Stick or twist? – Column
Friday, 8th Apr 2022 12:40 by Jordan Conte
Troubled by the team’s collapse in form like the rest of us, Jordan Conte thought it might be cathartic to put his thoughts on the question dominating QPR online discussion at the moment down on paper and weigh up the pros and cons...
Like most of us I have been trying to make sense of - even by our standards - a colossal dip in form since February. Dismay seems to have peaked after our latest lacklustre defeat, this time coming at Bramall Lane. Where do we go from here?
There are so many questions: What has happened to us? Why is our midfield a hologram? Why have we become so dull that we look like a JFH era tribute act? Why can we not move the ball around with a bit of pace and tempo that made us so attractive earlier this season? Why has Stef turned into Mikele Leigertwood? Why are we so impotent in attack that we resemble someone turning up to the Battle of Agincourt armed with a frankfurter? And why does Warbs keep dropping two of our most consistent defenders (Dunne & Barbet) for Dion ‘Runaround Sue’ Sanderson?
The ‘Warbs out’ drum on social media is getting louder and louder. There were murmurs in the deep of Twitter as early as February. Since our latest defeat at Sheffield United, it is as if Animal is on the drums, thrashing out the #WarburtonOut hashtag at a frantic BPM. Equally, there is still a lot of resistance to Mark Warburton’s tenure ending at QPR. From my timeline, I would say it’s an even split between those wanting blood, and those who want him to stay. I am still undecided, splinters in my arse etc. I do think it is fair to say though, that there are compelling arguments for us trotting back up to the metaphorical managerial blackjack table (again) and deciding whether to stick or twist.
Should Warburton stay? No Qpr fan can deny that Warbs has given us plenty of moments to smile about, plenty of celebratory hangovers and plenty of hours studying the league table and next rounds of fixtures. He has taken us from the horrible Steve McClaren season’s nineteenth place finish to thirteenth, then to a late charge to finish ninth, and then on to this season’s play-off push ninth (at the time of writing). He has given us regular wins away, broken positive records for a change, banished Todd Kane and brought back a level of professionalism to the club which had vanished at times under previous managers.
For the most part, he has improved the quality of football on the park not seen since the Steve McClaren trained Harry Redknapp’s team. More often than not, we have had a clear identity – ball to feet, fast attacking phases of play, overlapping wing-backs, high-pressing and two creative number 10’s on the pitch at once. That has been refreshing beyond belief, especially when you think back to the Sunday league level tactics we have been served up in recent years. Such hits that include ‘Give it to Chery and see what happens’ or ‘Bring on big Matt Smith and lump it up to him’ and my personal favourite JFH’s ‘Just defend if you fancy it.’ I think we sometimes take it for granted how appealing it is that we have a manager who wants to play so expansively. In the Championship, it is often substance over style.
One huge improvement to the club that we as a fanbase have been calling out for years in W12 is having established first team players that have come through the academy. Prior to Darnel Furlong, our last successful graduate that made an appearance was Richard Langley. Though financial constraints have played a part, Warburton has given plenty of opportunities to academy players or youngsters brought in on the cheap. Some have worked, some have not. For the Niko Hamalainen and Osman Kakays, he has nurtured the likes of Ebere Eze, Ilias Chair, Seny Dieng & made Darnell Furlong appealing enough after one season for WBA to come in for him. Not forgetting the recent raw but talented signings that needed a platform. He has turned a few of them into some of the best players in the Championship – Chris Willock, Jimmy Dunne & Rob Dickie. Who knows which genius has brought these lads in, but the work Mark Warburton has done with them on the training ground has got to be applauded. Most importantly, we now have a handful of sellable assets and are sustainable in the transfer market again. Which has been a fantastic turnaround considering we were still paying off that ridiculous FFP fine so recently. We have clearly improved as a squad under Warburton’s stewardship, would it not be mad to get rid of someone who has done such good work?
If all the above is true, why is there a feeling of impending doom? A feeling of a rogue party balloon that cannot go any higher than the ceiling it has hit, that will inevitably pop. The drop off in results and form for most of 2022 has been woeful. Something changed after Christmas for me. Though January brought continued good results (wins against Birmingham, WBA, Coventry & Reading) the standard of our performances dropped off and fortune went our way in some of those victories. Since then, even when we have managed to win, it has been by grinding it out, like seeing waiters with those oversized pepper mills at commercial Italian restaurants. Unlike earlier in the season when we were blowing away of teams. Full of energy, full of goals. Unfortunately, it has got worse and worse.
