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Queens Park Rangers 0 v 1 AFC Bournemouth
SkyBet Championship
Monday, 27th December 2021 Kick-off 17:30
Fact of the matter - Preview
Sunday, 26th Dec 2021 12:22 by Clive Whittingham

As it stands, QPR are finally back in action after a fortnight Covid-19 break with a Monday evening game at home against early pace setters Bournemouth.

QPR (10-5-6 WDWWWL 5th) v Bournemouth (12-7-4 LDDDLL 2nd)

Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Monday December 27, 2021 >>> Kick Off 17.30 >>> Weather – Thick cloud and breezy >>> Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium, Loftus Road, London, W12

Britons have been advised not to attend football matches in stadiums and to "prioritise" social events "that really matter to them" amid the sharp rise in COVID cases. -Sky News

Oh lads, fuck me, that’s a really good one, well done. Great writers on this show, truly. Will I have to have seen 2020 and 2021 to get 2022?

Those in power in this country continue to labour under the misapprehension all football supporters are represented and summed up by that tiny gaggle of England shitgibbons that like to turn over a café owner’s business in some provincial part of Mediterranean Europe while singing about the IRA and the RAF. That isn’t even what a majority of England fans are like, and yet there is a whole raft of policies and laws woven in over many years to remind us we’re all essentially the same sub-human level of scum to them. Everything from standing up at matches (no), alcohol bans and restrictions (please can I have a drink mum) and getting extortionate train tickets refunded when your game is switched by Sky (another 3.8% hike coming next year, 45% increase in the life of this government), to stricter sentences if your crime is committed in the vicinity of a football stadium or the rights of the police to kettle you into their chosen pub until their chosen time, only admit you to a game if you go on their chosen bus from their chosen place, or even just take a dislike to your group and spin you around en route and return to sender without seeing the game at all. Not a particularly original point but try going into Central London and behaving like Insulate Britain, or the anti-vax weirds, while draped in a Millwall flag ahead of one of their home games and compare and contrast the police response, and the sentence you get. See how long they tolerate you jumping up and down on top of their van outside Burnley v Leeds, compared to Parliament Square.

Every now and again, though, they still seem to feel it necessary to remind you just how little understanding there is outside the match-going football fans in our society about what makes us tick by making some remark like that. The idea we may forgo this trip to Sheffield United, or that home game with Swansea, to enable us to do the stuff that “really matters”, like eating leftovers, kipping on the floor of the downstairs office and watching fucking Pointless repeats at the in-laws over Christmas, is through the looking glass levels of batshit to the afflicted. You know, even in normal times, football fans sit through all of that counting down until it's time to go to the match on Boxing Day right? Do you think we’d take two days off work, drop north of 200 notes, subject ourselves to this country’s creaking and disgustingly priced rail system, take our chances in some backwater Premier Inn clad like a Roman candle, to watch QPR scrape some midweek draw at Blackburn Rovers, if this shit didn’t really matter to us? Do you think I could ‘take or leave’ next months’ trip to Coventry? Because if you do, try inviting me to your fucking wedding that day and see how thrilled I am to be there. I’m still slightly embittered my mum made me go to hers instead of Preston away, and that was 20 years ago and we lost the game 5-0.

Weddings (just don’t, what do you really need me there for anyway?), holidays (just don’t, you’ll enjoy it more without me trawling the backstreet bars for a TV showing the game), work shifts (just don’t, I’m going to be useless to you if you make me work when QPR are playing) – if you’re this way inclined, there isn’t much that does trump your team’s next game. I’ve turned down some very good jobs because there was Saturday working and I knew it would make me miserable. Out of perspective? Sad? Pathetic? Yeh, maybe all of those, but whether it’s one game a season or 51, football is still a way of life for so many, vital to their mental health, providing a sense of belonging absent elsewhere, a connection with lost loved ones, a camaraderie and bond with those who feel the same, a reason for being and an incentive to carry on the desperately bleak treadmill churn of modern existence on the other six days that week. The idea - after two years of varying degrees of lockdown, three injections each, months of only being able to watch our clubs on grainy laptop streams - that they might be able to dissuade us from heading out on the road with the boys again because it might jeopardise something else that “actually matters” is beneath contempt. Please do fuck all the way off with that won’t you?

