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Managerless Charlton next up at the three ring circus – full match preview
Managerless Charlton next up at the three ring circus – full match preview
Tuesday, 25th Nov 2008 11:18

After Saturday’s debacle at Watford QPR are back at Loftus Road tonight to face third bottom Charlton Athletic.

Queens Park Rangers (12th) v Charlton Athletic (22nd)
Coca Cola Championship
Tuesday November 25, Kick Off 8pm
Loftus Road, London

Well we are keeping the hacks at the Daily Mail busy if nothing else. Paulo Sousa must wonder what on earth he’s walked into here.

I’ve seen plenty of people going over the top about Saturday’s defeat at Vicarage Road. Some have claimed it was their worst moment supporting Rangers, that it was a new low for the club, that they’d never seen a performance so bad from a QPR team. Unless you are about five years old you’ll know this is all a lot of hot air and over reaction.

We have had people with buckets out at Loftus Road before imploring supporters to dump more of their hard earned cash into the club to keep it going, we have been five weeks away from the start of a season with only five fit professionals to choose from and only Hampton and Richmond Borough to shop at, we’ve been asset stripped, in administration, relegated twice in five years, in Blackfriars Crown Court with various board members accusing each other of trying to shoot them and we have lost an FA Cup tie on penalties to Vauxhall Motors. So if you think a 3-0 defeat at Watford and sitting twelfth in the Championship is bad it is time to think on.

However just because it has been worse, and it most certainly has been worse than this, does not mean that the current situation at the club acceptable. For a start we were paying about half as much to get in back in the proper crisis days and we stomached the vast increases in price during the summer this year because we were promised an “improved product” on and off the pitch. That improved product has been laid bare for all to see and laugh at in recent weeks.

On the pitch a QPR side which includes, quote, “some of the most exciting young talent in Europe” according to our board is plummeting down the league and playing football as bad as anything we’ve ever seen in W12. Daniel Parejo, Emmanuel Ledesma and Sam Di Carmine – three signings trumpeted by the club at every opportunity including the Christmas merchandise catalogue – simply are not doing enough to justify their regular involvement and they are not alone. QPR do not currently have one full back capable of passing a nice ball or putting in a dangerous cross, they do not have one winger capable of taking a full back to the byline and beating him, they do not have a striker worthy of the position. It’s been seven away games since we scored a goal now. Seven. Even bloody Dominic Iorfa would have deflected one in with his arse by now.

Off the pitch the national press is having an absolute field day with our owners accusing them of everything up to and including trying to sneak two extra players onto the pitch in the Man Utd match. The farce has deepened this week with the club announcing the signing of Heidar Helguson from Bolton but failing to mention later that the deal had not gone through after all, now it seems it could be back on again. That and the departure of club secretary Sheila Marson after almost four decades of service have left a sour taste in the mouth. Again.

Briatore has worked his way through John Gregory, Luigi De Canio and Iain Dowie since he’s been in charge and he’s only been here a year. If you include Gareth Ainsworth and Mick Harford then Paulo Sousa will tonight become the sixth man to pick a QPR team in Briatore’s time at the club – and that’s giving Flavio the benefit of the doubt and assuming he has not had as much say on the starting eleven as the journalists and sources within the club say he has.

On Saturday the QPR fans started to turn on the owners for the first time with the players on the pitch so pathetic, limp and uncommitted many assumed they were doing it on purpose as some kind of protest at the way things are being handled behind the scenes. Things could turn pretty ugly tonight if they do the same again and lose to a poor Charlton side in front of what is almost certain to be our lowest home gate for quite some time.

It is always worth remembering though that there are more important things than football. Today would have been Kiyan Prince’s eighteenth birthday had he not been senselessly and mindlessly killed outside his school two years ago and the club plans to mark that at tonight’s game. As much as the recent events at Loftus Road deserve criticism this is worthy of high praise. Kiyan’s father Mark, who has always carried himself with such dignity and spoken so well since the terrible death of his son, has written a touching letter to QPR fans ahead of the match. However bad things get at Loftus Road, it is still just a football club and there are so many worse things happening out there everyday.

