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Not that John Jensen preview again – Preview
Friday, 23rd Feb 2024 22:33 by Clive Whittingham

It’s the accounts, it’s FFP, it’s Rotherham at Loftus Road without an away win in 33 tries, it’s Jordan Hugill, it’s Ilias Chair with that big stone again – it’s the week in QPR, as only QPR could.

QPR (8-8-17 WDWDLW 22nd) v Rotherham (3-10-20 DLLLLL 24th)

Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Saturday February 24, 2024 >>> Kick Off 15.00 >>> Weather – Bright start, clouding over, cold >>> Loftus Road, London, W12

Queens Park Rangers in general, and this iteration of Queens Park Rangers in particular, are extremely dangerous when you think you’ve got them all figured out.

When the clear and obvious improvements wrought by Marti Cifuentes upon his arrival immediately yielded three impressive wins in a week, all looked rosy in the Rangers’ garden once more after a long, bleak winter lasting almost 18 months. Get on 500/1 for the play-offs whilst it’s still available you were told, as if the previous year and a half had never happened. We certainly wouldn’t be getting relegated playing like this, that was for sure. They then went nine without a win.

On five occasions now this Rangers team has worked hard to get itself into a position where one more win, against one of the division’s lesser lights, would take them out of the bottom three for the first time since the end of September while, at the same time, dragging a clutch of extremely mediocre clubs directly above us down into relegation mix – into which several of them appear to be desperately willing to get involved. On all five occasions they’ve collapsed into performances vastly inferior to the ones they produced before, potentially weighed down by the pressure and expectation, but more likely just a shit side.

This culminated in last Tuesday’s debacle at Stoke. Buoyed by January’s surprise witnesses, QPR had finally started to look like a proper football side with a grown-up midfield in positive performances and results against Blackburn and Norwich. Stoke, meanwhile, a worse team you couldn’t ever wish to play in the Championship at this moment. Without a home win since two prime ministers ago – UK standards I’ll admit, but still a long time. Went up there, played like a bunch of tarts. Opposition goalkeeper rating: N/A. Star Man? Suck it out of my arse. It’s time, once more, for the patented Kermodian rant in lieu of a match report about how everything’s gone to shit and the club’s completely rotten and when push comes to shove this group of wastes will always show you who they and what they’re about and I’m sick of it etc etc.

That really is it now, definitely down, absolutely doomed. Three sleeps later, we’re winning at Bristol City, popping one-touch triangles around the gaff like some sort of Ruud Gullit wet dream. It’s not so much ‘just as I’m out they pull me back in’ as errant, stroppy two-year-old constantly doing the exact opposite of what all rules and convention say they should.

At least I know where I am though, or so I think. Rotherham at home, last away win literally 2022. Fertile ground here for the LFW match preview. We’re obviously just going to sit here and remind you the Millers went down in 2018/19 with only one away win all season too, and that was at Loftus Road as Shteve got ushered back towards his gardening and DuoAccento home learning. We’re going to talk John Jensen (and Gallen, and Allen, and Impey) and we’re going to talk Lloyd Doyley. We’re going to do Swindon Town again, not once, but twice, and rattle on a bit about how Ian Holloway always recollects it in the wrong season (93/94 Olly, come on geez). We’re going to do Charity Park Rangers bit, about scouring the globe for some idiot scum club, or pathetically famished striker, last nourished with the icy cold drops of a win, or a goal, when Steve Evans could still look down and see his own chode. ‘Ooooooh, why are we like this’, we’ll say, over 3,000 words, and then get the begging bowl out for the Patreon (new roundtable on there this week by the way).

