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Reading 3 v 3 Queens Park Rangers
SkyBet Championship
Saturday, 11th September 2021 Kick-off 15:00
My dad could beat your dad in a fight - Preview
Friday, 10th Sep 2021 18:02 by Clive Whittingham

It's back to your school days of bitchiness and mountainous molehills as QPR's trip to Reading turns into a monumental dickswinging contest before it's even begun.

Reading (1-0-4 LLWLLL 21st) v QPR (3-2-0 DWWDWW 3rd)

Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Saturday September 11, 2021 >>> Kick Off 15.00 >>> Weather – Grey but dry >>> Junction 11, M4

First week of September and we’ve had our first ticketing crisis. Things must indeed be looking up on the field at Queens Park Rangers.

QPR’s decision to whack their Reading allocation straight onto general sale, very close to the date of the game, with no prior warning of when they would drop, saw them predictably sell out in a matter of a couple of hours in a free-for-all among those who happened to be on the internet at that time, and can get the ticketing website to function. Many Rangers fans who’ve been going home and away with the team for years got home that night to find the tickets had been and gone while they were at work without them even knowing it had happened. Since returning from lockdown QPR have been putting away tickets on sale far too late (Middlesbrough away on a Wednesday night, tickets not on sale until six days prior), and engaging in a stupid and needless “in due course” cloak and dagger routine with anybody who dares to ask for the on sale date, so something like this has been coming. If not here then Fulham, or Peterborough, which are just around the corner.

Getting into a debate on the internet about who’s the better fan, who’s more loyal, who’s more deserving of tickets, is pointless dickswinging. It’s ‘my dad could beat your dad in a fight’ stuff. Everybody thinks they’re more “deserving” one way or another. If you’re a QPR fan, of one year’s standing or 50, of one game a season or 100% attendance, you’re hardly in it for the glory. There are people who haven’t been away because they were too young, because they couldn’t afford it, because work didn’t allow, as well as those that simply didn’t bother because the team was shit, but it is not in any way controversial to say that people who’ve taken the time, money and effort to follow the team away from home through some very dark periods over the last decade should get some priority window now the going is apparently getting good again. If you’re north of the 1,600-odd loyalty point cut off they seem to be using now it means you’ve been to the majority of the aways when Mark Hughes was meticulously preparing for the business of winning Premier League football matches; it means when Harry Redknapp had 11 failed swings at getting even a point away you went to the twelfth at Stoke, after he’d openly described away fixtures as “bonus games”, and saw them lose there as well; it means you were there for Jimmy Floyd-Hasselbaink’s repeated failure to drill nil nil draws out of long distance trips to the north; for Ian Holloway’s hour of madcap nonsense followed by 30 minutes of ‘chuck Matt Smith on’; and for the many varied adventures of Schteve, which included a 7-1 loss at West Brom. If you were there for Mobido Maiga, or those games when Redknapp didn’t pick a striker at all because he wanted to spend yet more money, then you deserve to be fucking king, never mind at Reading on Saturday. Had QPR started 2021/22 as Reading have, with five defeats in their first six games, you’d have had no trouble getting a ticket for this game either, and that’s rather the point. If you’re going to Reading tomorrow because the team’s doing well, and haven’t been going to Reading or anywhere else for the past few years when it wasn’t, it is only fair that there is some sort of queuing system with you further back. That is not, I repeat, in anyway controversial. Come at me if you think so and explain why. Comments are open.

QPR won two away games out of 19 in 2014/15, four out of 23 in 2015/16, six in 2016/17, then three and five over the following seasons. It got so bad the fans commissioned a flag that says “we never win away”. To see the people who’ve stuck with the travelling regardless, in a league frequently dominated by teams in the absolute bleakest and furthest corners of the North West, described as “dinosaurs” and somehow less “regular” than all the top geezers that suddenly feel like following a good, attractive, winning QPR team on the road is in no way fair or called for. From a pure business perspective, somebody who you know will buy their season ticket, their shirt, their away tickets, and lots else besides, regardless of the results, is more valuable to you than somebody proudly Tweeting the club angry, aggressive nonsense about how they’re never coming again as long as this manager or that director of football is in charge only to then suddenly demand an away ticket because the team has gone unbeaten for half a dozen matches and the game is down the road. Absolutely no surprise at all how quickly “it’ll be good to have some younger fans there, the ones that create the atmosphere and don’t just sit there” morphed into “two Reading spares here, £60 each”. Maybe there’s something to be said for prioritising the people that actually want to go to the games rather than milk a profit from other QPR fans after all eh boys? Salty? Maybe a little.

