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Queens Park Rangers 0 v 0 Sunderland
Carabao Cup
Tuesday, 26th October 2021 Kick-off 19:45
I just want to tell you good luck, we're all counting on you - Preview
Tuesday, 26th Oct 2021 11:32 by Clive Whittingham

QPR have a, frankly quite terrifying, opportunity to reach the quarter final of a major cup competition for the first time since 1995 when they play at home to League One high flyers Sunderland this evening.

QPR (6-3-5 LWWLWL 7th) v Sunderland (9-1-3 LWWWWL 4th)

Rumbelows Cup, last 16 >>> Tuesday October 26, 2021 >>> Kick Off 19.45 >>> Weather – Grey, mild >>> Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium, Loftus Road, London, W12

It’s a big night, this. I’m obviously about to do a dozen flowery paragraphs littered with run-on sentences about why I think that is, because that’s what I enjoy doing and what regular readers (hello to both) come to LFW for. But I think it bears repeating starkly, briefly right at the start… it’s a big night.

I was fascinated to listen to the recent Athletic football finance podcast that featured interviews with Reuben Gnanalingam and Les Ferdinand – free to non-subscribers and well worth 50 minutes of your time. Firstly, because it’s really the only time I can ever recall hearing publicity shy Ruben talking about the football club he is now the majority shareholder of.

Now, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I grew up at QPR through Richard Thompson, Chris Wright, administration, Gianni Paladini and then Flavio Briatore. Two of them made it very plain and obvious that they didn’t give a shit about what we thought: Thompson, who had a team capable of competing in the top five of the Premier League just as the TV money was about to explode and flogged the whole thing off at auction for the price of a semi-detached house in a central London postcode; Briatore, after an initial honeymoon period, happy to say publicly he didn’t value the opinion of “somebody who comes once a week and pays £20”. Two of them tried to convince us they were a force for good, and just like us, while making sure their own nest was well appointed: Chris Wright, and Wasps, and our training ground, all escaping nicely unscathed from his hideous mismanagement and overspend while we plunged into administration and the Second Division; Gianni Paladini derailing a promising recovery with boardroom politics, dodgy signings from favoured agents, and stories and access channelled to sycophantic friends in return for an online culture war.

When chummy, friendly, Tony Fernandes came along with his Twitter account, and crowd-pleasing PR moves, I thought it was a breath of fresh air. Over time he, and I, have come to realise that was not so much the case. As QPR and social media changed, so living your life and running the club by what’s being said on Twitter has become a route to madness. Often wilfully stupid, frequently under the influence, always angry, peppered with idiots trying to outdo each other by screaming the loudest, most aggressive, most reactionary, most provocative thing they can think of at whoever is nominally in charge - you’d have sacked Mark Warburton on Saturday night if you were still using that cesspit as a bellwether. But in the same way as it’s not healthy to be making signings, managerial hirings and firings, and decisions about the future of the club based on the way the wind is blowing on the internet, it’s also uncomfortable to never hear from the bloke our club currently relies on for £1.5m a month just to keep the lights on. So it was good to hear from him.

Secondly, because I was interested by how much of the interview he focused on talking about what more we can do with Loftus Road.

The new training ground is now, mercifully, finally, underway. For an ownership group whose riches have been made from exactly the sort of airline, hotel and shipping businesses most troubled by a pandemic to still be committing that sort of finance to a freehold land purchase in West London is a really promising sign of their ongoing commitment. However, we have been conditioned to believe – by looking at the accounts, by listening to the interviews, and by sitting in it every week - that Loftus Road is a lost cause. Hemmed in on all sides, crammed onto little more than four acres, it is not a stadium you would ever get planning permission for now. The maximum capacity is a bare 18,000 and almost all of those seats are restricted view and suitable only for people less than 5ft 6ins tall. You can’t get a beer, and when you do it’s of rank quality and high price. You can’t get a bite to eat, and when you do it’s prison food and extortionate. You want fan zones, bars, conferencing facilities, places for the QPR In The Community Trust to work its magic – Loftus Road gives you none of it, and there’s no room to do a thing about it. I say again, even in its slimmed down version QPR still costs the owners’ £1.5m a month just to run in its current form. And while we’re still in this stadium, much as we love it, that’s us. Reliant on the whims of a rich geezer until we get a shiny new stadium with all of this stuff built in.

