|Sheffield Wednesday 1 v 2 Queens Park Rangers|
Sunday, 5th May 2019 Kick-off 12:30
The absolute state of the QPR nation – Preview
Friday, 3rd May 2019 15:39 by Clive Whittingham
Looks like we made it, look how far we’ve come my baby.
Sheff Wed (16-16-13, LWLDWD, 10th) v QPR (13-9-23, LDWLLL, 19th)
Lancashire and District Senior League >>> Sunday May 5, 2019 >>> Kick Off 12.30 >>> Weather – Bright but cold >>> Hillsborough, Sheffield, S6
Here we go then. Preview, and shortly match report, 53 of 53. This piece is usually a mixture of thank yous and where we see the club as the season comes to a close, and where we see QPR at the end of 2018/19 is safe. Safe in the Championship for another year at least. Safe, as it turns out, long ago – from the moment we drew at home to Stoke we had sufficient points and goal difference to stay north of the totals Rotherham have managed.
I start with that, because it’s the sole positive. The only point to this season, the only thing we have achieved as a club, the only thing we can cling to, is at least we didn’t get relegated. After the first four games most would have taken that but it’s only been achieved because we’ve got two clubs that have imploded and one that was never likely to be good enough below us. Nevertheless, achieved it has been and we should be grateful for that pitifully small mercy.
Other than that, this season has been utterly pointless. There were some good times, great moments, excitement, and a cup run. But it was always going to be a complete waste of time once we’d thrown the original plan out of the window and made the panicked temporary addition of four senior players we can never hope to afford to keep permanently at the end of August. You could say, with plenty of justification, that the only reason we even managed the meagre achievement of staying up is because we made the additions we did right at the end of the window, but they were only necessary because we’d botched the summer recruitment prior to that. We survived perfectly well last season, a lot more comfortably than we have this, without them – higher in the league, with fewer defeats, and more points.
Yes, Rangel was a useful stand in when Darnell Furlong was injured, and has apparently been brilliant in a dressing room shorn of some big voices and great experience last summer. Do not underestimate how important that was. But he’s not been fit to play for most of his time here, just as he wasn’t at Swansea the previous season. When he has played, he’s frequently been the one at fault for goals that should have been offside – Stoke away, Hull home, Norwich away. Yes, Cameron had a good run of form when the team was playing well through the autumn. But did he do a great deal better/different to Grant Hall when Holloway used him as that defensive midfelder/third centre back previously? The defence hasn’t been good enough for years, it naturally improves when you park a physical, defensive presence in the midfield in front of it, Cameron seems like a top fella and great professional, but that’s really all it is. And he, too, has barely been fit to play. Hemed and Wells we’ve covered at length but we got more goals from our strikers last year, the much maligned Sylla, Washington and Smith, than we have this. Hemed (seven), Wells (seven) and Smith (five) have contributed 19 league goals between them – Sylla (seven), Washington (six) and Smith (11) got 24 last season.
Unless they got us promoted, the club were always setting up a situation whereby we would reach the start of next season with all the same problems we had at the start of this one, no parachute money to help sort it out, relying on players who have played very little football in 2018/19 because said senior players were parachuted in ahead of them. And so it has come to pass. If we’d finished eighth, if we hadn’t lost a club record number of games at home, if we had won more than twice in the entire second half of the season, it would be the same thing. We’d have had a better time, we’d probably still have the same manager we started with, but we would now be staring down the barrel of exactly the same 2019/20. It was a team, from the end of August, that existed purely to keep its manager in work for another week, and it managed that only until April.
Steve McClaren arrived last summer brim full of knowledge about our squad, talking enthusiastically about the direction the club was going in and the exciting young talent in the squad. He spoke in the summer about the vast difference between QPR’s best performances last season (Villa A) and their worst (Hull A), how they often came within a few days or weeks of each other, and how we had to close that gap. He spoke about a leaky defence that had conceded 70 goals. But he was merely another example of a name in the game networking himself into a senior position at Queens Park Rangers. He’d been a shoo in for the job for most of the second half of last season, something that became blatantly obvious when he turned up as a television pundit for our March draw at Fulham and basically treated it like his job interview – running through the visiting team in intricate detail while ignoring the play off-chasing home team who were, from a broadcast point of view, the story they’d come to cover.
