Despite His White Boots

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

Monday, December 29, 2008

Quick Off The Mark

A couple of pieces caught my eye on BBC Sport this morning. First of all Lee Camp is on his way back from Forest now that Calderwood is out ; interesting to note that there is no mention of QPR having changed manager in the interim. Judging matters as I do from my 4-inch square goal highlights on the Internet, Camp looked a lot less than commanding shipping 4 to Doncaster, but then again, it looked like Cerny cost Rangers 2 points at Charlton. That's the first time he has cost us points IMO, but it will be interesting to see whether Sousa gives Camp another chance.

Elsewhere, I loved this. Pratt sets record for red card. Some egg got himself sent off after 3 seconds in the Southern Premier. The club secretary (LOL nonleagueaments) said afterwards "You normally won't meet a milder man, but David lost it". That's so awesome. How can you lose it in 3 seconds ? It must have been like *refereeblowswhistle* yourmother'sawhorehowdareyoutakethataaaaarghhhhyou'reoffson.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

QPR 0 Watford 0

I suppose we were due one of these. Neither team did anywhere near enough to deserve a win, and frankly the highlight of the first 80 minutes was "Is Vic There" coming on the PA at half time. Eventually the game livened up a little bit as Radek Cerny tipped Lee Williamson's free kick onto a post and, moments later, Jay Mariappa almost turned Heidar Helguson's cross into his own net. The End, apart from a few scuffles from set pieces.

I'm still happy with the shape Rangers are in going into the New Year ; I wish some of the people around me would have a similar sense of perspective at times, but whatever, you're there to show a bit of passion however you choose to do it :-).

Elsewhere Paul Fairclough stepped down as Barnet manager on Friday, and it's a measure of both the man and his chairman that he stood down himself after feeling that he had been given every chance. In a nice touch, he took the team for one more game today and they responded with a first win in 14, 2-0 at Bournemouth. Fairclough has done a terrific job at Barnet and it's not the worst job in the world to come into IMO ; the chairman is like a League Two version of the guy at Middlesboro and will give the new man every opportunity.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Ricky S's Red And White Army

The S stands for Ship It :

"Specials / Next Sunderland Manager Ricky Sbragia Back xxxxxx9180 04-Dec-08 13:54 38 5.00 38 Not Settled"

Seriously, always back the caretaker. Massive value.

PS Note to self : more than £5 next time.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

QPR 3 Preston 2

Paolo Sousa's late gamble paid off as Rangers won an exciting game with a late goal. Once again the home side started very strongly, and should have been a goal to the good within two minutes. After Lee Cook's swerving shot was too hot for keeper Andy Lonergan, Patrick Agyemang looked certain to score the rebound against his former club but he didn't connect cleanly and allowed Lonergan to save again. Before too long though, Cook turned provider again and this time Heidar Helguson made no mistake from his wicked cross.

In a disturbing echo of the Burnley game, Rangers conceded a lot of possession after their early surge faded out, and when a couple of opportunities to clear were missed, Chris Sedgwick sent a good header across Radek Cerny for the equaliser. Youl Mawene blasted over moments later as Rangers wobbled. However, Helguson restored the lead with the kind of goal we haven't seen since the days of Andy Thomson. God only knows what actually happened but after a corner was helped back into the six yard box, the ball was somehow in the net and Helguson was celebrating his second. A few of these scrappy strikers' goals can make a big difference over a season.

Into the second half, Agyemang's low volley was turned away by Lonergan but Preston again came back into the game and were denied only by a couple of last ditch tackles. When Cerny went to ground to push the ball away from Sean St Ledger, practically everyone in the ground, including the players, was intent on what St Ledger, who had stayed on his feet, was going to do with the loose ball. Everyone except the referee who inexplicably pointed to the spot, and Callum Davidson made no mistake.

Rangers were well on the back foot until Sousa made a bold double substitution with 10 minutes left. Both full-backs were removed as Rangers went 3-4-3. The momentum shifted immediately and Cook's cross caused chaos in the Preston box until Lonergan finally grabbed it. And the gamble paid off when Dexter Blackstock, one of the substitutes, rose majestically to head Martin Rowlands' free kick into the top corner. You can see why Blackstock doesn't really fit into the system that Sousa wants to play, but if you get the service right, he will head the ball into the goal, which generally helps. Rangers are used to closing games out at Loftus Road, having won 6 out of the last 7 by a single goal, and there were no more alarms.

Looking at the table now, this was a genuine six-pointer (for once), as Rangers find themselves just a point off the playoffs instead of trailing by 7 with a defeat. Positives to take from the game are the goals from Helguson, Cook's continued improvement and, most of all, Sousa's aggressive substitutions. Iain Dowie may have been a little harshly treated at Loftus Road, but there's no way he would have made that kind of change on the back foot at 2-2. On the downside, Rangers conceded a lot of possession for long periods, and if Mahon isn't having a good game (which he didn't today), this will happen with Cook and Ephraim in the midfield. Still, onwards and upwards, and with three eminently winnable games coming up let's see what we can do.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Arriverderci Dani

Yes I know, but didn't Homer Simpson say that Spanish and Italian are the same language ? However you want to say it, it seems that Real Madrid politely enquired whether Dani Parejo might return to them on January 1st, and Rangers said "he'll be on the next plane". Paolo Sousa made a rather pointed comment about how Parejo will have a great career "with a good professional attitude" and frankly this sounds best for everyone, even Briatore who can save some face as it's a "recall" by Madrid.