The box office whacking the “SOLD OUT” signs up only adds to the interminable sensation of impending dread. Jim Frayling is an intelligent, erudite, successful man. You want to reduce that guy to a quivering, wasted wreck, you mention Danny Coyne to him. The last time QPR were relegated from this division, in 2001, what counted for some sort of rally against the inevitable happened at this time of year after Gerry Francis stepped back in pretty heartbreaking circumstances and Ian Holloway returned as manager. By ‘rally’ I mean we won our only away game that year, at Gillingham. Amongst the Big Moments that sealed our fate was a home match against fellow strugglers Grimsby Town. Frayling, as commercial manager, packed the ground to the rafters – not so much ‘kids for a quid’ as trawling round the local schools like some sort of childcatcher, dragging anybody and everybody he could find through the door. Lowly Grimsby, Peter Crouch up front, we’ll shit-em. Danny Coyne stood there, the bastard, and did a full Lev Kashin – no makeup. I’ve rarely seen a goalkeeper performance the likes of. It was so wonderous it stupefied Ian Baraclough into scoring an own goal five minutes from time and we lost 1-0. And the children of Shepherd’s Bush now walk round W12 in Chelsea tops. Poor Jim.

Rotherham don’t have much, but they do have a goalkeeper. That Viktor Johansson is still playing here is a mystery even to the most hardened Rotherham fan. The role of Danny Coyne is cast, and here comes LFW with one of their long, drawn-out stories about fucking Grimsby again. Oooh dad used to get inappropriately drunk, grandad used to undo his trousers in restaurants, subscribe to my Patreon (new roundtable on there this week by the way). Pathetic.

And then, the accounts dropped.

Always a big event in QPR land this one. Come on then, what have you done this time? Two hundred staff is it? Hundred and twenty percent wages to turnover? Agreeing to Honest Mick’s provisos of not selling any of your sellable players, while at the same time signing Taylor because he “loves him as a boy”? Morons. And you’re coming in here now saying you’re not going to disclose contract lengths to us anymore? Little wonder. Over at LFW Towers (sorry Thom) the sign is projected into the sky, and the red phone is picked up with the hotline to Simon Dorset telling him to go outside, look up, and start typing. Start typing Simon, and tell us how fucked we are.

Answer, available here, is it’s pretty much, almost to the pound, as bad as we thought. Having taken the sale of Ebere Eze, and brief flurry of excellent form thanks to some good loan additions, as a chance to throw off the shackles of The Plan and push for a promotion that never came, the club then – rather than taking medicine – doubled down again with Honest Mick and all-too-many Tyler Roberts types, exacerbating the situation. Already only under the FFP limit of £39m cumulative losses over a rolling three-year period thanks to disallowable costs, like infrastructure investment and academy spend, a saving of somewhere between £10m and £11m would be required in 23/24 to keep the league sweet.

We’ve been reporting exactly that since August last year when Mick Beale and others rang that alarm and told us that figure. You can help yourself get to the magic number by selling Rob Dickie and Seny Dieng (on the accounts as a post balance sheet event of about £1.7m) and sponsoring everything that’s tied down (QPR, in West London, still declaring a pathetic £2m in commercial and sponsorships, versus £7m at Boro and £10m at Stoke in the same league). But, really, you only get there by hacking into your £25m+ wage bill substantially. Nobody went bust by ordering too much stationary.

That’s where QPR do their money, and the result of having to take that from £27m and £25m over the last two seasons (already pretty low by Championship standards) to something a good £7m-£8m short of it is the season you’re now living. That they felt emboldened enough by Andre Dozzell’s departure (how much must he have been on, by the way?) to add four new players at the end of January, albeit on incredibly favourable deals, suggests they think they’ve done it. Or they’ve decided they can’t afford to be relegated with the new TV money coming next year so fuck it we’ll just ignore the rules all over again – but, then, if you were going to do that you’d do it on greater quantities of better players wouldn’t you? All due respect to the four who have come, all of whom look a decent upgrade on what was here before.

We’ll start to know the answer from March 1 when we have to submit a forward-looking statement to the league about where we think we’re at this season, after which summer transfer embargoes will follow if we’re in breach and then, much further down the line after the accounts go in officially this time next year, all the fines and points deductions.

Good. Don’t have to do that John Jensen preview after all. We’ll do accounts instead. Both regular readers will be relieved. We know where we stand.

Then, the spectre of a development that has been lurking now, ever since the five-run fourth inning by the Royals. That’s right, it’s the return of Ilias Chair’s kayaking weekend.