During his tenure, that gap between the best and worst performances remained – we’ve beaten Leeds, Forest away, Villa, but we’ve lost at home to two of the bottom three and suffered severe, wholly one-sided, batterings at the hands of Preston, West Brom, Norwich, Swansea, Brentford and others. We’ve kept more clean sheets, we’ve won one more away game, but we’ve conceded 70 goals again and worse than maintaining the gap between the best and the worst performances we’ve actually gone backwards so that our best showings this season (Leeds H, Swansea H, Forest A, Villa H) were nowhere near as good as our best in 2017/19 (Wolves H, Villa A, Norwich H, Birmingham H, Sheff Wed H) and our worst this season (PNE H, Birmingham H first half, West Brom A, Rotherham H, Bolton H, Norwich A) have been far worse and far more frequent than any of the missteps we suffered under Ian Holloway.
We have gone backwards, and among many dozens of reasons for that I’d like to use this final opportunity of the season to look at one of them in particular – the director of football. Though probably not for the reasons you think.
I’ve seen, read and heard Les Ferdinand coming in for more sustained criticism from a wider section of the support base than ever before of late, and that’s inevitable. As QPR continue to be rubbish over an ever-growing period of time, so it becomes each senior member of staff’s turn in the firing line. The longer you’ve been here, the closer you come to the baying mob deciding you might be the problem. It was Mark Hughes’ fault, Mike Rigg’s fault, Harry Redknapp’s fault, Phil Beard’s fault, Chris Ramsey’s fault, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s fault, Ian Holloway’s fault and then it was Steve McClaren’s fault. All of these people left, the problems didn’t go away, but it is now, by default, Lee Hoos’ fault and Les Ferdinand’s fault. They will inevitably leave at some point, and the problems will inevitably remain. Ferdinand has made errors, Ferdinand might not be good enough for the job he’s in, but Ferdinand is still quite often getting the blame for stuff that he hasn’t done.
For me, and it’s just the opinion of one fan who happens to make ends meet running a QPR blog, the problem is we’re rather playing at having a director of football system. I fear it’s here for the reason so many other things happen at QPR – because it PRs well. It’s trendy, a lot of fans were calling for a “football person” between board and manager after Hughes and Redknapp ran amok, Les is a club legend – good PR move. Which would be a shame if it’s true, because there isn’t a club in world football that needs a director of football more than Queens Park Rangers.
We have owners with deep pockets and limited football knowledge, owners who like big name managers and big name players, owners that want to be liked and like making statements. That is lethal, as we saw under Hughes and Redknapp, because what you get is a manager appointed because they’ve heard of him, and a whole load of money spent on exactly what the big name manager wants – and what the big name manager wants is some big name, expensive, short term fixes that will get him a result next week so he doesn’t get the sack. Preferably, and entirely coincidentally of course, somebody Kia Joorabchian or Willie McKay represent.
To mitigate against that, and the general trend in the sport of managers coming and going so rapidly, you have a director of football/sporting director. Somebody who sits above the manager and below the board, driving the long-term strategy of the club, so it doesn’t actually matter if you go through five managers in five years because the managers are all very similar and the players coming through are consistent and geared towards one goal and style, rather than being torn up every nine months when you hire a new manager. You can get that continuity from a football savvy owner, like we see at Watford or used to see at Swansea, or if you don’t have one of those (which we don’t) you can get it from a DOF or sporting director, as we’ve seen with Stuart Webber at first Huddersfield and now Norwich. When you have that continuity, either from a football savvy owner or a DOF, you get what Swansea had at their recent height, where similar types of manager came and went, similar types of players came and went, and the club glided along an upward curve seamlessly despite losing both Roberto Martinez and Brendan Rodgers to bigger jobs. More recently, we’ve seen Watford rattle through managers while maintaining steady on field progress and a consistent method of scouting and signing players.
It’s exactly what we need, but we’re not doing it like that are we? With managers, we still hop from one extreme to the next – grizzled old brown envelope enthusiast, to a youth academy coach who’s never managed a senior team before, to a promising foreign manager from the lower leagues, to a club legend who’s been in a television studio for several years, to a big name former England boss. Swansea went from Martinez to Sousa to Rodgers to Laudrup to Monk. That makes sense, you can see that. That flows. Watford have had Zola, Sannino, Garcia, Jokanovic, Flores, Mazzarri, Silva and Gracia. Again, it’s a logical list. We’re all over the map by comparison, and people are criticising Ferdinand for that, but he didn’t pick either Holloway or McClaren. Tony Fernandes even admits in his book that not only did Ferdinand and Hoos not pick Holloway, they actually didn’t want him at all, and it’s well known that the board has been keen on McClaren since he coached here under Redknapp. This is what I mean about playing at it. You have a director of football who’s meant to be driving the football philosophy (for want of a less wanky term) but then you’re hiring and firing very different managers over his head.