Our government’s strategy/inaction has long been part influenced by a ‘nudge theory’ popularised by American economist Richard Thaler and legal scholar Cass Sunstein that says you can get people and populations to do things through coaxing and positive assertion rather than rules and regulations. Let me tell you, if you’re attempting to nudge us out of going to Bristol City on Thursday because, oohhh noooo, we might not be able to get together with thingy from work and her husband to watch Jools’ fucking Hootenanny on New Year’s Eve… well, you’re going to have to nudge harder than that professor but thanks for playing. Your three options are these games take place with us, they don’t take place at all, or they take place with us forcibly locked out. I think we were mostly broadly supportive, or at least understanding, of the restrictions at the beginning when this was all new and we had no tools to put the brakes on it, but two years down the line, no real end in sight, most of us jabbed up to the hilt and new stories emerging every day of just exactly what they felt was acceptable behaviour while we were debating whether or not we should really attend nanna’s funeral, I don’t think there’s a lot of votes in the latter any more. Though, with cases sky-rocketing once more, and hospitalisations increasing, it's difficult to envisage anything else being deemed necessary in fairly short order. We wait with weary trepidation for the dreaded ‘Boris Johnson will host a Covid-19 press conference in Downing Street at 17.00 tonight’ announcement.

The thing that never ceases to amaze me in this pandemic, even now, is the speed at which the situation changes. I’ve written before about heading home from the Crown early the day of the Birmingham game, February 2020, just a quick turn and wave at the door to people I assumed I’d be back among the following week, only for it to be 18 months before I got such a day again, by which time some of them were no longer with us. That, and spending the subsequent days discussing London Bridge pubs for the midweeker at Charlton, which we felt certain we’d still be doing, right up until the moment we weren’t. I should be wiser to it now, but I don’t really recall any great feeling, concern or worry at the Stoke game in early December that we may, once more, be facing, at best, football with draconian restrictions or, at worst, no football at all. It’s like being stalked. Two thousand of you pack into the away end at Reading on a sunny September day, the match ebbs and flows, the scoreline veers wildly between the teams, the whole thing blossoms into a real cliffhanger, Stefan Johansen equalises with the last kick and you all go absolutely potty, jumping on each other, falling down concrete steps, screaming. Everything feels normal again, you’re lost in the moment, and yet the threat lingers in the background that, literally within ten days, we might all be locked back in our homes again. A couple of Sundays back I was whiling away one of my non-football days wandering around the lake out at Virginia Water waiting for it to be Monday and Sheffield United away, when my phone started buzzing and suddenly it was just a Monday again. Just like that. A fortnight on the fixture list is decimated. Given what we know now about Covid-19, and responses to it, I find it difficult to even really hope for or envisage a time when we won’t constantly be playing this bastard game of new variant roulette, no amount of jabs or pills away from the omnipresent threat of mentally crushing misery. Where exactly does this all end? And when?

