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Saturday, 9th February 2019 Kick-off 15:00
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Friday, 8th Feb 2019 18:32 by Clive Whittingham
An eight match February didn't look to have left a lot of time to even sleep or eat, but QPR have managed to squeeze a spat with the local council in between Tuesday's win against Portsmouth and tomorrow's match with Birmingham.
QPR (11-6-12, WLLDLW, 14th) v Birmingham City (10-13-7, DLLLDW, 8th)
Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Saturday February 2, 2019 >>> Kick off 15.00 >>> Weather – Lulling you into a false sense of security before another blast of pure evil later on >>> Travel – No H&C or Circle lines between Baker Street and Hammersmith >>> Loftus Road, London, W12
Well it was good of the club and Hammersmith and Fulham council to get through a full circuit of their new stadium routine so quickly this week.
From ‘we want a new stadium but the council won’t help’ to ‘what’s wrong with the stadium you’ve got?’ to ‘we’ve explained that a thousand times’ to ‘you’re just property developers in a trojan horse, give the fans ownership of the club’ to ‘fine then we’re moving to Heathrow’ in the time it took Wednesday morning to turn into Friday afternoon. A new personal best for both. Maybe they’ve been practising on the track at the Linford Christie Stadium? Round of applause for all, very professional and grown up.
You can see the points on both sides. Lee Hoos has set out the economic case time and again for Loftus Road not being a viable home for QPR without Premier League television money because of its size, the cost of maintaining it, its age and the lack of non-matchday revenue. The council seems to completely ignore this whenever it speaks publicly on the issue, stating that it wants to help the club redevelop the place. Fine, call their bluff, stick a planning permission request in for a three-tiered South Africa Road stand overhanging the road, see how far it gets. There are no other sites in the borough other than the LCS and given that Fulham were given permission for their giant new main stand, and the same authority was quite happy to wave through Chelsea’s application for a ghastly, 60,000+ lamb tagine on the site of Stamford Bridge, a bit of help with our own project wouldn’t go amiss.
The idea of fan ownership is lovely in theory, but it costs the owners north of £8m a season to run QPR in its current state on top of what it brings in so I hope they’re fans with deep pockets, or the rest of the fans are happy for us to drop down a level or two to the point where we can be run without making a loss. Every single club at this level, bar very rare and occasional exceptions, loses money and requires input from a rich geezer. We rely on rich owners and can’t be wholly fan owned partly because we cannot generate enough revenue for ourselves and the club costs too much to run, which is partly because of the stadium, which is why we want to replace it. Round and round we go. Incidentally, do the council start badgering Westfield to change the make up of its board whenever it applies to extend that bloody great death star at the end of the road?
But then for QPR expect to be handed a publicly owned bit of land on the edge of metropolitan open space to build a big new stadium that moves the club towards profitability, while at the same time sticking expensive flats on the current Loftus Road site and, it seems possibly, the adjacent Batman Close estate, is a little bit fanciful.
The council’s point about the board makeup is not without merit. Add community trust CEO Andy Evans to the board, as Dave Mc has long campaigned for and wrote superbly about again today, and it would add water to the very valid arguments about the value of the club to local people. We should be looking to add an elected supporter representative to the board each season anyway – though given the unmerciful grief you get if you dare to run a podcast, a website, or sit on an unpaid committee trying to help the club with a new stadium good luck to whoever gets that gig. Instead they add millionaire, Chelsea-supporting, property developer Jamie Reuben, which really only suggests one motive and is always likely to antagonise a Labour-run council. The Loftus Road site, with or without Batman Close, could be a very high yield development and it’s the job of a council to stop what happened at West Ham where Upton Park was replaced with a horribly out of place, walled off, gentrified load of flats only the five richest kings of Europe could afford (two bedroom flat, £468,000) while the club was parked up the road in an unsuitable stadium it doesn’t own for the profit of the owners and nobody else.
You get the feeling, from the Old Oak Common debacle, and the time it’s taken to get a spade in the ground at Warren Farm, that QPR just aren’t really very good at the political side of these things or at taking people with them. That they just sort of expect things to be cleared for them, because it’s a football club and, you know, football and that. Warren Farm has taken this long even with the support of Ealing Council and the LCS is a far more complicated beast than that. The fact we’re even at any sort of loggerheads with the council over this doesn’t bode well because we’re not getting it without working hand in hand with them. Fulham got their approval, but it came with promises of money to improve the adjacent parks and Thames path. There’s a game to be played, and we don’t seem very adept at playing it.