Worse still, with each change of manager comes a change of direction on players. We’ve gone from scouting dark corners of Europe for players like Chery, Polter, Borysiuk, Sylla, Ngbakoto and Wszolek under Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, to Ian Holloway talking about needing “the French players to run about a bit more” and Marc Bircham fresh from a podcast appearance where he said he didn’t believe a mostly foreign team was appropriate for the cut and thrust of the Championship, literally in one move. And with that one move came the departure of all but a couple, and the arrival of a load of Matt Smith types, scouting for bargains in reserve teams and lower leagues in this country. Then, when Holloway left, that was ditched in favour of trying to get big name players on loan from the Premier League. It’s the opposite of what should be happening. Managers of similar style can come and go, but they’re always working with a squad that’s put together by one scouting and recruitment team with one clear vision. We seem to have gone from Les picking the signings for JFH, to Gary Penrice picking the signngs for IH, to Steve McClaren picking his own signings.
I’ll tell you a little story (sorry, last one of the season, may as well go off on one) about when we went to meet Steve McClaren at Harlington last summer. At one stage he was discussing the clear need for a central defender following the departure of Jack Robinson and Nedum Onuoha and one of the group present joked that maybe he could get Richard Keogh in here given he’s already very popular with the locals. McClaren, initially not realising it was a joke, said straight away that he’d already sounded the relevant people out about a move for Keogh, before he later realised we’d been kidding and added “given he’s already been your best player in a big game once”. Later in the same meeting he was waxing lyrical about the then possibility of bringing in Chris Martin to lead the attack, and how he’d been reticent to add any more of the younger and/or lower league targets the club had picked out to an already young squad because he felt what was needed was “just one or two really experienced, quality ones”.
Now, again, whether you agreed with him then, still agree with him now, or not, that’s not really the point. The point is it’s another example of us going from one type of manager to a completely different kind, and not only that but letting them both dictate the players we’re bringing in. Entirely different kinds of players at that. Interesting comments from Webber at Norwich this week in the wake of his latest against-the-odds promotion that the reason he tends to go for foreign managers is they’re willing to come in and work as part of a team with the structure around them, whereas with English managers it still all about them and what they want. I’m not saying the manager should have no say at all, but this is how you end up with a bloated squad, full of layers of signings made by different managers for different reasons and styles. It is, again (I must stop saying again), what the DOF role is meant to mitigate against.
If we’re going to have that system at our club – and God knows we need it, whether it’s Les or somebody else – we have to have it properly, not this weird halfway house. That the current search for a manager not only involves an interview process but an interview process seemingly being carried out by Hoos and Ferdinand is encouraging to me. If it doesn’t work, then they all fall on their swords together, but at least it was their call and the thinking is joined up, with the people who run the club day to day being allowed to run it on the big decisions as well. Problem is, the state we’ve worked ourselves into, the dire situation for next season we’ve created for ourselves, means nobody worth having now wants the job.
We’re in difficult circumstances, nobody denies that. Jim Frayling did an excellent Twitter thread last week about just how difficult it is for a football club to cut its wage bill while even standing still. But there are other clubs with problems, other clubs with tight wage bills, other clubs with small grounds and gates, and several of them are doing a good deal better than us. We seem to be consumed by ours. John Eustace has talked a lot of rot since picking up the hospital pass of caretaker managing this lot, but he was erudite and straight to the heart of the matter last week in the wake of a record breaking eleventh home loss of the season. There is a losing mentality around the place, and the recruitment has been botched.
Where we go from here, other than the beach, I do not know.
Links >>> Hillsborough promotion – History >>> Bruce brings brighter times – Interview >>> The view from the Pu – April >>> It’s the hoops that kill you – Podcast >>> Davies back for Wednesday trip – Referee
Anyway, it’s that time of the year again where we bid our thanks to the collection of superb human beings who’ve helped keep LFW going for 13 long, gruelling, strength sapping, confidence draining years. May will be taken up by the usual end of term report (look away now Joel Lynch) and hopefully some bits on the new manager and we’ll be back next year (can’t afford not to be) but there will be a summer hiatus through most of June while I sit by a swimming pool and enjoy not having to think about how I’m going to start that week’s match preview.
Thank you to everybody who has contributed articles this year – particularly Lee McAlpine who is an absolute Godsend as somebody who not only goes to all the northern QPR away games but is also happy to write about them for us when I’m absent. You were right, I should have left Middlesbrough to you. Jordan Foster covered Sheff Utd H, Portsmouth A and Millwall A when the day job took me away and is absolutely superb. We’re trying to bully him to write more for us.
