How's that water pressure holding up? - Fans Forum
Wednesday, 24th Mar 2021 00:21 by Clive Whittingham
The latest LFW report from the (online-only) fans forum this evening addressed season tickets, streaming, the status of loan signings, and some really base-level ICT inquiries.
The international breaks and unworkable Championship fixture list means there are only finite points in a season for the club to hold its fans forums, but timing really is everything with these things. I remember sitting in the W12 club watching Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Les Ferdinand and Lee Hoos gently shoot the breeze over this recruitment policy or that long term strategy, occasionally interrupted by somebody who’d already made use of the free drinks tokens trying to coax out of them an ambition for a top six finish. Literally a week later I was sitting upstairs in the same stand watching the team lose 6-0 to Newcastle, two weeks after that Hasselbaink was a central part of a Daily Telegraph expose into mucky money, and a fortnight or so further on we were bidding another manager farewell after a 1-1 draw at Nottingham Forest.
Of course, time was, the club was in such a permanent state of meltdown, so abysmally run by so many incompetent men, that there was no good time for a fans forum. There have been some magnificent nights of entertainment. Harold Winton, God rest him, seizing the microphone, storming the stage, ranting and raving, waving documents at Gianni Paladini that proved this, that and the other. That year Phil Beard hadn’t replied to anybody’s email, about anything, so all the senders turned up en masse, for a three-hour, line-by-line, forensic analysis of failed school visits, botched academy trials, a litany of QPR fans let down, and a club forgetting itself. The year Paladini brought Paul Parker along, to announce him as executive VP of assisting the assistant to the regional manager, in the hope somebody might ask him questions about the good old days, rather than a tidal wave of legitimate concern about the club circling the drain. The year they had Rodney Marsh on the panel, just because, and 199 people in the room still demanded what to know what was going on with their fucking football club, while one delightful old gimmer played along, laughing, and shouting “same old Rodney” repeatedly.
That’s what we come to the fans forum for, other than the drinks tokens, and an update on the water pressure in the ladies’ toilet. Aggro, Barney Rubble, people getting up to grandstand about what’s important to them, shouted down from somewhere else by somebody who doesn’t give a toss. Incompetent executives held to some sort of weird account while Paul Morrissey greys before our eyes and wonders where his career went. The nervous look on one of the younger press or commercial boys - who fished this internship off LinkedIn while labouring under the misapprehension that this club is in any way fucking normal - as they hand over the microphone to somebody not knowing what’s coming, but fairly certain they won’t be seeing that microphone again any time soon.
Had the club held a fans form ten days or so into January this year, it would have been old skool. No wins in ten, out of the FA Cup to Fulham, recruitment botched, prime January target already en route to Preston, Eze money blown, Bright heading off to Turkey for buttons, Warbs Warburton picking the same team, in the same shape, with the same subs. There wouldn’t have been enough wicker in this world to build a man of sufficient size for this ceremonial burning. Instead, here we are, one of the form teams in the league, buoyed by four faultless January signings, flying up the table, playing watchable football with promising young players to the fore. That’s the context for this latest forum. Take one point from Coventry, Sheff Wed, Forest and Rotherham and it’s a different night all over again, but you’ll notice just how few questions went Mark Warburton’s way, and the ones that did were almost exclusively based around “please stay daddy, everybody leaves me”.
That said, we were unfortunate enough to follow it with the Facebook comments turned on, endlessly scrolling down the side, an unhappy mixture of Julia Hartley-Brewer disciples demanding the right to spaff their Covid all over the West Paddocks this instant, and Mrs Richards dying to be bellowed at by Basil Fawlty. My right to move out of this country to somewhere a little less batshit has now been removed, but if anybody with a Samsung smart TV could instruct on how to turn this feature off to keep the rabid mental cannibalism down to a dull roar that would be incredible.
As ever, we’ve done our best to summarise the points below for the record. Manager Mark Warburton doesn’t participate much but is ‘Warbs’ from here on in; DOF Les Ferdinand, braced for that classic forum question about what exactly he does, is ‘LF’; and CEO Lee Hoos, apparently here to tell us the people train don’t run outta Wichita , is ‘LH’.
