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Coventry City 1 v 2 Queens Park Rangers
SkyBet Championship
Saturday, 22nd January 2022 Kick-off 15:00
Who’s been to the Coventry conference? Preview
Friday, 21st Jan 2022 18:02 by Clive Whittingham

QPR take 4,000 fans and impressive winter away form up the M1 and M6 to Coventry on Saturday afternoon as the Mercantile Credit Trophy continues.

Coventry (10-7-7 DLDLWW 9th) v QPR (13-5-7 LLWWDW 4th)

Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Saturday January 22, 2022 >>> Kick off 15.00 >>> Weather – Bright but cold

Is QPR the biggest small club, or the smallest big club? God,I wish my alcohol addled-mind could remember whether this was raised on the message board, in the Crown, or somewhere else, earlier this season because I love it so much and it’s a full Middlesbrough-away’s worth of story generator.

On the one hand we’re the London-based home of Rodney Marsh, Stan Bowles, Les Ferdinand. Outside the top two divisions of English football for just three of the last 55 years. Best goals-per-game ratio of any club ever in European competition (39 in 12 games). One of the top ten richest clubs in the world by ownership wealth just a decade ago. The venue for revolutions by first Gordon Jago, then Dave Sexton and then Terry Venables. And on the other we once got punted out of the FA Cup after 210 minutes and a penalty shoot out grappling with Vauxhall Motors, after which taxi-driving supporter Joe Hylton demanded to see the manager before he would leave – like you would if you’d had a bad meal at a Harvester – and they actually agreed to it.

You look at Rangers this season, and could easily be convinced that this is a club with its shit well and truly together. Not just throwing punches, but well in the fight deep into round seven at the top of a division littered with nonsense budgets and parachute payments, while recruiting more shrewdly and spending more prudently than they have for decades. A club that has halved its wage bill, then halved it again, and got better; a club that has gone from waiting for a stack of overpaid wasters to run their contracts down and leave, to one with half a dozen genuinely sellable assets on its staff… is a club worthy of attention. Warbs Warburton came in and immediately had to shift 16 players from his wage bill, which included Luke Freeman who was obviously head and shoulders above anybody else in the team. Having done that he then had to shed much of what he’d built all over again, including Ebere Eze, Bright Osayi-Samuel, Ryan Manning, Jordan Hugill and Nahki Wells who, apart from anything else, accounted for 50 goals and nearly that many assists between them. His team has got better still. And yet, ahead of a crucial home game with Luton Town, which the team played well and won, an extensive explanation of “lux value” appears on the official website under the headline “WHAT’S HAPPENED TO OUR FLOODLIGHTS?”

Lefty Guardian alert, but this article during the week about the growing influence of fans whose entire support of the club is conducted online contained one of those lines from journalist Dean Van Nguyen so perfect I’ve kicked myself all week that I didn’t write it myself. Talking of Liverpool’s Twitter fans he describes a young group “obsessed with transfers, highly combative and persistently pessimistic. Not getting what you want from football all of the time seems completely intolerable to them.” It’s reassuring, sometimes, to know that it’s not just us, that every club is essentially the same with slight variations. I’m sure everybody rolls their eyes and goes “oh typical bloody United/City/Villa/Orient/Town/Rovers” when their club falls over it’s own arse. It’s just, our arse seems bigger, and the falls a lot further, than most. We’re a club that gets to the Premier League, and then gives the Premier League Samba Diakite.

It is of course part of the LFW style guide that mention of Samba Diakite must always be followed by pictures of him repeatedly trying to kill and/or maim Bryan Ruiz.

Stuff like ‘Fingers Gnohere’, that time we cancelled a fixture because all the players had accidentally given each other meningitis, that time we arranged a friendly with the Chinese U23 side and it turned into a race riot and a diplomatic incident with the ruling Communist party of China, that time we signed a goalkeeper on a crooked agent deal and in his only (terrifying) 40 minutes on the pitch he punched our club captain in the side of the head and laid him out cold... this would form the absolute concrete base of most club’s “banter years” content. And yet, at QPR, it kind of gets forgotten and washed away by stuff like that time somebody made the chairman resign under threat of being shot in the head while we were beating Sheff Utd at home and we all traipsed off to Southwark Crown Court for the week, or that time our first return to the Premier League for 15 years was jeopardised by another dodgy transfer which we survived by dragging the hearing to the final day of the season and then producing a suspiciously amateur letter from a desk drawer that said it was all ok, really, honest. It is, as Marc Bircham often says, a spiv club, built up by a used car salesman, and always seemingly up to something.

