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Norwich City 4 v 0 Queens Park Rangers
SkyBet Championship
Saturday, 6th April 2019 Kick-off 12:30
Where to now, and who’s making that call? Preview
Friday, 5th Apr 2019 12:59 by Clive Whittingham

QPR, well ablaze once more, career off up the motorway to face league leading Norwich City this weekend, a club that’s done everything we haven’t and is reaping the rewards.

Norwich (24-9-6, WWWWWW, 1st) v QPR (12-8-19, WLDLDL, 17th)

Lancashire and District Senior League >>> Saturday April 6, 2019, >>> Kick Off 12.30 >>> Weather – Overcast, dry, chilly >>> Carrow Road, Norwich

You know a thought occurred to me yesterday, while putting myself through the four and a half minutes of purgatory that was John Eustace’s pre-Norwich press conference, that the problem here may be startlingly obvious.

There he sat, sounding as excited as somebody setting out on a caravanning holiday with Pauline and Arthur Fowler, with the facial expression of an eight-year-old embarking on a tour of the nonce’s wing of Wakefield Prison, insisting like so many before him that the players’ attitude has been first class, that training has been good, and that preparation has been faultless.

Ah John, your flesh mother used to bring me pudding. Hair Island Schteve, and his precious “time on the training ground” of which he talked so much, two full weeks of which went into serving up that bucket of slop against Bolton Wanderers last Saturday that cost him his job. McClaren’s reputation as a coach seemingly made from the same Teflon as Mark Hughes’ reputation as a manager, unblemished despite a litany of failures. Hughes used to be at a loss to explain why the dregs scraped together by his “special friend” Kia Joorabchian had failed him so spectacularly again after such “meticulous preparation on the training ground” geared towards “the business of winning Premier League football matches”.

You see, it’s all about the bloody training. QPR look absolutely incredible during their exhaustive six, or sometimes as much as seven, hours of training spread out across four days at Harlington every week because they’re only playing against… QPR. Of course our strikers “stick those away all the time in training”, it’s because they’re only playing against Joel Lynch. Of course that back four looked an acceptable pick for the Bolton game to the manager, they spend their time during the week marking Tomer Hemed. It’s when we come to play the other footballers at the other football clubs we have a problem.

And it’s quite the problem this weekend let me tell you. Keep in mind at all times that we couldn’t beat Rotherham and Bolton at home as we remind you that our opponents tomorrow, Norwich City, are seven points clear at the top of the table with seven games left to play having won their last seven games in a row. They’ve scored a league-high 78 times already, and we’re bent over with cheeks spread ready for them to top that up nicely this weekend. They have grown from the dull an uninspiring outfit that ground its way to an excruciating 1-0 win at Loftus Road earlier this season through a combination of one good finish, extreme time wasting and lousy refereeing, into a free flowing, free-scoring, remorseless winning machine. And let’s be honest, we rarely used to win here even when they were shite.

There was an element of emperor’s new clothes to the Canaries a year ago, when they were beaten 4-1 at Loftus Road by Ian Holloway’s QPR team with goal from Ebere Eze and Ryan Manning (when uncontrollable laughter turns to 20 minutes of solid weeping). They’d looked at Huddersfield Town and liked what they saw from David Wagner’s revolution there so tried to replicate it, bringing in their sporting director Stuart Webber and hiring Wagner’s replacement as Borussia Dortmund’s reserve manager Daniel Farke. But football doesn’t often work like that, Wagner was exceptional in West Yorkshire, it seemed unlikely a copycat routine would work and 12 months ago it really didn’t look like it was. Hell, six weeks into this season it didn’t look like it was.

But theirs has been a triumph of doing everything QPR say they’d like to do the way it’s meant to be done. A clear and simple management structure. A sporting director overseeing the football side of the club delivering one clear and consistent message, and being allowed to appoint his choice as manager to deliver it on the field. A manager brought in through a proper, thorough, recruitment process as the best man for this particular job, and given a very clear remit which has been stuck to through difficult times. A scouting operation and player recruitment mission that doesn’t change for each transfer window and each manager - Norwich will be buying these types of players, in this age range, from these markets, and they’ll be sticking to it even if it doesn’t seem to be working at first, even if results are poor for a while. They’ve set a clear course where everybody knows their job and they’ve stuck to it. They’re out ahead of the league’s big spenders while operating at a profit in the transfer market, selling the Murphy brothers and James Maddison for big money while putting the team that will likely destroy us tomorrow together for a relative pittance.

We say it all the time when Brentford tear us a new arse: team and club with plan will always beat the one without one in the end.

