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Queens Park Rangers 2 v 3 AFC Bournemouth
FA Cup
Saturday, 6th January 2024 Kick-off 15:00
Resolution, revolution, evolution – Preview
Friday, 5th Jan 2024 22:04 by Clive Whittingham

QPR’s weekly humiliation in the league is replaced this weekend by QPR’s annual humiliation in the FA Cup, against a quality Premier League team we were vying for Championship promotion with when last we met – how do we break the cycle of despair we’ve entered since?

QPR (bit shit) v Bournemouth (quite decent)

Zenith Data Systems Full Members Trophy >>> Saturday January 6, 2024 >>> Kick Off 15.00 >>> Weather – And the sky is grey >>> Loftus Road, London, W12

Dawn, I’m fed up.

There’s only one thing irritating me more than watching Queens Park Rangers at the moment, and it’s listening to me watching Queens Park Rangers at the moment.

I go to the games minded to sit down, shut up, say nothing. Honestly, I do. I talk to myself on the way to the ground. I used to tell myself ‘they can’t hear you’, and then Rob Dickie looked me square in the eye while I teed off on him. Now I tell myself ‘these are poor players, you can shout at them as much as you like it’s not going to make any difference’. I remember being younger and screaming the place down watching Zesh Rehman, and the precise jot of difference that made. I even write ‘don’t lose the plot’ on the back of my hands sometimes. And then it begins: the lazy backwards and sideways passes; the cowardly midfield play; the shrugging of shoulders; the exasperated outstretched arm thing they do for the crowd’s benefit, just so everybody knows they believe it everybody else’s fault but theirs; the waving at the bench and limping out of tough times with one spurious injury after another… Each pathetic abdication of duty and responsibility, each failure to control a simple ball, each set piece booted hopelessly at the nearest defender, each throw in given away… the rage building all the time. Building all the time, until there’s nothing left for it but to let it all out and call somebody a cunt. Often Andre Dozzell. Then I’m trapped in my house again for 72 hours of self loathing, regret and worry about how much everybody in that bit of F Block must absolutely hate my guts.

I pass that time helping out podcasts and YouTube channels. If you’re running a podcast and YouTube channel, and you’re talking about QPR, and QPR are in the shit, I’m the guy you call, because I’m angry and miserable at the best of times, these are not the best of times, and it makes for good copy. Here he comes look, happy Clive, nicking lines from The Office and The Thick Of It to describe just how abysmally Jimmy Dunne is playing. We’ll burn off an hour of airtime easily here with him ranting, they say – don’t think I’m not aware. The Athletic have been in touch this week, because of course they have. And I can hear myself droning on and on and on, about how everything that could be wrong with our club is wrong, and almost every conceivable way out of this is either blocked or in a downward direction. I go on our message board and snipe at people – good people, who I like, who I know, who I respect, who’ve posted on this site for a long time. I double down and down and down again, until I’ve basically spent my afternoon on there being a twat to people. I say I quite liked it last season when, after some of our worst defeats to Coventry and Preston, the club made players front up post-match, and actually some of the things Sam Field and Chris Martin said in those interviews was among the best content we heard . Then, in the same breath, I say I don’t want them wheeling out the erudite Reggie Cannon for another “we so sowwwwwwweeeee” piece about how determined everybody is to put things right. Just shut up and get on with it. Well, which is it? I’m just contradicting myself there for the sake of having a row with people. I hate this, and it, and me.

Before I know it, I’m back in this chair, writing another miserable preview for another dire game at Loftus Road we’re certain to lose. After that brief uplift and moment pre-Christmas, when it felt like the clouds were clearing a bit, now the phone and DMs are ringing and buzzing off the hook again with rumour and counter rumour from this source and that about just how dire things are down there – general consensus, imagine how bad you think it is and then times that by ten. The club never leaks when things are going well. It’s leaking like a sieve right now.

I don’t want it, us, me, to be like this. I am deriving so little pleasure from QPR, and LFW, at the moment that I may as well be at work. And I cannot believe either regular reader enjoys reading these long, woe-is-me, everything-is-wrong diatribes. I’ve basically turned into a less hairy Neil Oliver, rambling on conspiratorially about how far “through the looking glass” we are now, to an audience of two.

