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Queens Park Rangers 4 v 0 Reading
SkyBet Championship
Saturday, 29th January 2022 Kick-off 15:00
Role reversal - Preview
Friday, 28th Jan 2022 18:57 by Clive Whittingham

QPR return to action at Loftus Road on Saturday against perennial pests Reading, themselves now engulfed in a crisis that will sound very familiar to W12 regulars.

QPR (14-6-7 WWDWWD 4th) v Reading (8-4-15 DLLLLL 21st)

Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Saturday January 29, 2022 >>> Kick Off 15.00 >>> Weather – Milder but windier >>> Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium, Loftus Road, London, W12

As the transfer window, mercifully, prepares to “slam shut” for another few months, Reading make for apt visitors to Loftus Road on Saturday.

Reading, for a long time, were intensely annoying – and not just because of that shameless “URZ” thing they keep trying to light like a barbecue in a tropical storm. While QPR were disappearing beneath the waves of financial chaos and dodgy agent deals during Gianni Paladini’s chairmanship, Reading were winning this division with 106 points and 99 goals – they beat us on the final day just to rub it in, Graeme Murty being gifted a penalty five minutes from time to make sure all their outfield players had scored at least once in the season. Jesus, Mary, Joseph, Wee Donkey, etc.

Their initially spectacular and enormously impressive arrival in the Premier League under Steve Coppell eventually subsided and they returned to our league but, bar a double done by Neil Warnock’s outstanding QPR class of 2010/11, and a 4-1 win at Loftus Road during that wacky week when Jim Magilton’s team cut loose, these fixtures have tended to be more ball ache than tickle – and, again, not just because their identikit ground couldn’t be a more dire away trip if they stuck the fucking thing in Kabul. There was that whole Brian McDermott period where Matt Mills and Jem Karacan pursued the match official around the field, refereeing these games by committee. Mills, such a thunderous cunt throughout his career that he admitted in a recent Under The Cosh appearance that even most of his former team mates no longer speak to him, and when one does he just apologises. A brief sojourn back to the big league together brought only three more failed QPR attempts to register a victory, culminating in the worst 0-0 of all time which relegated both teams to the apparent high amusement of Harry Redknapp and Jose Bosingwa (both should have been gone that night). When Redknapp was then gifted an £80m wage bill to bring Rangers straight back he just about did so, but not without another tumour-inducing 3-1 home defeat to the Royals in which Garath McCleary scored from somewhere out near Regent’s Park.

Reading, simply put and obviously, were a better run club. In John Madejski they had just about the perfect chairman, who bankrolled his local club into a new stadium and multiple promotions but did so with business savvy that meant it was never just a rich twat unsustainably heaving shit at a wall until something stuck and to hell with what comes next. Reading’s ability to consistently scout better players than ours, at a fraction of the cost, while we were waiting until a minute before closing time to rush up to the counter and pay £12m for a Chris Samba-shaped Pot Noodle, was chronic. I’m not sure what sums it up better, the timing and cost of their signing of Kevin Doyle versus ours, or the summer we criminally flogged them promotion winning Kaspars Gorkss for a packet of nuts and then replaced him with Bruno Perone and Anton Ferdinand. Gorkss scored against Rangers in the League Cup that season and I nearly celebrated the fucking goal myself. Warrior.

However, as Brentford have taken over the Ned Flanders role in our lives, and QPR have got their act together on and off the pitch, so Reading have descended into absolute basket case. The signs are all there immediately: Kia Joorabchian has been involved as “special advisor" KLAXON, calling the shots to an owner lacking football experience; Junior Hoilett is sniffing around, always a sure sign there’s some easy money being forked into a trough; they had Meticulous Mark Bowen as director of football and when they asked him to source a new manager he ran an exhaustive process which ended up with him giving the job to himself; the outgoings to turnover ratio would shame a Ponzi scheme. They’re doing old school silly QPR things. I’d say it’s all the same, only the names have changed, because I like chucking song lyrics in to see if anybody notices, but actually, in this case, even the names are the fucking same. How, how on God’s green earth, does Kia Joorabchian keep getting the time of day at professional football clubs? What’s that whistling noise? Oh, it’s Everton, now, freefalling through the air towards us.

