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Has Holloway just had his Newcastle moment? Preview
Friday, 25th Aug 2017 18:50 by Clive Whittingham

QPR have made a far better start to the season than almost everybody anticipated, but Tuesday night’s League Cup tonking by Brentford could easily derail that if Rangers aren’t careful.

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Ian Holloway’s assertion that ten changes were necessary for the visit of Brentford in the week because “the league campaign is absolutely vital for us” fundamentally misunderstands how league and cup competitions work.

If QPR lose at Cardiff on Saturday, even very badly, they have 40 more matches over the next eight months to recover from it. There are 120 points to play for after this, and just three available in South Wales. It is not, by any stretch of anybody’s imagination, a massive match. It’s not even that important. Unless something genuinely extraordinary happens, we’ll barely remember it ever happened. Be honest, if I asked you how we got on here last season do you remember the score? Do you remember who scored?

Tuesday night, regardless of who it was against, was very different. That loss means the competition is done and over with for the year. No recovery, no second chance. One of only three things QPR can win this season and we’re already out of it before the end of August. QPR are never going to win the Premier League so by deliberately opting out of both cup competitions every season we’re basically condemning the club to not winning anything for the rest of time. Which is a bit miserable and “what’s the point of it all”.

Holloway is far from alone in treating the cups with contempt, and when you’re genuinely in the running for a league title then perhaps focus should be entirely on that – Cardiff rested players during the week and lost to Burton. But not then it should have been a first team on Tuesday and ten changes for tomorrow – if indeed the professional footballers just five games into their season, and off the back of a “ruthless pre-season/toughest pre-season of all time” aren’t fit enough to cope with both. The cups are within reach – Bradford City and Tranmere have been to finals relatively recently – and should be attacked. Rest players for the never ending league games if you must – and you musn’t, actually, because for the last four seasons a League Cup quarter finalist has gone on to win promotion from the Championship so any idea that it’s a horrible distraction or unworkable simply doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

That’s without getting into who the game was against. The QPR Brentford rivalry isn’t as severe as the Brentford QPR rivalry, but it’s still chastening to get beaten on your own ground by a near neighbour in such comprehensive fashion. You can say it’s only the cup and we’re not bothered about it, you can say it was an entirely different team, you can say we’re not that fussed about Brentford, but for all manner of reasons you don’t want to be getting done 4-1 at home like that. Damages confidence, damages momentum, damages the mood around the place, changes the perception of a good start to the season (which is what we’ve had). He got it badly, badly wrong in my opinion and not in a way that was difficult to foresee – the back four of one kid, one alcoholic, one bloke who wasn’t very good five years ago and has since broken his leg in two places and one bloke with knees so bad he qualifies for shop mobility was never likely to stand up to much examination was it?

It should not distract from what has been a very encouraging start to the season. Seven points from four games is four more than I thought we’d have at this stage, and seven more than many others hoped for. QPR have been playing well and picking up good results from difficult fixtures. September looks kinder on paper so it’s a nice platform to build from, regardless of what happens at Cardiff where I think we’ll get our arse handed to us.

But Holloway burnt off a lot of credit with supporters last season, particularly during the long losing run that ended the campaign, and it only took that one bad performance on Tuesday to bring the fury back to Twitter and the message boards. I just hope this isn’t his equivalent of the Newcastle home game for Jimmy Floyd Hasslebaink last season. I said at the time that whatever the circumstance, you can’t get done 6-0 at home and JFH never really recovered from it in my opinion – despite also making quite a decent start to the season with three wins in August. Losing 4-1 at home to a local rival is a similar faux pas and just because the cup (for some reason) isn’t a priority, don’t think it won’t be included in the prosecution case if Rangers now go on a little dip.

The home games we have coming up look winnable, but we’ve already picked up injuries to key defenders. Talk of sacking the manager, after making a good start to the season, is typical reactionary rubbish but I’ve lived in fear that we’re going to do that stupid October managerial change yet again since May and the complete over the top reaction to Tuesday’s defeat online did show how thin the ice Holloway is skating around on still is.