So, I’ve decided to do two things. The first is go to America. As long as day job sign off on this, you’ll be getting guest posts and reports from the Huddersfield and Blackburn games (if anybody interested in helping with those, lol, or buying me drinks in New Orleans, Memphis and Chicago, get in touch) and I will neither have to watch us play Huddersfield nor travel to Blackburn. The second is I’m now going to attempt to suggest a few ways we can get ourselves out of this mess, so at least it is in some way forward looking and positive rather than what I actually think and feel which is: a) I wonder what they did with that flamethrower from Once Upon A Time in Hollywood? and b) could I maybe get a loan of it in time for the Watford game?

We’ll start with the playing squad and work up from there, though actually the problems start at the top and bleed the other way.

The playing squad is not good enough. It doesn’t have the ability to compete at the level we play at, and it doesn’t have the mental fortitude, desire or commitment to help it make up for that. It is impossible to escape from the impression that much of it doesn’t like being here and doesn’t want to be here a minute longer. When I see people debating whose contract you should renew, the answer should be none of them. We renewed Lyndon Dykes’ contract in the summer, look how that’s working out for us. And fifty lashes to whoever exacerbated the problem by handing out ludicrous multi-season deals to busted flushes like Jack Colback. If anybody’s (anybody’s) contract comes up among the senior players, if we miraculously get any offers (any offers at all) for any of them (any of them), they should be gone immediately. Yes, that means him, and him. They have shown you, over two years now, who they are what they’re about. Enough. None of these people are coming to save you, in this division or the one below.

That doesn’t help short term. Short term we have to get the team that played the Hull game onto the pitch as often as we can. That was our best performance and result of the season and, typically, we haven’t been able to pick that same 11 again since. They’re pathetically fragile (Chris Willock’s latest ‘injury’ was caused by him being hit by a football), so you might have to target your games. If there is a criticism of Marti Cifuentes over the past few weeks it’s that I think he might have been better served going hot and heavy at the Millwall and Cardiff games, and taking the hit on the Southampton and Ipswich ones. I, again, accept I am contradicting myself, having coated Harry Redknapp off for his ‘bonus games’ and done the same to Gareth Ainsworth for treating things like Southampton at home or Ipswich away as completely beyond us. Nevertheless, one thing we do have in our favour is a January full of winnable home games, and everybody around us at the bottom of the table is still to come to Loftus Road. Now needing maybe nine wins from the final 20 games, after nine wins from our previous 57, we’re realistically going to have to beat all of them, with a few Watford and Norwich types chucked in there as well. The Christmas games are over now, we’re clearly ditching out of the FA Cup tomorrow, we’re back to one game a week. We have to get that Hull team and performance on the pitch, certainly for Huddersfield and Millwall just for a start, but definitely Sheff Wed, Rotherham, Birmingham and Preston beyond that. Just for a start, we need to win all of those games.

If we can add to the squad, we must do so. We’re about to find out whether our rush to slap sponsorship on everything from the hand dryers upwards was to clear budget for this January, or because we think we’re fucked FFP wise and we’re trying to scramble below the line. Free agents are an option, loans are an option. Perhaps Cifuentes knows a few Scandi players out of contract, with their season over. Again, though, you’ve got to consider the quality, character and motivation of anybody willing to come here at this point, and why any club would be willing to allow it. You hope for a repeat of the Field-Austin-De Wijs-Johansen transfer window, chances are you end up with more Jamal Lowes.