Previously, while you were all locked in your homes by the government, Ilias Chair went kayaking in France with a girl in a green bikini and when they got back to the bus stop their bus wasn’t there so they insisted on jumping the queue for another bus and when some truck driver objected our midfielder stoved his head in with “a large stone” that killed the cat, which ate the rat, which lived in the house that Illy built. This all seemed like jolly japes when it broke a few Fridays back (always a Friday, it’s like they sense I’ve already done 90% of the work) and the Belgian prosecutor said they should send him to prison for two years but he hadn’t even been turning up to the trials so can’t have been too worried etc etc. And then, at lunchtime today (always a Friday, it’s like they sense I’ve already done 90% of the work), they did send him to prison for two years with one year suspended. Best player, biggest game of the season. Sounds about right. Can you imagine being Paul Morrissey? That guy must go into convulsions every time his phone rings. “Hi... yeh... year in prison ... Ilias Chair... green bikini... right... yes, he is, isn't he, I know... rip the ball sack off... statement... ok... yehseeya.”

At least, that’s what seemed to be suggested in the Belgian media. Now, during the war, what would have happened is whatever freelance or bureau lad the English papers had in that part of the world would have been at the court case. Failing that, a journalist here would have picked up the phone and spoken to somebody who was. What happens now is a story like that appears and starts trending on Twitter and Reddit, so The Sun, The Mirror, The Star, The Mail and all the other Reach PLC abominations and click factories just rip it off, whack it through Google translate, stick it up on their sites, and move on. Ilias Chair is in prison. If it’s incorrect, who cares? Certainly not the audience. If you ring them up and get arsey enough about it then maybe they’ll take it down, or correct it and pretend it always looked like that, but maybe not. Already onto the next Meghan Markle C+P, or up to the minute info on which bathroom Cara Delevigne is spending time in this evening.

From an English law point of view it seems from the stories we have received that, having not taken this very seriously at all, Chair has been tried in absentia in Belgium and a judge (who really don’t like you if you’re in absentia) has heard the facts of the case as per the prosecution and slapped a sentence down. At which point Chair has, belatedly, fired Lionel Hutz and got a new lawyer, actually attended the hearing this morning, asked for a new trial in which he can put his defence, and a judge (who really don’t like you if you’re in absentia) has said “nah, bollocks, you had your chance, go to jail, do not pass go, do not collect £200”. However, there is a really good post from BerlinR on page ten of the message board thread that's really worth everybody's time on how Johnny Foreigner deals with all this.

We’re all guessing though, based on very limited information from one Belgian news report a month ago and another today which the clickbait merchants just copied and pasted en masse as their own. Whether you’re minded to castigate and cast out Chair, or go there tomorrow with banners and flags in his support (see Liverpool – Suarez in your textbooks), that is worth bearing in mind. For starts, the Belgian legal system is mostly a mystery to the people who live in Belgium, never mind us. Chair might well have behaved like a right privileged little dickhead, shoved in front of some poor family in the queue for a bus giving it the big "don't you know you I am" and then when pulled up politely on it gone absolutely berserk and whacked a bloke over the head with a brick, preventing some poor lorry driver with five kids to feed from working, leaving him in hospital. Or, some horrible, sleazy truck driver has got a bit handsy with Chair's no doubt very attractive and bikini-clad young wife in the queue for a bus, got a justified slap for it and is now, years later when he's realised the guy is worth a bit of money, trying to coin it in. Or something else entirely. As far as we know Chair hasn’t been able to put his defence - entirely of his, or his lawyer’s, arrogance or incompetence admittedly, but still. If he has, and it’s been rejected by a court, and a verdict returned, then fair enough but, again, we don’t know that yet. QPR apparently turned down a big Turkish bid for Chair at the end of the transfer window, which you wouldn’t have done if you thought this would amount to anything, would you? Would you? Sorry, anyone in from Buda?

By mid-afternoon - and no thanks to QPR’s incredibly brief statement, when they could easily have stated whether he was in prison or not (it seems not), or the UK or not (it seems UK), but chose to do none of that and quickly buried it beneath eight other stories (there’s a sale at Penny’s) - “Ilias Chair’s in jail” had been taken to a better hospital and the condition upgraded to “Ilias Chair is back in the UK and available for selection pending an appeal”. The Sun quietly editing their copy as they went. Stop reading these cumrags, making you click is their entire business model and you’re making everything (everything) worse by doing so.

