With the big West London Derby coming up, Billy Grant decided to catch up with Clive Whittingham (@loftforwords) from QPR blog Loft for Words to find out if Rangers would be taking revenge for their 1-0 defeat at Griffin Park earlier this season.
QPR have had an up and down season. Considering you were a Premier League team 12 months ago, would you consider your season a disappointment?
Depends who you ask. A good section of QPR fans are very disillusioned and disappointed with how it’s gone/going and when you look up and see the two teams we were relegated with sitting first and second and looking good to bounce straight back that argument holds plenty of water.
Overall though I’m reasonably content. We cannot continue to behave as we have done over the past four years, spending huge amounts of money on big name players and the wages that come with them. The FFP laws we completely ignored last time have been complied with – or we’ve at least made an attempt to comply with them – this time which has necessitated the break up of last season’s squad. Even if we had kept our team together, it finished dead last in the Premier League, so I’m not sure a) it would have been good enough to get back and b) whether we’d have wanted it to.
Shifting out so many players, and trying to replace them with younger, cheaper signings – often from the lower divisions or abroad – was always going to make it a tough season. These sorts of players need time to settle down and come up to the new level, as well as settling in at a new club. Some hit the ground running (Grant Hall), others are starting to look the part now after a slow start (Tjaronn Chery), some have been very inconsistent (Massimo Luongo) and some haven’t had a look in at all (Ben Gladwin).
Changing the whole team around, slashing the wage bill, taking a few punts on players… we’ve done well to consolidate our position and not get sucked into the relegation battle – which was the stated aim at the start of the season. Hopefully it will position us well for a big season next year, which with the end of the parachute payments looming is certainly a big campaign for the club.
We interviewed QPR fans and Kevin Gallen just after Jimmy Floyd Hasslebaink was appointed for @The72Review show (above). Most people we spoke to were just happy for the club to consolidate. What changes has JFH made to the side?
He’s shifted another three of the big earning, under performing ‘names’ we saddled ourselves with out of the team – Leroy Fer, Sandro and Rob Green no longer play for the first team and their much cheaper, much younger replacements are all performing far better for us than they ever did.
He’s got us fitter. QPR’s previous long-held policy of not really paying much attention to a player’s injury record or age before signing him has often lumbered us with a slow team, lacking pace, relying on several players incapable of playing two games a week. There was a fairly torturous Christmas period, where we conceded goals in the last ten minutes of games for fun, as the players were put through a tough training regime to get them up to Hasselbaink’s standard. He likes to press high and win the ball back high up the field, and we’ve started to see quick flashes of that lately, particularly against Derby on Tuesday.
It’s a very tough job this. It proved beyond Harry Redknapp, Mark Hughes, Paolo Sousa, Iain Dowie, Jim Magilton… that’s an eclectic bunch, with varying levels of experience, to all come in here and not be able to do much with us. Time will tell if Hasselbaink can, but too much focus on the manager is unhelpful. If all of those people struggled here, you have to start asking whether the manager is really the main issue.
You were in the process of getting rid of your big money players and bringing in hungry young players when we last spoke. Who is looking promising for you guys?
Well it’s nice to have a competent goalkeeper who can kick the ball after suffering Robert Green’s complete collapse over the first half of the season – Alex Smithies is winning plaudits with five clean sheets in ten games and two penalty saves into the bargain. Grant Hall, summer signing from Spurs’ academy, has been our Player of the Year at centre half but got a bad-looking injury at MK last week so won’t play here. Massimo Luongo has played well in fits and starts, and Tjaronn Chery is finally coming on strong now he’s getting a run of games in his preferred ‘ten’ position. Seb Polter is a bit wild, and technically questionable, but he’s useful in an unconventional way.
You’ve had a few decent results recently – beating playoff-chasing Derby and Birmingham – in between the stinkers like losing to MK Dons (aka Franchise FC) and being hammered by F*lham. Do these results give you hope that you can compete if not this season then next?
Depends which way we go I guess. Beating Birmingham, Derby and Ipswich who are all chasing the play-offs, without conceding a goal, and while playing reasonably well, is very encouraging. Problem is, we’ve often followed these performances by falling off a cliff in the next game – the latest Fulham massacre was straight after Ipswich, the MK Dons surrender came after the Birmingham game. That doesn’t bode very well for this weekend.
Hasselbaink likes to rotate his team a lot, presumably because he likes a high tempo and high press and he’s worried about players getting tired. But we’ve found that the team simply doesn’t function at all when you take certain players out of it – Ale Faurlin chief amongst them.
There’s also a sort of whack-a-mole problem about the team this year in that you solve one problem and it causes one elsewhere. At the start of the season we were the division’s top scorers and worst defenders at the end of September. We tightened the defence up by adding bodies to the midfield, and stopped scoring altogether. Hasselbaink tried to get us scoring again by adding a second striker instead of a midfielder, and Fulham walked straight through the midfield and battered us. Matt Phillips’ is weak defensively down the right, so we put Jamie Mackie in there but lost Phillips’ crossing ability. James Perch is better at left back, but moving him there means Nedum Onuoha has to go to right back where he’s not comfortable.
A summer transfer window to shift the final big earners on permanently, some shrewd acquisitions and a full pre-season under Hasselbaink’s fitness regime and hopefully we’ll be in a better place.
As discussed by Dave Morrisson on the Pride of West London podcast (above), you haven’t beaten us for 13 years. Brentford fans were down in the dumps before we at Beesotted released an exclusive interview on Thursday with Brentford owner Matthew Benham calling for fans to stop whinging and get behind he team. The fans are all fired up now which will really add to the atmosphere. Do you think you might get your first Derby victory in a long long time?
Ha ha we’ve only played twice in those 13 years haven’t we? We haven’t beaten Newport County for 54 years, or Shrewsbury for 33 years.
Our recent London derby record is horrendous though – no wins and 13 defeats from 16 games. We’ve lost all four derby matches so far this season, conceding 10 and scoring one in the process. The extra intensity that comes with these fixtures always seems to catch our players cold. It would be nice if the recent improvements in home matches can finally translate to a local match like this and we give a good account of ourselves.
A draw is a pretty safe bet in my opinion, but I say that a lot.
Pubs for QPR
QPR is a bit of nightmare for pubs. Most of the pubs in and around Shepherds Bush Green are home fans only and have bouncers on the door and check match tickets.
Away fans are pointed towards Belushi’s on the Green. The Central Bar used to take away fans but not sure what the score is now. The Stuart Arms on the other side of Shepherds Roundabout is also an option.
Most Bees fans will be drinking in Hammersmith, Acton and in pubs slightly off the beaten track so keep your ears to the ground.