Next level up is the manager. Here, we’ve miraculously done good. I’m obviously not going to advocate doing everything the manager wants, or handing the keys over to him, because ‘what manager wants manager gets' doesn’t work at QPR. I’d also acknowledge, with certain team selections and substitutions in the last few weeks, he has contributed to us spurning the terrific opportunity we had in mid-December to move up the table while simultaneously dragging others into trouble. Decisions made around the Plymouth and Sheff Wed games, in particular, were costly. Nevertheless, he’s the best thing about us. Without the 13 points he put on the board, which we wouldn't have got without him, we'd be dead already. He plays football the way you all told me you wanted QPR to play when Gareth Ainsworth was punting channel balls all night long – it’s attacking, it’s on the ground, it’s attractive, it’s there to win, it’s not settling for a draw. I like him a lot. I worry, much like Michael Beale was saying to us last August, that what he’s found here was not in the brochure, and his post-match interview against Cardiff looked and sounded like a man thoroughly QPR’d. Here the supporters have to do their bit. You may not like his team selections or his substitutions, but he is essentially shuffling deckchairs on the Titanic. This team is not a start for Ziyad Larkeche or a different position for Ilias Chair away from salvation. None of it is his fault, get on at everybody else but him, he’s a big potential way out of this mess for us. He’s smart, he gets it, back him. Don’t start chuntering on about Warnock in a couple of defeats time, because he would have wanted a wage and a transfer budget the likes of which we couldn’t offer, and maybe he would have got the best out of the group but also maybe this group would have chucked him like they’ve chucked the last five managers. Back Cifuentes, this one’s on us as much as anybody else.

Recruitment. If I was coming in here as a new owner, I’d want everybody involved with recruitment to sit me down, with as many spreadsheets or PowerPoints or video packages as they could muster, and let’s go through every signing we’ve made since Ebere Eze furnished us with some cash. Line by line, player by player, who identified this guy, who wanted him, who didn’t want him, why is he here? The success stories recently number zero. We have put together a team that is physically and mentally weak. We have done things like lose Bright Osayi-Samuel, but then not add any pace back into the team. Paul Smyth looks half decent because he’s twice as quick as all the others, not because he’s any good – same with Sinclair Armstrong. Why, when everybody at Leeds laughed at Tyler Roberts for his attitude and fitness, are we still signing that guy? Why is Jack Colback getting two years with an option for a third at 34? Why, when Brighton let you have a player, who they paid £2m for from Man City, on loan with a fixed fee at the end of it, is that not raising an alarm bell? That’s the smartest club in the world very confident the player is not going to do anything in the loan spell to make them look daft. What due diligence was done there? His references from Birmingham, where he infamously injured himself in his medical, were abysmal. The whole signing seems to have been based on six promising weeks fannying about at Doncaster Rovers.

The whole ideal of character, personality, what sort of person you are, seems to have been thrown completely out of the window from last summer onwards in the name of getting Mick Beale whoever he wanted. Subsequently we’ve saddled ourselves with some absolute wankers - however much they use Instagram to profess "all glory be to God". How and why that happened needs to be identified, and a new recruitment strategy put in place prioritising physical strength and endurance, pace, and good character. You give a 30+-year-old more than a one-year contract again and I’m coming down there.

A director of football. It is incredibly difficult to do all of the above without this role at our club. Les Ferdinand made many mistakes – often through having the right idea, but not following through with it strongly enough and continuously making exceptions because Mark Warburton loves Andre Gray, or Mick Beale has said he won’t come if you sell Dieng, Chair or Willock. He had the right plan, and didn’t stick to it, thinking three months with no crowds in grounds and a few loans doing well, coupled with the Eze sale, was the time to go for it. I’ll repeat this later when we talk about Lee Hoos – know that this was almost certainly driven by the ownership, and not him. Still, his reasoning in interviews with us and elsewhere, that the fans would have been arsey if he hadn’t, is poor. He’s admitted as much himself since, and it was perhaps right he fell on his sword. We still needed to replace him. Most clubs operate with this model now and our club needs it especially. Our owners are benevolent, but incompetent, and absent. The QPR side of the directors' box is empty every week. Tony and Amit have bailed before the shit hits the fan, and were little use anyway. You desperately need a director of football here, working with the head coach, and the recruitment team – at this club perhaps more than any other. We were told a big American recruitment company had been outsourced to scour the globe for this candidate for his role – what happened to that, where is he? It’s ridiculous that six months on we’re going into this crucial transfer window without one. Who’s identifying targets this January? To what strategy?