Off the pitch
- LH on the proposed move to the Linford Christie Stadium: “The council (Hammersmith and Fulham Borough Council, HFBC) are still in a process of consultation. I know the council would love to have taken this forward a lot quicker but the circumstances of Covid have meant they’re not able to do it. We’re still waiting for them to get to the next step in the process. Quite frankly there is no contingency plan right now. There just aren’t sites out there, certainly none within the borough or even close to here, that would represent somewhere we could go and keep close to our ancestral home. It makes it a big, big problem for us. Big brownfield sites are worth a hell of a lot more as residential developments than they are to put a stadium on. We need to be patient, be in there. The council has made clear they would like some project in there, if it were to go to another development or another venue in there it’s another nail in the coffin here in terms of us being able to survive because we get very little non-matchday activity here now and if we’re then competing against something else up the road that really scuppers us.
“I don’t think we’re in a position to give anybody a deadline. This is the council’s project. They’re behind in how they originally wanted to do it but under the circumstances that’s understandable. We are still fully engaged in the process and waiting for the next stage of the tender.
“We’ve always taken the view of being flexible on what we would be looking for (on capacity of a new stadium), but would like the scope to future proof it and expand it at some point in the future if necessary. With the Linford Christie Stadium it’s a very complex site in terms of environmental impact, charity commission impact and everything else, so it would be more difficult to increase it in the future. All we can do is look at it from the next stage from the council’s perspective of what we can put in there. I don’t see anywhere else round here that gives us the acreage we need to put a viable stadium on it.”
- As lockdown came into force a year ago the club abandoned it’s complicated, long-pursued plans for a new training ground at Warren Farm in Ealing, and instead took up a chance to purchase the freehold of the Heston Sports Ground (commonly known as the Concorde Club) from Imperial College where our youth teams had been training anyway. Plans have been submitted to Hounslow Council to upgrade the facilities there and move the club lock, stock onto one site away from the sub-standard, rented (also from Imperial) facility at Harlington. LH updated: “That’s much easier. We’ve got planning in the works for that. The great news on that is it’s ours, we own it, that transaction is complete, which is a huge strategic step in the right direction for the club. We just need to get a few things over the line which I hope we’ll be very close to doing in the very, very, very near future.”
- There was a valiant attempt to ask how much we got for Ebere Eze. LH: “We’re much better off than if we hadn’t have sold him. If the question is ‘has that replaced the lost income from Covid?’ No it hasn’t. We’re still in a negative situation for that. The revenue from Eze has not filled the gap completely with the revenue we’ve lost through not being able to open the ground, sponsorship refunds, diminished retail, diminished hospitality… Streaming is the one thing that is up, but unfortunately nowhere near enough to counter everything else. It would have been great to be in the plus column now, but there are a lot of other clubs in a less fortunate position than we are, who weren’t able to recognise value in a sold player and have just had to soldier on somehow.”
- If you’re playing Fans Forum bingo here’s a valiant attempt for a full line across in a single question. “We’re clearly just treading water financially at the moment, some clarity and transparency would be nice so we can see where we are with the current financial situation and where it will be for the foreseeable future, either mismanagement or misunderstanding has led us to be in this position again. What is the real five-year plan from the club from a financial and therefore footballing position, so the fans can have some idea of what to look forward to. A few years ago we were talking about a new stadium and training ground and now we cannot keep our best players, and seem to struggle in some cases with contracts and therefore struggle to maximise the sales price when these situations arise. Where do you expect us to be in five years.”
My goodness. Where to begin. LH, already looking like he’d had a bad fall down the steps at the YMCA, tried with: “I think you’re wrong, we’re not treading water, we’re not that high yet. To tread water you have to get your head above it, and right now we’re still below. We aspire to tread water. You have to look at the history of the club, administration once, close to administration a second time. Operationally it Does. Not. Generate. Enough. Revenue. I think I’ve been transparent saying it costs £8m-9m just to operate the stadium. I don’t know how I can be any more transparent. We cannot generate the operational income to make ends meet, therefore we have to sell players. We’ve actually gone back to our roots because that’s what QPR was all about anyway. Losing our parachute payments, one season alone that was an £18m swing. We’re doing well in terms of reinvesting the money that does come in. It’s not even about the owners writing bigger cheques because the profit and sustainability rules limit what they can put in. The budget will get bigger by us generating more income – player sales, ticket sales, merchandise. That’s how we take the club forward.”