Links >>> Serial winner Warnock – Interview >>> Ray Jones’ last minute winner – History >>> Hooper in charge – Referee


Team News: QPR’s promising start to the season has come at some cost, particularly in defence where Joel Lynch (hamstring) is now joined on the sidelines by James Perch who played the last 20 minutes last week with a dislocated knee cap and is now out for several months. Grant Hall is still struggling with tendonitis and Steven Caulker gave another demonstration on Tuesday of just how many thousands of miles short of being ready for a regular return to action he is. Jordan Cousins is a long term absentee further forwards. Josh Scowen was due to be assessed for an ankle injury he suffered at Perch’s hands last weekend but with Ryan Manning playing for the U23s against Barnsley today it suggests they expect he’ll be ok.

Cardiff rested Sean Morrison, Aron Gunnarsson, Kenneth Zohore and Nathaniel Mendez-Laing for their cup match in the week and will recall all four for this one. Summer signing Calum Paterson is yet to make a debut after signing from Hearts and getting injured in pre-season – his return is set for the end of September.

Elsewhere: When life is stringing you along let the Championship come and cut you loose – starting tonight with Big Racist John and the Boys visiting Bristol City live on Sky Sports Sunderland. The Allam Tigers have also had their game with the Bolton Brassics brought forward to tonight as Hull FC are at Wembley in the Challenge Cup Final tomorrow.

So ten games tomorrow then, finishing in the evening with the Nottingham Trees against the Champions of Europe on the tellybox.

A more run-of-the-mill list of 15.00 kick offs you’ll struggle to find but Sporting Wolverhampton have gone off well and could heap further misery on bottom side Brentford at Griffin Park. The Ipswich Blue Sox have also come out of the traps looking surprisingly sprightly and they’re welcoming Tarquin and Rupert this weekend.

Champions Middlesbrough are at home to Preston Knob End, Nigel Clough’s Burton Albion face the Sheffield Owls and the Birmingham Bad Knees, who lost at Burton last week, are back at home against Reading.

The Millwall Scholars and Brentford are the bottom two in the league despite having the most shots on goal – maybe some will start hitting the net for Neil Harris’ men against Borussia Norwich. Barnsley v Sunderland, and the Sheffield Red Stripes against the Derby Sheep, complete the weekend list.

Then we get a fortnight off for another crucial round of international fixtures. Rejoice.

Referee: QPR are on a five-match losing run with referee Simon Hooper, not that it’s had anything particularly to do with him. Details of his recent appointments and stats are available here.


Cardiff: Cardiff have started the season with four wins from four games. Including last season, they’ve now won their last five matches and haven’t won six in a row since 2000 when they were in what is now League Two. At home in the league they’ve beaten Aston Villa and Sheff Utd 3-0 and 2-0, but they’ve struggled more with scratchy teams out in the cup – narrowly beating Portsmouth 2-1 then losing to Burton during the week.

QPRSeven points from four games played represents a decent beginning from QPR, but they’ve only taken one point from a possible six away from home – drawing with Sheff Wed and losing to Norwich. That continues a winless run on the road from last season which now stretches to nine matches (seven defeats and two draws) since the 4-1 win at Birmingham in February. Rangers completed the double over Cardiff last season, winning 2-0 in Wales (Caulker, Chery) and 2-1 at Loftus Road (Ngbakoto, Smith).

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…

Although QPR have started the league season well, they’re yet to win away and Cardiff are flying under Neil Warnock at the moment so this one looks tough.

Craig’s Prediction: Cardiff 2-1 QPR. Scorer – Matt Smith

LFW’s Prediction: Cardiff 2-0 QPR. No Scorer.

The Twitter @loftforwords

Pictures – Action Images

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TacticalR added 19:37 - Aug 25
Thanks for your preview.

Yes, in retrospect Newcastle was JFH's Emperor's New Clothes moment. I don't think Brentford will be for Holloway because it wasn't our first team, 'it's only the cup', and QPR never do anything in the cup anyway.

While the early season league games might not be particularly memorable or important in the scheme of things I guess they are pretty important to QPR managers who know that the QPR board is looking to replace managers in SeptemberOctober.

Myke added 22:25 - Aug 25
I agree pretty much with all the above Clive, (except the result, I expect us to lose by more than 2 goals) . In terms of it being Olli's 'Newcastle' moment , that fact that it was Brentford certainly burns off more credit than if say they lost 4-1 to WBA or someone of that ilk. If they lose heavily again tomorrow, the total goals conceded in the two games will be bandied about by the media who won't 'give a monkey's' about it being a different defence in either game.
Speaking of which, it won't be that different either; Smithies, Bidwell and Onouha will come back, but any two from Caulker, Baptiste and Furlong will also play, regardless of whether he plays 5 at the back or opts for a flat back four. My own feeling is that he will go 4-1-4-1 and guess who the target man will be?

