Guess what? We could do with a win
Televised Thursday night Football League games bring back memories of the inglorious ITV Digital era; a monument to proving that not only does Kevin Costner have a track record of making largely bad films but “if you build it, they will come” is a terrible mantra. No-one is that interested in watching middle of the road (at best) second tier teams on an evening normally kept sacrosanct from domestic football. With that in mind, it’s hard to see why exactly this game was selected for coverage by Sky and there has to be sympathy for anyone, home fan or away fan, who has already committed to actually attending. While a lot of ranting about the evils of televised football is misplaced – if the bottom ever falls out of this market, get used to whoever the current day Carlton Palmers are being fielded at the highest level and have a look at the state of Scottish football to see where a poor broadcasting hand leaves you – eventually there has to be a breaking point. Scheduling like this does no-one any favours. By the way, it’s just £37 on the gate for Wolves fans to attend this one. In West London. On a Thursday night. In December. When we’re crap. Bargain.
Anyway, back to the matter at hand and what on earth we’re going to do to get out of this terrible, terrible run. Nine games without a win equals Stale Solbakken’s worst run in his brief time at Molineux (a season in which we went on a separate run of 12 games without a win – it’s a wonder we went down). It really is getting repetitive now for me to have keep saying that we could really do with a win, the question is whether we’re actually going to make a serious effort to do so. Saturday’s game against Sheffield Wednesday was deeply concerning on many levels; Paul Lambert was not brought in to regress us to those levels, as a whole 90 minutes it was probably worse than anything that either Walter Zenga or Rob Edwards served up. Forget anything else, for now we need points quickly to stop ourselves becoming mired in a proper, season-defining relegation scrap. We can’t afford to continue with bottom five form through December as that would very much anchor us to this end of the table and inevitably impact on who we can sign in January – prospects which have already been undermined as there’s about as much chance of Daphne and Celeste sweeping the board at the Q Awards as there is of us making the top six from here. We have a run of outwardly winnable fixtures this month but when you’re not beating anyone at all, that kind of forecast goes out of the window.
First impressions count for a lot in football and they were not favourable for Lambert on Saturday. After grinding out a point in time honoured “new manager takes over team with leaky defensive record” style at Preston, he assured us that we needed to and would do more in an attacking sense going forward…and then sent out the exact same team bar one enforced change at the back and bringing back Dave Edwards after suspension. It was uninspiring stuff with an entirely predictable uninspiring result and hard to understand his thought process; Wednesday are a very decent Championship team but no world beaters, and sending out that kind of line-up immediately condemns you to reliance on substitutions if and when you go a goal down. There simply isn’t any way back into the game with those players on the pitch. In Lambert’s case, mainly through his own deeds, there has been no honeymoon period at Wolves and there won’t be one.
The bottom line is that we need to make serious changes and quickly, even in the spirit of limping along until the transfer window opens, continuing to send out proven substandard players and expecting non-substandard results just isn’t a viable policy. At the back, our options are severely limited thanks to the form of some players (Dom Iorfa in particular) and the basic lack of ability of others (use your imagination who I’m speaking about here). Cameron Borthwick-Jackson is unlikely to be sighted in a Wolves shirt again given that Manchester United have added him to their Europa League squad for any fixtures in the New Year; a loan spell which hasn’t worked out for anyone and it didn’t appear that we tried especially hard to make it work. Matt Doherty and Richard Stearman have to pay for more calamatious, goal-causing errors and Carl Ikeme should be restored to the team in place of Andy Lonergan, on the basis of distribution if nothing else. There aren’t many keepers around where I’d say Ikeme – who himself can’t really kick to any great degree and has never understood the concept of a quick break – is superior in that department, but Lonergan’s work with the ball at his feet is staggeringly poor. Perpetually handing the ball back to the opposition and indeed putting us directly under pressure with kicks that barely travel 35 yards (goals against both Derby and Wednesday have come from this failing) just can’t be on the agenda.
