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With the first of two West London Derbies looming for Brentford in two weeks, Billy Grant caught up with Clive Whittingham from Loft For Words QPR Blog (@loftforwords) – who also appeared on the Beesotted Pride Of West London Podcast this week (link below) – to get a run down on the Bees’ West London rivals before the big match.

So this season hasn’t gone as well as it could have for QPR. What’s gone wrong?

Well we’ve done that thing we do often again – start a season with a manager and his plan and his players and then sack him in the autumn, requiring a search for a new manager, a total rejig in the January window, a period of settling new players in and so on. Whatever happens next season we have to decide who the manager is going to be now, be it Holloway or somebody else, and then bloody stick with it.. Another dozen players in and a dozen out – this constant chopping and changing midseason is getting us nowhere.

Hasselbaink was very frustrating. He spoke about making us the fittest team in the league, released two club legends in Clint Hill and Ale Faurlin because he didn’t think they had the legs to play a high press game, but then went really deep, really negative and really defensive when the season started. His plan of attack, such as it was, seemed to be lumping the ball up the field and hoping it became dangerous simply by being in a dangerous area. We’d do that for 60-70 minutes in a game then, as a last throw of the dice, bring Mide Shodipo and other wingers on late on, look really good getting our hopes up that we’d finally cracked it, and then the following week back to the same thing. That said, he was brought in to oversee a big cut in the wage bill, the blooding of younger players and make us competitive in the Championship and he did that so it was a bit harsh to sack him.

Holloway started with six straight losses, and is going to finish the season on a bad run as well, with a couple of months in the middle where we looked really good. Overall it’s just been irritating, and we’ve equalled our club record for home defeats in a season.

After a decent run of matches in February and March, your form has taken a dip with no wins in 5 matches coming into the Brentford game. Surely the team’s confidence must be pretty low coming into the Brentford game. Or are you luring us into a false sense of security?

No I think we’d all be very surprised with anything other than a comfortable defeat this weekend. We were playing very well through February and March, with five wins and a draw from seven, scored four at Birmingham, five against Rotherham. It really looked like the team was coming together, buying into Holloway’s weird and wonderful formation, and clicking. Optimism was starting to build for next season.

Few things happened…

1 – We reached 50 points, which was meant to be the safety mark and the players seem to have switched off a bit.

2 – International break happened, and Massimo Luongo who was playing out of his skin prior to it always dips in form after Australia have flown him to the moon and back on those things.

3 – Few injuries, including Grant Hall who’s pretty key to the way we defend in this system.

4 – Tough month of fixtures that always looked like it was going to be difficult.

5 – Holloway has started to experiment, try a few things out, and has lost the winning formula from before. We were unlucky to lose at Villa and against Brighton but you can see the confidence draining out of them now and we were far worse against Bristol City and Sheff Wed than the 2-1 defeats suggest.


So Ian Holloway. He took over from Hasslebaink in November (who we thought was doing a sterling job btw). He predicted us to get relegated – finishing 22nd just above Huddersfield in the relegation zone at beginning of the season and we discussed that plus loads more on the Pride Of West London podcast this week (bel0w). We’re not gonna ask him for any lottery numbers but the question has to be asked – is he getting it right at QPR?

We had this problem at Villa the other week where he’d predicted bad things for them when he was a TV pundit and they were determined to turn him over because of it.

The jury is out I think. It’s an appointment no other Championship club would have made, so you could accuse us of sentimentality or the board of trying to score cheap points with the fans, but his record is better than the clown persona suggests – getting Blackpool promoted, with Oyston as chairman, a massively underrated achievement. Three promotions in his career and a couple of near misses with Bristol Rovers, he’s not a complete dunce clearly.

QPR is a tough job. Expectations are high, they’re trying to cut costs across the board, there’s been a decline for a few years which is difficult to turn around. Holloway might not be the man for it but whether there is a man out there who could, who would want to come, who would be affordable, I’m not sure. And if they are out there, would our board be able to find them and appoint them? Their record on managerial appointments is poor and tends to always revolve around obvious names everybody has heard of while clubs on smaller budgets than ours go past us with the likes of David Wagner, Dean Smith, Paul Heckingbottom and others who’d never get a sniff of our job.

You guys are not shy on splashing the cash. Last year QPR lost £11m after pulling in £42m – the 2nd highest revenue in the current Championship  (in comparison Preston and Brentford pulled in £11m … Sheffield Weds were midway with £22m and Fulham were the 2nd current highest earners pulling in £36m). Do you think the club needs to change the way it approaches day to day business – particularly as the parachute money is going to run out soon – or is this all to be expected in todays footballing climate? 

