Despite His White Boots

Football, football, football and, if the mood takes me, more football.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

It Really Is The Beginning Of A New Age

So Rangers have finally installed a permanent manager, the completely unknown to everyone but Euro-football super-nerds Luigi De Canio. Don't expect me to add much to that - the guy's basically starting with a totally clean slate as far as Rangers fans are concerned. And that's maybe a good thing - if you look at some of the managers who have just taken over Championship gigs, Roeder, Warnock, Megson [1], then certainly the latter two (and possibly Roeder as well) would have had a lot to prove to sceptical fans.

We'll just have to wait and see. We'll never know what would have happened if Mick Harford had stayed in charge ; early signs were very positive but it's by no means uncommon for caretakers to land jobs on the basis of a good first month only for it to all go tits up in the medium term. On the playing side, Akos Buzsaky is a very exciting signing, I saw him drill in a wonderful free kick at Underhill in the League Cup a couple of seasons ago and there's some great YouTube footage of him in action here. We have been desperate for a creative midfielder and as Buzsaky can apparently play anywhere across the midfield that should at least see an end to Stefan Moore trundling up and down the wing. Rowan Vine is also being mooted as a permanent signing and that one would be very well received I'm sure.

Just one more point though, although we're looking forward, comments like this (in the Guardian) :

"Former Napoli and Siena manager Luigi De Canio has been given the laughably easy task of doing a better job at QPR than his predecessor, John Gregory"

are seriously out of order. The club was in a total mess when Gregory took over and he worked his arse off to keep us up in the circumstances. While obviously this season didn't work out for him, I'm sure the majority of fans would speak positively of his overall contribution, and the press, who always had it in for the man, can fuck off.

[1] Championship next season :-)

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Barnet 2 Acchrington Schtanley 2

Two points dropped for Barnet really but I didn't mind because I was so pleased Rangers had pulled one out at Charlton earlier in the day. Plus it was a very entertaining game. It was a bit of a mystery how there was no score in the first half ; Liam Hatch and Adam Birchall both missed one-on-one chances for Barnet and the brilliantly named Roscoe D'Sane skipped around home keeper Lee Harrison and fired his shot against the post when he really should have scored.

Hatch fired home a rebound from an offside position soon after the break, but when the onion bag finally did bulge it was with two goals that each would have graced a much higher level. The visitors earned a free kick on the edge of the box after Sagi Burton appeared to get the ball but presumably fouled his opponent before that point, and Ian Crainey fired a belter into the far corner. Barnet rallied and after Josh Wright's header bounced off the top of the post, Hatch equalised with an even better strike. There seemed to be no danger from a high cross but as the defender backed off a little, expecting Hatch to head the ball across goal, the striker took the opportunity to bring the ball down and lash a ferocious 18-yard half-volley into the top corner. Probably the best goal I've seen at that level for a good couple of years.

Burton then made amends by curling a shot into the top corner after Stanley failed to clear a corner, and Barnet should have closed the game out easily from there. Jason Puncheon fired over from a Sheringham-esque corner routine but unfortunately no third goal was forthcoming, and the points were dropped when Lee Harrison fumbled a low cross and D'Sane (in the membrane) bundled home an equaliser. Nonetheless, Barnet are still 5th in the table and the progress they are making despite selling four quality players (well, at that level) this year is a real credit to Paul Fairclough and his team.

Update : Oh, and the Bees scored a nice draw in the FA Cup, Gillingham at home. Leeds or Forest would have been far too much for Underhill to handle, but Gillingham should be a good test, also featuring ex-Bee Simon King and ex-Rs Simon Royce and Steve Lomas.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Swiss Toni Lives

There was a rare amusing exchange on the BBC Sport text update page last night. Shane from Belfast invoked the spirit of Swiss Toni by saying :

"Watching Arsenal is like making love to a beautiful woman. You go to sleep afterwards knowing life is good"

Half an hour later Jim from Glasgow popped up with :

"Watching [Glasgow] Rangers is like making love to a beautiful woman. Close your eyes, hope for the best and just pray Thierry Henry doesn't turn up"

Well I laughed.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

QPR 1 Ipswich 1

There's not a lot to say about this one ; basically Rangers eked out a point against an Ipswich team with "mid-table" stamped through them like a stick of rock. The hosts shaded the first half without creating a great deal, Martin Rowlands might have struck first time from 12 yards but turned back inside and could only roll a tame shot into the keeper's arms, and Mikele Leigertwood's excellent break came to nothing as his driven low cross evaded everyone. Ipswich only had a brief spell of pressure just before the break, with Martin Cranie different class again for Rangers at the back.