Here we are at QPR, having sacked one manager fulfilling the remit he was given to bring in another who immediately abandoned his, who we’ve now fired as well, waiting to see if various out-of-work managers you’ve all heard of, who have all failed miserably elsewhere, fancy doing us a favour and taking our job on. Nobody knows if it’s Les Ferdinand, Lee Hoos, Tony Fernandes and/or Amit Bhatia doing the picking, nor which of them has just done the firing. The recruitment process seems to be revolving around who’s available, who we’ve heard of, and who would want it, rather than who we might want, or what remit they might be given, or how we see ourselves and our team next season, or who interviews well. The plan in sacking Steve McClaren on Monday doesn’t seem to stretch much beyond we don’t want Steve McClaren as manager any more. Who we do want? Pah. Never mind that. Here’s a course with some chest hair.

Can you imagine QPR being able to pick out an innovative coach from within the German game? As Norwich did. As Huddersfield did. As fucking Barnsley did? Can you imagine us being one of those clubs like Swansea when Huw Jenkins was on top of his game, or West Brom when Dan Ashworth was running the show, constantly scouting for managers that fit the remit and style of play they wanted, so if they did lose the one they already had they had a list of those they wanted ready to go and the transition was swift and seamless? Nah, we bounce from spending gazillions of pounds under Harry Redknapp to giving Chris Ramsey the academy coach the job. Then we go from trying to buy bargains from lower European divisions under Jimmy Floyd Hasselaink to not really liking foreign players very much at all under Ian Holloway. Then we go from starting to get some of the kids in the team under Holloway to going out and spending big money borrowing 30+ year old Premier League nearly men under Steve McClaren. It’s mental. Mental.

We babble on a lot on this website about how a club like Preston can push for the play-offs in this league every year on a wage bill almost a third of ours, scouting players from reserve teams (Daniel Johnson, Callum Robinson) and the League of Ireland (Sean Maguire, Alan Browne). How Barnsley can punch above their weight through innovative recruitment of players and now a manager. And occasionally we get a comment like “is that all we aspire to, Preston and Barnsley?” as if QPR are still some top flight club in waiting. As if as founder Premier League members we’ve got some God given right to be there, or at least pushing for there from where we are now. Through a combination of our own chronic mismanagement, and the sport leaving us behind, we’re not that club any more. It’s adapt or die now. If we continue to try and succeed by hiring and firing name managers, buying and overpaying players you’ve heard of, then we’re in danger of sinking without trace.

There are other ways to succeed in this modern game, and as FFP takes hold more and more clubs you would traditionally count as smaller than us are finding them and going past us – Brentford and Preston are streets ahead of us already. We need to wise the fuck up because it could get so much worse than it is now very quickly if we don’t.

Links >>> McClaren’s long term pain – Column >>> McClaren’s best and worst – Column >>> Runners and riders – Column >>> Duncan in charge – Referee >>> Gilet, the best a fan can get? Podcast >>> Norwich’s dream season – Interview >>> Bruno’s Norwich knockout – History

Saturday

Team News: Assuming John Eustace, who was brought in by Steve McClaren, hasn’t been sitting there for weeks disagreeing with everything his manager has been doing it’s hard to envisage the team being vastly different from what he was picking. Geoff Cameron should be back from his illness and Grant Hall is likely to be unavailable after limping out of the Bolton debacle, although Toni Leistner was always likely to be recalled here given that nonsense defence picked last week filled its pants at the sight of Josh fucking Magennis. See if they’ll let us pick two keepers maybe?

Norwich manager Daniel Farke, just for bantz, has named the same team for the last seven matches. They’ve won all seven. Fuck me sideways.

Elsewhere: All 12 games on the Saturday this weekend as Sky Sports Leeds returns to its first love of the Premier League in a big way leaving us peasants with our precious Saturday 15.00 kick offs. I feel like baking a cake.

Judging by the performance levels across the last three home games, it’s very clear that QPR’s fate this season rests solely in Rotherham not winning three of their remaining seven games. May as well go and watch them instead of us, and it’d be a damn sight more entertaining as well – they begin at home to Nottingham Trees this weekend. Of the other clubs immediately below us, for now, Birmingham are on a six-game losing streak as they welcome the Champions of Europe, Wigan are at in-form Bristol City as Lee Johnson’s men march into the play-off places with a midweek win at Middlesbrough, Reading are away to Allam Tigers who’ve basically given up for the year and Millwall host promotion chasers West Brom. We’re at Millwall ourselves on Wednesday of course, what a treat.

The bottom two, who one would hope have gone, meet in the north west. Bolton, who went on strike for the two days after beating us over unpaid wages once again, are at home to Ipswich Down.

Of the promotion chasers not mentioned so far, three of them are on the road. Sheffield Red Stripes go to Preston Knob End, Big Racist John and the Boys are at Sheffield Owls, and Middlesbrough with Tony Pulis on his last legs are away to Swanselona. Frank Lampard’s Derby County are also away, but their task is much tougher than the others, with a trip to Spartak Hounslow in the offing. Almost certainly the most difficult away game they’ve faced all season. Very little point at all to the Mad Chicken Farmers at home to Stoke, who’ve drawn their last four games 0-0.

