A rivalry rekindled – History
Thursday, 3rd Sep 2020 11:03 by Clive Whittingham
Ahead of Saturday’s League Cup tie at Plymouth we look back at a decade in which the two clubs’ fortunes seemed remarkably intertwined, and the career of Akos Buzsaky who served both with skilful distinction.
Plymouth Argyle 2 Queens Park Rangers 0, Saturday April 24, 2004, Second Division
At the height of the popularity of the Rivals football message boards, Queens Park Rangers and Plymouth Argyle began respective journeys back from the brink of despair under inspirational managers. Journeys that would become intertwined and intrinsically linked over the next decade.
QPR’s fall from grace had been rapid. A founder member of the Premier League and fifth in its inaugural season, they’d been relegated in 1996 and quickly burned through new money provided by the Chris Wright takeover to financial collapse and, after a brief revival under Gerry Francis in the 1999/00 season, a disastrous relegation to the third tier in 2000/01. Putting back the pieces was Francis’ former faithful midfield terrier Ian Holloway who’d enjoyed success at Bristol Rovers and quickly set about restoring pride, purpose and identity in West London from a starting point of six fit senior professionals and administration.
Plymouth, meanwhile, were in the Third Division playing in a vast, decaying stadium in the middle of the city’s Central Park. Eyebrows were raised north of the border when Paul Sturrock, a legendary Dundee United player, resigned from the club that adored him two games into the 2000/01 season to take up the job in the basement division of English football. But a boardroom shakeup had taken place in Devon and Argyle were about to sail through two divisions into the Championship and redevelop three sides of their stadium in double quick time. In 2001/02 the Greens won the Third Division with a record 102 points to join QPR, who’d landed in midtable after a tumultuous first year, in the Second Division.
Newly promoted Plymouth were superb at Loftus Road that August, tremendously unfortunate not to win a game they’d led 2-0 thanks to goals from Lee Hodges and the ever-excellent French midfielder David Friio, only to be pegged back late by first Arsenal loanee Jerome Thomas and then in injury time from range by Richard Pacquette. Pacquette would score the only goal of the game in the return fixture that winter in a game which saw Lee Cook red carded. Rangers finished fourth, three points shy of automatic promotion, enjoyed a cleansing play-off semi-final win at home to Iain Dowie’s Oldham, and were then beaten in the Cardiff final by the hometown club. Their time would come in 2003/04, as would Plymouth’s after their highly creditable eighth-placed finish.
Despite The Times’ pre-season prediction that the signing of Robbie Mustoe would propel Sheffield Wednesday to inevitable title glory, the 2003/04 Second Division promotion battle turned into an epic four-way tussle between Plymouth, QPR, Bristol City and Brighton. Rangers, who’d brilliantly added Martin Rowlands and Gareth Ainsworth to an already strong side in the summer, won 5-0 against Blackpool on day one and reached November 11 with just two league defeats to their name. A midweek 1-0 victory over Brentford in the West London derby teed up the home game with Argyle, who’d joined them in the top two with an identical record of just two league defeats, and a run of five straight wins through October which included a 6-0 home win against Tranmere, 4-0 rout of Bristol City, a 5-1 win at Port Vale and 3-1 at Hillsborough. Friio was absolutely exceptional with a young David Norris alongside him in midfield, feeding returning hero Mickey Evans who’d initially made his name in Green in the early and mid 1990s.
QPR secured what felt like a decisive victory. Kevin Gallen scored twice and former Luton man Tony Thorpe continued his enterprising start to life at Loftus Road by adding a third. Plymouth were very well beaten indeed, but it didn’t seem to bother them greatly. They won nine and drew one of the next ten, keeping nine clean sheets into the bargain and vanquishing Chesterfield 7-0. QPR initially matched them, six league wins and two draws from their next nine including a fine 3-0 at home to Sheff Wed but defeats to Southend, Bournemouth and Chesterfield through January, and season ending injuries for goalkeeper Chris Day and centre back Danny Shittu, set the nerves jangling a little.