Five minutes on Charlton
There were few eyebrows raised, or tears shed, when Alan Pardew was impaled on his own sense of self importance at the weekend following Charlton’s 5-2 defeat against Sheffield United at the weekend. After building his reputation by doing a super job with Reading in the third and then second tiers he was appointed as West Ham manager in controversial circumstances and took them up, and to an FA Cup final as well, before getting the chop in the midst of a takeover at Upton Park. It is hard to argue with Pardew’s record at either the Royals or the Hammers but I always got the impression, and still do, that he thought he was a much better manager than he really is. His arrogant and cock sure ways have made him few friends in football outside of the clubs he has managed and in the end the only shame about his departure from The Valley is that it came three days before we have to play them rather than three days after.

Charlton are now at one of the most crucial points in their recent history. Their last three managerial appointments have been bad ones, they’re in the relegation zone of the Championship less than 18 months after slipping out of the Premiership and they seem to be increasingly strapped for cash with the end of the parachute payments drawing ever closer. Crowds are down, the team is poor and they look as far away from a return to the Premiership as they ever have before. This is the worst Charlton team there has been in more than a decade for my money.

Yet it doesn’t seem that long ago that Charlton were a steady side in the middle of the Premiership. With Alan Curbishley in charge and Scott Parker running the midfield Charlton were able to mix it with the best of them and while teams like Bolton achieved Premiership survival and consolidation with some brutal, physical football Charlton always played the game the right way and were very successful with it.

However throughout this spell there were peaks and troughs in form, they were prone to putting the cue on the wrack in mid March and crashing through the table in the remaining couple of months – without ever seriously being threatened with relegation. With every trough and weak ending to a season came the usual calls to radio phone ins claiming that Curbishley had taken Charlton as far as he could and they should be pushing for Europe by now. How laughable those complaints look now. “Taken us as far as he can” was an accusation often levelled at Ian Holloway during his latter days at QPR and while it was hard to feel sympathy for a man who started with a 35 year old French centre half as a striker and spent games on end ordering people to hoof the ball at his head it has proved to be the case before and since that nobody could or can take QPR any further than Ian Holloway did. With the finances the way they were and the crowds what they are at QPR the positions Holloway achieved were about as good as it was ever going to get.

The same could be said of Curbishley at The Valley – yes he was a bit dull and a bit cautious, yes he looked and sounded like the bloke that works the radio in a South London mini cab office and yes Charlton were prone to poor runs of form in league and cup preventing them from ever bettering about eighth position but my God what Charlton fans, who seemed ungrateful even back then, give for an eighth placed finish now. Curbs finished with Charlton after 13 years in charge at the end of the 2005/06 season – not sacked, but not exactly walking away either. More shuffled towards the exit it seemed.

Since then it has been a dramatic decline in fortune for the Addicks who have made three poor managerial appointments and ten times that many bad signings in the two and a bit years since. They started with the controversial appointment of Iain Dowie who resigned from his job at Crystal Palace saying he wanted to be nearer his family in the north only to turn up a week later and eight miles up the road at The Valley. Technically it was further north, but Palace chairman Simon Jordan didn’t see the funny side. While the tango chairman flailed around with, ultimately successful, legal writs Dowie set about spending more money in one summer than any Charlton manager had had to spend before in the club’s history.

Curbishley had shown a good eye for a cheap player in his time in charge – Clive Mendonca, Shaun Bartlett, Jonatan Johansson, Martin Pringle, Andy Hunt, Claus Jensen and Mark Fish were just some of the names that arrived with meagre transfer fees and reputations but proved to be big successes in this corner of South London. Dowie it turned out did not have quite the same eye and he spent the best part of £11m that summer on, wait for it, Simon Walton, Amdy Faye, Djimi Traore, Andy Reid, Souleymane Diawara. Needless to say it didn’t go well and Dowie was sacked after just 15 games in charge, exactly the same number he managed with QPR, with Charlton in the relegation zone.

