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Redknapp’s McClaren match up adds to promotion battle – preview
Sunday, 9th Feb 2014 20:44 by Clive Whittingham

Harry Redknapp’s critics and supporters will be watching Monday night’s match between Steve McClaren's Derby and QPR even more keenly than usual as they seek support for their respective arguments.

Derby County (4th) v Queens Park Rangers (3rd)

Old First Division, Old Old Second Division >>> Monday February 10, 2014 >>> Kick Off 19.45 >>> Pride Park, Retail Park, somewhere sort of near Derby >>> Live on Sky Sports 1

Something that I’m prone to considering during my rare moments of down time – standing in the shower, sitting on the Northern Line, waiting on hold for BT’s lamentably dreadful customer care team to answer the bloody phone – is whether Harry Redknapp is a very talented manager totally unappreciated for his ability, or a vastly overrated spiv continuing to earn a living simply because he’s made friends with all the journalists who would otherwise be whipping up stories about him.

Redknapp was the man who had Bournemouth in the second tier, beating Manchester United in the cup – a level which they’ve only just returned to this season after two decades of struggle in the lower reaches. He had West Ham in Europe and then not only promoted Portsmouth to the Premier League but also won an FA Cup with them. He took Tottenham to the Champions League, and then got them to the knockout stages, and would have done so again but for Chelsea’s unlikely final victory against Bayern Munich which meant, for once, fourth place didn’t qualify the following year. For all the talk of Andre Villas Boas’ impressive win percentage, no other Spurs boss has managed that in the modern era. He was hot favourite for the England job as a result of all this.

But then Billy Bonds never spoke to him again for the way he took the West Ham job after Bonds’ sacking, and Portsmouth were in such a financial state after Redknapp had finished lashing out on the likes of Jermain Defoe that they quickly descended to the bottom division of English football. Daniel Levy became so tired of Redknapp’s thinly veiled pursuit of the England job in 2011/12, which sparked a run of poor Spurs form the manager claimed was coincidental but nevertheless cost them a top three place, that he shed him at the end of the season. And was he ever really likely to be given the national job given his reputation in the game? Redknapp has been caught on camera by the BBC seemingly happy to set up an under-the-counter deal for Blackburn’s Andy Todd while at Pompey, and was found not guilty in a tax evasion trial where it transpired he had a Monaco bank account in the name of his dog Rosie, and defended himself with, among other lines, an assertion that he “can’t fucking read or write.”

Any other manager behaving in a similar way would attract reams of newspaper comment – see Sven Goran Eriksson – but Redknapp also has a reputation as the journalists’ friend. Harry will wind his window down on transfer deadline day and give the reporter standing in the cold a few lines where everybody else drives on. Press officers at Redknapp’s clubs talk of sitting in their offices and seeing a couple of national hacks walking past without a diary appointment, because Harry had invited them in for a chat. On Christmas Day what few Soccer AM viewers remain (kill them with fire) were treated to Sky Sports News’ resident rough glove enthusiast Jim White recalling the time his phone rang on transfer deadline day with Harry on the other end, apparently purely for the good of his health, informing him that Robbie Keane was leaving Spurs for Celtic. And so when QPR were relegated last season – admittedly largely because of the actions of Tony Fernandes, Mark Hughes and Kia Joorabchian rather than Redknapp who arrived on a badly listing ship and was never likely to save it – the newspapers ran puff pieces on him rather than asking whether he could have done more to save Rangers. Questions like “why are you continuing to pick Jose Bosingwa, given everything that’s gone on and how he’s behaved?” were never asked.

Trying to gauge the opinion of QPR fans by looking at the message boards is always unwise – because such a tiny minority of the club’s supporters use them, and rarely do you see anything other than an extreme point of view on one side of a debate or another. That said, opinion does still seem divided on Harry Redknapp at QPR.

That may seem odd to an outsider, given that Rangers are currently third in the table. After a disastrous 2012/13 campaign of just four wins saw the R’s relegated from the Premier League, sporting a colossal squad of overpaid mercenaries, many – including this website – feared a Wolves-style freefall into League One was a distinct possibility. When Redknapp then became embroiled in an unsuccessful battle with his own board of directors to sign Wayne Bridge during the summer – and seemed to openly be angling after a severance settlement during various no-doubt impromptu interviews on golf courses – that possibility seemed set to be realised. But Rangers shifted more of their top earners than they could ever possibly have hoped, and used Redknapp’s pull to add the likes of Richard Dunne, Danny Simpson and Charlie Austin who have formed the backbone of a promotion-push. Given the state QPR were in when relegated, it’s miraculous that they’re as high as they are in the league, and Redknapp deserves great credit.

