|Preston North End v Queens Park Rangers|
Saturday, 4th August 2018 Kick-off 15:00
Bert Millichip’s ball bag – Preview
Tuesday, 22nd Aug 2017 08:24 by Clive Whittingham
As QPR prepare to host Brentford in a League Cup tie that was originally announced as an away game, the Football League has stepped things up in a seemingly relentless quest to devalue the competition.
Queens Park Rangers/Brentford v Brentford/Queens Park Rangers
Zenith Data Systems Trophy >>> Tuesday August 22, 2017 >>> Kick Off – 19.45 >>> Weather – Cloudy, warm >>> Elland Road, Leeds
Tuesday night’s visit from/to Brentford presents QPR with a chance to make it five home wins in a row/register a first away win of the season. Brentford will be grateful for home advantage after a surprisingly poor start to their Championship campaign/apprehensive about having to travel again so soon after the disappointing weekend loss at Ipswich Town. Rangers, meanwhile, played well at Sheff Wed and in patches at Norwich so may hold out hope of avenging the two recent defeats at Griffin Park on this third visit since Brentford’s promotion/have started with three wins and only one goal conceded at Loftus Road so could make a rare trip into the third-round draw if they keep it up here. Either way, Roker Park will be livelier than usual for the early rounds of this competition with the local derby element added into the mix.
I’m sorry, excuse us our confusion. Let’s recap shall we?
In 2013 the Football League appointed Shaun Harvey as its CEO. This was an intriguing choice. Harvey spent ten years as the CEO at Leeds United, during which time the club was in administration twice and relegated to League One once. The second administration occurred in May 2007 when chairman Ken Bates and Harvey had run up a club debt of £35m despite selling its stadium, training ground and best players for many millions of pounds. Bates was allowed to buy the club back from the administrators immediately, leaving a string of creditors - including many local businesses - in a queue for a tiny percentage of the pound owed. The club owed £7.7m to the taxman, £8,997 to the West Yorkshire Ambulance service and £165 to St John’s Ambulance – all of whom had to settle for a fraction. Harvey, and Bates, both denied publicly they knew who the club’s offshore owners were.
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. Levi also sued Ken Bates for libel, and won.
Prior to Leeds, Harvey had been managing director at nearby Bradford City – another ten year stint which, again, included the club twice going into administration. The second, the Benito Carbone years, saw the club plummet from the top division to the bottom in double quick time. One of the creditors which went unpaid in Bradford’s second administration was, again, St John’s Ambulance, so heroic in the Valley Parade fire of 1985. Before that, Harvey filled a similar role at Scarborough, who were a Football League club at the time but went out of existence altogether.
Just to reiterate – this is the guy they’ve put in charge of the Football League. Like making Harold Shipman chief medical officer at King’s College Hospital, or Ian Huntley deputy headmaster at Lady Eleanor Holles all girls school.
His most high profile move so far has been the absolute total and utter destruction of the Football League Trophy. Previously a nice opportunity for clubs in League One and Two to get to Wembley, the year before Harvey sunk his teeth into it Walsall reached the final which meant a first visit to the national stadium in the club’s 127-year history. A lovely story that Harvey looked at, sucked his teeth and thought “nice, but could be improved if they were playing Stoke City’s youth team”.
Having forced the B Team/Under 23 nonsense on the competition with the carrot of some big attendance pay days for the likes of Accrington should they happen to draw Man Utd at any stage, he quickly found the biggest Premier League teams didn’t want to be in it and so teams were left playing glamourous matches against youth teams from Norwich and Swansea infront of attendances smaller than the collective squad numbers of the two teams. Oh, and I say youth teams - Harvey said the move would "assist the development of the very best young players in English football" - Charlie Adam played for Stoke. Luton Town, meanwhile, who did use the trophy to give game time to some of the players from their excellent academy set up, and beat Premier League West Brom doing it, were fined for fielding a weakened team.
Even if Football League fans gave a single monkey’s toss about token game time being awarded to the talent Premier League clubs steal from them and hoard with no intention of using – which we absolutely do not – they don’t get to play in the competition anyway. In the end, only nine players eligible for England’s U20 and U21 teams featured in the competition at all and played for a total of just 1,008 minutes between them. By comparison, Chelsea’s Lewis Baker got 2,907 by himself in the Dutch Eredivisie.
With clubs and supporters in open revolt, and the competition totally wrecked, the Football League held a vote about whether to continue with it for a further two seasons which passed. How? Harvey told the clubs they’d get a nice wedge of cash they couldn’t afford to be without if they said yes, and nothing if they said no.
One trophy successfully destroyed, Harvey is now well and truly setting sail on another. The League Cup has already been laughably renamed “The Carabao Cup” after a Far Eastern drinks manufacturer that wants to use it to improve its standing back home and pump young, football-loving Brits full of caffeine, sugar and chemicals. The first-round draw was held in Bangkok, shown live on a Facebook feed with no sound, and featured Charlton Athletic and Forest Green being drawn twice, Oxford not getting a game at all and Wimbledon pulling Swindon despite them both being unseeded.