A new CEO. When Lee Hoos took on the chairman’s role as well I hung my hat on the belief it was part of him moving into a less hands on role and a new CEO would arrive in the New Year. I’m doubling down, I still think that. I think it’ll happen pretty shortly too. God hope I’m right because at the moment we’re currently the only club in the world this side of the Beazer Homes Division where the chairman, CEO and director of football are the same person. We’ve got one guy, marking their own homework with Ruben tied up back in Malaysia sorting out business there after the death of his father. Hoos' promotion seems to have coincided with him, too, disappearing from view. He should be very hands on, holding all three roles, but where is he?

Hoos, like Ferdinand, is somebody I went out to bat for against heavy criticism early in their reigns, because they saw QPR and spoke about QPR as I did, and had the same idea about how we solve a problem of still being the same club we were in 1988, but in a sport that is astronomically different in every possible way. They had the right idea, and then blew it with the 2021 overspend. I asked Hoos at the time whether we were pushing the boat out, and he denied it. It’s been proved we were, and he has increasingly felt checked out since. Engagement with supporter groups and fans has dropped off the side of a cliff, and some of his interactions with fans (however badly those fans might have been behaving) have been poor.

As with Les, everybody should be aware it was almost certainly the owners driving the 21 overspeed, but it rather holed Hoos - and his reason for being here - below the waterline. I would also flag, on a personal level, you have to understand the difficulties of having parts of your family on the other side of the world during the Covid-19 lockdowns, especially when there were bereavements in that time. And at QPR we’re very good at pointing out individuals we don’t like – be that a manager, a director of football or a CEO – and assuming everything will be remedied by their departure. Les Ferdinand’s resignation should prove to you that’s not the case, things have gotten worse still. The next CEO of QPR will have the same owners, and all the same problems, Lee Hoos does.

Still, I do feel we are in desperate need of fresh ideas, impetus and leadership. Even if we weren’t, you can’t have the chairman, CEO and director of football as the same person. It’s appalling governance. It’s nonsense.

With that needs to come a couple of big culture shifts right away. The first of which is the standards around the place. The culture and standards in your organisation is defined by the lowest standard of behaviour you are willing to accept. At QPR, we're in the bin.

Asmir Begovic Tweeting about the Boxing Day sale of his merchandise straight after a 2-0 defeat at Millwall in which he cost us a goal is not a big deal by itself. When I stuck a couple of barbarous Tweets about it I got replies along the lines of ‘so what’ and ‘can’t believe people are bugging out about this’. Fine, I agree, if it’s on its own. It’s not. It’s not a big deal that Begovic appeared on a Chelsea podcast opining about how and why “we” are struggling in the Premier League at the moment… on its own. It’s not a big deal Jack Colback - who we brought here at expense we cannot afford to be a culture guardian and has spent his entire time injured or suspended, or trying to get injured or suspended - has been chatting about Sunderland Newcastle in the press this week, five weeks into his one week calf knock and several months since we heard him say anything at all about QPR. Interesting to see which FA Cup Third Round tie he attends tomorrow. It’s not a big deal that one of Taylor Richards relatives is calling out one of QPR’s most dedicated supporters on Facebook, reminding him that Taylor has played for Man City, Brighton and England (how lucky little old QPR are to have such a superstar in our midst). It’s not a big deal Ilias Chair and Chris Willock walked out of the director’s box with normal minutes and stoppage time still to play against Cardiff on Monday.

However, you add all these tiny things together, and it becomes the culture of your organisation. Every book you read from every successful NFL and NBA coach in America says the same thing: the way you treat the cleaning lady, the receptionist, the dressing room floor, the cleanliness of the training ground, adds up to your culture. This stuff matters, and it translates onto the pitch. I know we all find Russell Martin insufferable, but he was brilliant on this recently regarding what he found at Norwich when he went there as captain, and again now at Southampton. It does matter, it does make a difference, it does filter onto the pitch. It should not need explaining to the captain of Queens Park Rangers that you don’t go on the fucking Chelsea podcast. That just shouldn’t need saying, that should just be intrinsically ingrained in the place. Can you imagine the Sunderland goalkeeper shooting the breeze on Everything Is Black and White? They’d literally kill him to death. Begovic would have understood that immediately walking into that club, but not here. Chair and Willock would know, and care, what that looked like last week. I mean, in their defence, at least they were there. Where is Colback? Where is Richards? And why is that tolerated?