And yet here was Ruben, again, talking about what more could be done on the current site. You only need look at the hassle we’ve had building a training ground in Hounslow – a much lower key development in a far easier part of the city – to know that a 25,000 stadium on a piece of metropolitan open land with its own act of parliament in Hammersmith & Fulham isn’t coming in some of our lifetimes. Letting Loftus Road drift into the unpleasant, decaying, poorly-catered mess it is becoming, where the games aren’t even lit well enough for you to see the far end of the pitch, while just shrugging your shoulders and saying “gizza new stadium mate” is not a viable part of this supposedly sustainable plan we’re trying to enact here. Talk to Bournemouth about how well appointed their even smaller, even less practical stadium is. Talk to Grimsby about how they’re producing restaurant quality catering in 120-year wooden stadium on the country’s most deprived dockside, tempting back quadruple their previous attendances and getting them to spend several hours a Saturday inside Blundell Park spending money despite a relegation to the Conference last summer. A shit £6 hot dog takes up the same space as a good £4 one. We can do more. Ruben seems to agree. It was refreshing.

So much of what he talked about was around building a support base. Again, like the tempting of young players to sign on at QPR, we know all the limitations of location and competition. We know kids want to go to school with an Arsenal or Chelsea backpack, we know we have to try and maximise the access to QPR players in fan zones and our stadium. By attendances, QPR don’t need a new stadium at all. A compelling case for a new stadium is when you get to the point Arsenal were at Highbury, and Spurs at White Hart Lane, where you have a waiting list for season tickets stretching thousands of people and years into the future. I know people who’ve been on a waiting list for a season ticket at Tottenham for a decade, finally getting their first one now. If you want a ticket for tonight at QPR, or Friday v Forest, you can buy one now on the website. If you want a season ticket, just log on and buy one. Loftus Road isn’t full, and hasn’t been full for many years. Even when we were in the Premier League, the South Koreans coming to marvel at Ji-Sung warming the bench topped us up.

So much of what I talk about on here every week comes back to this single issue of building the support base. How do you get your little boy to follow the tried and tested path of father handing club onto son when Sky only allow us to have one Saturday home fixture at 15.00 between September and January? How do young scallies just getting their own money and independence start building that awayday cult we all got into at that age when the loyalty point system clogs them out of Fulham, Millwall, Luton and other local games? How do we build atmosphere and intimidation in a stadium where the prime bit of real estate at the home end is a glorified creche, and then how do we correct that without moving and alienating all the people who’ve come to call that part of the ground home with their kids? How do you rope in passing trade when the ticket website is like that round of the Krypton Factor where they tried to land a helicopter on an aircraft carrier? Why would people come back to a ground where the food is shit, the beer is worse, and you can’t fit into your seat? Why would you take your kids to games where they risk being struck in the face by flying missiles, where you can’t take them to the bogs at half time for a piss because they’ve been turned into some horrible, smokey drug den? All of it – the ground, Sky, the price, the catering, the atmosphere – is about building the support base, which we desperately need to do.

And yet none of it, none of it, succeeds like winning. The ground, the cost, the kick off time, the food, the drink, the atmosphere… people will overlook it all if the team is good to watch and winning games. You can lay on all the family fun days, all the player access, all the bouncy castles (kids love reptiles), all the catering, all the leg room… if the team’s shit, nobody gives a damn. If Adel Taarabt is orphaning Joe Allen’s children, people want to watch. Sending a kid back to his secondary school from a 2-1 defeat to Rotherham with some vague story about how he met Grant Hall (injured again) in a car park isn’t going to cut it. QPR landing punches on Everton, and players they’ve heard of, on a Tuesday night, under the candlelight, in a pumping atmosphere, might do.

For a long time QPR’s attitude to the cup competitions has been nothing short of disgusting. I could forgive it one or twice – Neil Warnock ditching out against Port Vale before leading his team on a 19-match unbeaten start to a title winning season for example – but mostly it’s been woefully inadequate managers bailing painfully mediocre teams out of cups against inferior opponents to focus on the important business of doing fuck all in a league they’ve got no hope of winning. I bring it up all the time, I apologise, but Steve McClaren pulling a League One team in round three of this competition, changing the whole starting 11, losing, and then going to Swansea with his supposedly rested first choice team and getting pumped in the anus all over again is a real low point in my following of this football club. I hated him for it.

You don’t see well run clubs, well managed teams, good quality players, things people want to pay their money to come and watch, losing cup games in the quantity and quality that we have been doing. It’s a symptom of a bigger illness – look at Newcastle’s knockout cup record while Mike Ashley owned the club. What are the games people talk about from the 1980s of Venables, Smith and Howe? An FA Cup final and replay, a semi-final at Highbury; victories over Forest, Chelsea and Liverpool through to the 86 League Cup final; Michael Robinson from the halfway line; that FA Cup replay in the rain against Arsenal. What are the games that stand out in the club’s subsequent decline? The loss at Stockport, the 4-0 at Swansea, the Vauxhall Motors debacle. Cup games. They register your club beyond its addicted audience (for good or bad), they define the team as one that can or cannot cope with pressure situations, they build excitement and atmosphere, they provide bragging rights and big moments people want to be there for. It’s a pride and identity thing.