With Madejski reduced to merely holder of an expensive season ticket, a Chinese ownership group led by Mr Dai Yongge, have chronically mismanaged this club to the absolute precipice, and it’s now 50/50 whether they’re able to haul themselves back from the edge or go onto become the next Sheff Wed or Derby disaster class. Reading have been operating at 200%+ wages to turnover for several years now, and have lost the thick end £100m over their last three sets of accounts. They have sat out the last several transfer windows under a soft embargo, and this year were deducted six points (paltry for the scale of their breach and the amount of time it’s occurred over, £39m lost in 2017/18, £45m in 2018/19, £43m in 2019/20) with another six to come next season if they cannot stick to an EFL-assigned business plan.

The sort of big money sales that Bristol City were using to keep the wolf from the door prior to their latest cataclysmic set of accounts, or QPR have used to build this season’s squad, or Brentford utilised to trade sustainably up the leagues, were available to Reading too – but a combination of lousy decision making and contract management meant Omar Richards, Rob Dickie, Michael Olise and others have all left for a fraction of their true worth, or often no transfer fee at all. What assets they have now – and this is still a squad capable of fielding a very good team on paper – are now either injured, out of contract in the summer and on money the club cannot afford to renew at, or both. In 2019/20 when they finished fourteenth, below QPR, they had a dozen players each earning more than £1m a season by themselves. This is a club that restricts away ticket sales to 2,000, even when the visiting club could sell twice that (with all the much needed money it would provide), so a singing section/creche can form next to the away end and taunt the visitors on the rare occasions Reading both score and hold onto the lead – all while three quarters of the rest of the ground sits empty, each spare seat and absent away fan costing them money again and again, game after game. This is a club being run by somebody with the business sense of a turnip.

Reading’s fan media – Elm Park Royals, Hob Nob Anybody, The Tilehurst End – is among the best in the league. Their message boards are now like a demilitarised zone. The bloodlet following a recent 7-0 home defeat to Fulham, part of a run of two wins in 16 games that also includes an FA Cup exit to sixth tier Kidderminster, was significant and spared few. Liam Moore recently requested a transfer and was stripped of the captaincy with a public statement from the chairman at 9pm on a Saturday night – always a sign that things are going well. Rumours and innuendo about alleged racism in the squad, battles between the vaxxed and the anti-vaxxed, swirl around, peaking and troughing with each new conspiracy, each latest defeat. The general consensus is manager Veljko Paunović remains only because the club can no longer afford to terminate his contract.

None of this means they won’t win tomorrow. You can get 6/1 if you fancy them, but QPR were heavy favourites to win the first meeting this season too and got their fingers burned. Reading have players coming back from a mid-season injury crisis, players that frequently play well and hurt QPR (John Swift chief among them), and, as already said, have a good record against us. Rangers are notoriously vulnerable when facing a team in strife - frequently very charitable to a needy cause. Mark Warburton’s team are flying high, and positing positive results, but aren’t exactly playing well. An away win isn’t beyond the realms of possibility and no doubt if it comes to pass anybody who’s read this preview will remember it, and start giving it the big ‘un across socials, about the QPR fan who spent his Friday writing several thousand words on what a shuttle disaster Reading are, only to then spend his Saturday watching them hand QPR their own arse. EFL Images That Precede Unfortunate Events, and other such side splitting hilarity, no doubt awaits.

A positive Reading result tomorrow changes none of this. Pretending otherwise would be exactly the sort of short termism that got them, and us, and multiple other clubs, here in the first place. Exactly that same modern day obsession with transfers, spending money, sacking managers, and lording it over rivals with online mega-bantz. I’m shamelessly copying and pasting this from a preview I did for a rival Reading site, but I think it bears repeating, I doubt my ability to say it as well a second time, and I also want to have a bath before Huddersfield Stoke.