Unfortunately, Rangers started slowly in the second half yet again, and when Sylvain Legwinski was given time to bring the ball down 25 yards out he fired an excellent volley into the roof of the net. From here on in Ipswich were much the better team, and should have added at least one more through Billy Clarke and Jason de Vos, both from point-blank range. While I could see no way back at all, the mystic Camel came up trumps again. Within two minutes of his "feeling" that "we'll get a point", Marc Nygaard of all people tucked a neat finish inside the near post from 10 yards out.

Despite the boost of the goal Rangers could only muster a scuffed volley wide from Rowan Vine and a half-hearted penalty shout, and were indebted to Lee Camp who pulled out a top-drawer save to deny Danny Haynes. Rangers look a lot more solid at the back with Cranie but the lack of creativity is still a worry. We'll just have to keep plugging away until Blackstock and/or Nardiello come back, till January at least.

Monday, October 08, 2007

QPR 1 Norwich 0

A desperately needed but well-deserved win that must, however, be taken in the context of how poor Norwich were. Rangers had mostly the better of a first half that can't have enthralled any neutrals watching on Sky, without testing visiting keeper David Marshall. He was certainly kept busy after the break as Rangers pushed on, boosted by unexpectedly not conceding a dopey goal just after the break. Marshall could only watch as Martin Rowlands' long range daisy-cutter came back off the post, and Rowan Vine was surely hauled to ground inside the box a few minutes later, with no reward. Rowlands did call the keeper into action with a 30-yard free kick and finally the pressure told when Vine was hacked down once again, with the referee obliging this time. Rowlands slammed home the penalty and so, with the visitors showing exactly why they hadn't scored for five previous games, that looked pretty much like that.

It certainly would have been over if Rangers had managed a second during a spell of complete dominance following the goal. Gareth Ainsworth's volley was deflected narrowly wide during a string of corners, and Marshall saved well from Damion Stewart, Vine again and Hogan Ephraim. Unfortunately, probably from lack of practice at defending a lead, Rangers tensed up and stopped attacking, preferring to try to stand on the ball in the corner and boot the ball away every time they won it. So even Norwich were able to put some balls into the box but nothing came of them and the win was secured.

In Mick Harford's favour, his team selections make more sense than JG's did this season, and he has managed to bring in some players on loan who are a definite improvement on what we already have. Vine is a right handful up front, and has a lot of skill too, while Portsmouth's Martin Crainie was exactly what we needed in defence, always where he needed to be and didn't make any mistakes. Mind you, Norwich were so abysmal going forward that they made Damion Stewart look composed. Darren Huckerby was a shadow of his former self and no one else offered any threat whatsoever. I know they had some players missing (particularly ex-Ranger Jamie Cureton) but they look set for a very long winter. It said it all when the travelling support greeted their first shot on target (in the 76th minute) with prolonged sarcastic applause.

Onwards and upwards for the R's though hopefully. Reports indicate that Glenn Hoddle is not interested in the job (thank God) and the Ealing Gazette, which I suspect knows a bit more about what's going on than the national press, suggests that Rangers will look abroad "unless speculative approaches for a couple of current Championship managers come off". I'm going to speculate that they probably mean Iain Dowie, and perhaps Bristol City's Gary Johnson. But let's keep it in the present for now, and while three points doesn't quite lift us off the bottom, it should definitely lift sprits going into the (zzzzz) international break.