But then there is also a sizeable chunk who neither trust nor like the QPR manager. They say he should have done better last season, they say that a well-trained chimp could get QPR out of this league given the players and finance available to them, and they dislike the way he continues to sign players one after another while still not topping the table. Adel Taarabt’s fine debut goal for AC Milan against Napoli this weekend is another stick with which to beat the boss – he has twice got rid of the Moroccan for peanuts and even last week was laughing and mocking his move to Italy in front of the press while rarely missing an opportunity to sing the praises of, say, Bobby Zamora. And even if none of that was the case and this promotion push was all the work of Redknapp and Redknapp alone, his critics find Rangers dull to watch this season in any case.

Another negative perception the QPR boss has had to deal with this season is that the success of the team is based largely on the work Steve McClaren did during the pre-season, when Redknapp was largely absent due to a knee operation. McClaren led the first team on its pre-season tour of Austria and when interviewed youth prospects Max Ehmer, Tom Hitchcock and Frankie Sutherland before Christmas all three were fulsome in their praise for the former Middlesbrough manager.

Young midfield prospect Frankie Sutherland, who was given his first team chance on that tour by McClaren before being dropped from the picture altogether when Redknapp returned, said: “Working with Steve McClaren was brilliant. He taught the young lads a lot and helped us to progress. That was really good for me, I needed that. One of the main things Steve brought was positivity and a fresh face. We’d come from a difficult season into the pre-season he brought positive energy and feel good factor straight away. He changed things quite a lot, he was very positive when he was here and he improved the squad and gave us a kick start to the season which is what we needed and you’ve seen the effect in the early part of the season.

“As a youngster, when you train with the first team you want to give everything, do everything at 100 miles an hour, be the best you can be - he took me out of that, slowed everything down, focused on my positioning and showed me technical and tactical skills. It was great knowledge for me and I think it's improved me as a player, I really enjoyed working with him.”

Rangers were unbeaten in their first 11 league matches this season – winning nine and conceding just four goals – with McClaren in situ alongside Redknapp and then went on a run of four wins in 13 matches after he’d left for Derby. The Rams, meanwhile, sat fourteenth when he succeeded Nigel Clough at the start of October but promptly won ten and drew two of 13 matches and have since climbed to fourth. Another win for Derby against the R’s on Monday night would only add fuel to the sceptics’ belief that QPR are where they are this season mainly because of McClaren, rather than Redknapp.

Basically some behave as if they’d like to wear Harry Redknapp’s arse as a hat, while others would criticise his response time if he rescued infant identical twins from the top of a burning building.

As ever, the truth probably lies somewhere in the murky grey area in between.

Links >>> Opposition Profile >>> History >>> Referee >>> Podcast >>> Guide

Jamie Mackie wheels away to celebrate his memorable last second equaliser against Derby on this ground in August 2010. Rangers had trailed the Rams 2-0 going into stoppage time but Patrick Agyemang’s goal gave them hope before Mackie struck with the last kick.

This Monday

Team News: QPR continue to lose their best players to injury at a rate of one a week, with winger Matt Phillips stretchered off after six minutes of last week’s thrilling draw with Burnley and set to be out for a couple of months at least. He joins Charlie Austin (shoulder) and Ale Faurlin (knee) on the long term injury list and Danny Simpson’s back injury isn’t going to improve greatly if he keeps swinging iron bars at people on the street so don’t expect to see any of them back any time soon.
Derby team news to follow.

Elsewhere: QPR find themselves surrounded on all sides by mountains of Championship fixtures as the already-bloated division descends into a complete farce through February and March. Everybody played yesterday, and a good few of them are playing Tuesday as well, leaving Rangers and Derby unsure whether they’re taking part in round 1,348 or 1,349 of the season so far.

Going a couple of days later looked like it might have considerable advantages when Leicester fell 2-0 down at home to Udinese and Burnley went one down against Ian Holloway’s Millwall – but the Foxes fought back to draw and the Clarets climbed to second by coming back to win 3-1. Nottingham Trees dropped points in a 1-1 draw at Blackpool though, and Reading were beaten on the retail park by Sheffield Wednesday, so it wasn’t any more or less of an irrelevant waste of time than any other standard weekend of Championship fixtures really.

Of the teams chasing the play-offs: Ipswich fought back from two down to draw at Barnsley, Leeds won 2-1 at Yeovil in a lunchtime televised match that clashed with BT’s presentation of Liverpool 5 Arsenal 1 and perhaps offered a glorious glimpse into the future of Sky Sports; Brighton beat Doncaster 1-0 and Blackburn drew 0-0 at Middlesbrough in what is already being written off as an obvious candidate for the match of this or any other century.

At the bottom, Chris Powell doesn’t look long for this world as his woeful Charlton side lost 2-0 at home to Birmingham while Champions Elect Bolton drew 2-2 at home to Bournemouth having lead 2-0 early on.

Tomorrow night we’re off and running again with Leeds at Brighton, Trees at Huddersfield, Globetrotters at Sheff Wed, Udinese v Birmingham, Champions Elect Bolton having their local derby with Burnley and relegation haunted Millwall and Yeovil fighting out – perhaps literally - a six pointer at Huish Park.