Rangers didn’t lose. They only lost seven league games all season and none at home, the division’s best record. But they also started drawing in silly circumstances. At Notts County on Boxing Day 3-3 having led twice and ended up having to come from behind. Against Peterborough at home where Ian Holloway made all his subs by the hour and then ended up chasing a 1-0 deficit with ten men when Clarke Carlisle pulled up lame. At Wycombe, in high winds. At Tranmere, where Eugene Dadi missed a twice taken penalty. At home to Oldham, when Paul Murray haunted his former club. And at Barnsley on Easter Monday where Rangers led 2-1 with ten to play, went into stoppage time 3-2 down, and ended up levelling it up with the last kick through Paul Furlong. Remarkably, all three of QPR’s Bank Holiday fixtures that season finished 3-3.
Meanwhile, another West Country threat had been looming large. In a season of remarkable winning runs, Bristol City won eleven straight through January and February to surge into the automatic promotion picture just as Rangers were faltering. Nine of the 21 goals they scored on that run came in the final ten minutes of games, three of them in injury time to win narrow contests with Brentford, Grimsby and Notts County. Having held off a similar charge from Tranmere to make the play-offs in 2002/03, Rangers looked vulnerable now.
In the new, exciting world of the internet, City stalwart Brian Tinnion gave an ill-advised interview saying that the promotion race could be “all over bar the shouting” before Plymouth and QPR even got to play City at Ashton Gate at Easter, and that Argyle and Rangers were “running scared” of the Robins. The Bristol City Rivals site produced an apparently serious “promotion calculator” which would churn out a Bristol City title win with 106 points whichever way you tried to manipulate it. QPR with Ian Holloway in charge and multiple Bristol Rovers connections, and Plymouth a fellow West Country team, hadn’t had much time for the Robins anyway, but a message board accord was struck in unspoken terms, with Plymouth regulars like the “Green Gob” teaming up with QPR posters to invade the City boards after positive results. City beat us both in those Easter fixtures, 1-0 apiece, but had stuttered to five defeats before that and would, ultimately, hilariously choke.
Plymouth sealed their title by beating QPR at Home Park. A game so nearly won by Gareth Ainsworth’s deflected shot, and apparently destined for 0-0 right to the death, was ultimately settled by strikes in the last ten minutes from Evans and the ever brilliant Friio. A good chunk of QPR fans stayed after the whistle to applaud the trophy presentation. Now, for both sets of fans, it was all about making sure the Hoops were promoted in second, and they duly swept aside Swindon in the first 30 seconds of a crucial final home match at a packed Loftus Road. Martin Rowlands’ latest goal of a Player of the Year campaign eventually enough to win the game 1-0.
QPR played at Sheffield Wednesday on the last day. They’d been the team to finally snap City’s 13 match winning run earlier in the season, winning 1-0 in a game attended by a little clutch of QPR fans in the home end after our game at Tranmere had been snowed off earlier in the day. Hillsborough was tense, with more than 8,000 QPR fans dominating one end, and the Owls keen to lodge protests against their chairman Dave Allen, and not in the mood to host somebody else’s party. When Bristol City took an early lead in their final match at home to Blackpool, temporarily lifting them into second place, Wednesday flashed it up on the scoreboard and the home supporters cheered it to the rafters. Making it personal didn’t help: Gallen, Furlong and Chris Carr with an own goal off a Rowlands cross, settled the matter in QPR’s favour.
Things didn’t get off to a good start in the higher league. There was boardroom turmoil, with new Italian investor Gianni Paladini wrestling for control with Bill Power and Mark Devlin. Summer signings had been budget buys, Lee Cook returning and Georges Santos on a free transfer. Danny Shittu was one of several players who remained absent through injuries. Marcus Bean had punched in a winner at Gillingham to buy Ian Holloway time but when Plymouth came to town on September 11 2005 he was about to be sacked and replaced with Paladini-pick Ramon Diaz from Argentina. A whole different kind of tension for this fixture now, but not off the field where Rivals posters from both QPR and Plymouth gathered in the Bush Ranger to not only toast Bristol City’s hilarious demise (bombed out of the play-offs by Brighton, the POP thread that came to dominate their board internet legend) but also welcome QPR fan Seb for his inaugural visit from Argentina which both sets of fans had raised money towards.