If you’d taken a non-QPR supporting friend or loved one to Coventry away in August 2005, you’d have regretted that decision pretty quickly. Not because Rangers got their arse handed them to them, 3-0 down by half time, because that shit happens all the time, but because of the sheer scale and rawness of the violence all around the place that afternoon. As we scurried back to the car afterwards there were fans of both persuasions, long before the final whistle, staging running battles with bricks and masonary across the surrounding car parks and streets. At one point we passed a builders’ yard, closed for the weekend, where half a dozen hooded football fans were now face down on the floor being really rather severely beaten with sticks by tooled up riot police. “Is this some sort of local derby?” your hypothetical guest may have wondered. “Is this a historic thing? Is it sectarianism? Which one doesn’t mind the odd noncey priest?” Oh, no, love, this is all about the Copa De Ibiza.

A couple of months prior somebody had decided it a most splendid idea to take three of the better supported Football League teams to Ibiza for what would almost certainly be a highly professional preparation for the players ahead of the new season, and would nearly probably not turn into a running street riot between the drugged and pissed up English football fans that made the journey. QPR went 2-0 down in the final, tore the tiny stadium apart, got told off by manager Ian Holloway over the public address system, came back to win 3-2 (even Dean Sturridge scored, so the script writers had clearly suspended all pretence of realism by this point), and then celebrated like they’d won the actual European Cup. This, it turns out, did not go down well in the Midlands. A quirk of the fixture list meant Rangers would then be the first ever visitors to Coventry’s grand new stadium the following season and they were there waiting for us. A quirk of the building delays meant their grand new stadium was still, essentially, one of those half-finished building sites you can sometimes see picked up and flipped on Homes Under The Hammer, providing all the spare brick and scaffolding poles required for an absolute bloodbath. Eoin Jess? That would have made sense – or, more sense. But no, a full scale riot in sunny middle England on a Saturday afternoon, because of the Copa De Ibiza. Again, I just pose the question, biggest small club or smallest big club? And this is abnormal right? We’re weird.

At that point, it felt like the clubs were heading in starkly opposite directions. The glories of Ian Holloway’s spirited and talented Division Two promotion winners were fading away into skintedness, corner cutting and underhand agent dealings which that afternoon’s team stands testament to - S Royce, M Bignot(M Bean), D Shittu (s/o 54), D Shimmin, M Rose, G Ainsworth, K Gallen, M Bircham (U Ukah, 66), A Brown (M Milanese), S Moore, P Furlong. Coventry meanwhile had their shiny new stadium – Keysie Keys on hand at half time, in case sexist remarks were required - and hopes of a return to the Premier League which has never materialised (S Bywater, R Duffy, R Page, M Heath, M Hall, W Flood (A Morrell), C Jorgensen, M Doyle, J Scowcroft, D Adebola (I Osbourne), G McSheffrey (N Wood)) It was, as we wrote in this preview for that game to much angry “you’re just jealous” response, never likely to. If you give up a perfectly serviceable city centre ground you own and don’t fill, to move into an identikit Meccano kit on the edge of town which you don’t, and require record-breaking average attendances just to break even on the rent, that does not ever end well for you. We said it then, we’ve said it since, and we say it again now, for all the talk of how Loftus Road is no longer suitable, you beware the Coventry case study at your peril and do the opposite of absolutely everything they did back then – the legacy of which it only feels, now, in 2022, like they might be getting over, and that while playing in a ground you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy, now owned and operated by Wasps. You may remember them from a previous QPR meltdown.

By the time we played here the last time, Christmas 2010, the respective situations had flipped entirely. QPR, under Neil Warnock, were destined for the title, promotion, and the Premier League. Adel Taarabt is the immediate go-to memory of the time, and his trademark outside-of-the-boot pass for Tommy Smith’s second in a 2-0 win that day was mesmeric, but that was not a one-man team by any stretch of the imagination and amongst the skill and ability of Ale Faurlin, Smith, Wayne Routledge, Heidar Helguson, Paddy Kenny and others it’s worth bearing in mind that our other scorer that day (and it was, fuck off with your own goal rhetoric) was Kyle Walker. Actual Kyle Walker. P Kenny, C Hill, M Connolly, K Gorkss, K Walker, S Derry, A Taarabt (M Rowlands), A Faurlin, J Mackie, T Smith (L Clarke), H Helguson(B Orr, 89). Coventry were drowning, gasping for the surface with the stadium millstone round their neck, not helped by the appointment of a series of troglodyte managers much better suited to telling old drinking stories on Keysie and Gray’s show than actually being put in charge of anything. Aidy Boothroyd was in the seat by then, following Peter Reid, Mickey Adams, Chris Coleman and Iain Dowie. Little wonder we beat this rabble, if only because of the wide-eyed right back - K Westwood, R Keogh, J McPake (F Eastwood), R Wood (S O'Halloran), N Cameron, M Doyle, D Bell (C Wilson), L Carsley, C Platt, M King, G McSheffrey. They sank, almost without trace, to fourth tier football, and a ground share at Northampton.