That all said, this is probably an excellent opportunity to look at the loyalty points system and how it operates. While we’re currently really only talking about four or five games in the season – Reading, Fulham, Millwall, Bournemouth, Luton – the problem will rear its head more and more if the team is genuinely going to compete this season. Who can forget the weeks and weeks of message board squabbling over who "deserved" tickets to see the Championship trophy presentation against Leeds in 2011. If you went to QPR all the time in the 1970s and 1980s, lapsed, and then want to see that you think you’re more deserving than somebody who only started in 1995. If you went to Middlesbrough on a Wednesday night this season you feel you should be at Reading more than somebody whose stacked up points over the years but hasn’t been recently. As Lee Hoos said in his interview with us during the week, in football you’re always going to piss somebody off somewhere.

I’m sitting here from a position of 2,500-odd loyalty points, so I would say all of this wouldn’t I? Let them eat cake. If I was a 20-year-old now starting out following QPR away, and they’d done this game on loyalty points, I’d be seriously pissed off if I'd gone all the way to Hull and Middlesbrough but was then shut out of Reading in favour of somebody that did neither but went to a load of matches eight or nine years ago. When I was 20, loyalty points weren’t a thing. You filled a form in requesting tickets to the away, and you enclosed ticket stubs from five of the previous seven away fixtures to qualify, sent it off in the post and hoped for the best. At the moment it would probably take you the 15 years’ of service it’s taken me to get to my points level, and by the time you get there I’ve moved on 15 years still further. There was some great and interesting debate (on Twitter!!!) last weekend about how you solve that issue, either by adopting the England method of a 70/30 split between loyalty points and general sale, or a one/two/three year rolling period for loyalty points so it prioritises the people who are doing the hard yards now as opposed to people who maybe came during the Warnock and Redknapp years and stacked up points, then pissed off, and are now suspiciously keen again. Again, from a business perspective, QPR has an ageing support base that it desperately needs to grow, and young lads getting hooked on the club and becoming home and awayers is a vital part of our future. The system, absolutely, does need looking at.

It has all been rather exacerbated by the set up at Reading. At one point away teams could take that whole end of this soulless, plastic bowl if they wanted - somewhere in the region of 4,000 tickets. That is no longer possible because the atmosphere was so dire here they’ve deemed it necessary to artificially install a “singing section” as close to the away end as possible, so even if Reading wanted to sell more away tickets it’s now logistically impossible. If I was a Reading fan I’d perhaps be of a “fuck em” mindset as well. I remember a few years back Tony Pulis’ horrible Stoke City needed a win on the final day at Loftus Road to make the play-offs and the old Rivals board was besieged for weeks with dwellers from The Oatcake talking about what an outrage it was to only be given both tiers of the School End, and that the home stands would be overrun if QPR didn’t move season ticket holders out of Ellerslie Road to make way for an extended allocation. How sweet it was to see John Gregory’s mostly dreadful side, with nothing to play for, draw the game 1-1 with ten men and send the gobby twats back up the M6 with fuck all. That’s the sort of small-minded football tribalism we can all get on board with. However, if I may retreat to the pragmatic business practicalities of this situation for a third time, Reading are a club whose wages to turnover ratio has topped 204% in recent times. Now under a prolonged transfer embargo, this is a club that should be looking at Sheff Wed and Derby with red warning lights flashing all over the show. They may not like the idea of 4,000 Cardiff/Bristol City/QPR fans packing that end out and reducing the home advantage, but the cold hard fact is it’s another 2,000x£25. If you’re happy seeing the bright, vibrant young team Reading blitzed the start of last season with broken up for a pittance, replenished with scrambled free transfers on the final day of the window, as long as there’s a few hundred people making some noise and waving an (admittedly very clever and funny) David Brent flag around, then I think you need to give your priorities a shake. For the first home league game here at maximum capacity in 18 months, against Preston, there were 12,005 empty seats elsewhere in the stadium available for all the banter requirements one could ever possibly need. Salty? Again, maybe a little. But if you’re going to compound it all by preventing QPR covering up for their mistake with a beamback to a few dozen fans in the club bar, because you think they’d otherwise be spending God knows what coming to sit in your hospitality section, you deserve some saltiness. In a sticky, liquid form.