But then I also feel like there’s a huge bit missing here. This should be win, win, win. The council can offload a liability it doesn’t want to pay to maintain (just go and look at the state of the place) and in return boost two of its sporting clubs and the local community with a new stadium for QPR, a new track for Thames Valley Harriers, and a base for the Community Trust to grow. It can force QPR into including social housing, facilities and local infrastructure improvements in the plans for Loftus Road through section 106 of the town and country planning act 1990. It’s difficult to see why it wouldn’t work in principal, and therefore hard to see why they’re at each other’s throats over it. What aren’t we being told, by either side?
One would hope they get back round the table and start afresh, rather than communicating through podcast appearances or statements that look like they’ve been fired off by some disgruntled councillor on his phone without so much as a junior PR exec casting a glance over it and saying “do you think that sounds terribly professional?”
Like I say, there’s a big bit of this story missing somewhere here and all the supporters can do in the meantime is get involved in the council’s forthcoming consultation over the future of the LCS and let them know that whatever they think of the club’s board, this development does have a groundswell of support. Just as we’re not getting it without the council’s help, we’re not getting it unless the supporters really want it and campaign for it. Which is partly why Fernandes spoke out this week, of course.
Never dull though is it?
Anyway, that’s all distracted attention away from our relentless march to a first FA Cup final appearance since 1982 which took another inevitable step along the golden highway on Tuesday night when Portsmouth were driven back to the coast by a massed army of angry hooped soldiers riding a huge, wheeled effigy of Matt Smith. Watford will inevitably be bummed in the gob on Friday night and then it’s only Doncaster away and Newport at Wembley standing in the way of us and the final. Us, and the final, and a Europa League group of Sporting Lisbon, Ale Faurlin’s Marbella, Club Brugge, and some bit of Eastern Europe the wanker stag parties haven’t discovered yet. Shut up, I’m masturbating here.
And that, in turn, has all distracted attention from our declining league form, although given that the rearrangement of the West Brom and Leeds fixtures has left us facing five of the top eight in the next 17 days perhaps it’s for the best we don’t think about it. Anyway, it says we’re drawing 1-1 with Birmingham City tomorrow here so keep your knickers on for that long at least and get that half day booked off work for next Friday. And QPR, do try not to say anything stupid in the meantime eh?
Geoff Cameron Facts #26 – Geoff could demolish Batman Close in one afternoon using only a rock hammer if you want him to. Not Sunday though, he’s drawing the tombola at his church’s spring harvest.
Team News: Something resembling a decision to make for Same Team Schteve this week with Toni Leistner all over the show at Wigan and Grant Hall very impressive in his place against Portsmouth during the week. Hall’s ability to play out from the back would elevate him above Leistner and Joel Lynch in McClaren’s thinking if only his plugs would set and this might be a chance for him to get that rare league start. There’s a similarly tricky call to make further forward where Ebere Eze has looked tired, and Matt Smith played so well on Tuesday. Pawel Wszolek, also in patchy form, must also be at risk of being usurped by Bright Osayi-Samuel. Too soon for Tomer Hemed to start but his quick substitute appearance on Tuesday means he’s nearly back. Angel Rangel and Geoff Cameron remain in hibernation.
Kristian Pedersen returns from the naughty step for Birmingham, who could also have former Brexit secretary of state David Davis back for the first time this season after his fractured his ankle during the summer. Marc Roberts, however, is mourning the loss of his favourite chinchilla and is unavailable.
Elsewhere: Borussia Norwich’s hilarious dismantling of the Champions of Europe last weekend put them top on goal difference ahead of their old farm derby with Ipswich Down this weekend. The Spy Who Loved Me will attempt to bounce back from that seeing to with an early Saturday kick off at Pulisball. Sheffield Red Stripes can briefly go above both of them to top the table tonight if they win at Big Racist John and the Boys for the first time since 1966 on the tellybox. Mind you, given that Villa have made it clear they’ll be booting anybody who gets in their way in the face, perhaps it’s best to just call it a draw and focus on next week. Accidental my arse.
