|Preston North End v Queens Park Rangers|
Saturday, 4th August 2018 Kick-off 15:00
Can’t spend, won’t spend – Preview
Friday, 18th Aug 2017 19:03 by Clive Whittingham
QPR are back in action in double quick time on Saturday, taking on Hull City in an intriguing battle between two sides still receiving parachute payments but not buying players for contrasting reasons.
Queens Park Rangers v Hull City
Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Saturday August 19, 2017 >>> Kick Off 15.00 >>> Weather – Sun’s out, guns out >>> Loftus Road, London, W12
Less than 48 hours after the final whistle sounded at Norwich, here we are preparing for the next one already against Hull City.
Originally the only game in August I thought we’d win, it now represents an opportunity to get an excellent first month under our belts if we can do that. Regardless of the result at Cardiff next week, where you can’t help but fear the worst, seven points from a hectic opening month that saw us facing two of last season’s losing play-off sides, two sides still receiving parachute payments, one just out of the Premier League and all five tipped in various dispatches for promotion pushes this year would not be bad going. It would send us into an international break with a home double header against newly promoted Millwall and Ipswich, who’ve started like a train but lost all three starting centre backs to injury in the process, to look forward to and with a chance to push on through September which looks, on paper, to have more winnable fixtures in store.
Lose it however, and get the shoeing we expect at Cardiff, and then it’s all kinds of pressure on two home matches everybody expects us to win and before you know it Pards Pardew will be installed as the bookies favourite for the newly vacant managers position at Queens Park Rangers. Worth remembering that this time a year ago QPR won three games in August, including two away, before crashing 6-0 at home to Newcastle and Jimmy Floyd Haselbaink was out of a job within two months. This is how football, and QPR in particular, works now.
It’s an intriguing game for many reasons. Leonid Slutsky’s touchline ‘presence’ and post-match quotes, how Hull cope with losing leading marksmen Abel Hernandez to a long term injury, whether Sam Clucas plays despite a big money offer from Swansea, how QPR respond to defeat at Norwich and injuries to two key defenders, whether Holloway will start excessive team tinkering again now after three unchanged line ups ended with a loss…
But also because of the situations these two clubs have worked themselves into. As recent Premier League clubs, both still receiving parachute payments, they should be among the favourites to be promoted this season and yet you’ll struggle to find anybody tipping either.
QPR, as we know, in addition to the owners no longer wanting the club to be a giant black hole into which they pour money, have Financial Fair Play hanging around their necks. Arbitration over the previous flagrant breach of the rules in 2013/14 by Harry Redknapp’s £100m squad took place at the end of June and an outcome is still awaited. They’re now fighting to get the club under the new rules which say no Championship club can lose more than £39m over a rolling three-year period. QPR lost £11m in 2015/16 despite receiving the biggest parachute payment and money from the transfers of Charlie Austin and Raheem Sterling. Breach the rules and a transfer embargo is yours until your squad has been gutted – and we’ve seen what that’s done to Bolton, Forest, Blackburn and others. Hence the lack of additions to the squad this summer.
We know the follies QPR were involved in early in Tony Fernandes’ reign when we were held up as “everything that’s wrong with football” and we deserve to have our medicine forced down us for that. But it’s worth pointing out in defence of our owners – I know, LFW first coming up here – that they didn’t leverage the debt against the club. There are some question marks over a more recent loan which Ruben Gnanalingam is charging interest on but the original debt of almost £200m was converted into equity by the owners, and the FFP “breach” in 2014/15 was actually technically avoided by the owners putting in £60m to get QPR under the limit which they then effectively wrote off.
In those circumstances you have to ask what the purpose of Financial Fair Play is? If it’s to make football fairer, then it actually does the opposite. Look at the teams who have breached it so far – Blackburn, Forest, QPR, Bournemouth, Leicester. It’s not Chelsea and their Russian money laundry, or Man Utd and their £500m team, or Man City and their “richer than God” owners, or PSG and their £198m striker who breach Financial Fair Play, it’s the smaller clubs. The rules keep the big clubs big and the small clubs small, and as the big clubs stay big and are increasingly successful so they bring in more money and streak further ahead.
In David Conn’s excellent The Beautiful Game book the CEO at Crewe – a club that was, sadly until recently, best known for sound financial management and youth development – argued against the introduction of FFP. His argument was that if a well-run club under sound ownership wanted to, as part of a long-term business plan, commit some money over and above what it earns to an attempt to get it promoted a division then it should be allowed to do that. This is exactly what happened at Leicester and Bournemouth and they’ve made tremendous successes of the promotions it helped them achieve. Why, exactly, would you want to stand in the way of that?
Is it to ensure the long-term futures of the clubs? This seems to be the league’s argument. They don’t want clubs massively over-stretching themselves and crashing and burning as a result. They hold up, as an example of FFP working, the fact that no Football League club has entered administration since the rules came in, when previously that was common place.