Microcosm anecdote… the bar staff in the Crown and Sceptre, who we love dearly - one of them Chelsea, one Tottenham, one from Aberdeen, one Moroccan - went to the Oxford game together and loved it, went to the Everton game together and had a great night, and they’re all going again tonight. League games come and go, we’ll play Preston twice a year until I’m dead, I can’t give tickets away to shit like that. Games like this are rarer. I heard from people for the first time in years about my plans for Everton and whether there were spares going. I know half a dozen people who went to that game as their first experience at Loftus Road, and they’re coming back tonight. Rather beat Peterborough Saturday? Rather beat Forest on Friday? Nah. Suck a fart out of my arse. Nobody’s pretending a Sunderland team finally getting its act together after years of mismanagement is going to be easy, but it’s the lowest ranked team left in the competition and you’ve got them at home for a quarter final place.

There’s no overstating how important this is. It’s an enormous opportunity. It’s a really clear signpost on the direction of travel we hope we’re all heading.

It is, I repeat again, a really fucking big night.

Links >>> Getting their act together – Interview >>> Falco snaps bad run – History >>> Uncle Knobhead – Referee >>> Sunderland official website >>> Sunderland Echo – Local Paper >>> Roker Report – Blog >>> Not606 – Forum >>> Ready to Go – Forum

Below the fold

Team News: Sam Field will play an U23 game at Bristol City this week as he progresses towards making his first appearance of the season. Lee Wallace remains sidelined for this game and Friday’s visit from Nottingham Forest at least. Luke Amos, one would think, likely to finally get that first start since blowing his knee out at Bournemouth last October. There have been changes in QPR’s League Cup teams – notably Andre Dozzell stepping in for Stefan Johansen – and tonight will again be about striking that balance between a team strong enough to win the game without jeopardising the medium term health of an overworked squad.

Sunderland’s main priority also lies elsewhere this season and they have progressed this far in the competition while also making changes to their team for the cup games. Throw in the joke that is the EFL trophy and the Mackems have already used a hefty 36 players this season. The Sunderland Echo has gone with Burge; Winchester, Alves, Wright, Hume; Evans, Neil; Gooch, Pritchard, Dajaku; Stewart with Grand Central Trains on the bench as its team prediction and we’re not going to argue with that because we want to get down the Crown.

Elsewhere: Two other ties in this competition tonight as Arsenal Reserves face Leeds Reserves and Chelsea Reserves host Southampton Reserves. The nominally all-Premier League them continues tomorrow with Burnley Reserves against Spurs Reserves, Leicester Reserves hosting Brighton Reserves and West Ham Reserves against Man City Reserves. QPR and Sunderland guarantee a non-Premier League team in the quarter finals and the Championship flag is also carried into this round by Preston Knob End at home to Liverpool Reserves, and Stoke City against Spartak Hounslow - probably the best reserve team they’ll face all season.

Referee: You didn’t get penetration even with the elephant gun. Details.

Form

QPR: This is as far as QPR have been in the League Cup since 2008 when they upset Aston Villa in round three before losing 1-0 to a late penalty at Manchester United. They haven’t been in the quarter final of any cup competition since losing at Old Trafford in the FA Cup in 1995, and haven’t been in the quarter final of the League Cup since they lost 5-2 at Nottingham Forest having eliminated Cardiff, Charlton and Wimbledon in 1988. Trevor Francis’ brace in that 2-1 win at The Valley was the last time a QPR player scored two goals in a League Cup tie until Charlie Austin’s brace against Everton here in round three. Ilias Chair’s goal at Peterborough at the weekend was the second time QPR have scored direct from a corner at that end of London Road in four visits, and it continued Rangers run of scoring in 28 consecutive games dating back to March. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough to prevent a fourth successive away defeat, and fifth loss of the season – four of those by the same 2-1 scoreline. Defeat tonight would be the fourth time in as many seasons that QPR have been punted out of this competition by League One opposition after Plymouth in 2020, Portsmouth in 2019 and Blackpool in 2018. Sunderland eliminated Rangers here at the third round stage in 2016 when they were a Premier League side – Sandro scored QPR’s goal on his ninth 28th birthday. This is the thirteenth time QPR have been drawn at home in their last 19 cup ties.

Sunderland: It’s been a flying start to the season for Lee Johnson’s team who have won 14 of their 18 games in all competitions. They’ve reached this game tonight by beating League Two Port Vale 2-1 in round one, Championship side Blackpool 3-2 in round two and League One rivals Wigan 2-0 in round three – all four of their ties to this point have been away from the Stadium of Light. The 1-0 home loss to Charlton at the weekend brought to an end a run of seven consecutive victories to begin the season at home. They have been slightly more wobbly away, with a 1-0 loss at Burton Albion, two goal lead surrendered for a draw at Fleetwood, and 4-0 loss at struggling Portsmouth but they come into this on a run of three successive road game wins at Lincoln (in the EFL Trophy), Gillingham and Crewe. Ross Stewart top scores here with nine but Sunderland have used 34 players already in all competitions this season and 14 of those players have at least one goal to their name.