Whatever you or I may think of the FFP/P&S rules, pros and cons, merits and drawbacks of the system, clubs can’t just carry on and pretend like they’re not there, and don’t exist. We’ve seen it at Birmingham City, Derby County, Sheffield Wednesday, Wigan Athletic, Aston Villa would have been fucked if they didn’t win the play-off final when they did, QPR back in the day, Bristol City now it looks like as well… just clubs operating at 200%+ wages-to-turnover for prolonged periods of time, gambling that it will get them to the Premier League, and then ending up in a right state when it doesn’t.

I’m hearing and seeing a lot of coverage now about how tragic the Derby situation is, how unfair it is on the fans, how terrible it would be if a massive and historic club went to the wall, #saveDerbyCounty and all of this. And, of course, it’s absolutely right. It’s always the fans that are left behind to pick up the pieces, it’s always the fans that suffer the most when some rich idiot uses their club as a chew-toy and then spits the thing out.

We’ve been there ourselves in the past, potentially you guys might now be heading in that direction too. But it was very obvious that Derby were breaking the rules, being mismanaged, creatively doctoring their accounts, chucking ridiculous money at wages and transfer fees, spending way beyond their means, for literally years now. Far from questioning, analysing, looking at the accounts, calling out things that were blatantly wrong like the sale of the ground, and ultimately protesting, Derby fans (a portion of them at least) revelled in it all, mocking Steve Gibson, mocking the EFL, “Mel’s got you all on strings” and things like that.

Now, please don’t misunderstand me here, I’m not in any way blaming the Derby fans, saying that any of this is their fault, saying they deserve this, or anything like that. It’s not, and they don’t. There is, in the end, only so much you can do if said rich idiot wants to take the club in a certain direction.

What I am saying is that the Championship currently exists as a chancer’s waiting room. Businessmen who cannot afford the billion quid it would cost to buy a Premier League club buy Championship clubs instead then ignore the rules, chuck some money at it in a completely unsustainable and rule-breaking way and see if they can get themselves a Premier League club through the back door. If it goes like it did for Leicester and Wolves, great. But only three teams go up each year, far more miss out, parachute payments make it doubly difficult to be one of those three, and the P&S rules say you basically get three goes at it before you’re f*cked (Sheffield Wednesday, Birmingham City).

These owners have no connection to the club; if they gamble and lose they can just dump it and walk away (Derby, Wigan). Nobody cares about your club as much as you do. Supporters of Championship clubs have to start being much more savvy, much more cautious, and much more aware of who’s gambling how much of their future on this promotion pipe dream.

As we’ve seen at Derby, Wigan and elsewhere, the EFL, the FA, the Premier League… none of these people give a single fuck. They will literally stand aside and do nothing as your club dies (Bury). Supporters, starting now, to the best of their ability and as much as they possibly can, have got to be watchdogs of their own clubs. They’ve got to stress to whoever owns the club the importance of its long-term stability, over and above wanting them to just chuck money you don’t have at a load of players to try and get promoted.

At the moment, particularly online, particularly on social media, supporters’ main priority, to me, seems to be transfers and signing players. I saw a Liverpool blog the other day describing their Twitter supporters as “combative, persistently pessimistic, and obsessed with transfers” and from what I can tell that applies to every club in the top two divisions. There is this attitude, driven by social media, computer games, Sky Sports News, Jim White, countdown clocks, totalisers, ITK accounts, Fabrizio Romano and chancers like him, clickbait sites, that it’s all about signing players, all about spending more money, every team is always three players short of where they need to be, every transfer window you should be bringing in seven or eight players.

Nottingham Forest have signed the thick end of 100 players in four years, and whenever I click on the latest Twitter announcement of the next new body through the door there are zero questions being asked about this, it’s just Forest fans queuing up to say “well, that’s great, but we still need a left winger, and a right back, and another striker…”

This has to change. This mentality has to change. This “chancers’ waiting room” situation cannot continue. The priorities of fans and owners have to change. We, Championship fans, collectively, have got to look at Derby and snap out of this. The long-term stability and status of your football club, you having a football club to go and support on a Saturday 10 years from now, is far, far, far more important than being a bit short at right wing back this transfer window. If you’re spending £8m on Tom Lawrence and giving him a long-term contract on £37,000 a week in the Championship, this is not a good thing, this is not a thing to be celebrated, this does not lead you to good places.