There seemed to be a suggestion at the time that some of Dowie’s backroom staff had got him the push to further their own ambitions and sure enough Dowie’s replacement came from within – former FA coach Les Reed in his first ever managerial post. Reed followed in the footsteps of Steve Wigley and Stuart Gray at Southampton – coaches promoted above their station at small top flight clubs that need a good manager to maintain their status with disastrous consequences. Reed won just one of 13 matches and was knocked out of the League Cup by Wycombe before a mercy killing was made. In hindsight had Alan Pardew been appointed when Reed was and given those extra 13 matches he may well have saved them. Ultimately though the damage had been done by his predecessors and Charlton were relegated.

By the time Charlton began life in the Championship for the first time in seven years they had spent £17.5m on players since Curbishley left and made their squad much, much weaker in the process. That’s quite a hard thing to do, even if you set out trying to do it. Luckily they recouped just about all of it by selling Darren Bent the summer after relegation.

Pardew promised a bounce back effort last season but in truth Charlton rarely looked like even making the top six. They were poor in defeat twice against QPR and although they won 4-1 against Coventry on the final day of the season that was preceded by a run of two wins in 14 matches and they finished six points and five places away from the play off places. Belts were tightened during the summer with the likes of Bougherra, Marcus Bent, Iwelumo, Thatcher and Faye moving on while only Southend’s Nicky Bailey, Forest Green’s Stuart Fleetwood, Palace’s Mark Hudson and a succession of loan signings came in.

Charlton looked poor at both ends of the pitch before the season kicked off and so it has proved. They arrive at Loftus Road in twenty second position two points away from Watford with a record of just four wins in eighteen matches so far this season. After three poor choices and three seasons of decline as a result this latest managerial appointment is the most crucial any Charlton board has had to make in many decades.

Men to watch
The man to really keep an eye on this Tuesday is defender Martin Cranie. Now young Martin arrived at QPR last season on loan from Portsmouth just after John Gregory had been sacked. Mick Harford was the caretaker manager and that change at the top couple with Cranie’s arrival in the back four triggered an upsurge in form from Rangers – we only conceded one goal in the five matches Cranie played in, and that was a 30 yard thunderbolt against Ipswich at Loftus Road. As a centre half his positioning and ability to read the game was second to none, he genuinely looked like the best centre half we’d had down at Loftus Road since the Premiership days and there was a clamour to see his move made permanent following our takeover, even after he broke his leg in his sixth QPR appearance against Coventry.

Cranie never did come back to Loftus Road. He returned to Portsmouth to recover from his injury and is now with Charlton. The reason I say you will want to watch him is because he is now playing right back and quite frankly you will struggle to recognise him from the talented and commanding young man we had in Hoops last season. Whenever I have seen him in this season for Charlton and then last week for the under 21s he looks heavy set, pretty slow and certainly no kind of a right back. Cranie makes little secret on his Facebook profile that he quite likes a drink and with Harry Redknapp criticising Portsmouth’s young players for just that in the wake of their FA Cup final win last season it’s fair to say this player’s stock has fallen somewhat in my eyes. It will be interesting to see how he performs on Tuesday – he needs to up his game considerably if he is to get back to the level he was at with QPR last season. Whether it be the injury, the new position or extra curricular activities, he doesn’t look half the player he did for us – if he gets picked, and that’s no longer a guarantee, see what you think and report back.

Cranie, if he plays, has Mark Hudson and Linvoy Primus alongside him as the centre half pairing. Hudson was a summer signing from Crystal Palace where he was excellent in their play off campaign last season, QPR were linked with him during the summer, and Primus has enjoyed a decent career fairly late in the day with Reading and Portsmouth. Plenty of experience there, and likewise with the goalkeeper Nicky Weaver but he has been averaging a goal costing error a match just lately and the defence is leaking like a sieve. Kelly Youga completes the defensive picture, he was impressive on loan at eventually relegated Scunthorpe last season.