MRS RICHARDS. Honestly, fuck me, I do feel for the guy on nights like this. The accounts are matters of public record, it’s there for all to see. Likewise the FFP/P&S rules of the competition. We’ve done our best on this website, on the podcast. They’ve tried on the official website. Short of getting the finger puppets out how does he take people on this journey through the real world, Championship 2021? No wonder he looks like he slept at the railway station.
- My kingdom for a proper question. Here’s one from David, any prize from the middle shelf my friend, for asking whether clubs will be excused FFP rules, or whether they’ll be relaxed, given they’ve had a year with no gate income. LH: “The league are taking Covid into consideration in the calculations. It’s not excused, but allowances are being made if you can demonstrate the impact on the books. Our club is not different, every club is feeling the squeeze.”
The point was then raised about the historic FFP fine QPR are paying off over a ten year period, something that Hoos raised at the recent EFL CEOs meeting to be addressed and potentially reduced given the vastly changed circumstance. If you stick with the LFW match previews long enough you’ll know last week we revealed that it was Preston, and CEO Peter Ridsdale, showing the brass neck to end them all, opposing this. LH confirmed our story: “It was an interesting debate. The only one who spoke out really strongly against it, I’ll tell you straight out, was Preston. I read about that the next day in the paper and I was most irritated about that. Things like that leaking is a problem we have sometimes with members of the EFL. It was a simple argument, I know what the settlement argument was, it was made a few years ago, the very definition of reasonableness is what is just and fair under the circumstances and I think those circumstances have changed drastically since we entered into that. We continue to beseech our fellow clubs and the EFL board to have another look at that settlement.”
- Streaming. How, where, why, when, and for how much, next season? LH: “We get £8.35 out of the £10, the rest goes to the government, and there are obviously then production costs. The money you pay comes to us minus the VAT that goes to the government. Next season? I don’t know. A lot was able to be streamed this year in unique circumstances. Next season we don’t know what that looks like. If the stadiums open back up, I’m not sure the contract we have with Sky allows us to do that. It’s a big question mark, I can’t answer it I’m afraid. I know Sky take a lot of criticism for moving games and kick off times, they didn’t have to do what they did during lockdown to make things more accessible and when somebody deserves credit you need to give them that credit. Hopefully we can keep it as open as we can, but I can’t guarantee that, it’s out of my control.”
It was fairly aggressively put to LH in a follow up question that QPR are ripping season ticket holders off, subtracting their streams from their refunds, asking for payments for certain games on certain days, contrary to “every other club in the league”. LH: “That is completely, utterly incorrect. Most clubs are charging in some way, there are a few clubs that have given season ticket holders absolutely no access to it. I get a report every month that tells me who’s giving what access, I’m looking at clubs like Reading, Stoke, Bournemouth, who aren’t allowing free season ticket access full stop. With no revenue coming in, this is one of the few revenue sources we have. People ask about signing players, on the one hand they say gimme the stream for free, but on the other make sure you sign all these players. It doesn’t work that way guys. In order for us to increase budgets, we have to increase revenues, the owners cannot keep writing out a cheque every month. I think we’ve been really, really fair about it.
- Season tickets. Everybody who renewed for 2019/20, but perhaps didn’t for 2020/21, or did and then took a refund, absolutely has their seat secured for 2021/22 if they want it – this is an unusually generous offering compared to other clubs. LH repeatedly made the point he is delaying the renewal and sale of season tickets for 2021/22 as late as possible – the complete polar opposite to his usual strategy – because he wants to be sure what he’s selling. He hinted, repeatedly, that clubs going out early with season ticket packages now without knowing what crowds in stadiums looks like in the UK from August onwards is foolhardy, at best. LH: “People didn’t have to do it and we are extremely grateful to every single person who made a contribution to keeping this thing going, be it the owners whose own businesses have taken a hit continuing to write out that cheque, every single member of staff here has taken a pay cut to one degree or another, to supporters who said please just hold onto my season ticket money I don’t want it, to people purchasing streams. Everybody has come together, got behind the club, and taken us forward, we should all be incredibly grateful to each other. Fair play to QPR fans on that.