An unmanageable team at an unmanageable club. Can I imagine doing this job covering anybody else? How dull.

So, we know where we stand again right? They’ve sailed so close to the FFP sun they’re running out of Gnanalingam (present tomorrow) companies and family members to slap onto ever decreasing free bits of real estate, but if they’ve felt confident enough to sign proper midfielders Hodge and Hayden, my future husband Lucas Andersen, and Michy Frey who has Michy Frey tattooed across his chest, then they must think they’re/we’re okay, right? Right? This thing on? Ilias Chair, it seems, has indeed struck a truck driver across the head with a big stone, either because he’s a little twat, or in protection of his girlfriend/wife, or something else. But he’s not in prison, we don’t think. And the moral debate about whether you still pick footballer while he’s in that situation and has done this thing is a whole other preview (re-write four) which I ain’t doing now.

So, we’re back to Rotherham at home. Where, if we know where we stand with QPR, we’re going to bang away on the door all day, concede a goal off a set piece (almost certainly to Jordan Hugill, without a goal in 22), and lose 1-0. That’s who we are, and what we do. Probably go and get a result at Leicester the week after then, for all it matters.

Would be nice, though, if they could zig tomorrow when everybody expects them to zag, in a positive way. Comfortable win, early goals, crowd in full voice, table climbed… Can you just, I don’t know, be normal. For once in your life.

Links >>> Accounts and Transfer Window – Patreon Podcast >>> Simon’s annual accounts roundup – Column >>> Difficult second album – Interview >>> Ainsworth opens Championship account – History >>> Donohue in charge – Referee >>> Rotherham United official website >>> Sheffield Star — Local Press >>> Millers Banter — Forum >>> New York Talk – Podcast/YouTube Channel

90’s Footballer Conspiracy Theories No.31 In The Series – Rick Holden pickets his local Andy’s Man Club meetings because he’s convinced men’s mental health is a psyop to turn blokes into “crying soyboys”.

Below The Fold

Team News: Apart from Marti Cifuentes’ casual reference to a “last minute situation” in his pre-match puff piece, Ilias Chair’s involvement in this game looks likely to remain the elephant in the room right up until it’s time to issue the team sheets – assuming we are still announcing to us mere supporters which team we’ve picked these days. Aaron Drewe, who didn’t even make the bench last week while Jimmy Dunne played right back, has turned an ankle. Whether Dunne’s excellent performance gets him a start over Reggie Cannon who has been playing injured basically since the moment he got here remains to be seen. Lucas Andersen has been ill during the week. Rayan Kolli remains the only confirmed absentee. We’re offering a kayaking weekend in the South of France for any sighting of Taylor Richards.

Rotherham will be missing Ollie Rathbone under the concussion protocols after he was struck over the head with a big stone while waiting in a queue for a bus/collided with the advertising hoardings at Ipswich. Key man Cameron Humphreys sat out that 4-3 defeat in which the Millers equalised in stoppage time but somehow still contrived to lose – he’s being managed back into the team after a five month absence, but will feature at Loftus Road. Just as well because Grant Hall is, you’re not going to believe it, a long term absentee while a clever scheme to bring Daniel Ayala in to cover centre half as a free agent lasted only as long as his second red card in as many games at Plymouth in December – a pre-Christmas effort even Joel Lynch would have felt a bit obvious. Tyler Blackett, Andre Green and Cohen Bramall are long term absentees, Aston Villa loanee Seb Revan is a likely returner.

Elsewhere: It’s been quite the week out and about around the Mercantile Credit Trophy.

