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Schools of thought - Preview
Friday, 4th Dec 2020 18:45 by Clive Whittingham

QPR have been the better team, and been beaten regardless, in both of their games this week. Match three, and yet another fork in the road, comes at snow-swept Huddersfield on Saturday.

Huddersfield (5-3-7, LDLDWL, 16th) v QPR (4-5-6, WLDWLL, 17th)

Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Saturday December 5, 2020 >>> Kick off 15.00 >>> Weather - Death awaits >>> Huddersfield, West Yorkshire

Dawn, I’m fed up. As you should be. As we all should be.

Post-defeat emotions vary wildly, depending on the nature of that loss. I’ve sat there - in cold, dark away ends - watching QPR teams lose 3-0 at Notts County, 4-1 at Oldham and Sheff Wed, 4-0 at Fulham and Norwich, 5-0 at Preston and Wimbledon, 6-0 at Man City and Fulham and plenty else besides. I’ve paid money to travel and see us lose at Scunthorpe, Bradford, Barnsley. Winersh. I’ve walked out at half time of 1-0 defeats at Peterborough, because what’s the fucking point any more?

I’ve sat there hoping the opposition score more. I admit it. I’ve sat there and taken sadistic pleasure in the goals going in against us. I’ve sat there and secretly longed for us to get done seven, eight, nine. Because I hoped at some point it might become so bad that action is taken. That at some point somebody who can do something about it is as embarrassed and bereft as I am watching it. That it might become so horrific it pricks the professional pride of the ghosts phoning in performances in our colours. I've driven from Sheffield to Luton for a game to be called off, then driven back the following week to see Zesh Rehman volley a last minute winner into his own net. I’ve walked out of 5-0 Tuesday night defeats at Nottingham Forest and stared into the abyss of three hours negotiating “temporary” and “variable” 50mph speed limits on the M1 as the only car on the road and said “Good. I wish they’d scored seven. Might make those pricks realise.” Emotionally, I can deal with those ones. I’ve had practice. We were shit. We got beat. Get me home. Let me commence Drink To Forget in front of old episodes of Air Crash Investigation.

There are multiple, nuanced layers of defeat beneath that. And believe me by religiously following a team that tends to win just three away games a season I’ve explored all of them. There’s the 1-0 loss at Newcastle where you got up at the fart of the sparrow and sat in the freezing cold 12 stories up watching us try, and fail, to get a nil nil. Once they’ve scored, then what? Well, not much mate. There are all the many and varied defeats at Grimsby Town, and places for which Grimsby Town is a symbolic metaphor, where QPR teams spanning the whole spectrum of ability and form roll up in hats and gloves, look out into the biting cold of the mouth of the Humber Estuary (other northern rivers are available), and think, “not for me Clive”. I’m still haunted by Tommy Widdrington. We’ve lost 6-1 at Chelsea, where our striker celebrated his consolation goal like he’d won the World Cup because he was on a £10k goal bonus. And we’ve lost 4-2 at Chesterfield where Jamie McMaster suddenly morphed from Championship Manager anomaly to genuine world-beater for 90 tortuous minutes. It snowed that day too. And, literally, everything in between. I’ve seen us 2-0 up with ten to play and lose, more than once. We’ve had some days, and nights, in Port Vale, wherever the fucking hell that is, and none ended well. We drank in a pub that had a sign up asking patrons not to spit on the pool table. I could write a book, QPR Defeats Where We Had A Great Time Regardless. And its follow up, QPR Defeats Where We Had A Fucking Shit Time.

From our broad sample, defeats sting most when we're the better team, and we either beat ourselves, or we're beaten by the referee. The 2-1 setbacks we suffered against Brentford and Bristol City last week were two such occasions. We’d have been safer leaving that Brentford match in the care of Louise Woodward than Matt Donohue, and his handling of it was, rightly, the talking point post-match. I don’t want a Dean Smith-style excuse merchant in charge of my team, because by constantly giving them excuses you’re letting them off the hook, but Warbs Warburton was right to be furious last Friday night and I enjoyed seeing that departure from his stock phrases. Have we all “taken care of the football” this week? Pleased to hear it. Come on Mark, call the referee a “top cunt”. Kick him in the legs. He wants you to kick him.

