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End of Term Report 18/19 – Midfielders
Wednesday, 22nd May 2019 20:23 by Clive Whittingham

The penultimate part of our annual player-by-player assessment of the QPR squad features the midfielders (and a couple of wingers), and our only A mark in the entire squad.

7 – Luke Freeman A

Player of the year. Player of the year by an absolute street. Player of the year by such an embarrassing distance it was barely worth even holding a vote. Goal of the season, for the stormer at Aston Villa, by a similar margin. When those enormous inevitabilities were confirmed in the final week of the season I noticed one or two comments along the lines of “hasn’t done much since the Leeds game”, which we’ll file along with the complete destruction of the striker formerly known as Nahki Wells under “why we’re not allowed nice things”.

Firstly, because if anybody was entitled to some down time, it was Luke Freeman after that Leeds performance. That was one man on a mission. That was like the old days of Matt Le Tissier keeping a Southampton team with Ken Monkou at centre half in the Premier League by himself. That was one player putting his foot down and saying ‘I’m not having this’. Not since Lee Cook made a team containing Zesh Rehman and Chris Barker look competitive at Championship level, leaving Crystal Palace’s Danny Butterfield nursing post traumatic stress disorder in the process, has a player picked his team up by the bollocks and physically dragged it kicking and screaming through the mud to victory as Freeman did that night. While those around him seemed beset with self-doubt and nerves, Freeman oozed belief and confidence. While team mates looked weary and fatigued, Freeman was perpetual motion and energy. Where others misplaced passes and fumbled loose touches, Freeman had the ball glued to his foot. Leeds tried everything they had and couldn’t lay a glove on him. He covered every blade of grass, at ridiculous speed, legs whirling around in a circular blur. I sat with a Leeds fan that night who watched Freeman open mouthed, a mixture of awe at such a performance of individual brilliance, and despair that one man was removing Leeds’ automatic promotion hopes from them by himself.

Secondly, because Freeman has been like that to one degree or another since the day he arrived here. I can rarely remember a player maintaining such form, under such pressure, in such a poor team, for such a long period of time. No Championship player has created as many chances for his team as Freeman over the two and a half years he’s been here. Signed for just £500,000 from Bristol City, were he didn’t always get in the team, he has poured his heart and soul into playing for this club, playing absolutely out of his skin over an inordinately long period of time. Against Premier League Watford in the FA Cup, he was the best player on the pitch.

And thirdly because if there indeed was a dip post Leeds, and it certainly wasn’t much of one from where I was sitting (9, 5, 6, 5, 6, 5, 3, 7, 7, 5, 6 = 5.818) , it’s because the guy was absolutely shagged. Another who was run into the ground by McClaren’s technique of selecting the same starting 11 every week, including for every match over Christmas, Freeman was absolutely spent for the final few months of the season, playing on through the considerable pain of a hip flexor problem that forced his early removal from games against West Brom (who scored immediately) and Hull. On top of everything else he’s done for QPR since he got here, he desperately tried to play on through the pain of that injury to arrest the losing run at the end of the campaign. No surprise that the Leeds performance actually came after one of his very rare games off – the injury had prevented him travelling up to Middlesbrough on the Saturday so he went into that Tuesday game relatively rested compared to what he usually is.

I love Freeman. I think he’s a magnificent player at this level. I think his commitment to the club and his level of consistency over his time here has been out of the ordinary. Zero bitching, moaning and angling when big money moves were turned down by the club last summer, just got on with it and went on to be our best player again this season. I dearly hope he stays, but if he is to leave he should go with our gratitude, and hopefully the sort of transfer fee Brentford and Bristol City are able to extract for their players, and not the car boot sale giveaway price tag we usually put on assets like this. A contract extension signed in January should – should – help with that.

In numbers:

48 starts, 0 sub appearances, W16 D10 L22

8 goals (Peterborough H, Bolton A, Sheff Wed H, Hull H, Villa A, West Brom H, Leeds H),

16 assists (West Brom A, Wigan H, Bolton A, Reading A, Ipswich A, Brentford H, Brentford H, Forest A, Ipswich H, Leeds H FAC, Pompey A, Pompey H, Birmingham H, Birmingham H, Swansea H, Blackburn H)

3 yellow cards (Millwall H foul, Blackburn A foul, Brentford H foul)

9 LFW MOTM Awards (Bolton A, Norwich H, Villa H, Villa A, Sheff Utd A, Pompey A, Watford H, West Brom H, Leeds H), 4 supporter MOTM awards (Villa A, Watford H, West Brom H, Leeds H)

LFW Ratings – 5, 6, 6, 3, 3, 6, 6, 7, 7, 6, 4, 7, 7, 7, 8, 8, 5, 7, 5, 7, 5, 6, 8, 7, 7, 6, 8, 8, 6, 5, 7, 6, 8, 7, 6, 7, 8, 9, 5, 6, 5, 6, 5, 3, 7, 7, 5, 6 = 6.229

Interactive Ratings – 6.41

8 – Jordan Cousins C/D

“Possibly the best pound for pound signing in the Championship this summer” was how we welcomed Jordan Cousins from Charlton three years ago, which is certainly up there with our “surely even QPR can’t mess this one up” assessment of spending £8m on Steven Caulker, published shortly before he popped off down to the local casino to spend his signing on bonus on a fun and frivolous descent into drink, bad bets and falling over and banging his head.