With that nicely ironed out, we moved on to round two. Which was also seeded, presumably at the say so of some wrong ‘un who looked at Premier League teams not taking the competition seriously and decided the answer was to give them an easier passage to the latter rounds. Somebody who looked at the dusty old cup draws with Sir Bert Millichip and Graham Kelly calmly pulling numbers out of a velvet bag and thought “this needs sexing up a bit”. Say what you like about two crusty old suits and a sack of balls but Charlton Athletic only ever got one fucking game when it was done like that, and they knew whether it was home and away.
Which is more than many teams in round two did. The seeding apparently necessitated a third bowl of coloured balls - presumably because they like colours in Singapore or some such horseshit - to decide whether the team drawn first would be home or away. I mean, call me old fashioned, but I didn’t really see a problem with the old classic idea of the team coming out first being at home, but then I’m the sort of person who thinks Love Island is a bit shit so I don’t think I’m “target demographic” for Plymouth v Notts County in the early rounds of the League Cup any more. QPR v Brentford, Watford v Bristol City, Palace v Ipswich and Norwich v Charlton were all originally announced as the other way around by John Salako who misunderstood what the red ball with HOME written on it meant. West Ham were drawn at home, but they’ll play away, because as part of “the most successful stadium migration in history” (c Karen Brady) they can’t play at home in August.
You’ll notice also that while Burton and Wolverhampton are in the unseeded half of the southern draw, Newport County are in the unseeded half of the northern draw – nice local derby with Leeds to look forward to for the team from South Wales. Aston Villa also ended up in the north half, despite being further south than Wolverhampton and Burton. Harvey and his merry band of lobotomised wanksocks can’t even make head nor tail of the Reader’s Digest Book of the Road. IF YOU HOLD IT THE RIGHT WAY UP THE TOP OF THE PAGE IS NORTH LOVE ALRIGHT?
One would think, after bollocksing up two cup draws, having completely devalued the competition, having made yourselves an absolute laughing stock, having done enormous damage to the brand of the title sponsor in the eyes of the public they’re presumably targeting with their liquified sugar, that you’d keep the third round draw on the straight and narrow. No seeding, no third pot, no John Salarko, no farce – just nice and simple home and away and let’s try and salvage some sort of worth and respect from this plane wreck.
Nah. They’re having it in Beijing. At four in the fucking morning UK time.
The league says this will “give the competition maximum exposure in the UK (!!), China and the South East Asian market” which is “not only an important factor for the EFL, but also our sponsors Carabao” but goes onto admit “the draw itself will not be televised in the UK, or anywhere else.” Quite why, if it’s not on television, it can’t be held at a different time in China so it’s not four in the chuffing morning here hasn’t been made clear in the simpering, mealy mouthed, insincere, steaming pile of manure shovelled out by way of justification. Likewise how it will get any exposure at all in China, South East Asia, or anywhere, if it's not being broadcast, is left unsaid. Maybe they're doing it in a warehouse in Bracknell and just saying it's in China, like the moon landing. Every team involved will now have to have a press officer at work in the early hours of the morning to put announcements out of who their team has drawn – if indeed the people making the draw know themselves.
Fuck me I wouldn’t want to be a police officer in Guangzhou while this is going on would you? Chaos on the streets. Panic everywhere. Traffic at an absolute standstill as the whole Chinese nation grounds to a halt desperate to know whether Ipswich Town are home or away to Birmingham City. They won’t have seen the likes of this since Godzilla last came ashore. I mean, even if they were interested, which they’re not, and they could watch the draw, which they can’t, if John fucking Salako’s doing it again they’ll be none the wiser about who’s playing who anyway.
What are they doing? What are they actually doing? Customers the Football League and Carabao would like to reach in the UK are being alienated. A historic cup competition, one of only two we’ve got, is being horribly devalued, which will result in smaller sponsorship deals and less money further down the line. Which company in its right mind is going to want to put their name to this or the Checkatrade Trophy next? The publicity they’re getting for both is entirely, 100%, negative. The Chinese – not that they should be any consideration in this whatsoever – like big name players and Premier League teams (of which this competition now has neither) and no amount of untelevised midnight draws in Beijing is going to change that or grow a love of Exeter City in Shanghai. Even if it would, you don’t grow anything by alienating your existing audience, you have to take us with you.
The thing I always laugh/weep uncontrollably at when you get Vincent Tan insisting Cardiff play in red, or Assem Allam forcing through a name change to Hull Snow Leopards, or absolute bullshit like we’re suffering in this shell of a competition this year is this… The reason they love English football in China, Malaysia, Egypt, Singapore, Thailand etc etc in the first place is because of its tradition. Famous old clubs, been around forever, ancient rivalries, massive crowds with an away fan culture and an unrivalled atmosphere. The bigger name players are in Spain, the better fan experience is in Germany, all the European trophies go elsewhere, but it’s still the Premier League they want. And yet as soon as they get it, they want to start changing it.