But… if Lyndon Dykes hadn’t horribly butchered an incredible chance for a second goal just before half time, and if our set up for what turned out to be Ivan Toney’s winner off a crossed free kick in the second half wasn’t so obviously, horribly amateurish, than Gurnham Singh and Rob Styles could have been refereeing that game as a joint enterprise and it wouldn’t have mattered. Bristol City, similarly, a product of missed sitters from Carroll, Willock, Dykes and Osayi-Samuel and a dire mistake in possession from Rob Dickie. Is that the manager’s fault? No. Is it the manager’s fault when it keeps happening, when we keep conceding off set pieces, when we keep requiring three goals to win, when every opposition corner feels like a penalty? Well, that’s where we are now isn’t it?

School of thought one is the angry, reactionary one. Warburton has been here 18 months, has been involved with two enormous player turnovers, has moulded the squad in his image, and it’s been top of the table for conceding off crosses, headers, corners, set pieces and penalties throughout. All of them, rightly or wrongly, things the layman TalkSport caller would say are factors that can be planned for, mitigated and practised against by the management. Opposition corners and free kicks feeling like opposition penalties isn’t sustainable, or acceptable, and I’m not convinced Warbs getting a face on whenever anybody suggests this helps his cause much. Fine, nobody can legislate for Conor Masterson taking an air swing at Watford’s first corner of the game, or Rob Dickie passing the ball straight to the Bristol City lad, or Rob Dickie hauling Cauley Woodrow down in the box — young boys, making mistakes on a development path. That's not a knife, that's a knife. But when you’re setting up for a Brentford free kick on the corner of the penalty box with a bare one-man wall and Niko Hämäläinen marking the hottest centre forward in the division at the near post you deserve everything you get, and it’s not unreasonable to ask questions of the people overseeing that shambles.

School of thought two is the pragmatic, deep-breath one. If we keep playing as we did in the first half against Brentford, Bristol City, Rotherham, Cardiff, the second half at Watford, the whole game at Bournemouth and Derby, then we cannot fail to eventually start winning games. This is a shit league, and a team playing like that wins more than it loses. If we hold steady, keep supporting this young team in its endeavours, don't hammer them for narrow and unlucky defeats, eventually the whole thing will mature and blossom.

We’ve lost a hell of a lot of quality players over the past three years — Smithies, Onuoha, Robinson, Leistner, Manning, Freeman, Luongo, Eze, Wszolek, Wells, Hugill is quite a starting eleven at Championship level for a start and they’ve all gone out of the team. In their place are projects, quite a few of whom look like they’ve got great potential, but we have to swallow their mistakes while they get up to speed. If we’re playing like that first half on Tuesday before they bed in, imagine what we’ll be like when they’re up to speed. We’ve shown our workings, and if the players can just maintain faith in the method a while longer, somebody will get a good hiding. We said the same this time last year, and lo Cardiff and Swansea had 11 goals put through them inside a week. Mark Warburton has proven it once already. He’s earned our respect, and bought our time.

Besides, the manager has fulfilled the remit he came in here on. Warburton was brought in here to sell the sellable assets, replace them with projects from the academy, Scotland and lower leagues, and develop them. He was brought in here to sell our best players, reduce the wage bill, and remain competitive in the Championship while doing it. He was brought in here to foster a style of play and ethos which the fans enjoy watching and also attracts promising young footballers to come here and play for us. Simply put, style of football and league table performance had to go up, and wage bill and proven Championship players under contract had to go down. That’s a hell of task. Facing those financial realities most managers, like Paul Warne at Rotherham and Gareth Ainsworth at Wycombe, would regress to lowest common denominator football. Get a big bastard up there and get the ball launched. Warburton has done everything asked of him, and he’s done it playing football like we played in the first 40 minutes at Brentford and Bristol, which was brilliant I don’t care what anybody says.