Steve Hardy has stuck to his pre-season promise of a monthly column – and a bloody good one at that, despite trying circumstances. Elliott, our reigning Prediction League champion, has also filed diligently – bit of a double edged sword winning that competition, you get nice gear but then you have to write for us every week of the following season. Ron Norris has contributed superb interviews again, most recently with Tommy Smith and we love him for that. Simon Dorset remains our resident grown up, because every group needs a grown up.
We love guest submissions, and we pay for your ticket if you can do us match reports for games we don’t go to, so please get in touch if you want to write regularly, occasionally, or just have something to get off your chest as a one off piece email@example.com, @loftforwords on the Twitter, or just come and find me in the Crown – always at the same table, even when the rugby twats try and take it from us.
Thank you, as ever, to the group who travel around with me. *Insert preferred pronoun* Jasmine Sandalli, 2006 Dean Ashton’s agent Neil Dejyothin, barbecue and wedding planner extraordinaire Andy Hillman who takes my phone away from me when I’m about to Tweet something I really shouldn’t, joke writer Alan Simpson (that’s what she said), Tracey and her miracle liver that has once again defied medical science and made it through another season, LFW resident counsel (not a salaried position) Harriet, Detective Inspector Bantz now armed and dangerous, Owain who once managed to take a full Jim Beam and coke with ice in a glass into Loftus Road while I had a deodorant confiscated out the bottom of my sports bag, Bill for recommending the accountant who got us out of the shit, Handsome Rob for that pub in Ipswich, Handsome Tom for being the most fertile man in America, Si for being the most fertile man in South London, and Julian for taking good care of Jamie (you really should stop taking boys home from the pub). Thank you also to Lovely Jon for wrecking out Fantasy Football league this season.
Respect to Gary, Allen, Murph, Glenn, Dave, Dawn, Gazza and Seann who, through no fault or choice of their own, have to sit next to me at matches.
Thank you to Gerry, Catherine, Ollie, Jake and Hurley at the Crown and Sceptre for their hospitality/taking all our money. Thanks to Pat and Tom, Kath and Joe, Sindy, Noel, Nick, Mel and everybody else that spends their Saturday there with us. That’s what it’s all about really, not the poxy football. How about that Watford syrup? Have a look at his head will ya?
To Dave Thomas, the A Kick Up The R's legend, for that quiet word in my ear on the way out at Middlesbrough, I love you.
Thanks to all of you who click on the site, read the articles, post comments, use the message board – that’s the lifeblood. If you read without getting involved, get involved - comment, use the message board, it keeps the site going. To those who’ve come up to me at matches and said nice things, sorry for looking so mortified, I really do appreciate it. For those who follow me on social media solely to tell me what a wanker I am a couple of times a week, maybe a new hobby for the new season? Enjoy all your summers, God knows we’ve earned it.
Team News: Christ at sea knows what team QPR will be slinging out for this one following the sudden elevation of Lewis Walker to starting centre forward last weekend. Jake Bidwell, Joel Lynch and Angel Rangel are all looking increasingly likely to have played their last games for the club. Jordan Cousins’ injury picked up against Blackburn isn’t as serious as first feared but… likewise. Whether Luke Freeman, benched last week, will be risked in a meaningless game with the club needing a transfer fee for him this summer is doubtful. Bring your boots and get a game.
Dominic Iorfa (no, not that one) is suspended for Wednesday after a sending off against Preston. Barry Bannan has been a key figure in the resurgence under Steve Bruce, but is on a Joel Lynch-like 14 yellow cards for the season and a fifteenth would see him miss the first three games of 2019/20 so he’s unlikely to be risked. Achraf Lazaar is DJing a mate’s wedding this weekend and unavailable.
Elsewhere: And so Shaun Harvey’s EFL judders to a close for another shambolic year with the news that Bolton won’t have to play Spartak Hounslow after all, they’re just going to give the away team a 1-0 win and call it a day there. If you thought the default result for failing to fulfil a fixture was a 3-0 loss, as it always has been before, then you’d be wrong apparently. They really are just pulling it out of their arse now. It’s the first time for two months Bolton have conceded less than two goals in a home game and it paints the EFL into a corner for next season when they will now have to absolutely rinse Wanderers to stop teams who see a 1-0 defeat as quite a good result (QPR away at West Brom for instance) just not turning up. Bolton, if they do still exist, will have a completely new set of players and owners by then, who had nothing to do with this. Still, despite not even fulfilling the fixture, quite a few Bolton fans have been saying today that Brentford are the absolutely the best team they’ve played all season.