Paul Furlong scored twice, Kevin Gallen once, and a 3-2 win was clung onto although, naturally, bloody Friio opened the scoring after seven minutes. Holloway not only kept his job, but went onto win seven straight and have QPR fourth in the Championship table, before falling away to midtable. Plymouth couldn’t match that performance, with Sturrock leaving for Premier League Southampton on the day of the title presentation the previous season to be replaced by another Scott, Bobby Williamson, who couldn’t follow a hard act. Tony Pulis would subsequently have a go down there as well but as Paladini spectacularly won the boardroom standoff with Power, and the club’s team and financial position started to fall apart once more, so Holloway would eventually be ousted and replaced by his former coach Gary Waddock. When Plymouth needed a new manager to replace Pulis it was time for the QPR/Plymouth link up to surface again as Olly turned up at Home Park, fizzing with contempt before a 1-1 draw there early the following season for perceived slights about his style of play from the supposedly more progressive Waddock.
QPR would continue to struggle while Holloway built a spectacular Argyle team that pushed towards the play-offs. Kevin Gallen would spend time there on loan. But as the Greens once more fell on hard times, just as QPR were rescued from the brink of another administration by the monied giants of Formula One, so it was time for one more moment of interlinking as Akos Buzsaky became a marquee signing for Rangers. Holloway, fuming that his team was broken apart, headed for Leicester and ended up relegated to League One in 2007/08 with Plymouth following two years later after a near miss in 2008/09. QPR won the title and went into the Premier League after 16 years away in 2010/11.
Plymouth: L McCormick, P Connolly, P Gilbert, G Coughlan, H Aljofree, D Norris, D Friio, L Hodges, T Capaldi, M Evans, M Keith (N Lowndes, 69)
Subs not used: B Sturrock, R Larrieu, M Phillips, P Wotton
Goals: Evans 81, Friio 86
QPR: L Camp, R Edghill, G Padula (J Cureton, 83), M Rose, C Carlisle, G Ainsworth (K McLeod, 83), M Bircham (S Palmer, 70), R Johnson, M Rowlands, K Gallen, P Furlong
Subs not used: T Thorpe, C Day
Referee: Paul Durkin
QPR 2 Plymouth 0, Tuesday March 9, 2010, Championship
The Neil Warnock revival continued apace at QPR with a second win in four days and first clean sheet in 25 attempts as Rangers looked to leave the relegation whirlpool behind them. Adel Taarabt was the key man, winning and scoring a first half penalty to settle nerves and then teeing up Jamaican defender Damion Stewart for a second immediately after half time. There were five draws to come in QPR’s next six games before wins to nil at Crystal Palace and Barnsley, and at home to Watford, secured Championship status and set the stage for the 2010/11 title winning campaign.
QPR: (4-4-1-1) Ikeme 7, Connolly 7, Hill 6, Stewart 8, Gorkss 7, Ephraim 7 (Cook 6), Faurlin 7, Leigertwood 8, Taarabt 9 (Buzsaky 6), Priskin 6, Simpson 7 (Vine 5)
Subs not used: Cerny, Ramage, Borrowdale, German
Goals: Taarabt 36 (penalty), Stewart 49 (assisted Taarabt)
Bookings: Hill (handball), Connolly (foul)
Plymouth: (4-5-1) Stockdale 5, Duguid 4, Fletcher 5, Johnson 6, Mackie 6, Arnason 4, Fallon 6 (Mason 6), Barker 5, Sawyer 6, Eckersley 5, Judge 6 (Bolasie 7)
Subs not used:Larrieu, McNamee, Summerfield, Wright-Phillips, Cooper
Bookings: Barker (dissent), Eckersley (foul), Duguid (foul)
Plymouth 1 QPR 1, Saturday August 15, 2009, Championship
Not for the first time, QPR were undone by a late Plymouth goal at Home Park when these sides met in Devon early in the 2009/10 season. Jim Magilton’s team had won 5-0 in the League Cup at Plymouth’s near neighbours Exeter during the week and were back among the goals in the South West just before half time when Adel Taarabt crossed low for Heidar Helguson to finish into the roof of the net. That looked like being enough for the win until Rory Fallon forced an own goal out of Kaspars Gorkss in stoppage time. It was the third trip to Home Park in a row in which Rangers had surrendered points to a goal scored in the last few minutes of the game.