For Cousins, things never really got going at QPR, this season or in general. As a supremely fit 22-year-old, with 141 senior career appearances already under his belt, for barely £1m, he looked like an absolute gift when Rangers took advantage of Charlton’s relegation to bring him here in July 2016. He wowed staff and team mates with his fitness levels and numbers in pre-season training, described by one member of staff at the time as near Olympic athlete level. We do love to hype. Sadly, when the real quiz began, he was beset by one niggly injury after another, and a particularly big one when he suffered the dreaded hamstring-off-the-bone tear which always means a long spell out and then plenty of side effects and niggles thereafter.

This season was a perfect microcosm of his time here as a whole really. There were three separate 2/10 ratings, which is basically unheard of. Two of those came in collective team collapses at West Brom and Norwich, but one was in the League Cup at Blackpool where, like Josh Scowen before him, he completely lost his head and picked up a braindead red card for retaliation/scrapping in a match where he’d already played pathetically. Then there were runs of good form, particularly through December and January where I thought he was particularly impressive at Stoke, at home to Boro, at Aston Villa and against Leeds in the cup. In the midst of that run, he produced a near man of the match turn at right back in the historic win at Nottingham Forest. His first, and sadly only, goal for QPR came in the attempted comeback against Birmingham, a thumping finish into the top corner which would have written him into club history but for Nahki Wells’ late penalty fluff. Another moment that rather summed up Cousins’ luck during his time with us.

A good display against Leeds in the league fell away to what could kindly be described as anonymous showings at Brentford and home to Stoke, and desperately poor displays at home to Rotherham and away to Norwich. In the end a player we hoped we were buying to build up and sell on for profit was released on a free transfer this summer, along with Joel Lynch, Jake Bidwell and Pawel Wszolek who all arrived with similar expectations and aspirations that summer under Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink. After three years with Rangers, his best performance at Loftus Road remains the one he put in here for Charlton four seasons ago which persuaded us to buy him in the first place. Beautifully QPR that.

In numbers:

28 starts, 5 sub appearances, W10 D6 L15

1 goal (Birmingham H), 0 assists

7 yellow cards (Blackpool A foul, Blackpool A retaliation, Stoke A foul, Reading H foul, Sheff Utd A foul, Boro A foul, Swansea H foul), 1 red card (Blackpool A, 2 yellows, foul, retaliation)

0 LFW MOTM awards, 0 supporter MOTM awards

LFW Ratings – 6, 2, 4, 6, 6, 5, 6, 5, 2, 6, 6, -, -, 6, 7, 7, 5, 7, 7, 6, 4, 7, 7, 7, 6, 5, 7, 5, 6, 4, 2, 7, 5 = 5.51

Interactive Ratings – 5.46

11 – Josh Scowen C/D

Different styles of play, different methods of management, different personalities, different opinions on the game, different philosophies if you want to be a pretentious wanker about it… a change of manager is always going to benefit some players, and harm others. That said, I can rarely recall one having such a profound effect on a footballer as the switch from Ian Holloway to Steve McClaren did on Josh Scowen last summer. Scowen was something of a golden boy for Holloway, signed on a free from Barnsley as part of the much-vaunted recruitment drive led by Gary Penrice, he was one of several candidates for Player of the Season in 2017/18 for his work at the heart of a three man midfield, freeing up Luke Freeman to do damage further forwards and Mass Luongo to become the goalscoring central midfielder we thought we’d bought.

Scowen and McClaren got off on the wrong foot right away. One of the problems the new manager perceived with the squad he inherited was it boasted a collection of midfielders who were all a little bit of everything – Ebere Eze, Ryan Manning, Ilias Chair, Luke Freeman, Mass Luongo and others could all play deep, or wide, or further forwards and McClaren was keen for each of them to nail down one role each and perfect it rather than rotate around as wildly as they had been doing. When Scowen came back for pre-season talking up his own ability as a more attacking, box-to-box midfielder, as he had been at Barnsley, it had McClaren rolling his eyes as early as mid-July. Scowen subsequently struggled with the sitting role he was given to start the season, exposed by the foolhardy idea that Ingram, Lynch and Leistner would be able to feed him quality ball at the base of the midfield, and he in turn could spring us forward from there. We went away from it pretty swiftly, but by then Scowen had been replaced by Cameron, and when he did get back in after Christmas and the budget total-football nonsense returned, he had a big hand in a disastrous first Preston goal at Loftus Road.

That rather summed up Scowen’s contributions under McClaren. Long periods of inaction, punctuated by personal disasters on the rare occasions he was trusted with a run out. Brought on as a late sub at Blackburn to see out a goalless draw, he made a foolish tackle on Ben Brereton to concede a match losing penalty two minutes from time. Given a start in the League Cup at Blackpool, only incredibly generous refereeing allowed him to avoid a red card inside the first 20 minutes and the manager had to substitute him for his own good well before half time, further souring an already difficult relationship. McClaren, in a rage, told the dressing room at Bloomfield Road that some had played their last game for the club that night. Scowen’s wife was due to give birth to their second child that week, so whether Josh was annoyed at being ignored for weeks only to be carted up to the other end of the country on a Tuesday night as part of a scratchy team selection, or whether Blackpool just got under his skin literally the first minute, we’ll never know. Either way, it was an unprofessional performance while he was on the pitch. His on field discipline is a problem, even given leeway for the role he plays – against Leeds at home in the league he came on in the eighty sixth minute and was booked by the eighty seventh.

