Les staying, Hoos' new ground response, McClaren on turnaround – Fans Forum
Friday, 23rd Nov 2018 01:12 by Clive Whittingham
The latest QPR fans forum took place at Loftus Road on Thursday night and LFW was there to bring you the key talking points from manager Steve McClaren, director of football Les Ferdinand and CEO Lee Hoos.
On the pitch
- Steve McClaren said he’d built an affinity with Queens Park Rangers during a “very hectic” three-month spell first time around and had always followed the club since and kept in touch with Tony Fernandes. “I followed them very closely last season and especially towards the end of the season when what I saw from the outside was a lot of very good work going into QPR building the team, the academy and the youth. Les, Lee, the owners, Chris Ramsey, everybody behind the scenes has done a great job stabilising the club. It’s spent several years sorting itself out, it’s plateaued now and the future is very bright for QPR. I’ve been more than surprised at the quality of the youth players here, the organisation behind the scenes and the staff. It’s a very well run club. If the owners could spend money on players they would but they can’t do it. Despite the restrictions, people like Les and Lee behind the scenes have done a fantastic job. The job is to win games and develop players which is perfect for me because I like to develop players. It wasn’t a risk for me, I could either stay in the garden and keep going to Tescos or get back to coaching and I’m a worker. I’m here to help, and when it comes that I’m not helping then I’ll go.”
- Les Ferdinand used the forum to announce he would be staying at the club, despite reports linking him with the vacant technical director role at the FA. “They contacted the club and asked to speak to me. It’s the national team so I did speak to them. I was flattered they asked because you read some reports sometimes and it sounds like I’m not doing a good job but they’ve recognised what we’ve done at this club. There was a lot to do, I knew there would be a lot of pain before any joy, we’ve had to take that and I think we’re heading in the right direction. I’ve seen other clubs in our situation drop two leagues. We’ve stabilised the club and now want to move it forward so it wasn’t time for me to leave. I’m happy to stay.” He did, however, later say that he was tempted to take on management at some stage, which is a departure from his previous stance. “I’ve done all my coaching badges and pro-licence and have felt at some stage that I want to have a go at it, and at some stage I think I will. Sitting where I sit and seeing what those guys go through it is difficult.”
- Steve McClaren defended his team selection for the League Cup defeat at Blackpool. He said: “From the first day we’ve told the players the key to winning, developing and creating an environment where we all enjoy coming to work is a squad game. The most difficult thing for a manager isn’t picking 11 it’s leaving out the other 11 and explaining why. The cups are an opportunity to use your squad. First game against Peterborough we used our squad, second game against Bristol Rovers we used our squad - those who hadn’t played on the Saturday. We’re very fortunate to have talented youngsters, and some very good senior players to come in. I enjoyed the Peterborough win and the performance against Bristol Rovers - some of the youngsters, Bright Osayi-Samuel, had a fantastic game. Blackpool was the furthest QPR had got for many years anyway. It was a good draw, but still tough, and I believe I picked a team that was stronger than the one against Bristol Rovers and wasn’t a weakened team. I expected to win there. I’m still fuming about losing that game in the manner we did. I made my views very clear afterwards. It wasn’t a weakened team, it was a team I expected to win. The FA Cup is different, it’s a Saturday it’s part of the fixtures. I was disappointed by the reaction after Blackpool saying I’d picked a weakened team and didn’t want to win the game – I used the squad, it’s a good squad and that was a good team with experienced players. It should have won that game.”
- Angel Rangel is contracted until January. Les Ferdinand said that despite speculation of moves to other Championship clubs or the US, we have an extension that we can trigger in January and the Spanish full back is happy to stay. That deal is still to be thrashed out but Ferdinand is happy with his contribution to the side and expects him to extend his stay.
- McClaren said other young players would be going out on loan in January to give them the same experience Joe Lumley, Ebere Eze and others have benefitted from. Ferdinand added: “We need to get the young players out playing games. Ryan Manning has gone and is doing very well. He’s been here a couple of years and not played the games that sometimes he may have deserved. He’s getting experience in the Championship now. Some of the young players we have are very talented but need to get experience so we’re going to use the loan market because they will be very important to us next season.” McClaren said they are keeping a close eye on Manning and considering bringing him back in January depending on circumstances. “It’s definitely not out of the question, a lot of it will depend on him and we’ll have that conversation nearer the time. I really liked him when I first came in, he’s a good player. He dipped a little bit just after that and he’s got the likes of Scowen, Luongo, Freeman, Ebere ahead of him and it was difficult for him to get regular games which is vital experience. It’s short term, he’s a future QPR player, he’ll be better for this.”