Not us though. We’re not allowed nice things. We’re at 12.30

Referee: As the flow of good news turns into a veritable torrent, the EFL have sent us Scott Duncan to referee for the third time this season. Bring plenty of lube, he shafted us on both the previous two occasions. Details.

Form

Norwich: Norwich are in pretty fearsome touch. They’ve won their last seven matches in a row against Bolton A (4-0), Bristol City H (3-2), Millwall A (3-1), Swansea H (1-0), Hull H (3-2), Rotherham A (2-1) and Middlesbrough A (1-0). They’ve lost only one of ther 14 league games since the start of January and are top of the Championship by seven points with seven games left to play. Overall at home this season they’ve won 13, drawn two and lost four with West Brom, Stoke, Leeds and Derby the victorious sides – all before Christmas and, in two cases, as far back as August. They haven’t lost here in six league games. Nobody has scored as many as Norwich’s 78 goals this season.

QPR: Rangers, on the other hand, are properly in the shit. One win from 15 league games, weirdly against the second-placed team Leeds, and nothing in the last five. Three of those five have been lost including home matches with two of the bottom three – Rotherham and Bolton. The comeback from 2-0 down away at Hull prior to the international break snapped a run of four straight away defeats but Rangers haven’t won away from Loftus Road since beating Nottingham Forest the week before Christmas. Since then they’ve played eight times in all comps without success. Only the bottom three and Wigan have a worse goal difference than QPR, only the bottom three and Blackburn have conceded more goals.

Prediction: The winner of our Prediction League this year 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 reckons…

“Another bites the dust. Can’t stay I’m disappointed as I didn’t want him appointed in the first place. However, a decent cup run and that win away at Forest has got to be given credit for. I just want this season to be over with now. Why do Sky have to select Saturday’s game for their coverage? We all know what’s going to happen..”

Elliott’s Prediction: Norwich 3-0 QPR. No scorer.

LFW’s Prediction: Norwich 5-0 QPR. No scorer.

The Twitter/Instagram @loftforwords

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TheChef added 13:50 - Apr 5
You see how the gods are still punishing us for daring to win at the City Ground?
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simmo added 14:04 - Apr 5
Season tickets now on sale.
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E15Hoop added 18:24 - Apr 5
Brilliant and pertinent as ever, Clive. Your anger is palpable and shared by all of us with a modicum of love for this club and degree of common sense, which is more, it would appear, than our "oh, so successful" Board have.

I thought we'd left these dark days far behind us 18 years ago, when we were 15 minutes away from dying permanently. Currently, we're not even worth pissing on if we were on fire. And some people think I'm mad for loving Ollie as much as I do. Not from where I'm sitting, I would say...

We're a far sadder case than Leeds or Portsmouth were at their lowest points, because there is literally no excuse for this rudderless state of affairs. Isn't our Co-Chairman supposed to be an award-winning airline chief?? And our new Chairman the son-in-law of one of the richest and most successful businessmen in the world?? Surely to God they would then know how to build something from nothing in a controlled, sustained and patient way! Not so much in evidence at the moment, is it...?
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TacticalR added 22:31 - Apr 5
Thanks for your preview and drawing attention to the general lack of clues at the club.

What's bothering me about the sacking of McClaren is that, although you can understand it in the light of recent results, it feels as pointless and random as the hiring of McClaren.
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horshamHoop added 22:41 - Apr 5
I was at the Norwich game in 1976 and it does not get much worse than that, not going tomorrow but I wish John Eustace all the very best in what appears to be a thankless task, 5-0 Clive, I really hope and think not but I understand the frustration and dark side attitude, however QPR will always be our team and one has to find a way to remain positive
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Phil_i_P_Daddy added 00:22 - Apr 6
Christ on a bike! Without a saddle.
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timcocking added 02:10 - Apr 6
They forgot Rat Scabies...
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isawqpratwcity added 04:15 - Apr 6
In case anyone is interested, here's the Fernandes' manager's points per game:

Hughes 0.88
Redknapp 1.28
Ramsey 1.03
Hasselbaink 1.23
Holloway 1.15
McClaren 1.24

It shows Hughes in a suitably bad light, and Ramsey in an unsuitably bad light. I always limit Ramsey to the Championship games to strip the Premier results when he was appointed the caretaker manager to a team perceived as already relegated. Under that lens his results are 6-4-7, or a much healthier 1.27.ppg.
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Burnleyhoop added 07:58 - Apr 6
The whole thing is utterly shambolic and the entire management team, including Hoos and Ferdinand, should hang their heads in shame and embarrassment at the ineptitude shown over the last 5 years efforts.

However, just make sure that cake you’re baking has coconut and raspberry jam. A particular favourite of Warnock’s I believe. All hail the Messiah.
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