McClaren eventually returned to Scowen when getting desperate in March. He came off the bench up at Hull, playing far further forward than I can remember seeing him during his time at Rangers, and completely changed the game. Ratting that high up the field put pressure on an already ropey home back line and he was able to score one (flukily) and make another as Rangers came from two down to draw 2-2. When McClaren was replaced by John Eustace, Scowen was returned to the team as a box-to-box midfielder in a more conventional 4-4-2 set up and excelled. He was man of the match in a gritty draw at Millwall, the perfect angry little goblin boy for a night scrapping with trolls under their own bridge. That was one of four MOTM awards we gave him in the final nine games, including the final day at Sheff Wed where he scored an eye-catching first to crown an excellent personal display. But, even then, the Hull high was followed up by a start and a shocker in a home defeat to Bolton, and no sooner had he impressed against Millwall and Swansea than he was giving away another bloody stupid penalty against Blackburn again.

Good player, bad year. Big 2019/20 ahead, particularly if Luke Freeman leaves – two assists in the random massacre of Swansea hinted that he could be our go-to set piece man if that happens. Returning him to form is a clear marginal gain Mark Warburton can make to his team right off the bat this pre-season without spending a penny.

In numbers:

28 starts, 12 sub appearances, W10 D6 L17

2 goals (Hull A, Sheff Wed A), 3 assists (Hull H, Swansea H, Swansea H)

12 yellow cards (deep breath, PNE A foul, West Brom A foul, Bristol City H foul, Blackpool A repetitive fouling, Leeds A foul, Reading H foul, PNE H foul, Pompey H foul, Leeds H foul, Swansea H foul, Derby A foul, Sheff Wed A dissent), 0 red cards

5 LFW MOTM awards (Peterborough H, Hull A, Millwall A, Swansea H, Sheff Wed A), 3 supporter MOTM awards (Peterborough H, Swansea H, Sheff Wed A)

LFW Ratings – 6, 6, 8, 3, 4, 6, -, -, 5, 2, -, -, -, 7, 6, 5, 6, 6, 7, 7, 6, 7, 7, 6, 4, 6, 4, 6, 3, -, 4, 8, 5, 5, 8, 8, 5, 6, 6, 7 = 5.909

Interactive Ratings – 5.75

14 – Ryan Manning C

What, in the name of Gerry Francis’ magnificent mullet, was this all about? Total and utter, gross, mismanagement. A young asset, of whom the club thought enough previously to deliver two quickfire contract improvements, inexcusably mishandled. And a big fat piece of evidence for the critics of the current management of the club to hold up next time they try it on with the “lessons learnt”, “new QPR”, “all about youth”, “developing players”, “pathways to first team” shtick and say, “oh yeh, talk to me about Ryan Manning’s 2018/19 then”. Fair warning, this is rant one of two and a half in this section.

Ryan Manning - like Paul Smyth, Bright Osayi-Samuel and to some extent (though he’s a bit older) Josh Scowen - is an example of a young player, who we own, who was playing reasonably regularly at the end of 2017/18, and playing well. He scored, memorably at Villa Park, and again in a fine team performance at home to Norwich. All of them were bombed out almost as soon as McClaren walked through the door. The idea that he played them in August and they weren’t good enough is a myth – Manning was given 45 minutes, in the second half at Preston, and that was his lot. In theory he was perfect for McClaren’s 4-2-3-1 formation, as he could play anywhere in the two, or the three, and cover left back, where we only had one player. Instead, he was ignored, and a 34-year-old was brought in on loan from Stoke to play ahead of him.

This is not what we’re supposed to be doing. We’re not supposed to be spending dead money on old soaks we’ve heard of to play in front of young players we own. We’re not supposed to be flipping and flopping between this transfer strategy and that transfer strategy on the whim of whoever happens to be the manager this week. Not because of an ethos or a philosophy or a sunshiney ideal, or anything new age and hipster like that. Not because we like the idea of bringing youngsters through, and it PRs well, and their fresh faces look good on the season ticket renewal. Not even because it’s guaranteed to bring about improvements, in actual fact it could have the opposite effect. But because it’s All. We’ve. Got. What little money we had last year isn’t there next, and to spend it on injury prone, ageing old pros from the Premier League on short-term, temporary deals to play ahead of younger players we own and desperately, desperately need to build up into first team players and sellable assets is the most mental thing I’ve ever heard.

Actually, that’s not true. The most mental thing I’ve ever heard is that having allowed our new big name manager to discard several players he was specifically brought here to coach, having acquiesced to his demands to bring in some “real men” to bail him out of the shit he’d caused by tearing up the summer transfer plans and trying to instil a nonsense style of play on players not good enough to do it, having accepted the writing off of Ryan Manning after 45 poxy minutes at Preston on day one, we then loaned him out to a relegation rival. And lo, Rotherham started picking up points, often because Manning had scored them a crucial penalty. The Irishman scored four times from the spot for Rotherham, which is one more than the number of penalties we missed ourselves in the second half of the season, two of them with him on the fucking pitch, one of them when we actually took the ball out of his hands and gave it to somebody else. Honestly, we’re so fucking stupid sometimes I just despair. And all the meathead element of our support had to say about any of this was that they didn’t like a young player who’d been shit on from an enormous height, by a manager with a long track record of complete bullshit, kissing the Rotherham badge during a frenzied goal celebration. As if that’s the fucking issue here.