Ordinarily we’d have a good time at Honest Mick’s expense, after his latest you versus yourself journey, this time to Sunderland, came to a close just 12 games in. A defeat to Tony Mowbray, who Sunderland sacked, and an incident where Beale blanked Trai Hume on his way off the pitch saying he didn’t know he was there despite just substituting him off proved to be the final straw. Dressing room unrest over his propensity to order them in for extra training on Sundays after defeats, but then not turn up to the sessions himself, felt very on brand. Likewise, the allegations that a Twitter account pumping out occasional Beale propaganda was actually being run by Beale himself. The Mackems host Swansea without him this weekend. Mowbray, meanwhile, is stepping back from Birmingham for, essentially, the rest of the season on health grounds, which casts their future in this relegation battle into some doubt once more ahead of a trough trip to Ipswich. Mowbray, for all our joshing, always feels like one of football’s genuinely decent, likeable people, who when all said and done usually at least tries to get his team playing an attractive and forward-looking style, so we wish him very well in whatever he’s doing through.

Of much more concern to QPR than Sunderland and Birmingham, however, is Millwall cutting and running from their attempts to turn Jake Cooper into a ball-playing centre half under Chelsea youth coach Joe Edwards after a run of six defeats and a draw from the last seven plunged them to fourth bottom of the table and catchable by tomorrow should they lose a tough match away at Southampton. They’ve abandoned the plans to such an extent they’ve gone back to Neil Harris, whose spit-on-it-and-call-it-foreplay football proved too much for even Millwall five years ago and has since spent his time mostly failing, mostly in the lower divisions, until a recent flurry of good results at Cambridge United. Good quiz question - name somebody who manged in Championship, League One and League Two in the same season. QPR really need this to go badly – Wawll have Southampton, Blackburn and Leeds on the road and Watford, Birmingham and West Brom at home in their next six.

It was a 2-0 win by second bottom Sheff Wed at The Den last weekend which pushed Edwards over the edge, placing the Owls three points behind Rangers going into their game this weekend at home to Bristol City. Huddersfield and Stoke, fifth and sixth bottom at the start of play, go to Watford and Cardiff respectively.

Plymouth are another whose new manager appointment isn’t quite working out. The poaching of Stephen Schumacher by Stoke is threatening to be one of those Ainsworth-to-QPR-type moves that is detrimental to both clubs and the person involved. Argyle have taken one point from five games, now sit just five away from QPR on 37, and have a difficult and long slog up to Middlesbrough this Saturday. John Eustace has two draws and a loss on his record at Blackburn to this point and he’ll do well to improve that this weekend in the Premier League Years classic at home to Norwich. There was uproar over the speaker in the House of Commons, but Jeremy Goss helped the Canaries find their voice at Ewood Park… Cue D:Ream.

Hull made a big statement of their promotion intent with a midweek win at Southampton and now have the early Saturday kick off with play-off rivals West Brom. Leeds and Leicester meet tonight in the parachute payment special. Coventry against Preston Knob End seems to have been switched to tonight mainly to just get the thing over with sooner.

Referee: Matt Donohue, from Manchester, last in charge for our 0-0 draw at Birmingham in September, is the man in the middle for this. Rangers are unbeaten in seven with this official. Details.


QPR: The Stoke aberration is QPR’s only defeat in six matches, of which they’ve won three. Jack Supple tells us Lucas Andersen is the first QPR player to provide two assists in his first three league appearances for the club since Wayne Routledge in January 2009. He’s got those in 122 minutes of football so far, matching the total Andre Dozzell got for the club in two and a half years. The result in Bristol once again places Rangers within one win of escaping the bottom three, with a winnable game against a rival, and the team immediately above them facing a tough away match. This will be the sixth occasion in three months this situation has arisen and so far Rangers have drawn 0-0 with ten man Plymouth and Huddersfield at home, and lost to Sheff Wed, Millwall and Stroke. Rangers are unbeaten in three at Loftus Road, but have drawn two of those and won only one of the last eight games here. Rangers’ home record of 3-5-8 is the worst in the division – even Rotherham have taken a point more at home.

No team in the Championship has conceded more goals from set pieces (13) or scored fewer (three) than QPR. A third of Rotherham’s goals (9/29) have come from set plays, including the equaliser when these sides last met in Marti Cifuentes’ first game in charge. In better news, the clean sheet at Ashton Gate was the seventh in Cifuentes’ 20 games after two in the first 15 games of this season and seven in the previous 47 games. It also furthers Steve Cook’s impressive influence on this team -he has lost only eight of his 23 games since joining the club, and was only on the pitch for five minutes in one of those. He has started seven of the eight wins we’ve managed, and was on the bench for the other (at Preston). Eight of the nine clean sheets Rangers have kept have been with Cook in the side – Preston, again, the outlier.

