad Chicken Farmers at home to Swanselona tonight, and then Barnsley going for an eighth win in a row against Wayne Rooney’s Derby County tomorrow. If you’re wondering why the media jizzfest over Wazza’s grand managerial debut has quietened rather, it’s because they’ve now won one and lost three of the last five and are quietly sliding back down the table from whence they came. I’m sure you’re all devastated. Rotherham now right on the cusp of having more games left to play than there are slots to play them – imagine Warbs’ pre-match Warbleton if he had a Saturday-Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday to contend with.
Referee: Famous last words but Premier League referee Simon Hooper is about as good as you’re going to get at this level, and certainly turned in the refereeing performance of our season so far when Fulham knocked us out of the FA Cup in January. Details.
QPR: Having won only seven of their previous 34 games, QPR have now won seven of 11. Within that run Rangers have scored 14 goals, although only Charlie Austin with five has scored more than once – Rob Dickie and Ilias Chair the latest new names on the list along with Stefan Johansen, Todd Kane, Sam Field, Yoann Barbet, Albert Adomah, Chris Willock and Macauley Bonne. It’s a run of form that has carried QPR well clear of the bottom three, now just three wins shy of the oft-discussed 52-point safety mark. In fact a win here in this long awaited game in hand postponed from January could, pending Blackburn’s early kick off against Swansea, lift Rangers as high as twelfth, the first time they’d have been in the top half of the table since October 3 when we were ninth after a draw at Sheff Wed. The defeat here to Barnsley last week snapped a run of three consecutive home wins in a week – as many as QPR had managed in the rest of the season combined. They now face another three consecutive home matches in seven days, and have five games at Loftus Road between now and April 10 against the sides currently lying 24th, 23rd, 20th, 18th and 11th.
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. Last season’s champion Mase offers us this…
“Whilst Mark Warburton was making suitably respectful noises about Wycombe in the wake of our win at Ashton Gate, he was always going to do that regardless of what he might really think. He'd look a bit of a plum if he said, "Hmm.. they're marooned at the bottom of the league, and we should be able to beat them pretty easily", and then we pull another Swindon or Vauxhall Motors. Anyway, I am not so restrained and think that this will be as comfortable a three points as we get for the rest of the season. Famous last words.”
LFW’s Prediction: QPR 2-0 Wycombe. Scorer – Charlie Austin
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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.
Letters from Wiltshire #43 by wessex_exile
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Letters from Wiltshire #42 by wessex_exile
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Letters from Wiltshire #41 by wessex_exile
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Letters from Wiltshire #40 by wessex_exile
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