The stupidity continued. Manning was recalled from Rotherham in January, and then not picked. He was given one fleeting outing in the cup at Portsmouth, lucky little boy, where he played poorly, and that was it for a month, when he was suddenly cobbed in at the eleventh hour away to Middlesbrough and was caught sleeping for a goal in the first minute. Pure Redknapp fuckwittery that one. He used to pull that trick all the time with players he had no time for – weeks and weeks and months and months of inaction, then suddenly and completely at random in from the start in a game he cared little about and when that, inevitably, resulted in rustiness rather than some magnificent, match-winning, sparkling piece of individual brilliance from the player we’d get the “well they can’t come knocking on my door asking to play” heaving pile of festering codswallop.

After that, Manning disappeared completely, again. Like Scowen, he reappeared successfully for John Eustace in the dog days at the end of the campaign, when McClaren’s “team of men” had either lost interest, or fitness, or both. Who would have thought it, bringing in a 34-year-old and a 36-year-old with extensive recent injury records and asking them to play every minute of every match in a 46-game Championship season would see neither of them making it beyond December? Selected at left back, Manning joined Scowen as the outstanding players for the last four games, including a terrific showing in a tough match at Millwall and then an outstanding effort on the last day at Sheff Wed. He made the division’s final team of the month according to statistics agency Who Scored. Who would have fucking thought it? Honestly it makes me so cross.

Look, cards on the table, I like Manning. I don’t know what there is to dislike. Talented, left footed, can defend at the base of midfield or the left side of defence, or attack effectively from ten or wide down the left. Tackles hard, covers more yardage than anyone else on the pitch, can take a set piece, can score you a goal, is young, is fit, is ours. Even if you don’t rate him, and I’m happy to concede that both here and at Rotherham he’s been prone to going off like a train and then hitting a trough of form, I’m not sure it matters. Whichever side of the fence you’re on, you cannot possibly look at what we’ve done with him over the last 12 months and reach any other conclusion than it was a monumental bugger up of the highest order. Don’t do that again QPR.

In numbers:

8 starts, 4 sub appearances, W3 D2 L5 (13 starts, 5 sub appearances for Rotherham, W3 D7 L8)

0 goals, 0 assists, 4 penalty goals for Rotherham (Derby H, Stoke H, Swansea H, Swansea H)

4 yellow cards (PNE A foul, Pompey A dissent, Millwall A foul, Forest H foul), 4 yellow cards for Rotherham (Millwall H, Bristol City H, Bolton H, Bristol City A)

1 LFW MOTM award (Forest H), 1 supporter MOTM award (Millwall A)

LFW Ratings – 6, 6, 4, -, -, 4, 7, 8, 5, 6, 7, 7 = 6.00

Interactive Ratings – 5.92

20 – Bright Osayi-Samuel C

I think I’m going to use that word ‘mismanaged’ again, and set off on rant number two.

Bright Osayi-Samuel, like Paul Smyth, like Ryan Manning, like Ilias Chair, like Aramide Oteh and others was one of the young players that Steve McClaren was brought here specifically, explicitly, to develop and improve. That was the job, not to take the usual expensive short-term options to protect his own position as manager for another week. Now you can jump up and down and wave your arms around all you like about how few of them subsequently did very much at all while out on loan in the second half of the season, how they’re not good enough for the Championship and are being overhyped by the club, how we’re doomed if we end up relying on them, and all of that may well be true. True, but not the point. Not the point at all.

The point is the club has been on a financial path for some time that couldn’t lead anywhere else than to last week where another half dozen senior members of the first team were released on free transfers – to go with the half dozen that were released the previous summer. We’ve lost Alex Smithies, James Perch, Nedum Onuoha, Jack Robinson, Joel Lynch, Jake Bidwell, Pawel Wszolek, Jordan Cousins, Geoff Cameron, Jamie Mackie, Tomer Hemed and Nahki Wells from our team over the last two years. It’s an entire team of senior players, and there is very little money to replace them, as QPR try to make up the shortfall created by the loss of parachute payments, continue cutting the wage bill while at the same time putting a competitive team on the field, and comply with the FFP laws. Whether the kids are good enough or not is entirely irrelevant, they are about to be literally all we’ve got. Holloway was moved on and McClaren was brought in specifically to coach those players, improve them and get them not only ready for 2019/20 but hopefully to a point where they could be sold for some money, because as well as needing them to compete on the field next season we also need to regularly start cashing in on players we’ve developed just to keep our heads above that FFP line. In this task McClaren didn’t so much fail, as not even try.