There’s probably more in common than divides these two clubs. While QPR look up with hatred at Chelsea, and down rather mystified by the anger that comes from Brentford, Coventry can either take a ticket and get in line behind the other Birmingham clubs to hate Villa, or try and stir something Sky Bot 6.4 might call the “M69 derby” up with Leicester, who they haven’t met competitively since 2012. On our return to whatever they call this dreadful, soulless bowl of mediocrity these days, the fortunes of both clubs are actually quite closely aligned. Two Marks are doing remarkable jobs on limited budgets and trying circumstances, neither getting the credit or attention they deserve. Two backroom operations, previously, deservedly, much maligned, have got acts together and are starting to do clever things – for all the money being tossed around at this level, any other club would kill for signings like Rob Dickie, Jimmy Dunne, Chris Willock, Gustavo Hamer and Ben Sheaf. You could have had them all, and more, and change, for one Rhian Brewster. Two teams with back threes and wing backs, both in the top ten of this division, Coventry the lowest budget there, QPR the second lowest.

Coventry were blitzed at Loftus Road at the end of last season, and although they lost to nil again this they were much more competitive, really quite impressive, and perhaps unlucky to be undone by a couple of well-timed substitutions. Expect the football here to be similarly attractive, the game equally tight, and the deciding factor something as slender as that again – one manager makes a change that works, the other doesn’t. QPR’s tendency to fall over that big arse of theirs whenever there’s a big away following backing them might just swing this one against them. Bigger picture stuff, these two accident-prone looneys seem to have grown up a bit, whatever the outcome tomorrow.

Links >>> High achieving Sky Blues – Interview >>> Champions of Europe – History >>> Sent to Coventry – Podcast >>> Woolmer in charge – Referee >>> Coventry City – Official Website >>> Coventry Telegraph – Local Press >>> Sky Blues Talk – Forum >>> Sky Blues Blog – Blog >>> Sideways Sammy – Blog >>> The Lonely Season – Blog >>> Sky Blues TV - Classic Match Highlights >>> Access All Areas – Podcast

Below the fold

Team News: QPR have been linked with Derby’s designated driver Tom Lawrence and Wolves’ Carlos Valderrama tribute act Dion Sanderson but haven’t tied any January deals up bar goalkeeper David Marshall and so it’s the same squad heading into the Midlands as the one that beat West Brom last weekend. Yoann Barbet is training in protective headgear after the controversial clash with Daryl Dike last Saturday, and long term absentees Jordy De Wijs and Sam McCallum are also ‘back on the grass’ as Warbs Warburton likes to say – this game way too soon for both though. Ilias Chair and Seny Dieng have both progressed to the knockout stages of AFCON, though Dieng was replaced by Edouard Mendy for Senegal’s final group game despite keeping two clean sheets in his outings, and Chair was woefully out of sorts before being hooked after just 31 minutes in his first outing for Morocco. Sierra Leone are out so Osman Kakay is heading home.

Coventry are likely to have two former QPR men running their wing back positions on either side of the pitch for this game. Todd Kane left Loftus Road in acrimonious circumstances during the summer but has impressed and proved popular at Coventry, cementing the right-wing back role ahead of incumbent Fankaty Dabo. Jake Bidwell is a January acquisition from Swansea, and will make his debut in this fixture. Experienced goalkeeper Simon Moore has missed the last three, initially with injury though he was back on the bench at Peterborough and Mark Robins must decide whether to continue sticking with understudy Ben Wilson for this one. Kyle McFadzean is also waiting for a recall after a period on the sidelines.