Anyone who saw Parejo stumble around Selhurst Park for 45 minutes can see how getting him off the wage bill is a total result, except Eurosport that is who made him part of their "Team Of The Week" based on that display ! While QPR have come off another couple of disappointing away results, albeit that a draw at Plymouth isn't that bad and at least we scored a goal, now we have 4 out of the next 5 at home (including the FA Cup), and the one away game is at gruesomely woeful Charlton. Now would be a great time to kick on, even a couple of results to push us back towards the top 6 before the transfer window opens might help to attract players to the club. Fingers crossed for Ben Watson, who I think would be a good acquisition, but the main priorities IMO are a striker (Helguson will do from what I've seen so far) and an attacking full back ; with Sousa's preferred narrow midfield, we desperately need an attacking threat from full back and none of the current squad are good enough going forward, although they're basically sound defensively (even Ramage provided no one's running at him). Cook is supposedly a done deal to sign permanently, and bring Balanta back from Wycombe IMO !

First impressions of Sousa are good, not least because he looks to have the board fully behind him, so it will be interesting to see whether the club want to gamble in this transfer window or try to build more gradually for next season.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Must Be Nice

One thing I respect about footballers, there might not be many things but here's one, is that you can't bluff your way into becoming a professional footballer. If you aren't good enough, you get found out double quick. Now for sure, some players are in the right place at the right time to get Premiership gigs or international caps when other, better players might miss out, but there's no one at the top level who's there through a total combination of smoke and mirrors.

But maybe I should say "no players" rather than "no one" because I really wonder about managers sometimes. If you can get yourself on that particular gravy train then you're laughing IMO. Just look at Juande "Tottenham will finish above Arsenal" Ramos [1]. He seemed to basically make Spurs a complete laughing stock, so much so that Arry "Run around a lot lads" Redknapp can come in and look like the Messiah in comparison. And so, after this abject failure, where did Ramos pitch up today ? Leyton Orient ? Deportivo La Leytonorienta ? Nope, try Real Madrid. Must be nice.

And speaking of Messiahs, I have touched before in this blog on how far up themselves people who speak of themselves in the third person are. One thing about Gareth Ainsworth taking a back seat at QPR, I love Ainsworth, but at least we don't have to listen to him talking about "what Gareth Ainsworth's all about" any more. In any case, I think we have a new winner, Sunderland reserve David Healy.

Healy is quoted in the Belfast Telegraph (so you would think no translation problems, apart from the general incomprehensibility of the Ulster accent) as saying

".. with Kyle Lafferty scoring goals for Rangers, Martin Paterson scoring goals for Burnley, is the axe going to fall and is he going to do the unthinkable and leave the hero; the messiah, out of the team? "

You almost have to read this through again just to check that yes, he really is talking about himself. Now if somehow the journalist's text has found its way inside Healy's quotation marks, I'll take it back, but if it hasn't, and Healy was serious then he is the Messiah of being a cock.

[1] Try reading it out loud.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

QPR 1 Wolves 0

I was umming and ahhing about showing up for this one ; after a (rare) heavy night last night I was struggling, but the extra 2 hours made the difference and I was able to haul my ass to Loftus Road. And a good job too, as Rangers won the best game I've seen for some time.

Paulo Sousa opted for a bold selection, with Blackstock, Agyemang and Helguson all playing. Once again, Helguson had an early chance, but he fired over from 16 yards. Then Agyemang found himself clear on goal after a slip by Mancienne (of all people), but his shot was too close to Wayne Hennessey in the Wolves goal. Wolves of course are no mugs, and I was expecting Edwards' curled shot to nestle in the onion bag soon after, but it flew a fraction wide. Jones also went close from a free kick before Rangers asserted themselves once more and dominated the rest of the first half. Hennessey saved again from Helguson and Cook, the latter having come on to replace Blackstock. I'm really not sure whether Blackstock was injured or not ; he probably was, but while he is our main goal threat, he is very reliant on good service from the wings. In Sousa's favoured diamond formation, this isn't generally forthcoming, and Agyemang looks much more suited to the formation. The Ghanaian forward appeared to have the beating of both Wolves fullbacks at will, but often let himself down with the final pass or shot.

Moments after the break Helguson had yet another early chance after a long punt went all the way through to him, but Hennessey somehow managed to divert the ball wide with the inside of his foot. Wolves also showed more of a threat as the game could officially be classified as "pulsating" IMO. Radek Cerny saved brilliantly from another free kick, and then threw himself backwards to claw Ebanks-Blake's header off the line when a goal seemed certain. From the next attack, Rangers took the lead. Agyemang and Martin Rowlands appeared to get in each other's way 30 yards out, until Rowlands took control and belted a swerving shot over Hennessey and into the roof of the net.

From this point, the ebb and flow of the game turned to complete ebb towards the Rangers goal, not surprisingly. Matt Jarvis came on for Wolves and looked much more threatening than Kightly had been on the other flank, but the outstanding Stewart, Gorkss and Mahon kept the Wolves from the door (groan). Indeed, the closest we came to another goal was when late Rangers substitute Di Carmine drove narrowly wide from 20 yards in injury time.

So Mick McCarthy becomes the latest manager to talk about how hard it is to come to Loftus Road, and while this has been the case for several years, certainly this season there has been a huge difference between the performance levels at home and away this season. Rangers were completely unrecognisable from the defensively solid but otherwise insipid outfit we saw at Selhurst Park the week before. I'm not getting carried away until we improve considerably on the road, but Gorkss has taken the defence to another level IMO and we have a strong base to build on from there at least. The return of Vine and Buszaky could turn QPR into a very handy outfit, but we'll have to wait till next season for that unfortunately. For now, I said I'd be happy if we were top half by Christmas and able to push on in the New Year, and hopefully that's at least where we'll be.