On its own it doesn’t matter that the roof is falling in on the disabled supporters’ waiting room, that the back of the Ellerslie Road stand is peeling off into people’s gardens, that we think £25 is an acceptable ticket price tomorrow… but together, it does. It really does. And once you’ve got that culture it makes people like Taylor Richards think they can turn up when they like, or others cry off with injuries they’d definitely play through if they were at supposedly bigger, better clubs. It makes us look and feel tin pot, and people will treat you accordingly, and get away with what they think they can get away with. One of the best things about Cifuentes is him constantly calling this small-time, defeatist QPR attitude out – no we’re not happy with a point, are you mad, Ray Wilkins used to play for this fucking club. If I’m right about the new CEO, and he’s here soon, we should arm him with a cattle prod. This stuff isn’t acceptable here any more.

Secondly… are we on secondly? Are they all here? Well, I’m going anyway. Secondly, you need to start communicating with us again.

At the moment, I appreciate, there is nothing good to say. We did our money, there’s no FFP headroom, nobody wants to buy the club because of the state it’s in and they’d get it cheaper in League One anyway, we’ve made zero progress on the stadium, and we can’t even get a loan because we’re skint and who’s going to loan this club anybody they value anyway? No corporate entity in the world is putting people out for interview with that story to tell. However, the club is potentially about two months away from asking us to pay for League One’s most expensive season tickets. The attendances have held up remarkably; Loftus Road is basically full every week. I haven’t heard a word of dissent or protest at any game, and I grew up with on-pitch protests against a board that had us fifth, ninth and eighth in the Premier League. There used to be regular meetings with fan sites and groups. Hoos would regularly appear on podcasts and, while you wouldn’t necessarily like his answers, he would front up with the realities and reasons. Now the club is completely silent. We hear from an increasingly angry Marti Cifuentes twice a week. What is the plan? Are we hiring a director of football, or not? Are we up for sale, or not? What does the future look like if we stay up? More pointedly what does it look like if we go down? This silence cannot sustain. You can’t take a support base that has backed you remarkably this season and just say “yeh, we went down, Barrow at home first game next year £535 each again please, ta” and expect people to swallow that. You’ve got to start talking to us again.

And then ownership. It’s difficult because no matter how many times I’m told they’re obviously preparing it for sale, they’ve obviously lost interest, we haven’t got a CEO and DOF because they’re leaving that for whoever buys it from them, I don’t buy it – the story, or the club. The owners are still funding astronomical losses. The money owed to the them that is yet to be written off, the outstanding FFP fine, the money still to pay on the training ground, the wage bill… you’d be on the hook for £50m just to get the keys. You then inherit the worst playing squad in the league with zero headroom to do anything about that, trapped in a ground that’s slowly strangling the club. Would you pay £50m to watch Kenneth Paal take corners? Because that’s the sales pitch here. And that only attracts chancers looking at the whole south side of South Africa Road as a huge development opportunity, or weirdoes the likes of which sank Bolton, Portsmouth and others before us.

It might be more attractive in League One – it’d be cheaper, and there are more favourable FFP rules around squad building - but then it’s once again us ditching out of a league just as its television deal doubles (we do that a lot). Also, do you think we have people at QPR smart enough to engineer an Ipswich and Sunderland-type rebuild? I think we’d do a Sheff Wed, and spunk loads of money on Aden Flint and Lee Gregory to bully us back up to a division those players are totally unsuited to. Or, more likely, Charlton, playing Shrewsbury Town year after year in a half empty stadium, passed from one dodgy owner to the next, and sacking manager after manager because he’s definitely your problem. I think we’re stuck with this ownership, and them with us, and that makes a new CEO and a new DOF, working with our current head coach and a recruitment department on a very firm final warning, our best hope.

Anyway, see you at Dean Court a week on Wednesday for the replay.