QPR and Rotherham are deadlocked through history with eight wins each and the 1-1 draw in the first meeting the eighth tie between the sides as well. Given their respective away reputations, of which more shortly, it’s perhaps no surprise to find five of the QPR wins coming at Loftus Road and six of Rotherham’s successes coming in South Yorkshire. Rangers are unbeaten in this fixture in three, including a penalty shoot-out win in the FA Cup when the Millers were last in the division below, but did infamously lose 2-1 here in Steve McClaren’s last week in charge – again, more of that shortly.

Rotherham: Here we go then with all the terror. Rotherham United are 14 points adrift of safety, haven’t won in ten games, have lost five in a row prior to this fixture, and have won only one of their last 21. More to the point, they haven’t won an away game at all in 15 attempts this season, and in fact haven’t won anywhere on the road since October 2022 – 33 away games ago. Their last away win was a surprise 1-0 at local rivals Sheff Utd in October 2022 (2022). This season they’re 0-4-12 on the road, have scored only 12 goals in 16 games, and their total of 41 goals conceded so far is the worst away record in the division by nine clear goals (Sheff Wed and Blackburn have shipped 32 each).

This isn’t a particularly new phenomenon. This season was the first time since 2014-2017 Rotherham had managed to stay in the Championship for more than one season having been alternately promoted and relegated in each of the previous six campaigns. Their quest to establish themselves at this level has been persistently undermined by an inability to win away games. Since returning to the level at the start of last season they’ve won two, drawn 15 and lost 22 of their away games. A record of 6-5-12 in relegation during the 2020/21 campaign is respectable by comparison to that, and their previous 2018/19 campaign when they infamously, again, won one of their 23 away games (1-8-14) and that being at QPR, finally pushing Steve McClaren over the edge. It means that in three of their last four seasons in the Championship the Millers have won three of 69 away games and one of those was at Loftus Road. Over their last four stabs at this division their away record is 9-28-48.

Jordan Hugill, once of our parish, comes into the game without a goal in 22 outings. The quest to be Millers’ top scorer this year is currently between defender Hakeem Odofin with four and then Hugill or Tom Eaves with three each. Only Sheff Wed have scored fewer than Rotherham’s 29, and nobody has conceded as many as their 64. More alarming – nine of those 29, basically a third, have come from set plays. Oh dear, oh dear.

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. Reigning champion Aston says.

“We've all supported QPR for far too long to be surprised what is going to happen on Saturday. I for one certainly wouldn't dare to tempt fate with anything other than this. We all know what’s coming. 1-0 to Rotherham and Jordan Hugill will score it. Prove me wrong Rangers.”

Aston’s Prediction: QPR 0-1 Rotherham. Scorer – Jordan Hugill

LFW’s Prediction: QPR 0-1 Rotherham. Scorer – Jordan Hugill

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CLAREMAN1995 added 00:37 - Feb 24
4- 0 to us

royinaus added 03:12 - Feb 24
Ilias - all 3 feet of him, potentially going to jail mid season.
You couldn’t make it up.
Only at Qpr

stainrodnee added 13:21 - Feb 24
Clive, Rayan Kolli’s been unavailable for ages. Has the club said what’s wrong with him and when he’s due back? His last contribution that brilliant cross to the far post for Smyth to score seems a long time ago.

TacticalR added 13:52 - Feb 24
Thanks for your preview.

Ah, the beauty of normality. It's not something everybody appreciates.

Back to Rotherham. Their stats are so bad they're good. Not won away all season and Hugill has stopped scoring. We know that QPR can't handle expectation, and you did warn us in the Stoke preview that we had previously refused all opportunities to beat teams around us and get out of the relegation zone. We can only hope that a) we can get over this mental block and b) none of the teams above us start picking up steam.

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