Update : Also WTF : "for the newspaper photographers the excitement before kick-off centred around the appearance of glamorous celebrities Naomi Campbell and Tamara Beckwith in the directors' box." Expect the Evening Standard to tout them as candidates for the manager's job.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Saturday In

Not a great day for football today with Barnet away, Rangers playing on Monday and all of one Premiership game this afternoon. Still, there's no point anyone involved moaning about that now, you all took the money quickly enough. I'll be going to the game on Monday, I do expect Rangers to at least have a go whatever happens, although the script (opponents also struggling, live on Sky) points to a banker away win.

The real reason for this post though is that I have been remiss in not applauding Barnet recently. In the two games I've seen this season they looked solid at the back, played good football in midfield but seemed to lack a punch up front. Since Adam Burchill found his shooting boots though the Bees have shot up the table with four wins in a row, and fought off the Manager Of The Month Curse to boot. This is a very pleasant surprise given all the players Barnet ended up selling before the season (Kandol to Leeds, Sinclair to Charlton, King to Gillingham and Bailey to Southend). Well done to them and more of the same to come I hope, I can't make it to Underhill for another couple of weeks but I'll be back there soon enough. Fairclough for Loftus Road :-). Seriously, we could (and quite easily might) do a lot worse.

Monday, October 01, 2007

The Axe Falls

It was perhaps no surprise, in hindsight, that Rangers' frailties against good passing teams were cruelly exposed by the best passing team in the division (WBA), and on the back of a 5-1 hammering, Paladini and/or the F1 guys evidently decided that enough was enough. I didn't see the game yesterday so I can't comment on that directly, but if it was anything like the Cardiff or Southampton games then I can understand the decision.

The Boss (John Gregory) has perhaps been unlucky with a few circumstances, such as the forced sale of Lee Cook, Simon Walton's injury and of course Ray Jones' death. However, these (well except the latter) are the problems that managers are expected to solve. One of Steve Bruce's favourite (and most annoying) sayings is "judge me when everyone's fit". Right, so you mean judge your problem-solving ability when there are no problems to solve ? Evaluate your crisis management skill when there are no crises to manage ? Some of JG's solutions to these problems have been hard to understand. Bringing in a right-back of his own in the summer (Curtis [1]) and then playing the awful Zesh Rehman ahead of him (and ignoring the competent Sampsa Timoska). Using one of the season's limited number of loans on Hogam Ephraim (who has shown some promise) and then preferring to play Stefan Moore out of position. Picking two defensive central midfielders who somehow seem to give the better teams all the time in the world to play. Playing the erratic Damion Stewart every single week. These and other tactical and selection decisions have frustrated the fans, despite there being a lot of good will around for keeping the club up last season and clearly working all hours of the day at the job.

Add to all that the indications that players like Bolder, Blackstock and Rowlands are going backwards compared to the standards they set last season, and the case for the prosecution does mount up. It's unfortunate in some ways. I've been surfing the odd messageboard lately, keeping an eye on who might be coming in on loan, and as an aside, if you thought poker forums were full of mouthy idiots, jeez, you should see these. And this is supposed to be people who all support the same team. Amongst all this, one guy made a good point, he said where were all these people who want to manage the club now a year ago ? No one would touch it, but Gregory stepped up, took it on anyway, and kept the club in the division in the face of all sorts of problems, many of which are only coming to light now. He deserves a lot of credit for that and who knows, where would we be now if we had been relegated last season, would these investors have come in ? It's impossible to say, just as it's impossible to say right now how this decision will turn out.

This is a huge appointment and I just hope that we don't end up with someone like Vialli, a big name who has already failed hopelessly as a manager (just ask Watford fans). The most amusing possibility is that Mourinho might want to "keep his hand in" for the rest of the season, as this would not break the terms of his severance agreement with Chelsea. Unlikely of course, but you know what, I'd bet it @ 100 and how funny would it be. In the real world, Paul Jewell would be my choice and I've said before that I think Martin Allen is a much better manager than most people allow. We'll just have to see. With the transfer window firmly shut and several of our loan options already exercised, the new man will have a very tough job on his hands till January at least.

[1] It's true that Curtis has looked poor and shouldn't be playing, but then you ask, why bring him in to start with ?