Elsewhere: Questionable refereeing decisions, a backs-to-the-wall effort at the start of the second half, and a much-needed bounce from the final removal of the malignant Allams from their club gave Hull City a much needed 2-0 home win over high flying Blackburn during the week. That Rovers’ first league defeat in 11 outings but allied with a 0-0 home draw with Huddersfield and cup loss at Wigan, and just one goal scored in three league games, there’s the merest hint of another one of Moany Towbray’s post-Christmas declines starting to take hold. That will certainly get an acid test this weekend with Chris Wilder’s in form Boro heading to Ewood Park for the Monday Night Football. Good news for QPR whatever the result there really. Hull, meanwhile, will do well to maintain any momentum they got from that game, with a long and incredibly difficult away trip to promotion chasing Bournemouth.

Two derby games to get the Saturday started. More than 20,000 fans expected at Ashton Gate for Bristol City v Cardiff first up. City have loaned Tyreeq Bakinson to League One basket case Ipswich, with Nigel Pearson describing him as a “player who, unfortunately, only wants to play for himself”. Cardiff, meanwhile, going every bit as well as we thought they might having appointed Steve Morison as permanent manager – no wins from six, fifth bottom, and really rather grateful the bottom three are so dire. The televised match is Forest at home to Derby, a game which could have sold out twice over with Athletic journalists alone. Derby’s administrators’ latest ruse is to blame the threat of legal action from Middlesbrough and Wycombe for their failure to get the club sold, absolutely nothing to do with them or the previous owners, so the Rams fans have put down their “Mel’s got you all on strings” memes and taken up arms against Boro, the Chairboys, the EFL, and the country’s sporting press about how dreadfully unfair this entirely self-inflicted mess truly is.

Speaking of self-inflicted messes, Reading are now seven without a win, and four straight defeats, in which they’ve conceded 17 goals and been dumped out of the FA Cup by Conference North outfit Kidderminster. Goalkeeper Rafael Cabral, whose only appearance since breaking his hands punching the dressing room wall after our 3-3 draw there in September was in that cup disaster where he was culpable for both goals, has been released back to Brazil. Liam Moore has been stripped of the club captaincy and looks set to leave the club. After a 7-0 to Fulham and 2-0 at home to Luton in midweek, where the official attendance was just 9,611 and even that looks a work of fiction Terry Pratchett would have been proud of, surely only a positive result at home to Sporting Huddersfield this weekend will keep QPR from facing a new manager in their dugout next weekend. All of this should be giving hope to third bottom Peterborough, but after a 4-1 home loss to Coventry last time out you wouldn’t fancy them for much at West Brom, and Barnsley, who may have to start facing up to the prospect of never winning again if they can’t snap a run of one win in 23 games away at a Birmingham side now also in a tailspin and beaten 6-2 at Fulham during the week.

Fulham, as you can tell, are now properly out of control. They’ve won their last three games 7-0, 6-2 and 6-2, and have now scored 70 goals in total this season. That’s more than fourth places QPR and fifth-placed West Brom, or fifth-placed West Brom and sixth-placed Middlesbrough, put together. There is a 74 goal difference between their +47 and Peterborough’s -27. But can they do it on a cold Saturday afternoon in Stoke?

Swanselona, now with three and four games in hand on the rest of the division, will play just a second league game since December 11 at home to Preston Knob End. What you might call a contrast in style and philosophies.

Sheff Utd v Lutown and Blackpool v Milllllllllllll are the two we haven’t mentioned yet.

Referee: Famous last words, but our old chum Chuckles Woolmer hasn’t been tooooo bad the last few times we’ve had him. Big chance to put that to the test in front of a large away following on Saturday. Details.

Form

Coventry: Coventry started the season with six wins and just two defeats from their first nine league games – though one of those losses did come 2-0 at Loftus Road in the first meeting. Nine wins and just five defeats from the first 17 league fixtures had them up in the play-off spots but they have fallen to ninth in the table of late with a run of one win in seven and three in 13. Not many defeats among them though – they drew four out of five through November and December – and they’ve sprung back to life in the last week or so with a 1-0 cup win at home to Derby and big 4-1 awayer at Peterborough. No team in the Championship has won as many as QPR’s 12 points with goals scored in the last ten minutes of games this season, but that bumps up against Coventry’s own impressive late record this year – only Hull (one) have conceded fewer than their three goals in the final 15 minutes of matches and they have scored seven injury time goals so far (including three in the last five games) for a gain of eight points. Swedish striker Viktor Gyokeres didn’t score at Loftus Road in the first meeting, but impressed most who were there regardless and started the season with nine goals in his first 11 games. Since a brace in a 4-1 win here against Fulham in October, however, he has failed to score in 15 outings for club and country. Coventry are 7-2-3 at home overall with Swansea, West Brom and Millwall the teams to win here. Those defeats have all come in the last six games here, with Cov posting just two wins in seven on their own patch since that impressive trouncing of Fulham.