Plymouth: Larrieu 8, McNamee 6, Seip 6, Timar 6, Sawyer 5, Fletcher 5, Paterson 7 (Duguid 86, -), Judge 7 (Noone 82, -), MacLean 5 (Sheridan 46, 7), Mackie 6, Fallon 7
Subs Not Used: Letheren, Arnason, Summerfield, Johnson
Goals: Gorkss 90 og (assisted Fallon)
QPR: Cerny 6, Ramage 6, Hall 7, Gorkss 6, Borrowdale 6, Routledge 7, Leigertwood 7, Mahon 5, Buzsaky 6 (Ephraim 72, 6), Taarabt 7 (Vine 76, 5), Helguson 6 (Agyemang 61, 5)
Subs Not Used: Heaton, Stewart, Pellicori, Connolly
Goals: Helguson 43 (assisted Taarabt)
Head to Head >>> Plymouth wins 24 >>> Draws 7 >>> QPR wins 18
2009/10 QPR 2 Plymouth 0 (Taarabt pen, Stewart)
* - League Cup
Akos Buzsaky >>> Plymouth 2005-2008 >>> QPR 2007-2012
After more than a decade in the doldrums, QPR had new money and optimism at the start of the 2007/08 season as the club was rescued from a second dip into administration by a takeover from F1 magnates Flavio Briatore and Bernie Ecclestone.
Coming right at the end of the summer transfer window, there was little time to perform emergency surgery on an obviously inadequate QPR team, certain for relegation after a summer that had only added the likes of John Curtis, Daniel Nardiello and Ben Sahar to an already struggling side. Mikele Leigertwood was ushered in from Sheffield United, and manager John Gregory was soon shuffled the other way to make way for Luigi De Canio, but other new signings, such as Rowan Vine, would have to be loans until January when they could be turned permanent.
One of those was Akos Buzsaky, who arrived from Plymouth in October. This was a proper signing. A junior at MTK Budapest in his homeland who’d caught the eye of Porto having broken through into the first team, he’d rather randomly ended up at Plymouth Argyle during their meteoric rise from League Two to Championship and extensive stadium redevelopment. QPR, as we’ve already discussed higher up, fought tooth and nail with the Greens for several seasons and Buzsaky, in a team that included his countryman Peter Halmosi and a dangerous strike force of Barry Hayles and Sylvain Ebanks Blake, had been a serially impressive scourge of the R’s in recent meetings. Rangers failed to win in ten attempts against Argyle between 2004 and 2010 and Buzsaky had scored, spectacularly, at Loftus Road in a 1-1 draw in the 2005/06 campaign – one of nine he managed in 73 starts and 32 sub apps for the Home Park outfit.
At Loftus Road he quickly became a star, easily the most talented and effective player in a poor side at that point, but somebody who proved capable of shining in the Premier League when Rangers subsequently made it there. He scored on his second appearance against Coventry but couldn’t prevent defeat, then basically ensured a desperately poor display at Scunthorpe didn’t end in another loss with a gorgeous double. Two more equally sumptuous goals followed in a home win against Colchester and he added the fourth to an unexpected Christmas win at Watford. The £500,000 paid by Rangers in January, as Plymouth’s modern day golden era started to unravel on and off the pitch, was an absolute daylight robbery.
Eye catching goals followed against Bristol City, Stoke and a remarkable 3-3 at Wolves. A backheeled chipped effort on a cold midweek night against Blackpool had to be seen to be believed.
2008/09 brought only 15 more appearances and a goal against Nottingham Forest as he suffered the first in a series of cruel, serious injuries after getting his studs caught in the turf during a League Cup game at Old Trafford. He came back strong in 2009/10, initially under Jim Magilton’s whose style of play and all-attacking midfield suited Buzsaky down to the ground. He scored twice, spectacularly, in a 5-2 home win against Barnsley then went on a hot streak with his team, bagging three times in a week as Preston, Reading and Derby were all beaten with Rangers scoring four. The Reading goal, in particular, memorable coming directly from a free kick for which Ben Watson had been ridiculously sent off for taking too quickly by perennial fat waster Andy Hall.