“Everybody is absolutely desperate to get out and have some normalcy back, including us, we want fans back as soon as possible. It’s about making sure we establish protocols, fair play to the government with the vaccine roll out so far, things like vaccine passports we’d be looking at how we incorporate that into our website and how we hold that information. We’re trying to do everything we can to stay one step ahead of the government and what they want so that, bang, when we know we’ve got a greenlight we can go, open our doors safely for people. Oliver Dowden’s comments last week put rather a dampener on things, still with talk of limited capacity and one way systems.
This mere mention that the club is prepping for the potential of so-called ‘vaccine passports’ sent the Facebook comments into a happy frenzy of knuckle dragging vaccine deniers comparing how long they’d been going to QPR for and who wouldn’t ever set foot in the ground again first were they forced to have a jab to be there. That’s the thing about freedom isn’t it lads, it can be a real fucker – you’re free not to have the jab, and QPR are free to say you can’t come to our football games if you refused to have one.
Ahem. LH continued: “What I don’t want to do is get in a position where I’m asking people for money when I know I can’t deliver something to them. We’re discussing when we get something out, what’s practical, that you do actually have a product to watch and you can access the stadium. Let’s see what happens on March 29, with regards a roadmap, and we can get something out there in April.”
- The kit sponsorship was always, rightly, going to come up. Last two seasons QPR, a club that prides itself on community involvement, has been sponsored by fly-by-night scumbag gambling companies looking to pray on exactly the sort of people QPR claim to represent. Football Index recently followed Royal Panda in collapsing midway through the deal. LH was rightly pressed on whether the club would actively look for a non-gambling sponsor next season, and equally rightly said the FFP rules tie the club’s hand to get the best deal we can in the current market. LH: “We are actively looking at all sponsors for next year, gambling or not. We can’t dismiss an entire segment of advertising. Would we like to have something outside of gambling? Absolutely. I’d love to have that. At the moment, let’s face it, we’re a second tier English football club without massive global reach. When you look at the amount of gambling companies that advertise with Championship clubs it’s a disproportionate amount from what you’d see in the Premier League. It’s about revenue coming in. We need to increase revenue coming in, to sign players, that’s how it works.”
Which was fine, and we sympathise with, and have written recently empathising with the club’s situation, but he then rather got drawn into this Gambling Commission, legal catch-all about “responsible gambling” which rather misses the point. We don’t still allow Lambert & Butler to try and sell you 40 fags a day on billboards and sports shirts, under some “smoke responsibly” get out, and yet alcohol and gambling is allowed to pervade.
Anyway, for what it’s worth. LH: “We encourage responsibility with gambling. All our partners engage in that code. With Football Index it was a different form in terms of just out and out gaming, it seemed to be… less of a gaming format… you’re looking at a strategy and portfolios. It had been around for a while, it had a good track record, it was more of an interesting product than just a straight wager. Unfortunately, whatever happened, happened. They suspended the platform. Thank goodness we’ve had Jason (Senate Bespoke, a St Albans’ based construction firm) come in and take on the sponsorship for the rest of the season. Fair play, a QPR fan all his life, comes to every game which you know because you can hear him. What he’s done with Senate Bespoke is fantastic. Jason, just to say, it really looks good on the front of that shirt.”
There followed a number of questions about… whether next season’s shirts would be cheaper as we hadn’t been able to wear this year’s at games – no. Whether the club had deliberately held a fire sale of shirts the week before Football Index’s demise knowing the sponsor was going to the wall… also, categorically, no according to LH.
LH: “I hear you want free streaming, you want discounted shirts, but still sign the players. It just doesn’t work that way. I don’t get a big fat bonus, the money supports what we have on the pitch, we’re trying to maximise the revenue. We’ve gone an entire year now collecting zero gate receipts which is our biggest income. Great to have gestures, but great to even get to that point where we tread water financially. But for the owners we wouldn’t make it by now. There was no conspiracy theory saying ‘hey let’s get in league with a company about to go out of business and really do our supporters’.”