What awaits us on the pitch when we get there is, again, fascinating. QPR haven’t lost in seven, their longest unbeaten start to a campaign since 1987 under Jim Smith. A 3-0 away win in the north in game two, a point snatched out of the fire of a 2-0 battering in game four, draws obvious comparisons with the Neil Warnock team of 2010/11, who won 3-0 at Sheff Utd, and drew 2-2 at Derby, in similar circumstances. The last three times they’ve remained unbeaten through the first five league games in the second tier they’ve been promoted from it (2013/14, 2010/11, 1972/73). But that Warnock team eventually went unbeaten for its first 19 games, and it swept some sides in that time. There were home wins to nil against Barnsley, Scunthorpe and Middlesbrough, a 3-0 at Ipswich on a Tuesday night that you couldn’t even define as competitive. We haven’t had that yet. Even the 3-0 at Hull, against a side that hasn’t won or scored since the opening day, came with a terrifying 15 minutes at the start of the second half. The xG is low, for people that like that kind of thing – it has QPR kicking around 17/18th, although it improves substantially if you take account only of the second halves. The evangelists say QPR "cannot possibly keep this up".

In Reading, QPR meet a fellow slow starter, so the opening 45 tomorrow could be a real goat rodeo. It’s an important game though. I know Warbs Warburton likes to say “show me an easy game” about this league, but there’s some tough stuff in this little tranche between international breaks. QPR have won five consecutive away league games for the first time since 1927/28, and if they’re able to match the seven they managed back then and beat it with Bournemouth, Fulham and West Brom the next three on the road after this then lump on for a top two spot. The home games – Bristol City, Preston, Birmingham, Blackburn – are rather kinder, but the fixture congestion with the Everton cup game included is significant again.

If we have genuine ambition, this is an important game. Bar Ovie Ejaria, many of the starlets of Reading’s flying start to last season have either left for a fraction of their value (£8m in total for Michael Olise and Omar Richards, outlandish highway robbery) or are now injured medium to long term. They have lost five of their first six, and have the worst defensive record in the whole of the EFL. The home advantage supplied by the “1871 Club” has so far stretched to one narrow win against Preston, while Bristol City and Swansea shared six goals and two wins. The away games that annoyed the manager the most last season were Reading and Birmingham, which yielded a single point despite long periods of domination, and both had gilt edged misses by Stefan Johansen that would have put the match to bed in common. He referenced both specifically in our pre-season interview…

“We needed more clean sheets and we needed to be more ruthless in front of goal. The mindset to respond to that well, and go right to the end was pleasing. Then you start looking back at games like the two against Reading, away from home Stef missed a great chance from 15 yards, the home game Ilias hit the inside of the post, it becomes about fine margins and details.
“You know why Birmingham niggles? Stef got forwards great and scored some good goals for us but that one he’ll say himself I don’t know how he missed and at 2-0 they were dead in the water. They said it themselves. One nil up, eight minutes to go, just get the points. They’re the type of moments that you look back on and learn from. That cannot happen this season. We cannot be 1-0 up at Birmingham and let ourselves down like that.”

I think he’ll see this as a big one as well, particularly with what’s to come between now and the next breather, and our excellent record when coming back off international breaks.

Experience tells us when you take high expectations, big away following, optimism, feel good and drop QPR into the mix, you’re emptying a family sized bag of Mentos into a bath of Coke. It never goes well. If that’s true tomorrow, after all the chat that’s gone on pre-game, few fans will greet the result as gleefully as Reading’s. That flag is in for some serious waving.

Links >>> Lee Hoos – Patreon >>> Routledge goal – History >>> Transfer embargoes – Interview >>> Eltringham in charge – Referee >>> View from the PU – August >>> TicketShafter – Podcast >>> Reading Official website >>> Tilehurst End – Blog >>> Hob Nob Anyone? Forum >>> Reading Chronicle – Local Paper >>> Get Reading – Local Paper >>> Elm Park Royals – Podcast

Below the fold

Team News: Warbs Warburton has often been reluctant to start players coming back from international duty in the weekend game, so Seny Dieng (Senegal), Lyndon Dykes (calf) and Ilias Chair (military coup) are all doubtful. Chair was expected to train on Friday and be involved. Lee Wallace remains out with a hamstring injury so Sam McCallum will be the left wing back and Andre Gray is available for a debut having signed on deadline day from Watford. Other than that, you can pretty much call the team from here.