Osayi-Samuel did, at least, survive the mass loaning of these players in January, but McClaren’s attitude towards him, another player who’d been getting games and playing well at the end of the previous season, and others like him, can be summed up in one incident. Again, as we said in Ryan Manning’s write up, the idea these kids were picked in August and the disastrous four game losing run we started with showed they weren’t up to it, is a myth. Osayi-Samuel was given 45 minutes at Preston on day one before being hooked (for Manning) and then 45 minutes against Sheff Utd on day two (on in the second half, for Smyth, who’d taken his turn for a humiliating half time withdrawal). That was it, apart from in the League Cup. In that League Cup, the Nigerian winger was a clear, stand out man of the match in a 3-1 home win against Bristol Rovers where he opened the scoring after four minutes. He’d also scored, and played well, in the final friendly against Union Berlin at Loftus Road. That Saturday, away at Birmingham, he remained on the bench, unused, for the entire 90 minutes. In one of the worst games of football it’s ever been my misfortune to watch, against a home team turning in easily their worst performance of the season, QPR started time wasting to protect a 0-0 draw before the hour mark. Osayi-Samuel, who even McClaren himself said had been excellent on the Tuesday in the cup, wasn’t even trusted with ten minutes at the end, just to have a run at a tired full back. Geoff Cameron came on instead, one of his “men”.

In fact, Osayi-Samuel’s reward for that Bristol Rovers demolition on August 28 was one fleeting 13 minute outing in a home defeat to Norwich on September 22. That was it, until the next round of the League Cup at his old club Blackpool, where a nonsense team selection of ten changes (which McClaren insisted didn’t count as a “weakened team”) lost 2-0 in abject style and the angry manager dismissively told the dressing room afterwards some had played their final games for the club. It was December 1, more than two months later, before Osayi-Samuel even saw the light of day again – four minutes in another game we’d already lost before he came on at home to Hull. At Leeds, again when behind, he got 17 minutes. That was December 8, and he didn’t surface again until Boxing Day, when being 3-0 up at home to the division’s whipping boys Ipswich Town was deemed a safe enough situation for Bright to be treated to… four minutes.

There was more action for him after Christmas, though it was almost always in the same circumstances: in games we were losing, and playing poorly, Osayi-Samuel was a go to substitute in the second half. Losing 1-0 at Sheff Utd, on at half time; 4-1 home defeat to Preston, on after 76; 2-1 defeat at Wigan, on at half time and scored the goal; 1-0 home loss to Watford, on after 84; 3-2 at home to West Brom, on after 71; 3-0 at Brentford, 63; and on and on and on this stubborn shower of managerial shit show continued. At Bristol City QPR sat back, flagrantly time wasted, and ignored countless warnings about the dangers Niclas Eliasson was posing down the City right to turn a 1-0 lead into a 2-1 deficit. The winning goal that night was a refereeing disgrace, in the very final minute of the game. Now 2-1 down, Osayi-Samuel was sent on for the remainder of injury time. Pathetic. Away at Middlesbrough, when Rangers were 1-0 down against a dreadful side after a minute and slumped to a 2-0 loss, the only threat on the Boro goal came in the second half when… Osayi-Samuel had been sent on as a sub to chase the game. Afterwards one member of club staff in the travelling party wondered aloud “who does Bright have to blow to get a start?”

Eventually, with his time at QPR almost up, McClaren finally did start picking him. And guess what? He was the best player we had. Fresh, unlike the others the manager had run into the ground, he was the stand out player in dreadful team performances against Stoke and Bolton, and scored the QPR goal in the home humbling by Rotherham. He was used consistently from the start by John Eustace, and much like Scowen and Manning showed exactly why the previous manager had been wrong to leave him out – finishing the campaign on 8, 7, 6, 7, 7, 6 = 6.83. If I had to level a criticism at him, his finishing desperately needs work. Really good chances provided by his ability to speed past defenders came and went far too regularly – particularly at Millwall where he went one on one with the keeper but snatched at a saved shot which would have given Rangers a win they deserved. Even his goal at Wigan was via a heavy deflection. He’s also prone to flashes of temper that will cost him – he should have been sent off for lashing out in the Blackburn home game. And zero assists, for a winger, however mismanaged he was, is abject. But overall little that happened last season was the former Blackpool man’s fault, and he has every right to feel very aggrieved at the way he was treated.

While I stand by my ongoing position that the fact QPR never get significantly better or worse for changing the manager constantly, and that we’ve had such a diverse and contrasting array of managers, shows that who the manager is really isn’t the main problem or issue here, it can’t be denied that Steve McClaren mishandled several players he was brought here specifically to develop last season.

In numbers:

14 starts, 20 sub appearances, W7 D5 L18

3 goals (Bristol Rovers H, Wigan A, Rotherham H) 0 assists

5 yellow cards (Bristol Rovers H retaliation, Villa A foul, Brentford A foul, Swansea H kicking ball away, Blackburn H retaliation)

4 LFW MOTM awards (Bristol Rovers H, Boro A, Stoke H, Bolton H), 3 supporter MOTM awards (Bristol Rovers H, Stoke H, Bolton H)

LFW Ratings – 5, 6, 5, 8, 6, 4, -, 6, -, 6, 7, 6, 5, 6, 6, 7, 6, -, -, 7, 6, 6, 5, 6, 6, 7, 6, 5, 8, 7, 6, 7, 7, 6 = 6.133

Interactive Ratings – 6.00

21 – Mass Luongo B/C

Mass finished 2017/18 in great touch. He scored five times in the second half of the season, including a run of four goals in seven games through March and April. It was a streak of form that saw him pip Luke Freeman to the post for the player of the year accolades and in theory teed him up perfectly for the World Cup in Russia with Australia that summer. Sadly, with many of his family out there to watch him, and having done much of the pre-tournament press as a UK-based player, he was left steadfastly rooted to the bench by Bert Van Marwijk who picked the same starting 11, made the same substitutions and relied on the same life-draining tactic of trying to hang in games long enough for the opponents to concede a penalty for Mile Jedinak to take. He didn’t get a single minute on the pitch, which seemed unnecessarily pig headed of the Dutch coach – not like Australia’s other midfielders particularly tore the place up.