But you tell me what is more dangerous to the future of a football club: the QPR owners spending stupid money on stupid things but holding their hands up to it and converting the debt into equity, or the malicious way clubs like Hull City, Leyton Orient, Coventry, Blackpool and Blackburn have been/are being run? Offered administration over the Oystons or Sisu, I suspect Blackpool and Coventry would absolutely snap your hand off.
We’ve covered the situation at Hull City in depth in this week’s opposition profile. The Allams wanted the council to sell them the publicly-owned stadium cheaply and having been refused that they’ve set off on a number of spiteful and malicious endeavours. They’re currently drawing huge sums of money out of the club – money from player sales and Premier League TV deals that the club earned on the pitch – to pay for their earlier investment. That earlier investment in players took them to the Premier League and an FA Cup final but it should not give them carte blanche to do what they like with the club forever more as they seem to believe. Football clubs are community assets and owners are custodians of them. It’s not like buying the local kebab shop, you can’t just change the name, change the location, change the content as you please because you bought it and invested in a new grill a couple of years ago.
Or at least, that’s how it should be. The Football League believe they are allowed to tell clubs what they can and can’t spend, what they can and can’t lose financially. But when it comes to ownership of the clubs, then they retreat to a position of “well they’re private businesses, we can’t do anything about who owns them really”. Look at the ridiculous situation at Leyton Orient last year, relegated out of the Football League entirely just a couple of years after being in the League One play-off final entirely because of the corrupt and incompetent ownership of Francesco Becchetti. When Orient fans invaded the pitch to protest the league told the referee to pretend to abandon the match, then take the players out two hours later after the ground had been locked up to play out the last eight minutes of the game (which took place at a farcical walking pace) to “preserve the integrity of the competition”. But they persistently refused to do anything about the charlatan who removed any sense of integrity from Orient or their competition months before that.
Standing there and saying “isn’t it wonderful, we haven’t had a club in administration since we brought these new rules in” while you’ve got people like the Venkys, the Oystons, the Allams and Sisu owning your clubs and running them the way they are is, frankly, fucking disgusting. It’s like the fire service standing idle next to a burning building handing out leaflets proclaiming their lack of hose use as a wonderful thing in local flood prevention. Blackpool, Coventry, Orient, Blackburn, these clubs would all have been far better off in the hands of administrators - cutting costs and seeking a new buyer in a short, sharp, shock treatment – than remaining in the hands of owners content to oversee, and in some cases deliberately cause, terminal decline over a long-term.
But then what should we expect of a Football League run by Shaun Harvey? Harvey was the CEO at Leeds when the club collapsed into administration owing £35m, including £7m in unpaid taxes. Chairman Ken Bates was immediately allowed to buy the club back from the administrator for a nominal fee, leaving creditors (including the taxman and scores of local businesses) in a queue for a tiny bit in the pound. Later Harvey instructed the club’s in-house radio station to broadcast programmes about the whereabouts of former director Melvyn Levi who Harvey said owed the club money – Ofcom ruled the broadcasts were “unjust and unfair” and amounted to “harassment” causing “distress and anxiety” to Levi and his wife. This is the fucking guy they’ve put in charge of the league!
Do away with FFP altogether. Restrict ownership of football clubs to 49% - as they do in Germany. Forbid the loading of debt onto clubs in form of shareholder loans or any other means, forbid shareholders from chairing clubs interest on those loans. You want to come here, buy footballers, go to the Premier League, use our clubs as vanity exercises or marketing material? Fine, but you’re doing it with your money and you’re responsible if it goes tits up and you’re not having a stake that makes you immoveable if you start to deliberately or incompetently run the place into the ground. Devise and enforce an actual fit and proper owner test.
But there’s no appetite for that. So tomorrow we go to watch QPR who have got, relatively speaking, almost no debt at all but are frantically scrambling to get under FFP regulations, play Hull City whose owners have got rid of concession tickets and told supporters protesting a name change to “die whenever you want” completely unchecked.
A controversial goal from Rodney Marsh, a missed penalty from Terry Neill, a fantastic save from Phil Parkes and a late equaliser from Ken Wagstaff all feature in this 1-1 draw between the two sides at Loftus Road in 1970/71.
Team News: Idrissa Sylla (long neck) and Yeni Ngbakoto (pulled muscle) face late fitness tests. Those two sat out the midweek defeat at Norwich and two more players picked up injuries during that game. Joel Lynch is already ruled out of this one with a hamstring injury which may necessitate a call to the Dog and Duck to see if Steven Caulker might like to join us (make it clear when you speak to the landlord it’s not his missus). Pawel Wszolek is unlikely to make it and, apparently, will be replaced by Kazenga Lua Lua again – cos that worked really well at Carrow Road. Jordan Cousins and Grant Hall are the long termers.
