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The view from the Pu – January
Sunday, 31st Jan 2021 14:05 by Steve Hardy

Steve Hardy’s first monthly review of 2021 looks back on a month of two wins, two defeats, and the return of Charlie Austin.

January draws to an end with us in a weird scenario where we play on a Monday at the start of a new month but end of the transfer window, so with that in mind and the fact it doesn’t look like we’ll be signing a left back any time soon, I thought I would be a good student and get started on this month’s review a couple of days earlier than usual. Let’s dive in to a January of two wins, two defeats (one after extra time) and the return of a hero.

Good

Let’s start with the best news of the month then, the return of Charlie Austin. Clearly a huge PR move to appease an increasingly tetchy, nervous and (on social media at least) angry fan base. Let me quickly get the small print out of the way as well – there is no way Charlie Austin will be a QPR player next season – sorry to be pissing on bonfires but it will not happen. If we cannot offer enough wages to make Ryan Manning or Joe Lumley sign a new contract there is no way on the earth former Southampton and West Brom striker will be signing for us, even more so if he carries on playing how he has since returning.

With that out of the way, if the return of Charlie didn’t raise a smile on your face then you are either a robot or dead inside, especially after watching two hours of Macauley Bonne and Lyndon Dykes kick or head the ball over the bar against Fulham. At first I don’t think I was expecting a great deal football wise due to his relative inactivity this season, however after three days of way over the top social media fanfare he was the difference at Luton. For my money his back to goal game looked a thousand times better with him dropping deep and bringing other players into the game, raising everyone’s game in the process and how much better did Dykes look as well? And he scored. Charlie Austin scoring for QPR, something we never thought we’d see again and a huge chink of light in what for most people has been an awful start to the year. His job now is clearly to make sure that we are a Championship team again next season but he looks up to the task with the only tragedy being that we won’t get to witness him live in the hoops. But for now the king has returned, long live the king.

So here comes a tedious link to lead us onto my next subject. I mention the return of the king and what do kings sleep on other than money and the souls of poor people? Clean sheets, they sleep on clean sheets. If you’ve laughed at that then you need help but the two clean sheets obtained this month have pushed us past last year’s total, which wasn’t particularly hard but still something that should be praised. Looking at the figures, we have so far this season conceded 31 goals in 25 games at an average of 1.24 goals per game compared to our total of 76 goals in 46 games last term which worked out at an average of 1.65 goals per game. So clearly there has been an improvement in the defensive side of things this year, which has ultimately come with the cost of surrendering all attacking intent. The fact that these improvements have coincided with Rob Dickie and Seny Dieny coming into the team is no surprise really, both players already looking like key members of the starting eleven each week.

Bad

I think I moaned about this last month but I’m going to bang the same drum again here and touch on our recruitment set up. I’m still a bit flummoxed as to who does what, I mean is Ferdinand in charge of recruitment overall, does he target who we’re after? Does he tell the scouts who to keep an eye on etc? Do we even have scouts? I know this sounds similar to the constant ‘what does he even do’ type drivel that we’ve had for years, but the reason I ask this is because it has been patently obvious this season that we have needed at least a left back and defensive minded midfielder from the start. The loan signings this month – although they should give us enough to survive – strike me as panic signings made to guarantee that we’re in the same division next season, and there is no way these would have been Warburton’s choice. There doesn’t ever seem to be any forward thinking in regards to our recruitment and it worries me a lot. Clive has touched on this recently but I do think questions need to be asked, especially when we’re going to keep going on about our budget being lower than the majority of teams in the division. If you can’t offer wages to make Joe Lumley sign a new contract then you really need to be getting your recruitment spot on, exactly like Luton, Barnsley and Preston seem to. Like I say it has been clear since the start of the season that the full back positions especially required strengthening, most notably left back, yet this doesn’t even seem to have come across our minds this month. Where is the planning, the forward thinking? It feels to me that our recruitment strategy is based around our development squad which is all well and good when you have a constant supply of players coming through that are good enough to compete in the first team, but that seems to have dried up a bit now.

Another well documented area that needs drastically improving is our home form as we’re now without a win in W12 since Rotherham were (just about) dispatched in late November. When you look at the stats since football returned, our home form makes grim reading, four wins from 17 home league games with nine defeats. That’s very poor at the best of times but for a club as travel sick as ours it really needs to be rectified if we want to start getting more points on the board. In my eyes there’s one reason for this and that is the fact that bar two games in December we’ve been playing in an empty stadium. Other than Sheffield United I don’t think there is a team out there that has suffered from playing behind closed doors more than us and when you look at those stats it makes rather depressing reading. The fact that opposition teams know they’re playing us in an empty ground must give them a boost too as we all know that even with half the ground full we can find ways to suck the ball in the net. Considering it will probably be like this until next season, we really need to find a way to start picking up points at home, especially if we want to start pulling away from the bottom three.

Getting ourselves away from that bottom three will no doubt be harder now we have inevitably lost the services of Bright Osayi-Samuel, however I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate him on his retirement. Clearly I say that in jest before it comes across as the ramblings of some bitter old man but I can’t help but feel that the lad could have done better here. I’m not talking about a move similar to Eze but are you honestly telling me that there isn’t a team in the top six of the Championship that would have been interested in signing the winger? Which means it ultimately all boils down to wages and agents fees, hence him moving to Turkey, the only place that would agree to pay silly money to players of the ilk of Sandro and Steven Caulker. I know he’ll have the opportunity to play Champions League football – a million miles from scraping a draw at Wycombe – but the majority of the games he’ll be involved in over there will be no different than your average Rangers v St Mirren SPL match. I know he owes us nothing after the way he was treated under McClaren but my argument here is that if he really wanted to progress his career and end up in the Premier League then I think he could have done better than this move, Clive has hit the nail on the head when he says he’ll be on loan at Nottingham Forest by January 2023.

January Grade - B

Links >>> Follow Steve’s match-by-match reviews on Instagram >>> August 18 >>> September 18 >>> October 18 >>> November 18 >>> December 18 >>> January 19 >>> February 19 >>> March 19 >>> April 19 >>> 18/19 Season Review >>> August 19 >>> September 19 >>> October 19 >>> November 19 >>> December 19 >>> January 20 >>> February 20 >>> March 20 >>> April 20 >>> May 20 >>> June 20 >>> July 20 >>> September 20 >>> October 20 >>> November 20 >>> December 20

The Instagram - @sph_1985

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