- The idea of a permanent Stan Bowles Tribute was raised, a petition has been signed by more than 1,000 people. I’ve learned from many years of writing these things up not to editorialise or do jokes in this bit so here, verbatim, is LH response: “Stan was a great player, it would be great to have something not just for Stan but… whether it’s a wall of legends… I think the energy should be fan led. There are 1,000 people on the petition, but it didn’t specify ‘what’, and that’s what these guys need to do. Go out, look, see what things could be done. Right now I still have a lot of staff on furlough, we’re just trying to keep things running right now. It’s great getting 1,000 signatures on a petition, but there are 363,000 fans on our database. I’m sure they’d all be just as happy to see something for Ian Gillard our longest serving player, managers going back to people like Gordon Jago… Whether it’s renaming something like the Blue and White Bar… It has to be more than 'here’s a petition, we love Stan, now go and sort something out'. Let’s get some fan groups behind this and really run with it. The first group of people we worked with to try and get the Stan Bowles game up and running didn’t quite work out because I don’t think they fully appreciated the complexity of trying to get a game on. Then you had guys like Colin Hale, lifelong QPR fan, friend of Stan, who really came in and drove that thing forwards. The one thing I have noticed about it is generates almost a civil war within the club - 'what about Dave Thomas he should get something as well?'. It should be something that unifies, not divides. Something that encompasses club legends, and nobody is more legendary than Stan, but let’s work on ideas as opposed to ‘here’s 1,000 people who think should do something, now go and do it’.”
On the pitch
- Fans forum staple #369 in the series – all the loan players must be signed permanently, immediately, regardless of situation or salary. Charlie Austin is coming to the end of a very handsome contract at West Brom, Stefan Johansen is on a serious five-figure salary at Fulham, Sam Field is coming out of contract at West Brom and is all but signed, and Jordy De Wijs is unwanted at Hull and his move to Rangers becomes automatic after a certain number of appearances anyway – or, so we understood. Seeking to clarify, LH: “We’ve got options on two of them. As always with these things if the deals make sense we’ll take them forward, we’re always trying to move the club forwards, we always want to build on what we have. My first fans forum here I said this, I’ve said it every fans forum since, we do not recognise the operational income from supporters to even fund the running cost of the stadium, let alone sign players. Part of our business plan has to be selling players to get to that sustainable outcome. Ebere has given us a good opportunity to take a step forward, hold onto a few things, I think we’ve invested that money pretty wisely and it’s about using that next little bit in the tank to try and make the next step forward.”
LF added: “The budget is what the budget is. Ideally, Charlie, Stefan , you’d want to bring them in at the start of the season. Unfortunately they’re coming out of the Premier League and the money they’re earning it’s virtually impossible to attract them here. We’ve got to a point in the season where we’re able to do a bit more than we were at the start, hence they’re here. It’s challenging, people ask me all the time where’s the next Jamie Vardy, you bring players in you hope might be, and people immediately expect them to be the next Charlie Austin. It takes time. The players we’ve brought through the door, we understand, we recognise where they are, you hope they come in and hit the ground sprinting but that doesn’t always happen. They’re a work in progress. Eze came through the door for nothing, left for a lot of money, we want to do that with other players, but it takes time.
Warbs: “From a coach’s perspective you’re desperate to improve the playing squad, get them on board and the impact they can have on and off the pitch. With your financial head, you have to understand what LH and LF are saying, it’s a difficult financial landscape for all the clubs. There’s no doubt it’s improved the squad and fingers crossed we can do something, but it has to suit all parties.”