In midfield former Ipswich Town man Matt Holland needs little introduction and he can still get a team around the park in this league. Alongside him Nicky Bailey impressed in League One with Southend last season and he has followed up his twelve goal haul with the Shrimpers last term with three in 17 starts already this season. On the left wing, or sometimes up front, Fulham’s Hameur Bouazza looks like an impressive loan signing. The former Watford man scored at the weekend, his third goal for the Addicks so far. Charlton have also added experienced Northern Ireland winger Keith Gillespie to their side on a temporary deal today – QPR fans will no doubt remember him walking the ball into an empty net at the Loft End after one of Karl Ready’s specials during his Newcastle days.

With Bouazza and Gillespie supplying the crosses QPR will have to be on their guard against Andy Gray – the former Burnley and Sheff Utd target man isn’t often pretty to watch but as I seem to be saying every week at the moment he is far better than anything we have to play up front at the moment. Gray has six goals so far this season and is backed up by injury prone former Portsmouth striker Svetoslav Todorov and Luke Varney who worked his way up to this level from non-league via Crewe and, much to the amusement of those in F Block, looks exactly like me.
Previous Meetings
QPR picked up their last win under Luigi De Canio in the penultimate home game of last season against Charlton. The pre-game build up was all about the return of Lee Cook to Loftus Road in a Charlton shirt after moving there on loan from Fulham but he was taken off injured early on and QPR won 1-0 thanks to a goal from Dexter Blackstock – a neat first half finish at the loft end after a poor error from centre half Patrick McCarthy. This result killed off any lingering hopes Charlton had of making the play offs.

QPR: Camp 7, Connolly 7, Stewart 8, Hall 7 (Mancienne 34, 7) Delaney 6, Ainsworth 6 (Buzsaky 51, 6) Rowlands 8, Mahon 7, Ephraim 7 (Leigertwood 79, 7) Blackstock 8, Balanta 7
Subs Not Used: Crowther, Lee
Booked: Delaney (foul), Stewart (foul), Buzsaky (obstructing a free kick)
Goals: Blackstock 15 (assisted Stewart)

Charlton: Weaver 5, Halford 5, Bougherra 4, McCarthy 4, Thatcher 5, Ambrose 5, Holland 6, Zhi 5 (Semedo 73, 4) Cook 5 (Varney 23, 6) Lita 4, Gray 4 (Iwelumo 60 6)
Subs Not Used: Randolph, Wagstaff
Booked: McCarthy (foul), Bougherra (dissent/foul), Varney (dissent), Iwelumo (dissent)

Match Report

The victory at Loftus Road completed Rangers’ one and only double of the campaign because at the Valley Rangers won 1-0 as well. With Mick Harford in caretaker charge and in front of the Sky cameras few fancied QPR to get a result against one of the promotion favourites fresh from the Premiership but with Rowan Vine in inspired form Rangers won, won well and could have won by more. Vine was fouled by Fortune for a second half penalty that Rowlands cracked against the post but when another chance came along the visitors made no mistake – Weaver fumbled Ephraim’s cross under pressure from/while being fouled by Nygaard and Adam Bolder bobbled the ball in from 15 yards to seal the win.

Charlton: Weaver 6; Mills 6, Basey 7, Sodje 7, Fortune 6; Sam 7 (Racon 85, -), Semedo 6 (J Thomas 46, 5), Zheng 7, Reid 7; Varney 6, Iwelumo 6 (McLeod 69, 5)
Subs not used: Randolph, Bougherra
Booked: Sam 81 (foul), Reid 87 (dissent)

QPR: Camp 7; Mancienne 7, Barker 7, Stewart 8, Cranie 8, Rowlands 7, Bolder 7, Leigertwood 8, Ephraim 7, Nygaard 8, Vine 8
Subs not used: Cole, Bignot, Ainsworth, Sahar, Moore
Goals: Bolder 72 (assisted Nygaard)