Reading slipped the shackles of their transfer embargo enough to make an eclectic mix of half a dozen free transfer and loan signings at the end of the window. They include our former half-arsed charge Junior Hoilett, scourge of our trip to Birmingham last season Alen Halilovic, Ngolo Kante’s bag carrier Danny Drinkwater, Chelsea loanee #3,458 Abdul-Rahman Baba and Watford’s Tom Dele-Bashiru. Crystal Palace crusty Scott Dann is also on board though whether the breaking of the pension’s triple lock will leave him in the right frame of mind to play remains to be seen. Lucas Joao and Yakou Meite, who shouldered much of the striking burden last season, are long term absentees but the always impressive Ovie Ejaria has recovered from plague in time to be involved. Tom McIntyre (head), Femi Azeez (shoulder) and Felipe Araruna (knees and toes) are all out until will into next month. Jamaica’s latest raid on diaspora in the Football League wasn’t an immediate roaring success, as a team containing Reading’s Liam Moore among others was beaten 3-0 by Panama last weekend. He one of five Royals away with their countries last week – Hoilett, Andy Yiadom, Rahman and Dejan Tetek the others. If you were unlucky and didn’t get a ticket, might be worth turning up with your boots and watching from the Reading bench.

Elsewhere: A month and five rounds into the Mercantile Credit Trophy and we have four teams unbeaten, three without a win, and the rest giving up few clues on their prospects. The whole thing swings back into life tonight with Wayne Rooney’s Derby County heading to Birmingham. A win, three draws, and just the one defeat is certainly better than anybody gave Derby a chance of before the big kick off, but they continue to dig their heels in against the inevitable points deduction that is coming their way sooner or later regardless which means another drawn out set of hearings and an ongoing transfer embargo preventing them strengthening their threadbare squad. Birmingham failed to score at home against Stoke, Bournemouth or Fulham but have already won at Sheff Utd and 5-0 at Luton. Troy Deeney debuts. Brave man to make a call on this one.

There’s a bit of that about tomorrow as well. Lutown have a 3-0 home win and a 5-0 home loss on their slate already, beaten by Birmingham and West Brom, victorious over Peterborough and most impressively away at Barnsley, and now facing Blackburn who are also W2 D2 L2 to start with and are yet to register the same outcome in consecutive games. They’re also now without Ben Brereton amidst a rising absentee list – their refusal to let him travel Chile in the latest international break means a five day Fifa ban. Pleased to see everybody’s being really pragmatic, particle and grown up about the concept of international football during a global pandemic.

Not a lot of love for Stoke and Sporting Huddersfield’s chances pre-season, quite the opposite in the latter’s case, but they’ve both started strongly ahead of an intriguing meeting in the Potteries tomorrow. Sheffield Red Stripe are shocking people by heading in the opposite direction – LFW tip for the title yet to win, and have only scored once, in the league as they prepare to face newly promoted Peterborough who’ve only won once so far. One of the unbeaten sides, Tarquin and Rupert, face one of the winless outfits in Blackpool. Bristol City and Preston Knob End have settled pre-season pessimism with a couple of wins apiece ahead of their meet at Ashton Gate. Hull look in poor shape, without a win or a goal since the opening day, ahead of a long trek down to Swanselona who, as suspected, look very pretty but never beat anybody and must now do without Jamal Lowe and Connor Roberts after a deadline day firesale. Lowe has headed to Bournemouth, unbeaten but uninspiring as is the Scott Parker way, and should debut at home to Barnsley.

Coventry’s date on the Fourteenth Annual Neil Warnock Farewell Tour, and early pace setters West Brom at home to the Marxist Hunters are the two Saturday games we haven’t mentioned so far. Sunday brings us back face to face with the ongoing train wreck that is Nottingham Florist as they host Cardiff. A summer of “we’ve changed, it’s all different now, the old Forest is gone, we’ve got the Barnsley CEO you know, it’s our year” has quickly dissolved into four defeats and a draw from five games, talk of a nineteenth change of manager in 11 years, and another ten signings mostly in the very final throes of the window. That’s 77 new signings in three seasons there now, seven new starting 11s in six transfer windows. The arrival of Dane Murphy from Oakwell as CEO was much heralded, and he brought with him analytics enthusiast George Syrianos from Stuttgart and comedy own goal specialist Chris Brass from Wigan, but Hughton was hired with the promise of final say on deals while megalomaniac owner Marinakis remains, along with chairman Nicholas Randall, technical director Francois Modesto, and even previous CEO Ioannis Vrentzos. Who reports to who, does what, or gets final tick on recruitment remains a bit of mystery but between them they’ve put their heads together and come up with Djed Spence on loan from Middlesbrough.