Prediction: I’m going to back us. I think we’ll do it. Please avoid me afterwards if we don’t.

QPR 2-1 Sunderland. Scorer – Ilias Chair

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NottsQPR added 11:43 - Oct 26
You know what Clive? I completely agree with you. I live in Nottingham, if we lose Friday I’ll take weeks of rubbish from mates and people I don’t especially like about Cooper’s Red Army, but I’d happily win tonight instead (were the choice there of course)!

Come on Rangers gutted I can’t be there tonight but hoping for a stream and a positive result!
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NewYorkRanger added 12:30 - Oct 26
oh that's got me even more up for it! Couldn't agree more with all of that preview. Bringing my 13 year daughter for her first game tonight as her 9 year old sister (who has already got the bug) can't make it. Very excited about this. I may live to regret this - but could I have 2 Rangers converts on my hands?? Hoping so
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Phil_i_P_Daddy added 13:27 - Oct 26
TESTIFY!
👍🏻👏🏻🙌🏻
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ngbqpr added 13:46 - Oct 26
Got me excited that, I must admit. And I've long agreed with you about how for the 95% of clubs that will never win a League, they really should embrace the cups.

However, in terms of the central theme of building a support base, I'd still argue the importance of more than sporadic league success.

We have a core group of 5 tight knit Rs who came together between 1977-82. We were all 'first generation', our choice was not family-influenced - and none of us were true locals - the odd west London link here and there, but nothing that overly influenced our choice.

None of us partnered up with a fellow Ranger either (tho all our partners are now 'fans' to some level), but between us we've managed to sire & bring up 12 new generation Rangers - although none of us lives in West London.

Clearly these 12 (born between 1994-2008) have not witnessed any cup success, but they have found a way to love our club. The Olly Mk1 years, Warnock promotion, the novelty of seeing us in the Prem and Eze / Chair / BOS combo all played pivotal roles. They have stuck with it through many a wilderness season because the DNA of the club / support base (and the gallows humour when required) has seen them through. Some of them met up at Peterborough on Sat having travelled from different ends of the country, despite all bar one of us oldies not being in attendance. I think non-stop wilderness years in the League, and they'd all have drifted off to more local clubs with their mates, even with the odd cup run.

Sure stories such as this are commonplace?
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WokingR added 13:52 - Oct 26
So let's get this straight.
Just how important do you think this is ?
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themodfather added 13:53 - Oct 26
CUP games Were magic once, any team could beat the other on the day, a replay or 3 chucked in too, never mattered , hereford beating newcastle sticks, sutton knocking out cup holders coventry....the league cup gave smaller teams their best chance of silver. qpr, oxford, swansea, swindon . now it's resting players as the league is more important , cups are a nuisance, only because managers made it so. tonight qpr players have a chance to make history for us, fans, a QUARTER FINAL something many younger r's haven;t heard of, only seen it for other teams. a cup RUN. marvellous.
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CliveWilsonSaid added 14:22 - Oct 26
“Please avoid me afterwards if we don’t” (win)

I think that’s the point - whether the players/manager think this game is important or not. If they play poorly and lose they will be disappointing the people that matter most. Not the brain-dead bottle throwers or the moronic twitter moaners, that we seem to spend so much time talking about.
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Toast_R added 15:51 - Oct 26
Well written

Taking my son tonight, his 5th QPR match. So far he's seen 4 wins from 4 at the moment. Swansea (2020 FA Cup), Man United, Oxford and Coventry.
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sinceApril66 added 16:28 - Oct 26
Completely agree about cup memories, having been at all those matches you mention back to 1967 as an 8 year old, who had no idea he'd be waiting 54 years, at least, to a repeat! Especially happy memories of Robinson's halfway line goal at Stamford Bridge and telling my girlfriend I'd buy her a meal of her choice on our way home... and an Italian somewhere in Croydon felt like The Ritz!
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TacticalR added 19:41 - Oct 26
Thanks for your preview.

I haven't heard the interview with Ferdinand and Gnanalingam, but it's good if they are thinking about how to make use of existing resources rather than dreaming about building castles in the air. Just going on about how terrible the existing ground is without a plan to improve it doesn't get us anywhere.

I really hope things change, and clubs take the cups more seriously, but as Man City have won the EFL cup 6 times in the last 8 years it feels like there is very little romance (or competition) left in cup football.
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