Referee: For the third time this season already, QPR have Michael Naylor in charge of their match on Monday night. So far he’s overseen a 1-0 home win against Ipswich and a dreadful 0-0 draw at Wigan – where he rather bizarrely gave nothing at all when Andy Johnson was chopped down by Wigan’s keeper Lee Nicholls near the end. This is his first Derby appointment since a 2-2 draw at Middlesbrough in October last season when the Rams scored their first goal from the penalty spot. For his full QPR case file, and his recent stats, please click here.


Derby: Derby have climbed from fourteenth to fourth since Steve McClaren arrived in October but the first match after his appointment – a 4-4 home draw with Ipswich where they trailed 4-1 – sums up their problems so far. Derby score plenty – 57 is the best record in the league and dwarfs QPR’s total of 36 – but they concede a lot as well and their goals against total of 40 is the worst in the league north of fifteenth place Bournemouth. McClaren certainly started with a bang – ten wins and two draws from his first 13 games – but Derby have dropped off that pace slightly since and come into this having won just two of their last seven and fresh from blowing a 3-1 lead to draw 3-3 at Birmingham last time out. Still, the Rams have won seven and drawn one of nine home matches since their new manager took over – only Wigan have won here under McClaren’s watch.

QPR: While QPR extended their long run without a win at Nottingham Forest’s City Ground, just down the A52 from here, over Christmas to an impressive 29 matches, they’ll be hoping to preserve an altogether more positive record when they travel to Pride Park on Monday. The R’s have won three and drawn three of six visits to this ground since it opened and scored twice in injury time when they last played here in 2010/11 to salvage a 2-2 draw. Rangers had a tricky Christmas – losing to Leicester and Forest, drawing with Watford and Blackburn, and winning just the once at Blackpool. But they’ve won four and drawn one of the next five league games to climb into second place. Away from home they’ve won two and drawn one of the last four but overall they’ve only won five of 13 away games in total, compared to league-leading Leicester’s ten. With Charlie Austin (15) and Matt Phillips (three) injured on Monday the next top scorer fit to take the field is Joey Barton/Niko Kranjcar/Andy Johnson with two.

Betting: Professional odds compiler Owen Goulding says…

“QPR travel to Derby for a match in front of the Sky cameras on Monday night. Rangers haven’t done too bad in their televised games so far this season and this is another intriguing tie.

“Without going into too much detail - the injuries to the QPR squad opened up the game last week and against Derby, I expect it to be the same. Derby love to score, but they love to concede as well. They've conceded 40 goals so far in the league this season, by far the most in the top half. With QPR looking much more open in recent weeks and indeed both teams have scored in each of QPR's last five league games, this game appears to have goals written all over it. I'm tempted by QPR at around 9/4 generally as it seems a bit big against a team who've only won two of their last seven games, but my bet for this match has to be the Evens 888Sport offer on both teams to score. It seems a lovely way to double your money.”

Bet of the Match: Both Teams to Score - Evens (888Sport)

Prediction: Reigning Prediction League champion Mase tells us…

“Sigh. Just when we were looking to be on an upward trajectory, with a clean sweep of league wins in January, we are knocked back. The performance of the team in the entertaining but error-strewn game against Burnley was pleasing (fightback) and disappointing (defensive mistakes) in equal measure.

“A trip to Pride Park will surely provide more of the same. Derby have been on a sure footing since the arrival of Steve McClaren and although they have suffered some setbacks in 2014 are still very handily placed and resourced to have a good go at the automatic promotion spot. Their team has wise and experienced heads alongside a youthful and talented crop of youngsters; this has proven a fruitful blend.

“Our own hopes of promotion were seemingly damaged by the injuries to Charlie Austin, Matt Phillips and Danny Simpson. However in the game against Burnley, with next to no preparation time, it seemed that we had found a ready-to-go replacement in Kevin Doyle. A West Ham supporting friend of mine has intimated that, following his equaliser last weekend, we will already have seen the best of Maiga. Let's hope he's wrong. If these two feature heavily (perhaps at the expense of Johnson), with a week of training under their belts, then I can see us surprising our hosts and coming back with an unlikely but very welcome win. I doubt that Maiga will start though, meaning that an entertaining draw seems more likely. It would probably suit both teams at this stage of the season as well.

“I am going for the same result as on our last visit to this ground; let's hope we don't leave it this late to secure our point this time.”

Mase’s Prediction: Derby 2 QPR 2. First scorer – Kevin Doyle

LFW Prediction: Derby 1 QPR 1. Scorer – Kevin Doyle

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ozranger added 00:51 - Feb 10
As Warnock said, we dominated (the 2-2 draw) from the 95th minute to the 96th minute! Let's hope we can dominate much more than that.

TacticalR added 18:36 - Feb 10
Thanks for summing up the mysteries of Redknapp. John Crace covers a lot of this stuff in his Redknapp biography, and even he is not really able to penetrate the Redknapp enigma.

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