Links >>> Some Keith Stroud in the… - History >>> Rebecca Welch – Referee >>> Bournemouth official website >>> Bournemouth Echo — Local Press >>> Up The Cherries — Forum >>> AFCB — Blog >>> Cherries Red Army — Podcast >>> Back Of The New — Podcast

90s Footballer Conspiracy Theories No.23 In The Series – John Salako cuts a lonely figure on the side of Route 285, New Mexico as he lays a single rose down for the lives lost in the Roswell spacecraft crash of July 1947. This is an annual pilgrimage for him.

Below the fold

Team News: Well here you go, whether you think these injuries are genuine or not is up to you but let’s draw breath and run through them. Ilias Chair may not live through the night, Steve Cook is looking at six consecutive life sentences, Jack Colback seems to have vanished off the face of the earth, Chris Willock… the dryer goes on the right, Jake Clarke-Salter is in no condition to play… that damn hypnotist. Rayan Kolli’s brilliant cameo last week was immediately followed by an injury which will keep him out of what would have been a certain start here. Charlie Kelman clucking all the while. And we’re offering two VIP tickets to Bournemouth’s fourth round tie for a sighting of Taylor Richards. Might get the club joining in this week – do they even know where he is?

Bournemouth? I don’t know, some cunt. Probably better than anything we could ever hope to own. Remember the last time we met, and it was between us and them for second place?

Elsewhere: The sadly inevitable decision to televise two of the Premier League’s dreariest midtable teams facing off against each other, in a game nobody wanted to either watch or participate in, was rewarded with 90 minutes of Palace 0-0 Everton on Thursday night, in which the only moment of interest was VAR spending three quarters of an hour royally fucking the only decision it had to make on the night. Michael Salisbury involved again - I’m starting to think that guy might hate the tech as much as me and be deliberately trying to sabotage it. Respect if so, QPR game next week if not. Tottenham v Burnley is the TV game tonight. Give me strength.

Games they decided not to televise this weekend in favour of showing those two, while all the time blathering on about “the magic of the FA Cup”, include Wimbledon v Ipswich, Millwall v Leicester, Gillingham v Sheff Utd, Luton v Bolton, Peterborough v Leeds… Amazing that Leeds game – still just as massive, still as well supported, much better team and manager than last year, but because they’re not “best league in the world” any more that doesn’t make the cut when the same tie would have been on primetime, main channel this time 12 months ago. Fear not though, Man Utd’s cakewalk in front of a whole load of plastic Mancs from Wigan suddenly interested in going to a game rather than watching Mark Goldbridge on YouTube is your Monday Night Football. Come to the pub with me instead, we’ll play darts.

The big ties of the round are Mick Beale’s Sunderland v Newcastle on Saturday lunchtime. Sunderland, oddly, seemingly going out of their way to roll out a weird red carpet for their bitter neighbours, to whom they’ve afforded more than 6,000 tickets and use of a home bar which they thought it appropriate to decorate in Newcastle colours before a fan outcry. The 35th meeting of Liverpool and Arsenal in the last 18 months is your Sunday fare. Boro v Villa in the Cameron Archer derby is Saturday teatime.

Keep an eye on Rotherham at Fulham tonight. They’re now without an away win in 14 months and 28 attempts. We play them at Loftus Road at the end of February, and they’ve got Fulham, Boro, Leeds and Ipswich away between now and then. I might be sensing a way out of our FFP problems after all…

Referee: It’s a woman, with some wild and dangerous opinions of her own. Details.


QPR: Rangers’ 2022/23 round three exit at the hands of Fleetwood was the 51st time Rangers have been beaten at this stage of the FA Cup, more than any other club. That total has been topped up substantially in recent years — the R’s have been eliminated at the Third Round stage in 14 of the last 19 seasons. That despite a round four game at Peterborough in 21/22, another against Sheff Wed in 2019/20, and the dizzying heights of a round five loss to Watford in 2018/19. Those victories against Leeds and Portsmouth after a replay under Steve McClaren were QPR’s best FA Cup performance since 1996/97 when Trevor Sinclair’s bicycle kick secured a round five trip to Wimbledon. We haven’t been further than round five since a 1994/95 quarter final at Man Utd, the club’s best performance in this competition since they got to the same stage in 1989/90. All of this means we have been beyond round four of the FA Cup only four times in the last 30 years. The loss to Fleetwood, and penalty defeat to Charlton in the League Cup, was the sixth season in a row we’ve been eliminated from a cup competition by a team from the division below, including the last five years in the League Cup.