- There was a beautiful question, completely out of place in this forum, about how we identify and recruit players, and more importantly to what philosophy. I’m sorry, I didn’t catch the name, possibly Ben Silk? Top shelf for you my friend. A point we’ve made many times is that even in these supposedly more prudent, sensible times, we’ve hopped from European recruitment, to lower league gems, to Premier League loans, to Scotland and all over the map. Next time we get a sit down with Les we’ll be drilling this down with him, for now we got this fairly bland, middling, LF: “We use stats, data. Mark has come in and has a history in the game so there are players who have come through the door who Mark has worked with before... (boooo, hissss) …and we know, where we are, they will bring value to the football club because it’s what we can afford. There was a player, Sam Field, because he came through on the last day of the window, where we’d discussed him but weren’t sure whether to do it, who ended up coming through the door at the end of the window without Mark having a say in. We use data, analysis, we have reports from all sorts of scouts at games, and we bring all that to the manager and coaches and we say is there development in that player? I’d love to say give me £10m I’ll go buy Ivan Toney. We have to buy players where we think there is development in them.”
- Obvious one for this forum, from Mark McDonald, hat tip, on the fiasco of losing two sellable assets in Ryan Manning and Bright Osayi-Samuel for next to nowt. LF: “We tried for ages to get them to sign new contracts. They’d both made their minds up they wanted to see what happened and explore what was out there. We can only go to a certain budget, we have a budget and that’s what we can go to, every time we got to that budget the goalposts were moved. It became clear they weren’t going to sign. If we could have realised a fee for them a year earlier and got a fee for them we probably would have done that. Nobody was knocking on the door saying we’ll pay the sort of money people are talking about. You can only sell somebody for what somebody is willing to pay. We talk about Bright having a lot of potential, there was nobody breaking the door down saying they wanted to take Bright to the Premier League or anywhere else where we were refusing offers. Ryan was exactly the same.”
- LF made the point that among the many other impacts of Covid-19, scouting potential signings and future opposition in person has been almost completely wiped out. “The boys are only able to scout on WyScout, they’re not able to go to games. If you’re playing somebody within the next three games you can go to their game, but only in your division, and not to U23 games.”
- A not unreasonable point was raised by the always excellent Jamie Sellars about why Warbs talks so often about sports science, loading, fixtures coming thick and fast, looking after the players, and so on, and yet 35-year-old Geoff Cameron has played almost every game while Chris Willock, Albert Adomah and Faysal Bettache have been used so sparingly. Middle shelf Jamie, and while you’re making your choice here’s Warbs scooting around the fact he doesn’t think those players are good enough to start in our team: “It’s always possible to give more pitch time to some individuals at the expense of other people’s pitch time, that’s how it works. You can’t name more than 11 players, it’s about building a squad, belief within the squad, a winning mentality, getting a mindset right. Hopefully you’re seeing more pitch time, Chrissy Willock has had to be patient but he’s having a big impact. Hopefully we judge it right more than wrong, we’re trying to use the squad wisely with the games programme we have.”
- There were a number of questions raised about how the squad is shaping up for next season, and above and beyond the loan deals we’ve got expiring I’ve basically conflated the answers into this blob. Warbs: “There are conversations with LF and LH financial wise. We look at the age of the squad, flexibility of position is really important with a small squad. Who can play in two or three different positions? Who can play five games in 14 days? The squad is taking shape, there’s a good blend. These conversations go on all the time, they’re intensifying now as we come into the final stretch of the season.
“We’ve had questions tonight about financial mismanagement at the club. Now, there is a budget we have to work to. It’s a balance of asking questions, and if I stop asking questions I deserve to go because you have to keep pushing, but you also can’t keep pushing when there’s a limit and a budget we have to work to. It’s making sure that balance is in place.
“Ideally we sign players at a young age, develop them, and sell them for more money, that’s ideal business practice. But you’ve got to make sure you utilise the budget and if a loan is the best way of bringing quality to the team you take the best option. The mix has to be right of junior players learning from senior pros.
LH: “We’ve been very supportive of the manager. Fans are no longer writing into me, like they were in December, saying the manager should be sacked, we’re going to get relegated, what are you doing? We’re even keel. We give Mark support, we work together towards a common goal, and a shared vision, of taking this club forward. You don’t have faith in a manager just when he’s winning, when you’re trying to do something it’s about sticking by each other even when we’re going through rough times and making sure we’re covering each other’s asses.”
LF: “We look at the budget, what we’ve got, if there is quality out there we feel will enhance the team we’ll try and do that. It depends on the budget. We’ve had no money coming through the door so how we’re going to do that… it’ll be a nice chat with Lee and Ruben (Gnanagligam) and see what we can do. We want to make the squad stronger.”