If we were to change now, we’d be in a dire quandary. First of all, we’d be looking for somebody available mid-season, who wants to come to this club, with this budget, this wage bill, and continue this project. That’s not an alluring list. Eddie Howe is not going to shag you mate. This is not an attractive job. I think even a Nigel Pearson type would have reservations, in between wrestling Romanian wolves. And since when did Nigel Pearson become cat nip for QPR anyway? Thank you Jesus for Steve Cotterill and his gold chain clanking up the M6 into employment just before we potentially jump off that cliff edge again — but it would be somebody of that ilk. No matter how many times a change of manager makes no difference to us, we never seem to satisfy our bloodlust.

If you go down a more pragmatic, Championship, hang ‘em, flog ‘em, Tony Pulis type then you’re surrendering to more enormous player turnover in January and next summer because there isn’t a single player in this squad that such a person would give the time of day to. Continue the project with another Warburton type and what exactly would change? You think we’re suddenly going to start taking chances? You think Yoann Barbet is suddenly going to stop giving penalties away? And if you think I’m being narrow minded and defeatist, that there’s a whole world of managers out there ready to be harvested, and if Swansea can get somebody like Steve Cooper from left field then why can’t we, then I ask you what single indication our board and management structure have given you that they’re capable of identifying and appointing that candidate.

We’ve had this discussion before. Of course we’ve had this discussion before, it’s QPR. So far, whenever Warburton has needed to quell the rising tides with a timely win, he’s done exactly that. And so, we arrive in Huddersfield.

Links >>> The view from the Pu — November >>> Are you talking about us? Interview >>> Macca’s cup winner — History >>> Whitestone in charge — Referee >>> It’s the most Warbs-ball time of the year — Podcast >>> Official website >>> Ground Guide >>> Down at the Mac — Forum >>> And he Takes That Chance — Podcast

Geoff Cameron Facts No.119 In The Series — All four of QPR’s wins this season have come in games Cameron started and they have lost all four of the league and cup games he has missed — hat trip SteveC. Rangers have 17 points from 12 games with Cameron starting, 11 from 11 with Tom Carroll and five from eight when Dom Ball has begun the game. (Some of the Geoff Cameron Facts will be serious).


Team News: QPR have Todd Kane back available after his one game on the naughty step midweek for the Brentford sending off last Friday. Geoff Cameron has missed the last two games but was down to train on Thursday ahead of possible involvement here. Luke Amos and Charlie Owens are the long term absentees. Other than that everybody is as fit as they can be while the EFL is making them play a football game every other day.

Right back Pipa, a summer recruit from Espanyol, has been something of a revelation for Huddersfield so far this season but slipped a rib cartilage laughing at the idea of going out in this weather after the 1-1 draw with Luton on November 7 and isn’t likely to be venturing out from under the duvet for this one. Expect to see him again March time. Richard Stearman has a fractured man bun. Warbs Warburton’s best boy Alex Pritchard may be fit enough for a return on the bench.

Elsewhere: The weekend kicks off with a televised exciting game between two teams beginning with B as Bournemouth travel to Barnsley — that AFC aint fooling anybody lads, you just want to be ball one in the FA Cup draw. Very much hoping that Sky don’t think we haven’t noticed they’ve started using our league for early midweek kick offs — this must be resisted post lockdown. QPR’s second game back with fans, against Stoke, now scheduled for 17.30 on a working weekday. Absolutely not.