From a football perspective, an impromptu three-week break from action may not be the worst thing for Queens Park Rangers, particularly if they’ve gone first and got their sweeping ‘omicron’ moment out of the way early, with league rivals and imminent opponents still to suffer theirs. Had Charlie Austin’s penalty been ever so slightly less abject then another late surge and comeback victory could easily have been ours against Stoke but, in truth, the visitors were good value for their win and Mark Warburton’s team looked leggy after a storming November. Missing all the wing backs from both sides, and Lyndon Dykes from the attack, a cold Monday night televised game up at a resurgent Sheffield United didn’t promise immediate redemption and there’s now a chance for us to go back there with more players available, perhaps when they’re not running quite as hot as they have been since Paul Heckingbottom took charge. Some of those players, hopefully Lee Wallace and certainly Dykes, could now be fit for this game with Bournemouth. I was rather hoping the ludicrousness of trying to hold a mid-season international football tournament in Africa at the height of the omicron wave might dawn on somebody, somewhere, meaning Ilias Chair and Seny Dieng could stick around for January after all but, alas, the world’s opinion on what is absolutely necessary to go ahead with (international football tournaments) and what can be done away with (leaving your house) remains oddly skewed two years deep into this thing. Mind you, that's typical British club football fan thinking isn't it? Our league should go ahead, and we should be allowed in to watch it, but international football is a luxury that we should do away with in these times. Guilty.

Sheff Utd (four wins from four) aren’t alone in choosing this moment to kick into gear. Tony Mowbray’s approach to his recent defeat at Loftus Road (incredulous at the mere suggestion they’d have done anything other than play for a 0-0 draw) looks stranger with each passing Blackburn victory – they’ve won eight and drawn one of ten games since, and won the last five in a row scoring 12 and conceding none, to climb to third. Chris Wilder, predictably, also has Middlesbrough motoring rather, with 10 points from 12. Nottingham Forest have lost one of 16 games since Steve Cooper took over and are now right on our coattails.

Despite this, and not playing the last fortnight, QPR have maintained fifth place in the Championship table, and now have two games in hand on many of the clubs around them which, as Billy Davies will tell you, is worth at least 15 points. Several other clubs that were going strongly have stumbled rather, including the early pace-setters Fulham and Bournemouth who are now without a win between them in 11 games. Coventry, fourth for so long, have won two of 11 and none of five. Viktor Gyokeres’ nine goals in the first 11 games looks increasingly like it might have escaped through the same tear in the fabric of reality as Patrick Agyemang’s early QPR form - now no goals in 12 for the Swede. Huddersfield, one win in five, have dropped away from the lofty position they occupied when they came to ours last month. Blackpool, so impressive against us at Bloomfield Road and victorious at Sheff Utd the week before, now have one win in eight. Luton, one in six.

Championship’s gonna Championship. Each rich vein of form in one part of the country coincides whack-a-mole style another club tanking somewhere else. It didn’t particularly matter that QPR weren’t playing to their full potential through the first half of the season as long as they posted enough results to keep them in contention for the real quiz at the end. That’s especially the case now in this latest hellscape we find ourselves – what matters is getting a team on the field capable of maintaining results good enough to keep us in touch at the top, and getting enough games played to avoid a Rotherham-like log-jam of fixtures in the spring. That, and us being there to see it, of course. That really matters.

Links >>> Winter downturn – Interview >>> Connections and meets – History >>> Grindr date at the Pope’s funeral – Referee >>> Warbs Christmas message – Podcast >>> Bournemouth official website >>> Bournemouth Echo – Local Press >>> Up The Cherries – Forum >>> AFCB – Blog >>> Cherries Red Army – Podcast >>> Back Of The New – Podcast Bournemouth official website >>> Bournemouth Echo – Local Press >>> Up The Cherries – Forum >>> AFCB – Blog >>> Cherries Red Army – Podcast >>> Back Of The New – Podcast

If you've been able to spend this Christmas with loved ones, I hope you had a great day, and Santa brought you everything you asked for.

If you weren’t, if you're isolating, if you're just about holding it together for the kids, or if it's just generally a shit time, then know you are not alone. You'll always be welcome here with your QPR family. You are always welcome here.

Tough time, tough year, on here at times, and in the world, but we have a team to be proud of (remember when our strikers were Sylla/Washington/Polter and our centre backs were Hall, Lynch and Leistner), a club to be proud of (check out some of the footage of the players' wives and Rangers clubbing together to take disadvantaged kids to Hamley's for Christmas), and brighter and better times ahead together.