- On the possibility of making the loan deals for Tomer Hemed, Nahki Wells and Geoff Cameron permanent Lee Hoos said: “They’re here on loan for a reason, they’re Premier League quality coming down to us. A lot of things can happen between now and the end of the season. The biggest thing is what their teams want, and what they want as a salary. The profitability and sustainability rules mean the days are over when you can go out and buy whatever player you want and deal with the financing later. If those players take you outside that you’re stuffed. No matter how rich the owners are, you can’t do it if it goes over the rules. We cannot lose more than £39m over any three-year period.” Ferdinand added: “At the start of the window when we were going after players we were being quoted loan fees and all sorts of things, by the end of the window we were being given those same players. We knew we had to be patient, we couldn’t do the deals at the start of the window because of the finances of the club, but we got who we wanted in the end.”
- On scouting Les Ferdinand said: “We watch players over a large number of games. We want to see them when they’re winning, when they’re losing, what they’re like, their attitude towards team mates. We try to pick characters, ability is fine but you have to have the right character. It’s no coincidence that things have changed down here because we’ve got good senior players.” McClaren praised Gary Penrice’s “encyclopaedic knowledge” of footballers around Europe and reiterated that “recruitment is the most important thing at a club bar none”. “We’ve made character checks on players way beyond what clubs would normally think of as character checks. On the recruitment side we’ve got great people around here constantly feeding us players.”
- Ferdinand said that Chris Ramsey has been instrumental in bringing the likes of Ebere Eze through. “His contacts mean that when players get released at other clubs they come straight to Chris because they know the stuff he’s done in the past. That’s benefitted us with Ebere, we’ve got Oteh coming through and a few others he’s working extremely hard with to get them where we need them to be.”
- On the early season struggles, McClaren admitted he’d made mistakes and had adapted his team quickly as a result. “We played a 4-3-3 when we came in and we had to have a look and try things at the start – we were searching for the right team, the right system, the right personnel. I hold my hands up, I made a lot of mistakes. Experience has told me you have to learn from those mistakes. I wouldn’t say there was a grand plan, in those early stages you make mistakes unless you’ve got a ready made team and I made mistakes. We adapted, looked at what we’ve got and decided we would go a different way. In the early games the players were a bit like puppies let loose, you tell them to sit but sometimes you let the rope go and they’re all over the place. It was about getting back to basics, making us hard to beat. We had to be patient, we knew we were bringing three quality players in that would change the team. I remember when they came in on the Friday seeing them walk across the training ground I said we’ve got a team now, a team of men. The size had gone up, the stature had gone up. We play a game of old v young in training on a Friday and the oldies were winning games six or seven nil, it was embarrassing. We had a meeting and the oldies told the kids they were playing all the fancy football but losing six or seven nil and something had to change. From that moment on, credit to the youngsters, they’ve got together and I think it’s 4-4 over the eight weeks since then. If you want to see a great game of football, come and watch that on a Friday.”
- Under criticism from one fan for a negative approach, McClaren added that as part of that backs to basics stance they had started pulling everybody back into the box for corners and defensive set pieces to prioritise defending their own penalty area.
- If an unlikely promotion was won this season Hoos said: “the shareholders would be the first to admit they really screwed it up last time. They’ve learned from those mistakes, it would be a different approach this time.” Les added: “We wouldn’t want to go down that road again of bringing in all sorts of players coming to the end of their careers looking for a pay day. We’d have to do it holistically, properly and in a sustainable way for the club.” Hoos pointed out that all three teams relegated to the Championship last season were previously considered established Premier League clubs and that no matter how much planning and safeguarding you do, three clubs are relegated regardless. McClaren added: “We’re getting a bit ahead of ourselves. In the Championship, in a week, you can lose three games very quickly and all of a sudden this meeting would be very different. We have to be realistic in what we’re trying to achieve. After four games this season the target was just get out of trouble. When we were sixteenth we had a talk with the players and they felt they could be in the top half of the league. They’ve challenged themselves and done that. There’s a hell of a long way to go.”
- McClaren said the gaps between the team’s best performances and worst last season was too vast – a 9/10 against Cardiff at home then a 4/10 at Hull away – and one aim this season had been to narrow that gap so that all performances were between 7/10 and 9/10 in an effort to make the team more consistent.
Off the pitch
- Earlier this week Hammersmith and Fulham Council issued a statement responding to an economic impact report published by QPR talking up the benefits to the borough of QPR being allowed to move to the site of the Linford Christie Stadium and build a new ground there. The council accused QPR of trying to secure the public site on metropolitan open land for free, and the development of being less about the community aspect the club has sought to talk up and more about multimillionaire owners looking to property develop in a booming part of the city.
CEO Lee Hoos said: “Our response is we’re baffled. We conducted an economic impact survey which we published, the council has taken umbrage at that and I don’t know why because it’s not critical of anybody. It’s where we are as a club, how we impact the local economy, how we could impact it after a move. If the council say the land is worth hundreds of millions of pounds, which is one of the things they’ve said, they would have a duty as elected politicians to pursue hundreds of millions of pounds and put it back into things like care. I don’t see how it is worth that unless you developed it for residential properties, if that’s what you want to do. If they’ve taken umbrage because we’ve said that’s our last chance of staying in the borough, again, unless there’s a site somewhere else that they haven’t told me about and nobody else has told me about it is the last hope. If it’s just about economics we’re not going to be the best economic producers from that site but what we produce is a lot more than economics, a lot more than cash, it’s social value and what we add to the community. The various programmes we run here, the council are indirect beneficiaries of what we do with the social programmes.