I won’t hear a word said against the impact made by the managerial committee at Derby. After Wazza’s executive Filofax helped secure a hard fought and richly deserved 1-1 draw at home to early pace setters Wycombe, they backed that up with a similarly impressive 1-1 at Pride Park against Coventry during the week. Tide clearly turning there, and with timing only Mel Morris’ Rams could feel appropriate, they’re now being heavily tipped as the first club to give Big Racist John his first full managerial gig — Sky classily running a poll on whether this is a good idea 12 hours after the BBC aired their Errr, Hang On A Fucking Minute documentary with Anton Ferdinand last Monday. They’re at Miwllwawll tomorrow (what the facking ‘ell Wawll) with the six-man management committee still in place for now. Presumably Terry’s arrival would spell the end of Liam Rosenior’s time with the club, unless they can convince Captain Leader Legend it’s just a deep tan from a recent trip abroad? Shouldn’t be too difficult to be fair, I’d back myself to distract that cunt with a shiny piece of paper.

Having botched their own attempt to extract a 0-0 from the midweeker with Barnsley by scoring first, Aitor Karanka’s Birmingham chucked their hands in the air and said there was no point in playing any more. Barnsley promptly won 2-1. This week’s attempt to bludgeon a game of football to death will be staged at Bristol City — and all who sail in her.

Two teams on varying ends of the weird and wonderful Championship refereeing we’re seeing this season meet at Carrow Road. Borussia Norwich were aggrieved with the officiating of their midweek loss at Lutown — although among the complaints was the linesman missing an offside while engaging in an exchange with Daniel Farke, which sounds like the Allo Allo extra’s fault as much as anybody’s. Their opponents this weekend Sheffield Owls, meanwhile, had a man sent off and conceded off a disputed free kick against Reading in the midweek round but then survived four very, very good penalty shouts against them as experienced referee Oliver Langford properly shit the bed. How you don’t give the handball one, in particular, is beyond me. Good chance to slip in that Lutown are away to Swanselona this Saturday.

Rattling through a few others — Coventry and Rotherham meet at St Andrew’s, two newly promoted teams, two contrasting styles, and two managers that have surely earmarked this as an opportunity for three points. Interesting, given our relative mood, position and points total, that Mark Robins set Coventry a target of 20 points from the first half of the season to give them a chance of staying up. Preston v Wycombe? Well, yes, I guess, if that’s what you’re intro. Thirteenth Annual Neil Warnock Farewell Tour has a matinee performance in Watford.

Mad Chicken Farmers, bless them, in grave danger of fulfilling our prediction of being a dark horse this season with four wins from five, now travel to Justice League leaders Red Bull Syon House, who will almost certainly be the best team they’ve played all season. And, as ever, we of course wish Nottingham Florist and their cast of a thousand footballers luck on their hunt for a ninth goal and fourteenth point of the season on the long Saturday lunchtime trip down to Reading.

Referee: Dean Whitestone, who refereed the 1-1 draw between these sides at Loftus Road at the start of last season, is the man in the middle on Saturday. He refereed QPR’s last match with fans, a 3-1 away win at Preston where Geoff Cameron was sent off. Details.


Huddersfield: Striking similarities between Huddersfield Town and ourselves wherever you look. A club mismanaged for several years pivoting in a trendy, total football direction this summer and losing their best player — Karlan Grant — to a big money Premier League move prior to the start of 2020/21. They have won five league games to our four, lost seven to our six, scored 18 to our 17, and conceded exactly the same 22 goals that we’ve shipped — only Coventry on 24 have a worse defensive record than these two sides. Both teams have kept four clean sheets in the league. Both teams have conceded three goals in a game three times in the league. Both teams have beaten Forest and Derby to nil amongst that. Both teams have one win in the last five games, both teams have conceded ten goals in those games, both teams have scored seven in those games. Both teams have won three home games, with Huddersfield winning against Forest (1-0), Derby (1-0) and Middlesbrough (3-2) and QPR beating Forest (2-0), Cardiff (3-2) and Rotherham (3-2).