QPR fans, burned twice, are better at this than most, but I’m still seeing people “baffled” why we might have to let Jordy De Wijs, George Thomas and/or Dom Ball leave, while we’re signing Dion Sanderson and potentially a couple of others. Players come in, players have to go out, it’s called a budget lads. I’m still seeing Josh Maja, on an eye-watering sum at Bordeaux, 28 goals in his whole career, described as the difference between promotion or not. People hammering the club’s executives for not bidding whatever Swansea want for 30-year-old, out-of-contract Jamie Paterson.

This boom and bust, always be closing, transfers above and beyond everything else, spend some money, “buy a fucking striker”, “show some ambition”, chancer’s waiting room has to stop. It has to stop. I was hoping a disaster the scale of Derby’s might do it, but it doesn’t appear so. Reading arrive at Loftus Road the absolute textbook example of why you offer up to your budget for Steve Cook, or Jamie Paterson, and no more. If they go elsewhere, that’s their prerogative, and we'll be better off in the long run for sticking to our guns - we sold Luke Freeman, and then Ebere Eze, lost Bright Osayi-Samuel, Ryan Manning, and got better

Reading are a long way from the first such case to play on this ground, and, sadly, I fear they’ll be a long way from the last.

Links >>> A night with Andy Hall – History >>> Winter slip and slide – Interview >>> Simpson eh – Referee >>> We’ve got our chilli back – Podcast >>> 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: Ilias Chair’s Morocco and Seny Dieng’s Senegal both progressed to the quarter finals of the African Cup of Nations on Sunday, so they’re away for another week. Chris Willock left the Swansea game early with a knee knock but has been passed fit which means, apart from Jordan Archer, the AFCON boys and Andre Gray away with Jamaica (substitute in a 2-1 defeat last night), Rangers now have a fit and available squad to pick from. Expect to see Albert Adomah recalled, after being rested for the Swansea draw. Dion Sanderson, signed on loan from Wolves during the week, is available for a debut but is likely to have to make do with the bench with Rob Dickie, Yoann Barbet and Jimmy Dunne in such good form. Jordy De Wijs captained the U23s to defeat against Charlton on Friday. Moves for Swansea’s Jamie Paterson and others have so far come to nought.

One of Reading’s many problems this season has been a sizeable list of medium and long term injuries, particularly to their forward players, but those looking at their dreadful run of recent results thinking this is going to be a walk in the park should beware – some of the absentees have returned in the last fortnight or so. Lucas Joao made his first start since August 14 in last weekend’s 4-3 nonsense at home to Huddersfield, and scored after just five minutes. John Swift, who missed all of December, is also back. Ovie Ejaria has missed nine matches since last featuring in a defeat to Sheff Utd on November 23, with a mixture of groin problems and covid inuendo, but he’s in the squad this weekend. Still, the medical report from Berkshire is as long as the book I wish I’d taken to the Swansea game. Yakou Meite ruptured his ACL getting on for a year ago, and completed 45 minutes in the U23s against Aston Villa last week, but is still a little way shy of a return. Defender Tom McIntyre hasn’t played since August 21, but is back in training – again, this may come a little soon for him. Junior Hoilett is away on international duty, as is Liam Moore though given his form and recent public stripping of the club captaincy I’m not sure he’d have been involved anyway. Alen Halilovic, who scored a spectacular winner for Birmingham against the R’s last season, is out along with Scott Dann, Femi Azeez and Dejan Tatek. Felipe Araruna’s attempted comeback after 16 months out lasted as long as one draw with Derby and a defeat to Kidderminster – he’s now out for the season again.

Elsewhere: No Best League In The World™ this weekend because after spending all Christmas feigning Covid results to get their “unworkable” fixture list called off, they’ve now popped off for a “mid-winter break” which will apparently guarantee England success at future World Cups. Can’t wait. In Burnley’s case this is rather like one of those cricket matches you go to where it fucks it down with rain all day, then they come out to play for the first time just before 4pm, and then vanish again half an hour later for “tea” while the sun streams down.