QPR: Charlie Austin’s suspiciously offside last minute winner against West Brom at Loftus Road last week made it three wins from three, six wins from eight and seven wins from ten in the Championship for QPR, with just two defeats along the way. They’re unbeaten in five away from home, winning four, including the last three, since a surprise 2-1 loss at Peterborough in front of another large travelling following in October. It means Rangers are fourth, four points behind both Blackburn in third and Bournemouth in second, with two games in hand on Rovers and one on the Cherries – Sheff Utd A, one of those games in hand, will now not be played until the first week of April. Consecutive 2-1 successes at Derby, Bristol City and Birmingham mean Mark Warburton’s team have now won six away games already this season – only Fulham and Bournemouth, the top two, have managed more (seven each). The 1-0 against the Baggies helped quell talk of a ‘ceiling’ for a team that had previously been beaten by West Brom, Fulham and twice by Bournemouth – Rangers have actually now won five and drawn one out of 11 games played against the current top ten in the league. Only the top three - Blackburn, Bournemouth and an out-of-control Fulham – have scored more than Rangers’ 38 league goals this season, but it’s 16 games since we last scored more than two goals in a game (3-2 v Preston October 2) and the R’s have scored one goal or fewer in 12 of those 16 games. Had Austin not bagged against West Brom last week it would have been four consecutive home games without a goal in regulation time. This side scores consistently, rather than prolifically, failing to net only twice in 25 league games so far. Only Blackburn have a better record in the second half of games this season. No Championship teams has recovered as many points from losing positions. QPR have gone from the Championship’s worst record for conceding from set pieces in both 2019/20 to its best in 2021/22 – just three so far, excluding penalties. The West Brom win was Mark Warburton’s fiftieth as QPR boss. QPR have won twice at Coventry on this date in recent years, 1-0 in 1993/94 and 2-1 in 2004/05.

Prediction: We’re indebted to The Art of Football for once again agreeing to sponsor our Prediction League and provide prizes. You can get involved by lodging your prediction here or sample the merch from our sponsor’s QPR collection here. Congratulations to DerbyHoop for topping the table at Christmas and taking the first prize of the season. Here’s last year’s champion Mick_S and his thoughts on West Brom…

“I thought Coventry were decent at our place earlier in the season; should have battered us first half, but they didn’t. Good. All the usual worries - Blackburn losing last night; great numbers travelling etc. I’m going for another hoodoo busting Rangers win, so I’ll have a go at 1-2 with Willock to score. Come on our team, and stuff the bus back to the station - we should be given a 2 nil head start.”

Mick’s Prediction: Coventry 1-2 QPR. Scorer – Chris Willock

LFW’s Prediction: Coventry 2-1 QPR. Scorer – Eric Hitchmough

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062259 added 23:42 - Jan 21
Big game, this. Take a draw. Six of the next seven league games are against teams in the bottom half, with four of those six at home.
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Myke added 23:44 - Jan 21
Cheers Clive, great preview. Being pedantic; Routledge not Smith. Interestingly, Coventry fans dislike and distrust Chuckles as much as we do.
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Northernr added 07:36 - Jan 22
Definitely Smith. Routledge didn’t sign until the month after. He scored in the home game.
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thorpebankR added 10:01 - Jan 22
Excellent
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thehat added 11:33 - Jan 22

Brilliant as always Clive - Read with a cup of tea and bacon sandwich this morning and now just heading off up the M40........

Come on you R'rrs
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TacticalR added 14:52 - Jan 22
Thanks for your preview.

Diakité...the game's foremost practitioner of the waist-high tackle.

Anyway, maybe we don't know what size we are. Most of the teams in the division are from one-club cities, so their size is basically fixed (or feels like it is). QPR are a London club but surrounded by other London clubs...so our possibilities are more...amorphous. Ingham pondered all this years ago:
https://qprreport.proboards.com/post/296623

We do seem to be hitting a few milestones recently. Or maybe breaking through ceilings. As you suggest perhaps it's best to look at Coventry and us and two clubs in a similar situation, as one thing we have always had trouble with is being favourites.
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