QPR: The 2-1 loss at Brentford last Friday means it’s one win and five defeats from eight away games for QPR this season in all comps. They’ve conceded 15 goals in those eight matches as well, including three each against Plymouth, Coventry, Barnsley and Blackburn. Rangers had looked to be making strides on the defensive side of things, having kept just six clean sheets and conceded 76 goals in the whole of 2019/20 — a third consecutive season where this team has shipped north of 70 goals. They managed four clean sheets in their first ten games this time around but since the 1-0 win at hapless Derby it’s been goals galore against once more, with ten conceded in the last five matches and two in each of the last three. Rangers are, again, playing themselves into a situation where it needs three goals to win, something they’ve managed twice this year, in 3-2 home victories against Rotherham and Cardiff. QPR lost this fixture 2-0 last season, game four of a four match losing run that included a single goal home defeat to Bristol City in the match before. Our terminally lovely stats man Jack Supple told the QPR Podcast this week that while you’d think Warburton’s attack and defence would prefer to have the ball, there have been nine games where we’ve had more possession and we’ve failed to win eight of them, while of the six where we’ve had less possession we’ve won three.

Prediction: We’re indebted to The Art of Football for once again agreeing to sponsor our Prediction League and provide prizes. The squad is updated and you can get involved by lodging your prediction here or sample the merch from our sponsor’s QPR collection here. We were sadly spot on with our Bristol City call — today last season’s champion Mase offers us this…

“A northern awayday in winter often results in a Rangers defeat so that seems like the safest choice here. While I think we've given a good account of ourselves in recent matches there is a nagging doubt in my mind that teams know that while we have some threats of our own, and dominate possession, we can be got at and will give away good chances fairly readily. Indeed, that's exactly what Dean Holden was telling BBC Radio Bristol before our game on Tuesday (I was hunting around for a commentary on my Alexa, don't judge me...). And exactly how it panned out. I expect more of the same in West Yorkshire.”

Mase’s Prediction: Huddersfield 2-1 QPR. Scorer — Lyndon Dykes

LFW’s Prediction: Huddersfield 2-3 QPR. Scorer — Lyndon Dykes

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LongsufferingR added 19:23 - Dec 4
Haha. Just when Louise Woodward thought everybody had forgotten who she was.

Northernr added 19:27 - Dec 4
What is LFW here for if not for keeping 90s pop culture alive?

Myke added 23:44 - Dec 4
Brilliant Clive - just not sure 1 in 119 constitutes 'some'!

toboboly added 00:21 - Dec 5
Excellent reading

timcocking added 00:22 - Dec 5
Please God they aren't seriously considering making yet another managerial change. I think Warburton has been mostly excellent. If only he'd let them clear the bloody ball when it needs clearing and told them they can move when the ball is in the air during a corner kick, we'd be sorted for Es and Whizz.

Hold on...Warburton with Tony Pulis as his number 2? We'd be unbeatable...

gigiisourgod added 00:32 - Dec 5
Poetry, absolute poetry.

062259 added 02:34 - Dec 5
You didn’t mention Furlong in the podcast or here. We lost him too.

welwynhoop added 06:09 - Dec 5
Thanks for another great piece. I’m finding it difficult to keep up with just listening to all the games so it’s amazing that you keep on writing with such brilliance.

Patrick added 09:14 - Dec 5
Excellent review again. I also wonder if this could for once be an away team we may enjoy being up against. (Hope springs, and all that.) But I'm quite looking forward to the 17:30 kick off against Stoke - get the pain out of the way early doors and leave plenty of time for several "substantial meals".

TacticalR added 14:57 - Dec 5
Thanks for your preview.

Yes, we've had this discussion before and we'll have it again. Once again context is everything, and as you point out, Warburton seems to be following his remit. Perhaps the danger with the 'player sales' model is that if the club is merely a shop window then results become secondary. Also we don't really know if the 'player sales' model is working, as the jewel crown in the crown (Eze) that we sold was here before Warburton arrived.

Intriguingly Huddersfield sound like a bit of a Warbsball side, so we'll see who is better at it.

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