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Preston North End 1 v 0 Queens Park Rangers
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Saturday, 4th August 2018 Kick-off 15:00
QPR face 20 years of cup hurt as Rovers visit - Preview
Friday, 6th Jan 2017 19:57 by Clive Whittingham

QPR's latest attempt to win an FA Cup tie outright for the first time since 1997 sees them welcome Blackburn Rovers to Loftus Road on Saturday.

Queens Park Rangers (8-5-12) v Mad Indian Chicken Farmers (6-6-13)

Zenith Data Systems Cup >>> Saturday January 7, 2017 >>> Kick Off 15.00 >>> Weather – Overcast, nine degrees >>> Loftus Road, London, W12

Nothing like the annual arrival, and usually fairly swift departure, of the historic FA Cup Sponsored By A Middle Eastern Airline That Fires Female Cabin Crew if They Fall Pregnant to puncture Queens Park Rangers’ mini New Year revival that saw two wins recorded in three days last weekend.

Time once more to trot out all those statistics about how QPR haven’t won a tie in this competition outright since 1997, and have only scraped through four others via replays. Time to sit the grandchildren down on your knee and tell them about the time our brave Rangers battled mighty Vauxhall Motors all the way through two matches and extra time before finally succumbing on penalties. Christ it’s embarrassing isn’t it?

And it’s been going on for an entire generation now – 20 years since Trevor Sinclair’s bicycle kick saw us past Barnsley and into the Fifth Round. Maybe we should celebrate with a cake. Or a cyanide pill.

It’s not just QPR who don’t show the world’s oldest knockout competition a lot of love any more of course, it’s the sport in this country as a whole. In another 50 years our kids won’t believe our tales of Ronnie Radford, walks to Wembley, listening to the draw in the car on a Monday lunchtime and so on. Too busy preparing for Chelsea B’s vital forthcoming games in the second of three European Super League group stages the ungrateful little shites.

There are many theories about the devaluing of the FA Cup. Some say it was finished when Man Utd were allowed to pull out for a year, or when they started naming it after piss weak American lager, or mega rich airlines from Gulf States that harbour appalling human rights records as well as housing Richard Keys. For me there are four key problems.

Firstly, the competition was damaged, perhaps beyond repair, when you stopped getting into the first game or two with your season ticket. It’s taken the FA Cup Third and Fourth Round matches from the two most attended in most clubs’ seasons to the least, and QPR won’t be the only one playing a tie out in front of a half closed ground tomorrow. For supporters already shelling out for Christmas, and a rush of fixtures in December, yet another ticket (and all associated matchday outlay besides) to a match the teams increasingly don't take seriously is a stretch too far.

Secondly, the increasingly fraught and unworkable Christmas fixture list. I’m all for games over the festive period, I’ve written countless times about how awful a midwinter break would be for the game in this country, but asking teams to play five (six next season) games in a fortnight over Christmas will inevitably turn a cup round played in the first week of January into one most managers are happy to sacrifice to rest and recuperate their team. Bring in a mid-winter break, however, and they’d no doubt just use this round as a glorified pre-season friendly to help them recover from the mid-season “Premier League Cup” played on a converted baseball diamond in Miami.

Thirdly, linked to this, is the ever all-growing importance of the over-hyped Premier League cash cow, and the maddening perception that winning a couple of cup matches places your position at the table and chance to gorge yourself on Sky’s millions in absolute peril. Even the midtable teams put out weak sides and duck out more often than not, fearful that three or four extra games over the next three months will see half their players killed to death and the other half horribly distracted by all the funerals they have to attend resulting in a disastrous plunge into the relegation zone.

The Premier League could solve two problems in one fell swoop. Give the winners of this competition a Champions League place, rather than handing one of the most lucrative prizes in the sport to the wasters who finish fourth. It would make the top end of the Premier League more competitive, and stop this annual Arsenal nonsense, while also providing a shot in the arm for the cup – which is a wonderful, unique British thing. Or at least it should be. But nah, instead the winner gets a place in the Europa League, and while that might sound brilliant to success and European-starved fans of a club like ours, to most of the Premier League an elongated group stage played in bits of Eastern Europe that used to be Russia at 18.00 on a Thursday night is about as welcome as a Loose Women box set for Christmas.

And fourthly, old LFW favourite, the TV companies – once more Sky, BBC, BT and the rest are doing irreparable, irreversible damage to the product they pay so much for. This idea that eight matches should be moved to Sunday lunchtime, even though they’re not on television, so the BBC can run some sort of Jeff Stelling rip-off show with goals as they go in should have been shot down before it even got airborn and then chopped into even smaller pieces that thing on Jeepers Creepers – which, incidentally, I’d rather spend a Sunday lunchtime with than Garth Crooks.

The broadcasters bleat on about the “magic of the FA Cup” and yet after every draw they simply select whichever all Premier League ties have come out – as if we don’t see enough Tottneham v Leicester v Everton v Watford v Stoke the rest of the time – and whoever Man Utd are playing. So what should be a showpiece event turns into two reserve teams half trying, and United bumming Reading 3-0 with their Under 23s.