Eight matches left for Saturday at 15.00 then, including this week’s exciting clash between two teams beginning with B – Blackburn and Bristol City. There’s a tough clash for Frank Lampard’s Derby County at home to the Allam Tigers – having been distracted from his search for a centre back by a search for midfielder Andy King during the transfer window, Frank is now trying to use his Patisserie Valerie loyalty card to tempt out of contract former Celtic defender Efe Ambrose down south to babysit Richard Keogh.
At the other end of the table there’s a relegation six-pointer between Rotherham and Wigan Warriors – one and seven points north of the bottom three respectively. Beneath the line, other than Ipswich of course, come Reading, who are at Sheffield Owls, and Basket Case Bolton, who are at home to Preston Knob End just as another winding up petition from HMRC drops through the door.
Four defeats in five games and a drop to twelfth doesn’t suggest Nottingham Trees’ sentimental decision to go for Martin O’Neill has been a conspicuous success so far, and they’ll have it all on to arrest that slide this weekend with Spartak Hounslow coming to the City Ground. They will. Almost certainly. Be the best team. Forest have played. All season.
Referee: Darren Bond is the man in the middle for this one, last seen on this ground helping Norwich to keep the ball in the corner in September. Character assassination available here.
QPR: The shock and awe of reaching the FA Cup fifth round rather masks QPR's poor recent league form. The two victories they’ve managed in the last eight games have both been in the cup. They haven’t won in five Championship matches going back to Boxing Day, and have lost the last three including a 4-1 loss to Preston last time out at Loftus Road and a 2-1 defeat at Wigan a week ago in fairly pitiful style. That followed a hugely promising run of three wins and two draws in five Christmas games that at one point had us ninth and three points shy of the play-offs. We’re now fourteenth and eight points away. Three straight defeats has inevitably brought the Chicken Little’s out to check on the sky, but with QPR already on 39 points they’d really have to go some to be relegated from here. Reading backwards in time starting last season the Championship safety mark has been 42 (one more win), 51 (four more wins), 41 (two more draws), 42 (one more win) and 44 (two more wins). Peterborough went down with 54 points the year before that but even that is only five wins from 17 remaining games. Suspect we haven’t seen the last of the panic though, with a very difficult February stretching out ahead of us…
Birmingham: The Blues have had a very similar season to ourselves, with a poor start of no wins (but six draws) in the first nine games giving way a surprisingly good autumn of eight wins, four draws and just three defeats in 15 games which propelled them up into play-off contention. Since Christmas, however, things have slipped a little with last weekend’s home win against Forest (2-0) their first success in seven attempts (D3, L3). They are still eighth, with 43 points, four away from the play-offs having played a game more than QPR. Away from home they’ve won four, drawn six and lost five with the wins coming at Leeds (2-1), Stoke (1-0), Millwall (2-0) and Wigan (3-0). They’ve lost only one of their last six on the road. They’ve lost four and drawn one of their last five games at Loftus Road. Che Adams has scored in five consecutive league games to move to 16 goals in 32 appearances this season although Birmingham's refusal of several big money offers for him in January could see them again in breach of their FFP agreement with the league and facing a further points deduction next season - a hearing later this month is tipped to dock them 12 for aggravated breaches during the season that Harry Redknapp was manager. Quelle surprise.
Prediction: Woking R remains two points ahead of DanRanger in our Prediction League after the Wigan defeat, despite having predicted a game fewer. The winner gets goodies from our generous sponsor Art of Football. Get involved by lodging your prediction here or sample the merch from our sponsor’s QPR collection here. Reigning champion Elliott tells us…
“Well who would’ve thought we’d have a cup run this season? Tuesday night’s result was fantastic and deserves to be celebrated. Although before the big one next Friday, we have two tough league games in which we’ll have to be somewhere very close to our best to get something out of. I’m sitting on the fence for the first one.”
Elliott’s Prediction: QPR 1-1 Birmingham. Scorer – Big Posh Matt
LFW’s Prediction: QPR 1-1 Birmingham. Scorer – Nahkiiiiiiiiiii Wells.
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