It may not look it, but we are getting better. Our accounts this year were actually a vast improvement – the £11m loss for 2015/16 was far less than the £46m we lost in 2014/15 when we were in the Premier League with all the TV money. We cut our wage bill from £63m to £36m in one season. And we made those savings despite our revenue declining by £44m because of the loss of the Premier League TV money. So we are seeing the work of our CEO, former Burnley man Lee Hoos, coming to some fruition. That said, we brought in £12m from player sales which we won’t repeat this season, our parachute money is less this season than it was last, so it’ll be tough to keep getting those losses down – as Brentford know, in our respective stadiums, under FFP, it’s tough to compete at this level without the owner dipping into his pocket. It’s a big season next year, the last one with the parachute payments, do we take a gamble on trying to get back? Or keep bacon slicing everything?

Jake Bidwell got injured not long after joining you guys. He’s back now. How is he getting on??

Not great. He’s had a steady, 6/10 sort of a season for us. He doesn’t offer a lot going forwards, which is difficult now we’re playing with wing backs, and Jack Robinson and Ryan Manning have both shown much more on the attack than he has when used there recently. We tried him as a third centre back because of injuries against Sheff Wed and it was not a conspicuous success. He’s played most of the season without a winger ahead of him due to the formations Hasselbaink and Holloway prefer, and that’s pretty tough with players doubling up on you every week. We’ve got bigger problems with the team than Bidwell.

What QPR players are you excited about that will cause us to stroke our chins on Saturday?

Luke Freeman has surprised us all since arriving in January from Bristol City and he, along with Luongo, were the best of a bad bunch on Monday. It’s great to see Manning and Darnell Furlong step up from the youth team and play so well and I’m hoping both start all the remaining games now. Pawel Wszolek has an excellent final ball on him, when we actually use him rather than just punting the ball long down the middle. Nobody’s playing particularly well at the moment though. You might want to watch out for James Perch – if there’s a Bank Holiday or a Christmas or a run of a few away games come up he will, quite coincidentally I’m sure, start launching into hideous red card tackles. With two matches to go until the end of the season a nice red here would end his campaign and he can get off on his summer holidays so watch your ankles on that one.

Naturally Jake Bidwell’s return to Griffin Park will gain some coverage and having spoken to him he knows that he is likely to get an “interesting” reception.

BBC London commentator Phil Parry in our match preview and pub guide

The season is almost over. What opposing team has impressed you the most so far and why?

Huddersfield are the best team we’ve played over the two matches, probably followed by Brighton. Newcastle won 6-0 at ours and it could have been ten but we were better than them up at theirs and got a 2-2. I enjoyed watching Barnsley as well – oldest player was 26 when they played us and they committed everything to the attack, playing some really good football in the process. Least impressive (apart from the obvious Wigan, Rotherham types) was Reading. I just don’t get how they’re doing so well. Player wise Sam Gallagher is basically carrying Blackburn by himself, Aden Flint was great against us for Bristol City, Jonathan Kodija probably has Joel Lynch waking up in a cold sweat and Tom Cairney looks a class act at Fulham.

How about fans who have impressed you?

Brighton brought loads and made a lot of noise, but then you’d expect that when it’s not far to travel and they’re about to be promoted. I did enjoy watching the ‘Champions of Europe’ routine fade to an absolute silence when we outplayed Leeds at theirs a couple of weeks back – just where have those extra 15,000 fans come from? Some mouthy Brentford git turned up in our pub causing trouble before the first meeting but apart from that it’s been a pretty quiet year 😉

Saturday is the first of two consecutive West London derbys for us. Some QPR fans say it’s our cup final but as much as we love playing QPR, the novelty has started to wear off a little. How important is it for Rangers to get a win?

Well we could do with one more win just to nudge us properly safe, though I still think we’ll probably be alright regardless. As far as the derby situation goes, I’ve just never considered it as one. I know that sounds terribly twatish, and it’s the sort of things Chelsea used to say about us before we started turning them over at Loftus Road, but I’m too young to remember games and the merger stuff 50 years ago and I like Brentford as a club and a team. As I said last time if we stay in the same division for a while and play each other a lot that might breed a bit of contempt. Things like that big bald prick on the touchline at Griffin Park last year trying to get at our injured players will add a bit of needle for sure. First and foremost, we need a win for the league table.

Looking at how Brentford and QPR play- who both actually have decent players – how do you think the game will go?

Well if we’re just going to lazily punt it up to Smith/Sylla and hope for the best, as we have done in the last two games, then I expect Harlee Dean will head it straight back at us like Aden Flint did and we’ll get beaten again. I’m hoping for a return to the sort of performances we put in at Reading and Birmingham, with a really hard working midfield feeding good balls into Wszolek and others in wide areas to deliver crosses that Smith and Sylla can actually do something with.

Give us a score prediction 

2-0 defeat.

 Billy Grant