QPR have their own problems, beyond this ridiculous 20 year run. While it’s typical football fan madness to complain about the outcome of a random draw, is there not a fucking bone in that velvet bag they could maybe throw us one year? Every December we sit there hoping for a big Premier League team at home, or a lower/non league new ground away. We’d have taken anything from Liverpool or Spurs through to Sutton or Carlisle this year and yet we get stuck, for the third time in ten draws, with Blackburn bloody Rovers.

No offence meant to the Mad Indian Chicken Farmers you understand, I’m sure they groaned at the thought of a second trip of the season to Loftus Road less than a month before these two purveyors of thrilling football and high degrees of on field competence clash again in the Championship. It just seems almost as odd as QPR’s abject failure to ever win a game in this competition ever that we seem to be doing so against the same half a dozen uninspiring teams on a carousel. Three ties with Blackburn, four separate matches with Luton Town, three with Sheffield United, three with MK Dons, two with Nottingham Forest, two with Burnley, two with West Brom – it’s like watching the plates go round and round in a motorway service station café. Bland, boring, unending, unrelenting plates of warm diarrhoea.

For all of this, Rangers could get more out of these ties than they do – mostly just tossing them away. I’m actually quite excited by the prospect of seeing Eberechi Eze (Eze good, Eze good, Eze Eberechi good) get some game time tomorrow given his form for the Under 23s and our paucity of striking options going into the second half of the season. But it doesn’t work for players like that if they’re simply tossed into competitive senior football for the first time in a team of ten or even 11 changes.

Harry Redknapp was an absolute sod for that. Make eight changes, sling a load of players in for their first action in months in a team that had never played together before, lose the game heavily and then wobble on about “they can’t bang on my door asking why they’re not playing after that”. I’d say his assertion in last night’s Sub-Standard that managers should always give the cup a go because “silverware matters” after a three year spell at QPR were he lost to MK Dons 4-2, Everton 4-0 and Sheffield United 3-0 having fielded reserve sides each time was infuriating, but I’ve long since realised that reading the Standard, and Redknapp’s column in particular, is like squirting liquid syphilis into your eyes.

It’s a shame because I know I’m not alone in feeling that QPR lifting the FA Cup at Wembley would be the absolute ultimate. Yes, better even than winning Richard Scudamore’s big shiny wank pot. Sadly we can’t even draw on Ian Holloway’s mostly wonderful first spell in charge for any inspiration here – he lost all five matches against Swansea 0-4, Vauxhall Motors on pens, Grimsby Town 0-1, Nottingham Forest 0-3 and Blackburn 0-3.

Of course the absolute nightmare here, probably even worse than a defeat I’m rather ashamed to say, is a draw and a replay Tuesday week. So that’s probably what we’ll end up with in this cup that just keeps on giving.

Links >>> Circling the drain – Opposition Profile >>> Long winter ahead – Interview >>> Blackburn ghost goal – History

Hold onto your hymens, here's 60 seconds of highlights from September's thrilling 1-1 draw with Rovers at Loftus Road when Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink was still the manager. Worth it for Tjaronn Chery's free kick if nothing else.

Saturday

Team News: Even if Ian Holloway did want to put out a full strength side it’s not looking good for him. Seb Polter looks set to leave this month and the official line is he’s nursing a back problem so won’t feature. His natural replacement as the point man up front, Idrissa Sylla, can’t continue his impressive recent form as he’s concussed, and a shin injury from training looks like robbing us of the latest example of why Conor Washington can’t play alone up front. So Eberechi Eze may well get a go in attack. With several players nursing knocks asked to play a lot of football last weekend – Jamie Mackie, Jordan Cousins and Joel Lynch all went the distance – changes could be made elsewhere too. Steven Caulker remains injured, Tjaronn Chery is heading to China, Sandro is in Turkey trying to ignore the laughter as he tries to pass a medical at the third time of asking. Massimo Luongo has a groin problem while recalled duo Darnell Furlong and Michael Doughty are cup tied having taken part in Tactical Tim’s big First Round exit against mighty Eastleigh. Matt Ingram usually starts the cup games, but Karl Henry has been bombed out altogether and may join Millwall.

Bring your boots and get a game.

Rovers have Corry Evans and Craig Conway away on a romantic weekend together while permission has been sought from Swansea and Southampton to use loan players Marvin Emnes and Sam Gallagher (who was very impressive in the first meeting between the sides this season).

Elsewhere: Step away from the drudgery of life at the blunt end of the Championship for a weekend drowning in the "magic of the FA Cup" – a mythical land full of televised ties between the reserve teams of midtable Premier League outfits and clips of old Sutton United games.

There is an actual Sutton United game this weekend – a derby with AFC Wimbledon, a non-league side against a League One team, a big chance of an upset, and a wonderful story as AFC return to the venue of their first ever game as a reformed club. Not on television, naturally – we get West Ham Reserves v Man City Reserves tonight, and that oh so tantalising tie between Man Utd and Reading instead.