After three wins and three draws from Marti Cifuentes’ first seven games in charge, QPR have once again cratered over Christmas. They could have moved out of the bottom three with better results against Plymouth, Sheff Wed and Millwall. With four minutes to go at Hillsborough, they were ten points clear of the Owls. Plymouth and Millwall both would have been within one victory had we won those games. Instead Rangers are now second bottom, below Wednesday, eight points back from Argyle and a whopping 11 off Wawll. Rangers are winless in six, losing four, scoring twice in the process and failing to score in four of those.

Set pieces have been brought into stark focus by the two shambolic goals conceded against Cardiff. Under Marti Cifuentes the defence has improved immeasurably, probably in large part due to us holding more possession – Gareth. We’ve only conceded four in 12 games from open play, and have gone from second bottom to fourth best in the league for xGA in open play. But we’ve shipped seven in 12 from set pieces, including five of the last six.

Bournemouth It took Bournemouth until October 28 and game ten of their Premier League season to get a first win, 2-0 at home to Burnley. At that point the decision to ditch the erudite and publicity-savvy Gary O’Neil for Spaniard Andoni Iraola looked foolish – particularly with O’Neil’s Wolves making it nine without a win with a 2-1 success at Dean Court. Since then the Cherries have been completely out of hand. They’d won six and drawn one of seven games prior to Monday’s loss at Spurs with Newcastle, Sheff Utd, Palace, Forest and a famous 3-0 at Old Trafford (which would have been 4-0 but for more VAR nonsense) lifting them into the top half of the Premier League. They’ve won four of their last five away games coming into this.

Bournemouth’s FA Cup record isn’t that much less abysmal than ours. Their best performance is a run to the quarter final as a Division Three South team in 1957 and then again as a Championshp outfit in 2021 when they were eventually beaten 3-0 at home by Southampton. They went from 1960 to 1984 without going beyond Round Three, and since 1990 have gone beyond round four only twice in 34 attempts. In this season’s League Cup they knocked out our Championship rivals Swansea (3-2 A) and Stoke (2-0 H) before going out to Liverpool (2-1 H). Dominic Solanke, who scored in both games when these teams last shared a league, is top scorer here on 13 with 12 in 20 Premier League starts.

Prediction: We’re once again indebted to The Art of Football for 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 newly extended QPR collection here. SilverFoxQPR fought off a great Southampton call by WestonSuperR to top our Prediction League at Christmas by two points, so Art of Football gear will be winging its way to him in the New Year.

It's usually at this point that I tell you the worst case scenario for both teams, particularly sides managed by Spaniards who find the English obsession with cup ties and replays and Christmas fixtures a bit backwards, is a replay at Dean Court a week on Tuesday and therefore that’s what we’ll get. Two teams desperately trying not to win the game, inadvertently draw – Kieron Dyer’s one positive act for QPR was an equaliser in the last minute of just such a desolate encounter against West Brom. Sadly, I don’t think even our strongest first team gets anywhere near Bournemouth’s U21s, and we’ll be a long way off that strength tomorrow.

LFW’s Prediction: QPR 0-3 Bournemouth. No scorer.

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Rodney added 23:25 - Jan 5
Clive, you may be deriving little pleasure from LFW at the moment but, speaking on behalf of both of your faithful readers, I'd like to say that we derive enormous pleasure and insight from your work. It makes the pain of supporting Queens Park Rangers just a bit more tolerable. Whilst we understand you may need a short break to recuperate, please don't throw in the towel. As if you could....

Gus_iom added 23:48 - Jan 5
Shit mate, enjoy your break.

GaryT added 00:09 - Jan 6
Cut, paste, print and stick to every car in the car park.

Christ that's depressing but also quite stunning, a bit like watching the Titanic sink.

JimmyR added 09:39 - Jan 6
woe-is-me, everything-is-wrong diatribes - I enjoy them! A lot…

essextaxiboy added 10:16 - Jan 6
Brilliant summing up of how we all seem to feel .
Something has to give .