In the league since February, our form reads – 2-2-8. This seems to have shocked a lot of our fanbase but, it is very Warbs. Streaky. Streaks of unbeaten runs and then streaks of losses. This has been a regular feature during his tenure, though this current half-season fantastic, half-season dreadful streak has been monumental. Teams in this league often get found out after successful periods because they are in the spotlight so much, and in our case had been selected to take over the dedicated Sky Sports Leeds channel. We have been found out, we have been found out for a while. Though, unlike in the past, Warbs has not addressed the growing problems that were emerging and that are now fully present – lack of pace, playing through wing-backs when our first choice ones are injured for a lengthy period, slow sideways passing and strange subs. You can ride these issues out when you are aiming for mid-table mediocrity, but not when you’re trying to get out of such a competitive league. This is why I think so many of our support are prepared to part ways. We are an honest bunch and the post-match interviews certainly do not help when he highlights a big decision that didn’t go our way and hardly mentions the turgid football dished up for the whole match. When you combine everything, there is a feeling that he just isn’t quite dynamic enough to take us to the play-offs. This season or next. Even if he did manage to take us up, it fills me with dread that we would have to go to places like the Etihad or Anfield and set up for some kind of respectable result. I fear our results would read like the current England Test Team.
Of course, the decision lies with the board. That decision is made more complicated by the fact that Warburton recently suggested he was out of contract at the end of the season, though it’s previously been a rolling deal and might still be. If Warburton is here next season then it will feel strange him being rewarded, especially if the season continues to peter out. Whether achieving a play-off spot was the target before a ball was kicked or not, being in the running for so long and then dropping like a stone is at least partially a failure on the manager’s part. It doesn’t bring much confidence going into next season and you would expect the manager to have to be backed substantially again by the board to stand a chance of improving next season. Especially with the sickly amounts of parachute money coming down with the relegated teams from the Premier League.
What is for certain is that we are rightly or wrongly entering a period of uncertainty over our manager’s future again. Just as it was getting comfortable for a few summers, not having this type of headache going into the close season.
If you enjoy LoftforWords, please consider supporting the site through a subscription to our Patreon or tip us via our PayPal account email@example.com.
Pictures – Action Images
The Twitter @JordanConte
Please report offensive, libellous or inappropriate posts by using the links provided.
You need to login in order to post your comments
Blogs 31 bloggers
When Monday Comes #37 by wessex_exile
When Saturday Comes and we reach the end of a topsy-turvy season, much of which hasn’t been that much fun if I’m honest, though latterly considerably improved under Wayne Brown. If I can, I always like to do the first and last game of the season, but sadly a trip to Hartlepool just wasn’t on the cards, not if I actually wanted to get home again tonight, so I had to console myself with a pretty enjoyable trip to the JobServe last weekend – not quite the victory the U’s deserved over Walsall, but a great day out anyway. I know it’ll be too late for the Player of the Year awards, but wouldn’t it be nice to see a Freddie Sears hat-trick this afternoon to round off the season.
When Saturday Comes #36 by wessex_exile
When Saturday Comes tomorrow, and I will be on a train heading over to God’s own county for my last U’s game of the season. That should have been last Friday’s trip to the Principality, but as posted elsewhere I was more than happy to be pre-booked to dog-sit Emma’s collie Reggie that night and had to be content with one of Nadine’s ‘downstreams’ on iFollow. Given both the performance and the result, whilst I was sorry to miss it in person, I was more than happy with how Friday night turned out in the end. Tomorrow will be a gathering of the clans for us, with at the last count at least 8, possibly more, of the family gathering for the match. Ironically, I’ll see them all again on Bank Holiday Monday for a family birthday, but I’ll be driving over for that one.
When Saturday Comes #35 by wessex_exile
When Saturday Comes and the U’s have already given us a fantastic start to the weekend, with a stirring and well-deserved 2-1 victory at promotion-chasing Newport County. Yes, the Exiles had lost the previous three at home and are looking like they are going to bottle their chance for the play-offs, and yes with the U’s now safe technically we had little to play for, but don’t take anything away from this performance. If Wayne Brown is still being ‘interviewed’ for the full-time role as Colchester United manager, then last night was the equivalent of having an excellent incisive question of your own lined up for the interview panel.
When Saturday Comes #34 by wessex_exile
When Saturday Comes and our Easter Bank Holiday programme is already underway, following a dismal 2-0 defeat at St James’ Park yesterday. It’s not so much the result that galls, in truth deep down I suspect we all thought it was going to be a difficult trip to get anything out of, it was the manner of that defeat. To say the U’s were lacklustre is a massive understatement – and it wasn’t as if it was down to Exeter City simply outplaying us, I didn’t think they were all that to be honest. I can cope with defeat, heaven knows the U’s have given me enough practice in recent years, but to go down without a whimper, relying on Man of the Match Sham to keep it from becoming a cricket score against an average Exeter City, was just dreadful.
When Saturday Comes #33 by wessex_exile
When Saturday Comes and there was a time, not too long ago, when today’s game against the charmless Steve Evans and Stevenage was looking like it might be a relegation 6-pointer. Whilst we’re not out of the woods quite yet, back-to-back victories over Tranmere Rovers and Harrogate mean we go into this game knowing even if we were to slip up against Stevenage, we’ll still be 8pts plus goal difference ahead of them, and only five games left to play. Still, let’s not dwell on negatives, because three wins on the bounce will be the confidence-booster we’ll need ahead of the tough trip on Good Friday to St James’ Park.
Queens Park Rangers Polls
[ Vote here ]