- Can we keep progressing by making sure our best players are not sold? Klaxon
LF, wearily: “Of course you want to keep your best players. You wouldn’t have wanted to sell Eze last season, but we have to, that’s where the club is at the moment. We want to keep all our players together, we’re looking at our squad now and saying we want to add one or two to that, we have to be realistic. If somebody comes in with a fee we can’t refuse that. I repeat this fans form, after fans forum, after fans forum. We don’t want to lose our best players, sometimes it has to happen unfortunately.”
- A number of questions were raised about Warbs’ contract. The club announced him on a two-year deal initially, but he seemed to suggest in a recent interview with Sean Gallagher that this was in fact a rolling contract, the likes of which Ian Holloway had at QPR first time around, so it’s always a year away from its end and he gets a year’s money if sacked. Amidst much, rather needless, banter it was never really established whether it’s a one or two year rolling contract, but it is to now be assumed Warbs is under contract for next season.
LF: “I think we’ll finish better than we did last year. All you want to do is improve. I understand we want to get to the play-offs, we want to be challenging, but it comes incrementally. We’re trying out best to get the best out of the players. Mark and his team have done an absolutely fantastic job.”
LH: “It was a fixed term contract but it does roll on.”
- The club recently announced it was introducing a B Team set up, as utilised by Brentford, Huddersfield and others, to try and combat the twin problems of EPPP eroding the point of having an academy, and the vast gulf in class, quality and physically between U23 football and the Championship. Steve Russell wondered whether this would be instead of, or allied to, the older academy age group sides.
LF: “What we want to do is create a team that gives a bit more physicality to what we have at the moment. If you watch the U23s play, everybody says the same thing, it’s not competitive enough. We want the B Team to give the players who are not playing regularly on Saturday an opportunity to play a game that was competitive, against men. We don’t want the B Team to be playing against U23 players. It’s like the Reserve Combination level many years ago, being able to play at a competitive level closer to what they would play on a Saturday. The U23s will remain, at the moment, yes.”
- There was a good point raised about the player data Warbs keeps raising in regard to player selection, and he again responded by saying there had recently been an example of Ilias Chair showing marked, obvious declines in several key running data sets (away at Preston) which then saw him removed from the team for a couple of games. Warbs: “If you get that data and don’t respond to it there’s not point in having it. We cannot afford to lose a player for four-six weeks at a time.” The question was raised about whether more of that data and information could be made available publicly, to help explain team selections that look bizarre on paper, and Warbs seemed open to that. Personally, all in favour, though I suspect there would have to be some time lag to avoid tipping off future opponents. I think in 2021 we’re beyond this point where the ‘team news’ consists of two minutes of bland “we’ll see how they report today” platitudes, and then a team sheet at 14.00 which people invariably lose their shit over on social media. I’d love it if the club started, a few weeks after games, explaining why the team was selected the way it was, and the more you do that over time the more an understanding will build that, particularly in a season like this, a good chunk of the team selections and substitutions are based on trying to stop players blowing their hamstrings out.
LF went out of his way to single out Dr Imtiaz Ahmed from the medical team for the squad staying relatively injury and Covid-19 free this season. “He’s been so far ahead of everything that’s gone on. He had us locking down the training ground and putting things in place that, at the time, we were dubious about. He was phenomenal. Him, his staff, the sports science, the nutritionists, have been absolutely fantastic. All the things they’ve put in place have meant the team has been able to go out and perform with a very limited amount of injuries when you compare it to other teams in the league. An outstanding job.”
- The Marco Ramkilde Mysteries. My old mate Glenn, no doubt grateful for 12 months of not sitting behind me at football matches, raised The Legend of Zelda/Marco Ramkilde. LF he say: “We took Marco in as somebody who had a good reputation as a young player, but had a few injuries. We were hoping he was over those injuries, we liked what we saw on trial, we thought we’d give him a year with an option and see how he looked if we could get him fit and playing games. Unfortunately for Marco, it’s been one injury after another, a disaster for his season, he went back home during the latest lockdown and he’s come back now for us to see where he is. We’ll assess at the end of the season.”