So the eyes of a bored nation focus instead on the accidental chaos of the Mercantile Credit Trophy with four live matches across the weekend – and what a televisual feast it promises to be. If you successfully control yourself through Sporting Huddersfield v Stoke tonight, and Peterborough v Sheffield Red Stripe tomorrow evening, then there’s an electric double header on Sunder starting with Wayne Rooney’s Derby County against Birmingham (now boosted by the notoriously full blooded and committed stylings of Loyal Taylor) and then Cardiff at home to Nottingham Florist.

That leaves eight games in the traditional slot tomorrow, and plenty of interest if you’re already finding yourself league table watching with three and a bit months still to go. One can’t imagine anything other than a handsome Bournemouth win at Barnsley, who now appear to have just given up completely, nor anything other than another high scoring afternoon of polo for Tarquin and Rupert to enjoy against Blackpool – though, remember, they suffered a shock defeat at Bloomfield Road in the corresponding game. More problematic, perhaps, is West Brom, who were well beaten in a game in hand by Preston Knob End in the week and have responded to Daryl Dike’s unfortunate (stop it) injury by adding exactly the sort of high tempo, high press, high speed, ceaseless fitness fanatic Valerian Ismael loves for his attack in the form of 33-year-old emergency room loyalty card holder Andy Carroll. One win in seven now, they’re away at Millwall this weekend and then Sheff Utd the other side of the cup break which… are not the two fixtures you’d choose.

Blackburn also have a toughie, away at Lutown, but they successfully and rather impressively dispatched in form Middlesbrough in the Monday Night Football last week. Chris Wilder was scathing of his team’s attitude in that match, presumably hoping for a significant reaction when they tackle a tricky match of their own this Saturday at home to Coventry – still well in with a play-off shout, four points off and two games in hand after a midweek win at home to Stoke.

There’s a new manager to go with the new owners at Hull – former Rangers’ forward Shota Arveladze takes over from Grant McCann ahead of a home game with Swanselona. I’m not sure “was head hunted for his previous job by the ownership group at Everton” is quite the boast the author of his appointment press release felt it might be, given the farce at Goodison. Very clearly the new chairman on Humberside is going for somebody he knows, and ten signings from Turkey. It’s a bold strategy Cotton, let’s see if it pays off for him.

Preston will hope to continue their resurgence against the uninspiring blob of nothingness that is Bristol City – red hot favourites to be the first team to pack up and phone in their performances from Mykonos, probably somewhere around a month from now.

Referee: Jeremy Simpson has overseen two QPR wins this season, at home to Preston and away to Derby, but Reading have less happy memories, with him in charge of a 3-2 home loss to Blackpool in which they led 2-0 and succumbed eventually to a penalty five from time. Details.

Form

QPR: The 0-0 stalemate with Swansea during the week was QPR’s first in the league this season, and only the third time we’ve failed to score in a Championship game this season. Although there was also a goalless draw with Sunderland in the League Cup, albeit a controversial one, the previous one involving us in the league was at Preston last season on Anthony Gordon’s birthday, and just before that at home to Stoke in one of the games with limited crowds back in the ground. It means QPR’s last three 0-0 draws in the Championship have all been in live Sky games – which is the sort of protest we can all get behind. Our last three draws (Swansea, Blackpool, Forest) have all been live TV games too. It does, however, continue a recent trend for struggling to score at home – Rangers now have just one scored in regulation time in the last five matches in W12, and that was Charlie Austin’s offside effort against West Brom. It’s now 19 games since Warburton’s men scored three goals in a game, and Rangers have scored one goal or fewer in 13 of those. For all that, still only the top three have scored more goals in the league than the R’s, they’re unbeaten in six of which they’ve won four, they’ve lost only two of the last 15 in league and cup with eight wins. They have also kept three consecutive clean sheets at home, with Rotherham’s goal coming in extra time in the FA Cup. Chris Willock has scored or assisted four of the last five scored.