It was probably that disappointment more than the disruption it caused to Luongo’s pre-season preparation that saw him start 2018/19 back at QPR in limp fashion – 6, 5, 3, 3, 5, 5, 5, 6, 5, 4 = 4.7 rather tells its own story of his first ten outings of the season. He came back strongly from that, and in a difficult final third of the campaign was one of few players you could say was consistently hitting the standards we need. I thought he played particularly well in the final few games, especially at Millwall and again at Sheff Wed on the final day when he got a nice assist for a brilliant Matt Smith winner in injury time. But that was just one of three assists he managed all season, to go with three goals (all at home, against Millwall, Brentford and Swansea) and that’s simply not enough. Joel Lynch matched him for both. While his defensive numbers for things like tackles and interceptions are not only good for QPR, but also regularly in the top ten for the whole league, it is a persistent niggle that he doesn’t contribute as much going forwards as he should for his ability. By the end of the previous season he was, but then players who were playing well for Ian Holloway at the end of 2017/18 who regressed under Steve McClaren is becoming a bit of a theme of these reviews.

His international duty woes do remain an issue. He was away for all of January at the Asia Cup, didn’t play particularly well (or often) there by all accounts and then took a while to get going again on his return – 8, 7, 8, 6, 7 just before departure, 6, 6, 6, 7, 5 upon arrival back. This has been another recurring problem of his time with the club, and while it is undoubtedly tough to fly to the very furthest corners of the globe for two football matches in a week and then fly all the way back and play a Championship game on the Saturday it is something he seems to struggle with, and struggle with for a couple of weeks, more than his international team mates, such as Aaron Mooy at Huddersfield. Not to labour the point but I very much doubt he’s flying in cattle class at the back of the plane either. QPR fans are oddly forgiving and accepting of this, like they were with Tomer Hemed’s complete non-contribution across much of last season, and Lynch’s regular sabbaticals, while at the same time getting stuck into the much younger and less experienced players like Ebere Eze and Ryan Manning for perceived failings that largely, for me, don’t exist.

But, don’t get me wrong, I like Mass. He’s talented, mostly consistent, and committed. I just always feel with him, particularly going forwards, like there’s a bit more there. Like there’s a big breakout season coming, where he gets into double figures for goals and assists, and clubs come sniffing with big money. That it hasn’t happened it is possibly down to QPR - bar a brief spell with Chris Ramsay in charge and last season where Holloway used Scowen to free him - often using him as a more defensive midfield player, too far back down the field to impact the final third. Hopefully Mark Warburton can unlock the potential fully, particularly if Luke Freeman is to leave, because he’s posted big attacking numbers for his entire time here that will need picking up by somebody if we’re to score any goals at all next season. Luongo could easily be that man.

In numbers:

43 starts, 0 sub appearances, W15 D7 L21

3 goals (Millwall H, Brentford H, Swansea H), 3 assists (Wigan A, Leeds H, Sheff Wed A)

11 yellow cards (Swansea A foul, Derby H foul, Villa H foul, Blackburn A foul, Forest A foul, Wigan A foul, Watford H foul, Leeds H foul, Millwall A foul, Blackburn H foul, Derby A foul)

2 LFW MOTM awards (Leeds A, Rotherham H), 0 supporter MOTM awards

LFW Ratings – 6, 5, 3, 3, 5, 5, 5, 6, 5, 4, 6, 6, 7, 7, 7, 5, 6, 6, 5, 5, 6, 8, 7, 8, 6, 7, 6, 6, 6, 7, 5, 8, 6, 5, 6, 5, 5, 7, 7, 5, 6, 6, 6 = 5.837

Interactive Ratings – 5.98

23 – Pawel Wszolek B

Of all the players released by QPR at the end of the season, it was the departure of occasional Polish international Pawel Wszolek which provoked the most upset. Pav has amassed quite the fan club since moving to Loftus Road three seasons ago but, much like Jake Bidwell, the realities of our economic situation, with declining parachute payments and FFP obligations to fulfil, meant few, if any, senior players were going to be able to be retained this summer. Wszolek and Bidwell, you would think, were the two the club would have liked to keep but couldn’t.

He’s a player managers take a while to warm to. Ian Holloway only turned to him once his dream return to the club had collapsed straight into a six-match losing run, and he noticed that Wszolek’s stats for yardage and ground covered dwarfed everybody else in the squad bar Ryan Manning. Both were suddenly put back into the team for New Year’s games at Wolves and at home to Ipswich and Wszolek scored in both to help us to two victories. Rangers promptly turned his loan deal permanent that January, having not been selecting him at all just a couple of weeks before, and he duly failed to score again right through to the end of the season – we really shouldn’t be left alone unsupervised.