Ten seconds of time in the Crystal Dome
Among the other fans forums staples, they were baited on the standard of Championship refereeing, safe standing at Loftus Road (long grassed, we can’t get in there sitting or standing at the moment), whether the App is worth downloading, and, most egregiously, on the purpose, benefit and method of “single sign on” in the official website.
And this is where things wear thin after writing reviews of these things for a couple of decades. You’ve got three guys there running our club day to day, successful in their fields, currently in charge of keeping our club running financially during a global pandemic, recruiting players in a competitive market, and picking our team in ridiculous league. We get them in these situations once, sometimes twice, a year, and they’re getting time taken up with base-level questions more appropriate for whoever the work experience kid is on the IT desk this week.
That said, they did basically say paper tickets are a thing of the past, so add-app or die.
Todd Kane’s recent ill-advised comments in interview with R Generation.net went unaddressed, as did whether the academy situation at the new training ground will be category one or two and how that relates to the evil EPPP regulations. After Gianni Paladini, Flavio Briatore and Tony Fernandes I’m not in a hurry to hear from a gobby owner at all, but it is starting to be a bit weird how little we see and hear of Ruben Gnanalingam. Instead we’re left to watch the experienced CEO of the company, with a goalscorer supreme and director of football to one side, and a manager seemingly doing a hell of a job on the other, sitting and fielding questions about single sign ons.
Maybe that’s the ‘water pressure’ staple for the Covid age.
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Letters from Wiltshire #43 by wessex_exile
Well, that has been a lively week for Colchester United in the press, and not least for Robbie Cowling, with not one, or two, but kind of three club announcements in rapid succession to try and put the record straight. First, we had Tribunalgate, which certainly looked very poor according to the initial press reports, but which on closer inspection when some of the ‘fact gaps’ were filled in wasn’t anywhere near the story that some would have us believe. Then of course we had the ‘leak’ that the U’s were about to go into administration, despite all the reassurances we’d been given in previous statements from Robbie. Not so said Robbie again, and particularly angry at what he believed to be the source of the story. Hence statement #3, repeating his assurances, but this time after passing through the lawyer filter to remove his thoughts on the source. To paraphrase Robbie’s conclusion to that statement, let’s hope we can all have a day off from this sort of media shenanigans and enjoy our game at Oldham tonight!
Letters from Wiltshire #42 by wessex_exile
Well, these sure are strange times at Colchester United, particularly for a club (nor a Chairman) not usually associated with the ‘managerial revolving door’ approach. With results not matching expectations or even minimum requirements, and a brief spell after being appointed Interim Head Coach, Wayne Brown has been released to return to the Jammers, for whenever their pandemic-interrupted football restarts. In comes not one, or two, but three new ‘appointments’. Hayden Mullins steps up as Head Coach to the end of the season, Joe Dunne apparently comes back to the U’s in a sort of unofficial coaching/ team-spirit sort of role, and exceptionally experienced lower-league former Exeter City manager Paul Tisdale arrives to provide Hayden with advice and support – crikey!
Letters from Wiltshire #41 by wessex_exile
This afternoon the U’s take on Bradford City in a bid to gather sufficient points to stay clear of the bottom two. It’ll be a tough gig though, even if (as I suspect) Bradford City have left it a bit too late to challenge the play-off spots. They were on a decent run of form, that is until defeats at Newport, Carlisle, Scunthorpe and a goalless draw at home to Oldham put paid to any lingering promotion hopes. For us, it’s simple, to stay out of the bottom two, for all intents and purposes we only need to gain half (or more) of the points that Grimsby or Southend do. Sounds easy, just wish I felt more confident we will…
Letters from Wiltshire #40 by wessex_exile
Today we learned the sad news that Peter Lorimer has passed away, aged 74, after a long-term illness. Love or loathe Revie’s Leeds, no one can deny that “Hotshot Lorimer” was a truly magnificent footballer, and his passing is a sad day for the global football family.
Letters from Wiltshire #10 - the missing edition by wessex_exile
As I rather expected, work has been somewhat manic in recent days, so I'm not going to have time for a blog ahead of the match tonight, so soz about that.
Queens Park Rangers Polls