Hull were already short of bodies after their latest summer fire sale so could have done without Abel Hernandez following up a hat trick against Burton with an Achilles explosion against Wolves which will likely keep him out for six months. Kevin Stewart strained himself picking up his wallet during the week and is a doubt, Markus Henriksen has become embroiled in a pub row about who Britain’s greatest prime minister was and is out (it was Lord Palmerston).
Elsewhere: Well I must say I’m tempted to take it all back. The Mercantile Credit Trophy, in all its never-ending, mediocre glory, may well be football most entertaining league after all. Where else, for instance, can you see Big Racist John falling flat on his arse in repeated heavy defeats? Another loss in the week, at Reading this time, had Steve Bruce, who’s lack of self-awareness so far this season rivals even that of his lobotomised skipper, saying that fans had properly got a little bit carried away with the euphoria of signing Terry. Not that Villa, with their three-minute long mocked-up WhatsApp Group announcement, video of Terry singing ‘Stand by Me’, handing over of the captaincy and sale of a much cheaper and younger centre half who can play Championship level to fund it all did anything to encourage that did they? Could everybody’s funny bone take another defeat this weekend at home to Borussia Norwich?
Almost as amusing is the failing across the city of the Birmingham Bad Knees who followed up the signing of two strikers with a 0-0 draw at home to the Bolton Brassics during the week – Bolton not allowed to buy any players at all, of course, because of their financial issues and transfer embargo. The Bad Knees are at Nigel Clough’s Burton Albion on Sky this evening while Bolton host the Derby Sheep tomorrow.
Little tussle between the Ipswich Blue Sox and Brentford at Portman Road tomorrow isn’t the game many thought they were signing up for a couple of weeks back when Mick McCarthy’s side lost 6-1 to Charlton in pre-season. They were tipped by many (ok, us) for a season of struggle but have won three from three so far while Brentford, whose own fan site had them down for third, shipped a ninety eighth minute equaliser to Bristol City during the week and have just one point so far. Quite fancy all that to turn around this weekend though, with Ipswich losing several defenders to injury in the wake of the 4-3 win at the Millwall Scholars during the week. Millwall, for their part, meet Bristol City in the West Country at the same time.
Given the quality of player signed by Sporting Wolverhampton it’s no real surprise they’ve started strongly with three wins, although the agent involvement and managerial appointment did suggest that it could maybe be the Championship’s next car crash. Luckily for them, Villa are all over that mantle like a donkey on chips so Wolves’ home game on the Eighth Annual Neil Warnock Farewell Tour is the game of the day with the Welsh side also posting maximum points so far.
What else can I offer you? Well your Sky subscription doubles as a Sunderland season ticket this year which is lovely for you – see them take on the Champions of Europe tomorrow evening. Sheffield Red Stripes v Barnsley is an early kick off Saturday, thought that’s because PC Plod is worried about it getting pwopah nawty so wants to get it over with quick. Tarquin and Rupert meanwhile, at the opposite end of the social spectrum, welcome the Sheffield Owls.
Nottingham Trees v Champions Middlesbrough and Preston Knob End against Reading are also football matches taking place this weekend.
Referee: James Linington from the Isle of Wight is in charge for this one which, although we’ve obviously had a summer in between, represents a quick return to Loftus Road for the official who took the last home game of last season against Nottingham Forest. Details and stats available here.
QPR: Rangers suffered their first defeat of the season at Norwich on Wednesday to leave them with four points from three league games played so far. They have won their last three at Loftus Road in all competitions without conceding a goal though, and have emerged victorious in seven of the last nine competitive fixtures on this ground. Wednesday night was the first time since 2011 that Rangers have named an unchanged starting 11 for three consecutive games – Joel Lynch’s injury prevents that from becoming four tomorrow.
Hull: Like QPR, City have a win, a draw and a loss to their name so far this season. A point on the opening day away to Big Racist John and the Boys looked a good result at the time though as it’s transpired that’s probably two dropped. The win against Burton Albion was to be expected but the hat trick from Abel Hernandez underlined his importance to the team just before he ruptured his Achilles in the midweek 3-2 home loss to big-spending Wolves. Can’t read too much into their away form last year, given it was in a relegation season in the division above, but for what it’s worth they won one and drew three of their 18 matches. That victory came in their first away match of the season at Swansea in August so it’s 19 away league games without a win as we approach this Saturday. They are, however, unbeaten in seven meetings with QPR.
Prediction: Prediction: This year’s Prediction League is being sponsored by The Art of Football and we’ll be handing out prizes from their QPR Collection at the end of October, January and to the overall winner. Last year’s winner Southend_Rss tells us…
“A mad busy week for myself and the team. Hull have started reasonably well after relegation from the Premier League last season and I’m expecting a tough game from which both teams would probably be happy enough with a point.”
Craig’s Prediction: QPR 1-1 Hull City. Scorer – Conor Washington.
LFW’s Prediction: QPR 2-0 Hull City. Scorer – Jamie Mackie.
The Twitter @loftforwords
Pictures – Action Images
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