Bolton are allegedly finishing at Nottingham Trees on Sunday, while the Justice League leaders are at home to Preston Knob End.
There’s not a lot still to sort out really. Borussia Norwich are already promoted and can seal the title with a point or more away to Big Racist John and the Boys who are also secure in the play-offs. Defeat there and Sheffield Red Stripes, with a slightly superior goal difference, can pinch the trophy with a win at Stoke, although given their players seem to have been on a seven day bender I’m not sure what the chances of that are. Good for them, superbly managed team, up through two divisions in three seasons with no parachute payments. Enjoy this video of Chris Wilder for yourselves.
Ah yes, Leeds. That’s quite the choke the Champions of Europe have got for themselves there. Three quarters of a million of them are heading to Ipswich Down this weekend apparently, originally hoping for a coronation and now just praying Marcelo Bielsa can peal his exhausted troops off the floor for a play off push. A play off push that will be conducted initially without Patrick ‘Bam Bam’ Bamford who rightly got two matches for “deceiving the referee” in that shemozzle against Villa last weekend. To be fair, you can deceive Stuart Attwell by waving a shiny piece of paper around.
They will face one of three opponents in that semi final. Frank Lampard’s Derby County are in pole position in sixth on 71 points with a home game against West Brom, already confirmed in fourth. Pulisball await any slip, a point behind and away to already relegated Rotherham. Bristol City rather shat the bed with a home defeat to FLDC last week but can still sneak in if the two above them lose and they win at Allam Tigers – Nigel Adkins contract still unsigned, another mass exodus led by Jarrod Bowen currently backing cases and cancelling milk deliveries.
Other than that, a lot of nonsense. Mad Chicken Farmers v Swanselona, Reading v Birmingham (fuck me), and Wigan Warriors v Millwall Scholars existing purely to get downtrodden husbands out of the house for a bit.
Referee: The revelation from Luke ‘Lukey’ Freeman in The Indepenent today that QPR have received eight of the fabled PGMOL letters apologising for bad decisions which cost us points this season brings home just what a unique clusterfuck that February spell which killed our season really was. But the apologies ring rather hollow. One of them, surely, must have been for Scott Duncan’s failure to award us a last minute penalty at Wigan when the defender blocked Ryan Manning’s goalbound shot with both hands. That’s fine, shit happens, apologise, we’ll swallow it, we move on. But Scott Duncan had already awarded one nonsense penalty against us back in August at home to Sheff Utd. Despite, we presume, apologising for his error at Wigan, Duncan was left on the Championship list to make similarly awful penalty calls at Aston Villa v Bristol City, and then again with us against Nottingham Forest last weekend. It’s a rather hollow apology when you leave the same referee to make the same mistakes with the same team at the same level week after week. Anyway, it’s Andy Davies this weekend, who we love dearly.Details.
Sheff Wed: In stark contrast to QPR’s two wins from 23 to finish the season, Sheff Wed have only lost three in the whole second half of the campaign coinciding with the removal of Jos Luhukay and arrival of first Lee Bullen as caretaker and then Steve Bruce once he’d finished watching the cricket. They arrive into this one unbeaten in three, which includes two high scoring draws at Norwich (2-2) and Preston (3-3). Since a 4-0 loss here against Norwich in November they’ve lost just one of a dozen home games. Overall their home record is 10-8-4 – promotion chasers Norwich, Villa, Middlesbrough and Derby the only teams to win here.
QPR: Last weekend’s defeat at home to Nottingham Forest was the first time Rangers have lost 11 times at home in a single season in the history of the club. It also brought up a second consecutive season in which we’ve conceded 70 goals. Away from home the four wins managed is one more than last season, but the last one was the week before Christmas and since then we’ve drawn three and lost six, failing to score on six occasions. The last time QPR completed a league double over Sheff Wed was the 2003/04 season which finished on this ground with the R’s winning promotion. Since then, Rangers have lost the last game of the season on 11 of 14 occasions.
Prediction: Three points in it between WokingR and KensalRiseR with one game left in our Prediction League. The winner 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…
“Finally we can be put out of our misery. A really poor season saved by a few teams actually being worse than us. Just give Wednesday the three points now and head into yet another ‘huge’ summer period. The scary thing is, next season will probably be worse.” Elliott’s Prediction: Sheff Wed 2-0 QPR. No scorer.
LFW’s Prediction: Sheff Wed 3-0 QPR. No scorer.
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