Referee: Geoff Eltringham is one of the regular mainstays of the Championship list, and one of its better referees, but QPR avoided him entirely last season having had him three times in 2019/20. Presumably this is because he’s based in Durham, and during the pandemic they tried to keep the northern referees to the northern games and the southern referees likewise, without us ever really noticing – hence double helpings of Stroud and Woolmer. Anyway, he’s back with us this weekend. Details.

Form

Reading: The Royals have won once and lost five of their first six league and cup games this season, the exact opposite to their 2020/21 start when they won five and lost one of the first six, and eventually won seven and drew one of the first eight league games. They come into this game on the back of three straight defeats, with the latter a 4-0 defeat at Huddersfield the fourth occasion already that they’ve conceded three goals or more in a game. No team in the EFL has conceded as many goals as Reading’s 16 goals so far (three in the cup). At home Bristol City and Swansea have both won here already in league and cup, scoring three each, with a 2-1 victory against Preston sandwiched between them. Reading won only one of their final 11 games of last season (seven draws mind) which means they’ve now won just two of their last 18 games in all comps. They have won just four of their last 15 games on this ground. That said, only the top two and Bournemouth won more home games than Reading’s 12 in 2020/21. Despite that, and the remarkable W7 D1 L0 start, they ended up missing the play offs by a full seven points

QPR: Lyndon Dykes comes back from international duty having scored twice in two games against Moldova and Austria for Scotland. This continues his hot run of form for QPR which is three goals in his last three appearances (Hull A, Boro A, Coventry H), and ten goals and four assists in his last 14 games for Rangers. That run started here at Reading last March when he snapped a run of 22 games without a goal with the opener in a 1-1 draw. Only twice since (Coventry H last season, Millwall H this) has he finished a game without a goal or an assist. The win against Coventry prior to the break was QPR’s 18th since the turn of the year. Only Man City (22) have won more games than the R’s in 2021. Unbeaten in the first seven league and cup games (W4 D3) makes this Rangers’ longest unbeaten start to a season since 1987/88 under Jim Smith (W6 D1). Rangers have scored at least once in each of their last 18 games going back to a 1-0 home defeat to Huddersfield in March. This is their best run since 2004/05 when Ian Holloway’s newly promoted team scored in 18 consecutive games between September 11 and December 11 – a run that ended with a 1-0 defeat at Reading. Mark Warburton’s team have won their opening two league games on the road at Hull and Boro, scoring three goals in each, extending the run of consecutive away wins in the league to five with last season’s wins at Stoke, Swansea and Boro again. The last time they won more than five consecutive away games in the league was a run of seven through September 1927. In 2020/21 QPR won four, drew three and lost none of the games they played after a break of eight days or more, but won only four, drew three and lost eight of the 15 games they were forced to play straight after a midweek outing.

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. Mick_S took the title on the very final weekend of the season last year giving him the dubious honour of finishing our match previews in 2021/22. Here are his thoughts on Reading…

“I think I may need to have a word with myself, as I really, really fancy us for this one. From what is out there, Reading have a good few injuries to decent players, so I’ll go 1-3 Rangers, with Willock as our first goal scorer. Come on my team.”

Mick’s Prediction: Reading 1-3 QPR. Scorer – Chris Willock

LFW’s Prediction: Reading 2-2 QPR. Scorer – Charlie Austin

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Gleni1977 added 21:19 - Sep 10
The ticket situation is a disgrace. Loyal fans have been treated very poorly. The club have apologised. I would be extremely disappointed/surprised if they made the same mistake again. Now let's get back to dick jokes and QPR making a promising start to the season.
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VancouverHoop added 22:32 - Sep 10
Hoilett played most of the match between Canada and El Salvador mid-week, so I wouldn't expect to see him tomorrow.
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Loftgirl added 04:13 - Sep 11
"Head, shoulders, knees and toes". This actually made me laugh out loud. Thanks.
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thehat added 08:32 - Sep 11

Thanks Clive - Brilliant as always…

I’m taking my 13 year old daughter to Reading today which I might not of been able to do if they had done the tickets another way. Whilst I have over 1600 loyalty points she doesn’t despite having a season ticket for a few years.

She is Rangers mad and so looking forward to the day so I guess thats the other side of the coin. The 70/30 split seems a good solution.
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TacticalR added 14:59 - Sep 11
Thanks for your preview.

I've never been a great one for away games, but I've been to a few more in recent years, including the wins at Forest and Fulham (when away wins were hard to come by). It seems fair enough to me that the fans who traipsed up to places like Middlesbrough should get priority. The really annoying thing about this game is that the problem could have easily been solved by Reading giving us more seats.
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