This season that pattern repeated. McClaren only found use for Wszolek in League Cup games, or as a late substitute. Like Bright Osayi-Samuel he played well in the cup, scoring against Peterborough and Bristol Rovers, only to be ignored anyway. It was clear there was a pedestal with a group of senior players and loans on it, and the rest of squad were left to mill around underneath that. Wszolek was in the second group right the way through to Ipswich away in October when he started and played well. He repeated that performance that Tuesday against Sheff Wed, registering two assists, and then scored the winner against Villa live on Sky that Friday in one of the team performances of the season. From then on he became a mainstay of the team, trawling up and down that right wing with the odd running/walking/hobbling style of a man who’s got one foot on the wrong way round and is almost certain to be substituted due to injury at any moment. Man of the match plaudits came his way in a home draw with Derby, and thrilling win against Brentford.

He’s popular with the faithful at Loftus Road, who mumbled discontent at his regular early withdrawals until that fateful day at home to Bolton when an all out revolt broke out against an attempt to substitute him early in the second half and McClaren swiftly reversed the decision and tried to make out like the fourth official had put the wrong number up. Regular watchers of Rangers weren’t sold – Matt Smith coming on just as his main supply line goes off was McClaren’s mind blowing default whenever a game needed to be chased last season. He scored in home wins against Boro and Ipswich, and a loss at Loftus Road against Hull. Six for the season is his best total with us. He was a trier, he made things happen, he got to the byline and delivered and he seemed to genuinely like playing for the club. Twice, at Bristol City and Hull, he was booked for exploding at bullshit refereeing decisions. This wasn’t some mercenary foreigner coming to England for easy money, he really cared about what he was doing.

But the love of the home crowd was not shared quite so effusively by the regulars who traipse around the country following QPR away from home. At Aston Villa, on New Year’s Day, Wszolek was brilliant, setting up a glorious second goal for Ebere Eze in barnstorming fashion. But apart from that, and an early outing over at Reading when Ian Holloway’s side won 1-0 and Jamie Mackie scored, it’s hard to recall too much of anything from Pav away from home. He was good at Ipswich, but I could put a team together from the Crown and Sceptre regulars who would have looked good against Ipswich last season. That assist at Villa was the only one of his six goals and five set ups last season that wasn’t at Loftus Road. All seven MOTM awards, either from this site or our readers, were in home matches. Far too often he was missing in action completely in the difficult northern away games – Blackburn, Rotherham, Sheff Utd and Wigan four that immediately spring to mind as games I only know he participated in at all because his name is there on the team sheet. Lee McAlpine, who does a lot of our long distance away reports for us, thinks these stories of swashbuckling man of the match performances at Loftus Road are us kidding him on.

Inconsistent but likeable, overall I’m sorry to see him go.

In numbers:

34 starts, 10 sub appearances, W11 D8 L19

6 goals (Peterborough H, Bristol Rovers H, Villa H, Hull H, Boro H, Ipswich H), 5 assists (Sheff Wed H, Sheff Wed H, Boro H, Villa A, Rotherham H)

8 yellow cards (Villa H foul, Rotherham A foul, Ipswich H foul, Villa A repetitive fouling, Bristol City A dissent, Stoke H foul, Hull A dissent, Derby A foul)

3 LFW MOTM awards (Derby H, Brentford H, Ipswich H), 4 supporter MOTM awards (Derby H, Sheff Wed H, Brentford H, Ipswich H)

LFW Ratings – 7, -, 4, -, 6, 3, -, -, 7, 7, 8, 8, 5, 8, 6, 4, 5, 5, 8, 8, 8, 7, 7, -, 5, 5, 5, 5, 7, 6, 6, 6, 5, 6, 6, 5, 6, 6, 5, 3, -, 7, 5, 6 = 5.947

Interactive Ratings – 5.95

Others:

Sean Goss remains a bit of a standing joke. Another one of those non-footballing footballers we seem to pick up, hang onto well into their 20s, pay hundreds of thousands of pounds and have absolutely no use for. He’s got the money, he’s got the lifestyle, he’s got the holidays, he’s got the Instagram account, he’s got the outrageously ridiculous car that gets broken into while he’s swanning around on the King’s Road, and to this point he’s got 22 starts and seven substitute appearances in senior football to his name in his entire career. Goss, now 23 years old, popped up once for QPR this season, for just over an hour in the debacle at Blackpool. He subsequently went on loan to St Johnstone, amassing seven starts (W0 D1 L6), no goals, no assists and two yellow cards in six months at SPL standard.

Charlie Owens got one brief substitute appearance against Bristol Rovers in the first half of the season, and just two runs off the bench for League One Wycombe in the second. Not looking promising. Faysal Bettache got five minutes in that same cup game, and looked very lively, but was never seen again at first team level because, as discussed, it mattered not one single jot how you played in those League Cup games.

David Wheeler finished his season with a goal in the final game for MK Dons to promote them ahead of the team they beat that day, Mansfield Town. That was his third in four games to finish the campaign with rekindling hopes there might be something there for us after all. He spent the first half of the season on loan at Portsmouth but was desperately unlucky to find the breakout League One star of the season, Jamal Lowe, in his position ahead of him – six starts (mainly in the Checkatrade), 12 sub appearances and three goals (Gillingham H, Maidenhead A, Peterborough H, all in cups) not ideal. Even reuniting with his manager from Exeter, Paul Tisdale, a division lower at MK didn’t bring about immediate success, though he finished there with 14 starts, five sub appearances and four goals (Macclesfield A, Notts Co A, Port Vale H, Mansfield H).