Please know that your support of me and this website means the world to me, if you've stuck some cash into the Patreon you have no idea what a life/mortgage saver that has been for me and I'll be forever grateful to you.

Merry Christmas My R's.

Below the fold

Team News: Well, who knows? Writing team news at this moment in time is nearly impossible, other than we expect Lyndon Dykes to be back fit, and we hope Moses Odubajo, Albert Adomah and Lee Wallace are too given the three week break. There’s still no official word on whether Ilias Chair, Osman Kakay and Seny Dieng have been allowed to delay their flights to the African Cup of Nations. That tournament was demanding players be released on Boxing Day, a fortnight prior to its start, rather than the usual week, to give them time to clear the Covid protocols, but there has been pushback and threats from domestic leagues across Europe who have said they will only abide by the usual seven day rule and will ignore any punishments handed down by Fifa who do not comply. If we do get an official word through today, I’ll update it here.

UPDATE - They were later taken to a better hospital where their condition was upgraded to: ALIVE.

I believe Jefferson Lerma is back for this one. He was banned for a sending off against Coventry, and then had it extended by two games for abusing the officials on the way off, but he’s back for this one. Lerma has already been suspended for nine matches this season having missed the first six on a biting charge. Obviously David Brooks is a long term absentee here and we wish him well in his ongoing battle with Hodgkin lymphoma. Bean Pearson The Goblin Boy was left out of their defeat at Middlesbrough before Christmas but that was for tactical reasons. Bournemouth have their own AFCON issue with Zimbabwe’s Jordan Zemura, and his comes with the added complication that Zimbabwe may yet be booted out of the competition altogether by Fifa owing to government interference in their national FA.

Elsewhere: Just three matches have survived the latest raft of Covid postponements this Boxing Day, with Luton v Bristol City the latest to fall on Christmas Day – issues in the Luton camp there, so in theory we’re still all set for Bristol at the end of the week.

Two of the division’s most in form sides and biggest surprise packages meet at 15.00 today with Hull City – two wins from their first 16 games and now four wins and two draws from seven – hosting Blackburn Rovers who have won eight and drawn one of nine to climb to third in the table. Tigers boss Grant McCann isolates with Covid, but the game is going ahead and is live on Sky this afternoon.

Two of the other teams that are really flying at the moment, Chris Wilder’s Middlesbrough and Steve Cooper’s Nottingham Florist, also meet at the Riverside, while two of the teams that have been on the slide of late, Huddersfield and Blackpool, face off in West Yorkshire. Tomorrow our game is preceded by Wayne Rooney’s Derby County at home to the ever uninspiring West Brom, who are now marrying their deathly dull style of play with poor results as well – two wins from seven, although just one defeat in that time as well.

Everything else is off.

Referee: At one stage you might have considered Keith Stroud a lucky referee for QPR. He refereed three 3-0 wins for the R’s in the 2010/11 promotion season (Ipswich A, Boro A, Sheff Utd H) awarding us two penalties, although one of those, at Portman Road, would have been the goal of the season for Akos Buzsaky if he hadn’t whistled so quickly. That meant as QPR entered the Premier League and left him behind, they departed with a record of six wins, four draws and zero defeats from ten games with Stroud, with two penalties awarded in their favour, and 2-0 in our favour on the red card count. Since returning to this level, however, games with this official have often turned to farce, and Rangers have rarely emerged from that victorious. The record over the last ten years is W3 D5 L12, with the penalty count 6-0 against, and the red cards 4-1 in the opposition’s favour. He was born in Bournemouth, but is down on the list as Luton Town fan so is allowed to referee the Cherries’ games. He was in charge for the first meeting this season, with Bournemouth won 2-1, taking his record with them to P11 W10 D1 L0. Details.