18StoneOfHoop added 05:41 - Aug 26
Brilliant writing and expert analysis as per usual but this is the third time I can remember you have used the word reactionary incorrectly ; a right wing person's views against the prevailing status quo is what I think that word means, 'reactive' or 'knee-jerk' would be better.

cyprusmel added 07:16 - Aug 26
I don't remember many changes from the league teams and cup teams that Alec Stock played.
I believe that he played his best available team at all times and I thank him for it as he gave me and my family one of the most memorable times in my long football life at Wembley.

simoncarne added 09:01 - Aug 26
There are good reasons why a fan might be disappointed at the absence of a cup run. But to argue that today's game (or any other league game) isn't important is not one of them.

At the end of the season, when the league table identifies who's up, who's down and who's staying put, every point won counts equally and every point not won is equally damaging.

So, unless Clive is confident that QPR are going to be comfortably mid-table or proudly promoted with room to spare, every point counts, from the first day of the season to the last. And, if there is a tolerable chance that Cardiff might be a rival at the same end of the table as the Rs, every point denied to Cardiff has the potential to benefit QPR as well.

Of course there will, as Clive says, be plenty of other games, after today, for QPR to win more points (and for Cardiff to be denied them). But we saw what happened last season when the team got itself into an apparently safe place in the table, with games to spare, only to drop like a stone over the ensuing weeks and end up a hair's breadth from disaster.

Today's game matters. <i>Every</i> league game matters, until enough points have been won for winning more of them not to matter any more.

oldmisery added 09:26 - Aug 26
Yes, we've heard all about the 'merits' of squad rotation but during our most successful season we played 48 games and used just 16 players, 10 of whom played in 40 or more of those matches. Were the old time players fitter, stronger, more resilient or did the managers of yesteryear believe that continuity brought about the best results?

francisbowles added 10:37 - Aug 26
When we compare the 66/67 team or the 75/76 team we are talking chalk and cheese. The game has changed so much since I have been watching it as to make comparisons virtually redundant.

The game is faster and more intense. The players are much fitter and as a consequence, whatever the popular opinion, are more susceptible to injury, especially if they have been injured before. They are obviously much more valuable commodities as well and therefore clubs invest in sport's scientists to advise them, on how to look after their assets, in terms off rest and recovery as well as training and performance.

The other point to consider in this is that we have lost Mackie, Faurlin and Buszacky too long term injuries in cup ties in which we were still defeated.

GroveR added 12:56 - Aug 26
Completely agree.

The whole concept of 'rivalry' has become a bit of a joke in the Sky era, where every Sunday game is billed as a titanic battle to the death between mythical demigods upon which rests the very fate of universes (or West Brom v Stoke to the rest of us). How did Fat Frank justify calling Chelsea / Liverpool the biggest rivalry in British football with a straight face? I agree, there's hatred there but they're both eminently hateable clubs.

Locsl rivalry matters and if Holloway thinks any London derby can be written off, let alone a west London derby after having played for us for as long as he did he's an idiot - when you get 12,000 turning up for a pre-season against the neighbours, bending over and smiling coquetteishly over your shoulder isn't an option.

If QPR fielded an U7 girls netball team against any one of Chels**/Fulham/Brentford I'd expect a savage reducer from one of our players no later than the third minute, just to let them know we're on the pitch.

simoncarne added 13:00 - Aug 26
@oldmisery You raise an interesting point. In 1975/76 (which I believe you are referring to), we lost only seven league matches. Three of them were in weeks when we played a cup game; and two were at Christmas/Easter when two games were played within three/two days. If squad rotation had turned just one of those defeats into a victory (or two of them into a draw), we would have been champions.

simoncarne added 13:02 - Aug 26
... or going out of the cup earlier to reduce the number of weeks with multiple games.

isawqpratwcity added 13:26 - Aug 26
Nah, you're wrong about cup games. Always said it, always will: your best chance of income stream is the league, so give that your best shot.

ozexile added 13:29 - Aug 27
Agree with Grove R.

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