Agree fully about Marti.

sinceApril66 added 12:17 - Jan 6
Just entertained the whole of my train carriage reading the entirety of your preview. For me, and obviously many others, the genius of your previews and reports remains huge consolation for what has happened on the pitch!!! Really, why don't you write a novel? And still we're excited about this afternoon and will feel hopeful walking up South Africa Road in a couple hours! I know; should become the new embodiment of insanity...

Myke added 14:18 - Jan 6
So this is the new optimistic you! Mesmeric piece of writing Clive. I agree with all of it except your opening line of your 'from the bottom up' analysis. 'The playing squad is not good enough' I believe it is. But your next sentence or rather the second half of it; 'it doesn’t have the mental fortitude, desire or commitment to help it make up for that', is bang on the money. I remember during the second half of McClaren's season ( at least I think it was that, on season of mediocrity tends to bleed into another) being really angry when we hammered Swansea 4-1 at a time we were losing 1-0 at home to Bolton and Sunderland. The big lump loaned from Brighton (Hamed? Hemed?) suddenly stirred himself and scored twice. I was furious because they clearly had the ability but couldn't be arsed. We know Chair/Willock/Dykes could scare the bejaysus out of any (including Leicester's) defence in the division. The former two have shown it as recently as Preston and Hull, while Dyke's second v Stoke was as good a strikers goal as you could hope for. Collectively against Leicester, Ipswich (twice) and Southampton (twice) the team have shown they can compete comfortably at this level. But like you said in a previous piece, they know how to come up just a little bit short in every instance, whether it is Ipswich or Milwall, Southampton or Cardiff. And that is down to a lack of desire, which all ties into the culture of failure which you have expressed far more eloquently than I could.
When Warburton came in he had to clear the decks, partly out of financial necessity partly to rid the team of it's defeatist/don't care attitude. This needs to happen again, although on it's own, without all the other infrastructure/personnel put in place that you mentioned above -it won't be enough.
You can remove the lump, but it's only a temporary fix if you don't remove the malignancy causing the lump.

rbee added 21:15 - Jan 6
In my opinion our current ownership set up is unusual.

Lakshmi Mittal got roped in by Flavio Briatore who brought Amit in to the fold. Mittal began to get interested in the club and was attending matches until some 'fans' abused him during a home game and as far as I am aware he hasn't been seen since. Amit has hung around perhaps out of loyalty and partially hoping to make some money out of being in The Premier League.

Ruben was roped in by his mate Tony Fernandes and has watched on as Fernandes totally wrecked the club with outrageous spending and appointments. Whatever Fernandes promised him soon disappeared.

I can't imagine either Ruben or Amit were delighted when Fernandes told them he wanted out but they bought his shares and continue to keep our club going. Neither set out to own a football club but circumstances have dictated where they are today.

Fernandes/Amit/Ruben are not football people but that didn't stop Fernandes thinking he was. Over time their biggest crime has been not recruiting the right football people to run the club for them and they have spent too much time believing what the football people they did appoint have been telling them.

I find it difficult to be too critical of Ruben and Amit until now and only now because the club is in desperate need for leadership at the top with a new Director of Football. As for Fernandes he is always going to be the man that steered the club in to its current position. Loathe the man.

The dark figure lurking in the shadows wearing a trench coat and fedora is apparently called Richard Reilly but nobody knows why he owns a part of our club.

When it comes to overspending and stretching the Profit and Sustainability Regulations two years ago we were sitting in the top six and playing some good football so I don't blame the club for spending in an attempt get us over the line and in to the playoffs. Almost all of us on here would have done the same.

I also find it difficult to blame the club for supporting Beale when he arrived at the club. Beale talks the talk so very well and it does take time to work such people out as bluffers and chancers.

TacticalR added 22:38 - Jan 13
Thanks for your preview and summing up the sorry state of things.

One can trace the rot to Fernandes and his pals, and the worst thing is that they have left things in a state where nobody else can do much about it because of FFP.

The bad decisions like buying Taylor Richards are like the bad decisions we made when we were in the Premier League, although these decisions are proving even more costly as we no longer have the money to make these kind of mistakes.

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