Form

QPR: Rangers’ defeat to Stoke last time out was their first in eight games since the 2-1 reverse at Peterborough in October. They were unbeaten through November, winning four and drawing one, leading to a divisional manager of the month, player of the month (Chrissy Willock) and goal of the month (Andre Gray) clean sweep. It was the first time in 32 league games that Rangers had failed to score, though Charlie Austin’s missed penalty means Rangers haven’t converted one in normal time since Bright Osayi-Samuel at Norwich a year ago – Lyndon Dykes missing v Norwich and now Charlie v Stoke in the meantime. It was also the first time Rangers had conceded two goals in a match in eight outings, and only a second home loss in 14 games in all comps at Loftus Road this season. Only the top three sides have scored more than our 33 goals this season, but only Sheff Utd and Preston (both 28) have shipped more than our 27 goals this side of fifteenth. Only Steve McClaren’s hilarious Derby team of 2014/15 have posted 40+ points in the first 23 games of a season and not made the play-offs in this division over the last 20 years (they won just four of their final 17 games) - QPR are five points shy of the target with two games still to play. Blackburn, notably, are past it. Fifth, however, isn’t quite such good news…

Bournemouth: The Cherries got to the end of October, 15 games into the league season, without losing a match – W11 D4. Since losing 2-1 at home to Preston at the start of November they have won only one of eight matches, 4-0 at home to Swansea, and none of the last six D3 L3. They come into this fixture having lost the last two games to nil (2-0 against Blackburn, 1-0 at Middlesbrough) and have dropped down to six goals in their last six games having scored 13 in the previous six. Away from home their record is 6-4-2 - 22 points the best haul of any team in the Championship – but they’ve won none of the last four road trips with the two defeats, 3-2 at Derby and 1-0 at Boro, occurring in those last four games. With Fulham on four draws and a defeat from the last five it means the top two in the league are now without a win between them in 11 games. Dominic Solanke is the top scorer here with 17 goals in 23 appearances, ahead of Philip Billing with seven.

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 to DerbyHoop for topping the table at Christmas and taking the first prize of the season. Here’s last year’s champion Mick_S and his thoughts on Bournemouth…

“I really do not have a clue about this one, other than Bournemouth are on a bit of a shaky ( merry Christmas, everyone) run at the moment. I’ve no clue who is unfit, is with the plague or is out of favour for either side. So, it’s 2-1 Rangers even though Keithy Baby is in charge (don’t kiss the ball you wally). That really should put the evil eye on us but I have a feeling that he knows he owes us one or two and we could really benefit here from some shocking decision making, I really do. Really.”

Mick’s Prediction: QPR 2-1 Bournemouth. Scorer – Chris Willock

LFW’s Prediction: QPR 1-1 Bournemouth. Scorer – Chris Willock

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062259 added 16:52 - Dec 26
Great stats, and great news that Chair and Dieng are available for 3 more games before AFCON.
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snanker added 22:40 - Dec 26
Thanks for the write up Clive and with Keef's Cherries record at P11 W10 D1 L0 a run for the Local Council looks on when he finally gives the pitch comedy away ? Come on you R'ssssssssssssssssssssssssss
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extratimeR added 22:46 - Dec 26
Great piece Clive.
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gazza1 added 12:01 - Dec 27
You are 'proper mad' Norf, proper!!!!
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TacticalR added 15:53 - Dec 27
Thanks for your preview.

The panic about football fans goes back decades. The response to covid looks increasingly incoherent.

Yesterday's results pushed out of the play-off places, so we could definitely do with a win to get us back in the pack. The question is, will Bournemouth's wobble continue, or have they have recharged their batteries?
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SouthAfricanRanger added 21:17 - Dec 28
Clive- read this last week but forgot my password. Your personal note to all of us (“If you’ve been able to….”) is the essence of why we support this wonderful team and why we are a family no matter where we are in the world. Thank you for the depth of the few paragraphs. That humanistic touch just further convinces us you the best sports writer on the planet. And your message comes back to you from all of us. God bless you Clive.
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