Reading: The Royals had lost five of their first six games of the season when QPR travelled there as heavy favourites in September, but as we know that game didn’t exactly go according to plan thanks to John Swift’s hat trick. Swift also scored the winner against Rangers in that fixture in 2019/20 and the more recent three goals were part of a fast start to the season – eight in his first 12 games – but he’s now, rather ominously, without a goal in 14 appearances. The 3-3 draw sparked a Reading run of one defeat, and five victories, from seven matches. In the eighth game they were 2-0 up at home to Blackpool, but conceded on 69, 73 and 85 to lose the game 3-2. The referee who awarded the penalty for that winning Blackpool goal was Jeremy Simpson, who is in charge this weekend. It has sparked a collapse of biblical proportions – Reading arrive in W12 having won only two, and lost 11, of their last 16. They are on a run of five consecutive defeats, in which they’ve conceded 17 goals, including seven in one game to Fulham, and two in an embarrassing FA Cup exit at sixth-tier Kidderminster. Combined with a six point deduction, it leaves them fourth bottom of the Championship, two points north of Peterborough having played a game more. Away from home they’re yet to draw, with four wins and eight defeats – the victories coming at Fulham, Cardiff, Birmingham, and Swansea. They have lost the last three on the road. Reading have actually taken the lead in 15 matches so far this season – a respectable eighth highest total in the league – but they’ve only converted eight of those to victories and four have been lost altogether. Only Bristol City have lost more games having lead this season so far (five). They have conceded 51 goals this season, more than twice as many as Fulham, Bournemouth and West Brom, and the worst record in the league bar Peterborough’s 53 – even whipping boys Barnsley have shipped ten fewer, 41.

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. Last year’s champion Mick_S had more faith than I did for Coventry and was rewarded with a correct guess, here’s what he thinks of Swansea…

“Our goal scoring record at home isn’t too clever at the moment. Reading are on the slide; surely this should be a home win. The usual doubts that should not be there are in my mind, so naturally enough, I’m going for a thumping 2-0 with Jimmy Dunne to get the first. Please.”

Mick’s Prediction: QPR 2-0 Reading. Scorer – Jimmy Dunne

LFW’s Prediction: QPR 2-1 Reading. Scorer – Charlie Austin

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Myke added 22:04 - Jan 28
Very strong piece, Clive. Put simply the people who follow a football club need to be supporters not fan(atic)s always looking for the next transfer 'fix' As well as all the reasons that you have outlined for this obsession with transfers, I would add the window itself. Anything that is only available for a limited period is always more attractive than if it is available all the time. Advertising/Marketing agencies thrive on this concept. LIMITED OFFER/ FOR A LIMITED PERIOD/ BUY NOW BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE. When you could buy players all the year around, nobody passed much heed.
I would not be surprised to see Sanderson start either on the right as Dickie is not in the best of form, despite our overall defensive record, or on the left to give Barbet a much needed breather and rest that head of his. Cheers Clive, I'm with Mick_S 2-0
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062259 added 22:23 - Jan 28
Looks like De Wijs is now considered #5 center back option, quite the fall from grace considering he was a regular earlier in the season and Dunne was on the bench.

Some pace up front would be nice, otherwise leave well alone.
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j3nesis added 23:04 - Jan 28
Preach it, Clive. The toxic Twittersphere of BUY STRIKER NAOW is rather like the chap at the pub gesturing at the TV with beer-burp on his shirt and yelling intelligibly, yet for some reason clubs seem to be paying attention to him...
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Burnleyhoop added 09:39 - Jan 29
The problem with the window is that prices for players tends to get significantly inflated as clubs clamber for reinforcements to boost relegation or promotion battles and subsequently pay over the market value. January sales in reverse.
The only exception to that is clubs in financial distress that need to unload players to reduce their over extended wage bills, although they are reluctant to let their best players go, Lawrence at Derby being a prime example.

IMO we should leave well alone unless we can afford it and the player is significantly better than what we have. The targeting of Lawrence and Patterson says a lot about Warburtons opinion of Dozzel and Amos. Poor Dom now needs to find another club.
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TacticalR added 14:58 - Jan 29
Thanks for your preview.

Reading in terrible form, yet we're not scoring at home. Let's hope that Swift doesn't return to haunt us once again...and that this is another milestone we can pass.
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