“All I’m saying is we can’t sustain ourselves here. Once the baffling bit of the statement is over I get down to the next bit and wonder if anybody has been listening to me for the last three years. They’re saying they could help us re-do Loftus Road, when for three years I’ve been explaining why you can’t re-do Loftus Road. It just doesn’t work. At this stage of the game to be talking about redoing Loftus Road is a bizarre statement to make. The shareholders did like the idea of people taking stakes in the club, they’d be delighted to offload some of the funding requirements this club has, if the council wants to take a stake in that by all means.
“We’ll continue the dialogue with the council. It’s their land. In fairness to them it’s a very complex site with the Ministry of Defence, charity commission, metropolitan open land issues so I’m totally with them on that. They will continue to go through the process. I’ve already said why we have to move, I was brought in to create a sustainable business case here, not rely on a sugar daddy. I want to make sure 50 years from now there’s a sustainable football club here because football clubs are the absolute foundation of the communities they serve.”
- On a timescale for the Warren Farm training ground Hoos said: “You guys asked me this three years ago and I said we’d be in in two. Rather than a timeframe, I’ll tell you what the programme is. We did work behind the scenes while the judicial review was being carried out which we didn’t publicise because we didn’t want a judge to object to us starting. Ecological surveys and phase one archaeological surveys have been done. We’ve started the phase two archaeological surveys digging trenches and touch wood that goes ok we don’t find anything. We’ve already submitted the scheme to level the site out, which will take around nine months. Once we get that license and environmental studies we’re dealing with right now, I’m hoping come January we’ll get that approved because I want to do that in conjunction with a pitch contractor so that it’s all ready to go right from the very beginning. It’s great to have nice facilities, but the pitches are the most important thing. There are buildings there now which undoubtedly contain asbestos, the first order of business before anything else is to get that building knocked down which will be the first tangible piece of work you’ll see there. By the time that’s done everything will be in place for the importation scheme. Full steam ahead.”
- Hoos says the exceptions to the January transfer embargo include signing players for the U23s, though they would be forbidden from playing for the first team until next season. If we lose a player we can bring in a replacement as long as they’re on less than £600,000 p/a or two thirds of the salary of the departing player and we don’t pay compensation to another club or an agent’s fee.
- Hoos said the success of the new blue band season tickets at the end of the Ellerslie Road Stand was not down to the cheap prices, as 50-60 people were now trying to move down there from the more expensive seats during the game to get involved with the atmosphere, and he was looking at ways to extend it. There are 149 new season ticket holders in that block, 160-odd who moved from elsewhere in the ground and around 30 who were there already. “If we extend this into W Block, there is a way we can do it but I don’t want family stand phase two where we uproot people who’ve been sitting there for a long time. It looks to me like we can use part of W Block but I want to sit down and talk to the 25-30 people it would effect and see what they think first before doing anything.” In a later exchange over why he’d decided to build a bank of support away from the traditional home end of the ground, Hoos said it was the place with the fewest number of existing season ticket holders who would be affected.
- On the end of the Premier League parachute payments, which cease for QPR at the end of this season after four years outside the top flight, Hoos said: “The only ay you can fill a hole that size is to develop players and sell them. We need to get players through the door, develop them and sell them. And we need to balance that against winning games.”
- Hoos said the club is working on a scheme where they identify people who have moved to the city who can be targeted as potential supporters, but the main way to grow the fan base was through the community department and giving kids the chance to meet QPR players and “make it personal” to them. “This squad is tremendous in the community efforts, we’ve already surpassed the number of community appearances this season that we had last.”
- There was an intriguing question I hadn’t heard before (quite unusual for these things) about whether the club has insurance to pay the wages of players while they’re injured – Darnell Furlong missing the first three months of this season was cited. Hoos said: “There is insurance for career ending injury, if it’s non-football you pay for the first 12 months and if it’s football you’re on the hook for 18 months. There used to be a popular scheme called Temporary Total Disablement which lots of clubs used and paid for players who were out temporarily but we’ve binned it because the premiums became so expensive.”
- On the much publicised dispute between Championship clubs and the Football League over the controversial five year deal with Sky TV Hoos confirmed QPR are one of the 19 clubs that have objected to the deal. “There were 19 clubs that expressed dissatisfaction with how things have been carried out and we are one of the 19. I can’t talk about it because it’s an internal dispute with the league. In terms of forming breakaway leagues it’s like Brexit 2, and you can see how well that’s worked out so it’s probably something we should steer clear of.”
- Hoos reiterated his support for safe standing should the league rules change. He felt there was a growing desire among clubs to move that way and it was a question of “when not if”.
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