Match Report

Head to Head:
QPR wins – 20
Draws – 20
Charlton wins – 22

Previous QPR v Charlton results:
2007/08 QPR 1 Charlton 0 (Blackstock)
2007/08 Charlton 0 QPR 1 (Bolder)
1999/00 Charlton 2 QPR 1 (Taylor)
1999/00 Charlton 1 QPR 0 (FA Cup)
1999/00 QPR 0 Charlton 0
1998/99 Charlton 1 QPR 0
1998/99 QPR 0 Charlton 2
1997/98 Charlton 1 QPR 1 (Peacock pen)
1997/98 QPR 2 Charlton 4 (Sheron)
1996/97 Charlton 2 QPR 1 (Dichio)
1996/97 QPR 1 Charlton 2 (Sinclair)

Team News
QPR are missing Akos Buzsaky and Rowan Vine for the rest of the season. Martin Rowlands and Lee Cook missed out on Saturday, allegedly injured, and it remains to be seen whether either make it back for this one. Fitz Hall is suspended for three games after his sending off at the weekend, Kaspars Gorkss is his most likely replacement, Emmanuel Ledesma collected his fifth yellow card of the season at Vicarage Road and misses the Palace game on Saturday. The club is trying to tidy up the Heidar Helguson farce in time for him to play tonight but face a race against time to do so.

Charlton have a near fully fit squad to choose from and caretaker manager Phil Parkinson, formerly of Colchester successfully and Hull City less so, has added experienced winger Keith Gillespie to his side for this game.
Injury List

Regular Loftus Road visitor Keith Stroud is the official on Tuesday night. A reasonable, middle of the road Premiership official who could be described as the calm before the storm – on Saturday at Palace we clash with our old nemesis Rob Styles. Can’t wait.

Sky viewers were treated to a performance of the highest ineptitude from the officials in the Barnsley v Burnley fixture on Monday night – their incompetence cost Burnley any hope of getting anything from a game they dominated, in the end Barnsley won 3-2 with one goal so far offside even Michael Chopra would have held his hands up to it and another scored while the arguments over the second goal were still in full swing. On Tuesday Sheff Utd v Wolves at Bramall Lane looks to be the game of the night as both sides look to further their promotion bids, Doncaster v Forest at the Keepmoat already has the look of a six pointer.
Tony’s Championship Preview

I’m not sure you can even describe the recent results of these two sides as form really, their fixture lists look like abandoned mine fields. QPR have won just two of their last eight and have lost their last three only scoring one goal in the process. With two goals away from home all season and none in seven consecutive road games after Saturday it is easy to see where the problem lies. At home the R’s have faired slightly better, but have still only managed one goal or less in six of their last seven games at Loftus Road. The last time we scored twice in a match was against Nottingham Forest more than a month ago and neither of the two scorers that day, Angelo Balanta and Akos Buzsaky, are available to Paulo Sousa on Tuesday night. Having grown to loathe midweek nights at Loftus Road in recent years the QPR fans have at least had some Tuesday night cheer in the Bush this season – wins against Carlisle and Birmingham coupled with a draw against Blackpool.

Charlton are without a win in eight games since beating Ipswich 2-1 at the Valley in October. That run has included five defeats and nineteen goals conceded and ended up with them coming into this game in the relegation zone. Away from home they have one win to their name all season, a 1-0 success at Doncaster in September. Since then Forest, Palace, Cardiff, Ipswich, Plymouth and Birmingham have all taken points from them as the home team. The Addicks have already lost to Watford and Palace in London derbies this season.
Form Guide

I fear for us here. I keep trying to convince myself that Saturday was just a bad day at the office for our team but the performance was so bad and so obviously lacking in any effort that I wonder if the players might have thrown the towel in a little bit after all the recent chaos at the club. Charlton are bound to be buoyed by the departure of Pardew (who wouldn’t be happy see the back of him?) and if QPR play anything like they did on Saturday then this could well be another one of those Tuesday nights at Loftus Road. Sincerely hope I’m wrong.

QPR 0 Charlton 2


Photo: Action Images

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