His future would seem to lie away from QPR. He was signed for the wrong reasons – trying to circumnavigate an extortionate market for strikers by buying a prolific winger and just playing him up front – and when that didn’t work (not that we tried it very often) we didn’t really know what to do with him. Not making the Portsmouth team in League One, or even the MK Dons team initially in League Two, doesn’t look good but I do think there’s a player in there somewhere so I’m not giving up just yet. As with so many, we may not have much of a choice but to give him a go.

The Twitter/Instagram @loftforwords

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VancouverHoop added 00:07 - May 23
"We’ve lost Alex Smithies, James Perch, Nedum Onuoha, Jack Robinson, Joel Lynch, Jake Bidwell, Pawel Wszolek, Jordan Cousins, Geoff Cameron, Jamie Mackie, Tomer Hemed and Nahki Wells from our team over the last two years."

You forgot Alex Baptiste. Everyone always forgets Alex Baptiste!

Good stuff, though for me Scowen's C/D rating is a tad harsh. When he was good, (not often enough I'll grant) he was very good.
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nix added 02:09 - May 23
All of your reports so far have been very good but this is outstanding. Agree with every word.

A season of frustration for me, largely caused by the whims of what proved to be a poor manager for a club like ours. What a waste of the precious final resources of premier league largesse spent on ageing players on loan who couldn't do enough of a job for us to justify the extortionate money I imagine they were on. Meanwhile he signally failed to do what he was tasked to do, and what our previous manager was doing (even if forced to by not being given the cash his successor was granted): namely playing and developing our homegrown and cheaply purchased young players.


I will really miss Pav but understand why he's going. I believe from what he has hinted at that Luongo was also affected by being asked to track back and not go into the box, as he had the freedom to do under Holloway but not allowed to under McLaren's obsession with everyone sitting back almost into the stands.

Some of the few bright spots of the season apart from the surprise run before Christmas, was the end of the season opportunities for Manning, BOS and Scowen. In fairness I think the lack of assists for BOS was in part due to the poor finishing of some of our forwards. He did ping quite a few in in dangerous positions only to see someone hoik it over the bar or out for a throw in when it would have been easier to score.

Goss is one of those purchases that really smarts. I know we have to take punts on players that may pay off for us further down the line. But it's hard to see a young man just cruise into accepting his pay cheque rather than busting a gut either for us or the teams he's been out to on loan. Seeing the enthusiasm of the Football Aid teams at LR and how desperately they wanted to play and would do so for nothing for our team just throws into sharp relief the poor attitudes of some of these guys that have won the footballing lottery.

Thanks again Clive. Spoiling us by putting together these fantastic reports when you really deserve to be sitting with your feet up nursing a beer is above and beyond.
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CliveWilsonSaid added 09:45 - May 23
Although I agree with most of your views about Manning. I do think that the loan has made him a better more rounded player. His decision making has improved immensely. Also, the season before last with Holloway, when he was good he was very good but when he wasn't playing well, he became a bit of a liability. In his run at the end of this season I noted that his base level seems to have improved. When he's good he's still very good but when he inevitably drifts out of games it's less noticeable. He just kind of slots in. Also whereas in the past he had a tendency to play passes that weren't on and often concede possession in dangerous situations. There was one moment in the first half at Derby that caught my eye. He had the ball on the left of defence. Freeman was calling for it ahead of him surrounded by players. In the past he'd have played that ball but this time he just chipped the ball over all of them into space and allowed us to clear our lines and regroup. Took the pressure off completely.
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Northernr added 09:46 - May 23
Interesting post mate, thanks. I shall look for that next season.
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TheChef added 10:23 - May 23
Wheeler's an interesting one. Seems to have had bad luck with injuries, never had a decent run for QPR. But he scored that goal at Middlesbrough a couple of seasons back and he seemed to get decent reviews off the back of that one game. Maybe a one off, but I'd like to think we could get more out of him. All depends on Warburton I suppose.
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francisbowles added 13:33 - May 23
Who would have thought that when we were closing in on the play offs, winning at Forest or having our best FA cup run in years that we would be looking back on the season as one where we have regressed.

Whilst I think the loan signings were essential after our disastrous start, well one striker would probably have sufficed, I agree that SM did flog the same players until they were either injured, knackered or both and criminally underused those players that will still be here next season.

It did, however, look like we would be relatively successful when the decision to loan out the youngsters was made and if he wasn't using them then it was the right plan to get them game time elsewhere. It was though just compounding that mistake when some of them weren't given enough minutes, something that should have been insisted upon in the loan deals. At least Chair's was successful, Smyth's not too bad overall and Wheeler's and maybe Oteh's ending on a high.

I think that in the probable absence of a hot shot striker signing for us that Wheeler should be tried up front with Smith but as I understand it Warbuton favours a 4231 so that doesn't seem likely and he will be competing with all the other midfielders and wingers for one of the three slots behind the striker.

Thanks Clive informative and entertaining as always. Just one more to go and then you can have that well deserved rest.
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