Magilton’s reign, and the team, subsequently collapsed, with the manager sacked after a heavy televised defeat at Watford, allegedly for headbutting Buzsaky in the changing room after the match. Something that had been building behind the scenes for a while, but wasn’t as bad as reported, according to Ale Faurlin in our recent Patreon interview. When Neil Wanrock came in to rescue the situation later that season Buzsaky scored crucial goals in the new manager’s first game against West Brom, first return to Crystal Palace, and home match against Watford to put nine crucial points on the board and move Rangers clear of trouble.
That was enough to convince Warnock the Hungarian would be part of his newly-shaped QPR team for what would turn out to be a 2010/11 title winning season. Shaun Derry, picked up on a free from Palace, would fill in where needed by the ‘two’ in the 4-2-3-1 would be Buzsaky and Faurlin feeding Taarabt, Mackie and Ephraim behind Helguson. Unfortunately for him, injury struck again removing him from a 4-0 opening day win against Barnsley and the team, and Derry, didn’t look back. Buzsaky’s QPR luck rather summed up in a 3-0 win at Ipswich in September where he found the top corner with an astonishing 25 yarder only for everybody’s favourite danger Keith Stroud to bring the play back to award QPR a penalty instead. Nineteen appearances and no goals, a bit part player in a magnificent team.
Still, now a Premier League player, and a starter for a 1-0 win at Goodison Park against Everton in QPR’s first away match in the top division for 16 years. Injury would initially plague him again unfortunately but when Ale Faurlin went the same way and Warnock was replaced by Mark Hughes the stars seemed t have aligned for the Magical Magyar for once. He scored, breathtakingly off both posts, from long range in a crucial January home win against relegation rivals Wigan Athletic and then did so again in another three-goal win at home to Swansea.
Sadly, as QPR lost themselves in the money and big names, so Buzsaky drifted away into an injury forced retirement after unremarkable loan spells with first Portsmouth and then Barnsley. He finished with a handful of appearances for Ferencvaros back in Hungary, for whom he won 20 caps and scored two goals. A supremely gifted footballer who heralded a new era at QPR, loved by the Shepherd’s Bush faithful and cheered to the rafters when he returned as a guest of the club with his young child during the 2019/20 season.
Others >>> Jason Puncheon, QPR (loan) 2011, Plymouth 2008-2010 >>> Tom Hitchcock, Plymouth (loan) 2011, QPR 2012-2014 >>> Jake Cole, Plymouth 2011-2014, QPR 2003-2009 >>> Jamie Mackie, Plymouth 2008-2010, QPR 2015-2018, QPR 2010-2013 >>> Chris Barker, QPR 2007-2008, Plymouth 2008-2010 >>> Simon Walton, QPR 2007-2008, Plymouth 2008-2012 >>> Scott Sinclair, QPR (loan) 2007, Plymouth (loan) 2007 >>> Dexter Blackstock, Plymouth (loan) 2005, QPR 2006-2009 >>> Jason Jarrett, Plymouth (loan) 2005-2006, QPR (loan) 2007-2008 >>> Kevin Gallen, QPR 1992-2000, 2001-2007, Plymouth (loan) 2007 >>> Rufus Brevett, Plymouth 2005-2006, QPR 1991-1998 >>> Leon Clarke, QPR (loan) 2006, 2010-2011, Plymouth (loan) 2006 >>> Ian Holloway, QPR 1991-1996, (manager) 2001-2006, (manager) 2016-2018, Plymouth (manager) 2006-2007 >>> John Gregory, QPR (manager) 2006-2007, 1981-1985, Plymouth 1990 >>> Neil Warnock, Plymouth (manager) 1995-1997, QPR (manager) 2010-2012 >>> Tony Witter, QPR 1991-1994, Plymouth (loan) 1992 >>> Michael Meaker, QPR 1990-1995, Plymouth (loan) 1991, 2001 >>> Alan McCarthy, QPR 1989-1995, Plymouth 1994 >>> Paul Barron, Plymouth 1976-1978, QPR 1985-1988 >>> John Delve, QPR 1972-1974, Plymouth 1974-1978 >>> Keith Sanderson, Plymouth 1964-1965, QPR 1965-1969 >>> Evelyn Lintott, Plymouth 1906-1907, QPR 1907-1908
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