We should value our clubs, their colours, their names, their traditions and everything else besides far more than we do. They should not be things available at a price to businessmen from all over the world who don’t have the first clue what they’re doing with them but have more money than sense. And we certainly shouldn’t be actively engaging in the destruction of our own cup competitions at the behest of a fizzy pop manufacturer.
Harvey shouldn’t have been given the job in the first place. He should have lost it after the Football League Trophy debacle and should certainly have cleared his desk pretty damn lively the moment Salako pulled out QPR away to Brentford. Or is that at home? Who actually cares any more? Certainly not the organisers.
Highlights from QPR’s last win against Brentford, 3-0 at Loftus Road (not Griffin Park) in 2015/16.
Team News: Ian Holloway has promised to field a strong team but will make changes with several players carrying injuries after the weekend – Josh Scowen and James Perch chief amongst them. Steven Caulker will get another run out as he continues to work his way back to match fitness. There are also likely to be starts for Ariel Borysiuk and Ryan Manning as Rangers prioritise a high tempo, high press defensive game against a Brentford side known for its attractive football, if not its positive results at the moment. Joel Lynch has a hamstring injury, Jordan Cousins is a long term absentee, Yeni Ngbakoto may return.
Brentford are without winger Jota, who allegedly has a back injury amidst much interest from elsewhere. Josh McEachran and Sergi Canos are injured while the excellent Ryan Woods is out with compassionate leave after the death of his young child – massive respect and sympathies to him. Alan Judge and Lewis Macleod are long termers.
Elsewhere: Right, hundreds of these to rattle through quickly, including the Derby Sheep’s second attempt to conquer the Grimsby Fish after their First Round match fell victim to a typical summer’s eve in Cleethorpes 19 minutes into the first game. The winner goes to Barnsley.
What else can I tell you? Premier League reserve teams facing lower division opposition include Crippled Alice at home to the Ipswich Blue Sox, West Bromwich Long Ball at Accrington Stanley, and Big Spending Bournemouth away to the Birmingham Bad Knees. Brighton host Barnet in this round’s match between two teams beginning with B.
Sunderland away at Carlisle strikes me as a game that might have interested the TV schedulers – well, every other Sunderland game this season has so maybe I’m just getting used to my Sky subscription doubling up as a Sunderland season ticket. Instead it’s Leicester City at Sheffield United.
Other ties of note – it’s all relative – include Swansea at MK Dons and Watford at home to Bristol City.
Another six games tomorrow including West Ham’s home/away game at Cheltenham, Southampton hosting the Wolverhampton Wolves, and the tie of the round between the Mad Indian Chicken Farmers and fierce local rivals Burnley.
Referee: Chris Sarginson may be a ten-year veteran of the Football League list, but this is his first QPR appointment in any competition. He’s refereed three matches this season, showing four yellows and one red.
QPR: Rangers’ last gasp victory against Hull City at the weekend gave them seven points from their opening four league games, and made it four consecutive wins at home in all competitions when you include last season’s 2-0 win against Nottingham Forest. The R’s have kept clean sheets in three of those four games. Rangers overcame Swindon on penalties after a 2-2 draw and beat Rochdale 2-1 the round after before bowing out to Sunderland in this competition last season. That was the first time Rangers had reached the third round of the League Cup since being knocked out at that stage as a Premier League side by Reading in 2012 and followed three successive seasons of second round exits at the hands of Carlisle (1-2), Burton (0-1) and Swindon (0-2). It was the first time since 2009 that Rangers have made it to a third tie in this competition (Exeter 5-0, Accrington 2-1, Chelsea 1-0). They haven’t been to round four since 2008 when they beat Swindon 3-2, Carlisle 4-0, Villa 1-0 and then lost 1-0 at Man Utd. The last time Rangers were in round five was a 5-2 loss at Nottingham Forest in 1988/89, two years after they’d been beaten in the final by Oxford.
Brentford: Brentford finished last season in red hot form, with an April win against QPR part of a run of eight victories and three draws from the final 15 games to spark hope of another play-off push this season. Despite performances being very encouraging, results have not gone the Bees’ way so far. They’ve lost three and drawn one in the league so far to sit rock bottom, and needed extra time to beat League One Wimbledon in the first round of this competition. Their two very basic problems are conceding too many goals (ten already in five games) and needing too many shots to score themselves – 21 to Ipswich’s four in the weekend 2-0 loss at Portman Road, 79 overall in the league for just five goals. The latter suggests that when they do click they’ll really be dangerous – just hope that’s not tonight. Interestingly the two teams with the most shots on goal in the league this season (Brentford and Millwall) sit bottom after four games.
Prediction: QPR were lucky to beat Northampton in round one – the Cobblers have lost all four of their fixtures so far this season. With injuries starting to mount a bit, changes to the team expected anyway, and Brentford probably a good deal better than their early results suggest, I can’t help but feel this second round tie will go the way of so many before it.
LFW’s Prediction: QPR 1-2 Brentford. Scorer – Idrissa Sylla
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