Picking out other ties of interest from a fairly mundane draw – Ipswich hosting Conference leaders Lincoln could be one to watch. Town are a limited side as we discovered ourselves last week while the Imps have lost only one of 19 winning 14. Nathan Arnold, a star of Grimsby’s Conference promotion last season, has ten goals from wide midfield already.

League One Rochdale could have similar problems at windswept Barrow tomorrow. While Dale are imperious at home, they struggle badly away from home and they face a side whose New Year’s Eve defeat to Gateshead was their first defeat in 26 matches going back to August 20.

Big Fat Sam goes back to Bolton with Palace, Martin Allen returns to Brentford with Eastleigh and Stourbridge are at Wycombe.

One other dull tie to keep an eye on – Wigan Warriors v Nottingham Trees. If either us (ha ha) or the Warriors win tomorrow then our league meeting at Loftus Road at the end of this month is postponed for the fourth round tie.

Referee: Simon Hooper is the man in the middle for this one. His first QPR outing since the 2-1 loss at Huddersfield back in September. Details here.

Form

QPR: Only Plymouth Argyle (49) have been knocked out of the FA Cup at the third round stage more than QPR (47) who infamously haven't won an FA Cup game without the aid of a replay since 1997 and the day of Trevor Sinclair's bicycle kick. Four ties have been won in the 20 years since – Torquay 2000, Luton 2001, MK Dons in 2012 and West Brom in 2015. Other than that Rangers have exited the world's oldest knockout competition at the first possibly opportunity to the following opposition in this order: Middlesbrough H (97/98, Third Round replay), Huddersfield H (98/99, Third Round), Swansea A (01/02, First Round), Vauxhall Motors H (02/03, First Round replay), Grimsby A (03/04, First Round), Forest H (04/05, Third Round), Blackburn A (05/06, Third Round), Luton A (06/07, Third Round replay), Chelsea A (07/08, Third Round), Burnley A (08/09, Third Round replay), Sheff Utd H (09/10, Third Round replay), Blackburn A (10/11, Third Round), Everton A (13/14, Third Round), Sheff Utd H (14/15, Third Round), Forest A (15/16, Third Round). QPR have therefore won four matches out of 32 across 20 years, scoring just nine goals in that time and conceding 53. Five of the defeats were to teams from at least one division lower.

Blackburn: Rovers’ surprise 1-0 win against the run of play at home to Newcastle last weekend snapped a winless run of six games, although to be fair to them they’d been leading 1-0 at high-flying Huddersfield two days before only to ship a goal in an extended period of stoppage time and draw 1-1. Three times in three games in December they lost 3-2, twice at home against Brighton and Reading and once away against Preston. Overall this season they’ve won two (Derby, Newcastle), drawn two (Huddersfield, QPR) and lost eight away from home and currently sit third bottom of the Championship with 24 points from 25 games.

Prediction: As said, what’s the absolute worst case scenario? In the FA Cup, QPR usually find a way to enact exactly that…

LFW’s Prediction: QPR 0-0 Blackburn. No Scorer.

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Myke added 21:21 - Jan 6
All so pessimistically true Clive, but I feel we'll sneak through to end that 20 year sequence. 1-0 - goalscorer substitute Mackie in the 77th minute - which will be a happier memory than snapping his ALC and being accused of faking by the "sewer rat"
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DannyPaddox added 22:39 - Jan 6
Great piece. I felt the same revulsion when I saw the Redknapp piece in the subStandard. My first urge was a desire to punch the picture of his face very very hard. I'm glad I didn't as the paper was resting on a marble kitchen surface. Good summation of why this once great competition is now fcuked and how maybe it can be restored. FWIW I still <3 the FA Cup!
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HastingsRanger added 22:47 - Jan 6
Excellent read, thanks. At least something is enjoyable about this game.
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ShotKneesHoop added 08:00 - Jan 7
Every comment made is nailed on as a valid fact re what has gone wrong with the competition that the FA refuse to recognise. If posters and a fanzine moderator can make such a clear case for reform, why can't the FA see the logic? Answers on a SKY contract to 'Arry Redknobb with a dozen used tons inside. Yer couldn't make it up.
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Burnleyhoop added 11:36 - Jan 7
Trevor's bicycle kick was 20 years ago !? Christ, where has the time gone?

Got to say though, I find it highly unlikely we wo'nt concede today. Although generally a poor side, they have the players that can find the back of the net. Tend to let more in than they score, although we might have a problem with that today.

Unfortunately, I believe by this time tomorrow, we will be concentrating on the league.....again.

Hope I'm wrong.
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TacticalR added 14:47 - Jan 7
Thanks for your preview.

Some great points about how we've got to where we've got to.

Yesterday on 5 Live Football Daily a couple of other points were made about the demise of the FA Cup:

1. European competition overshadows everything else, so 'coming fourth in the league is a trophy'.

2. Even though the big clubs don't take the FA Cup seriously, in the Premier League era one of the big clubs nearly always wins it, so there's not much romance either.
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