Although we’re away from home and Lambert’s instinct might be to treat a point as an acceptable result (I’d probably take it right now all things considered, having seen first hand just how bad we were at the weekend), we have to send out a team that’s actually capable of posing a threat to QPR or it’ll be all too easy for them. As stated in previous blogs, we simply don’t have the personnel to sit back and soak up pressure, we will end up conceding. In midfield, one would have hoped the days of artless industry were over post-takeover but that is what we’ve been treated to of late. It’s a formula which is never likely to produce results at this level. Conor Coady can fill one of those form/ability gaps for us at right back where he has actually performed creditably this season, while if Dave Edwards is going to play as a quasi-centre forward as he did in the first half on Saturday, he is not going to produce anything like enough in terms of link play or goal threat, so in that spirit we may as well go back to picking Bright Enobakhare as Lambert did at Preston and give him a run in the team. Ivan Cavaleiro for George Saville is a change that roughly 100% of Wolves fans would make – that experiment with Saville out wide should never, ever be repeated – and it is time for Nouha Dicko to get a start in place of the toiling Jon Dadi Bodvarsson. 20 minute cameos are not going to be sufficient for either Dicko to regain full fitness or for us to assess whether he’s ever going to be capable of returning to the levels he showed in his first 18 months at the club. We need this information ahead of January so we can see whether we need one, two or possibly more new strikers.
Joao Teixeira serves a one match ban after picking up his fifth yellow of the season at the weekend while we continue to refuse to issue any updates on the injury status of Prince Oniangue, Joe Mason, Ola John or Lee Evans.
Conor Coady – Danny Batth – Kortney Hause – Silvio
Jack Price – Romain Saiss
Helder Costa – Bright Enobakhare – Ivan Cavaleiro
Subs: Andy Lonergan, Dominic Iorfa, Dave Edwards, Christian Herc, Conor Ronan, Donovan Wilson, Jon Dadi Bodvarsson.
Another season, another managerial change in W12. Since the start of 2011/12, only Harry Redknapp has lasted a solitary full season in charge at Loftus Road, although it has to be said that the departure of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink was of no great surprise. Seen as something of a rising star at Burton Albion, his reign at QPR never really got going. The football was generally of the tepid variety and his selections were often inconsistent and counter-intuitive. Even if expectations are set somewhere around a mid-table finish, it might be an idea to keep the fans onside with some entertainment and with decisions that are vaguely comprehensible, Hasselbaink was increasingly failing on both fronts. The seeds of his departure were sewn in the 0-6 capitulation at home to Newcastle – as with Walter Zenga’s catastrophe at home to Barnsley, collapsing like that in front of your own fans never reflects well on the manager, regardless of opposition – and the allegations made against him in the Telegraph can’t have helped his long-term position either, even if the club did initially state that they were satisfied that his conduct didn’t represent a breach of contract.
In his time honoured fashion of throwing enough shit at the wall and hoping it sticks, Tony Fernandes has gone down the well-worn footballing trope of appointing a “returning hero” as Hasselbaink’s replacement. It would be fair to say that Ian Holloway divides opinion among football fans in general. As in, divided to around 95% of people who can’t stand him and then everyone else. The constant reaching for a quirky observation is an affectation which many find grating after a while and his punditry during his time away from management typically lacked insight and objectivity. He certainly didn’t help his cause with Wolves fans in the early months of this season with his constant assertions that we’d stitched up “his mate Ken”. Having watched some of our games first hand in his duties with Sky, you’d think Holloway would have realised how truly miserable our football under his “mate” was last season. He went down a route of predicting that we’d lose every week based on little other than this personal slight on another bloke that he’d worked with previously. Seriously Ian, if you want to get into the realm of respected broadcasting, you don’t want to go down that road. Richard Keys does that. You really don’t want to be compared in any way to Richard Keys. However, whatever we think of him, he remains a much-loved figure at Loftus Road after his playing career and a largely successful time in charge as manager in the early 2000s. QPR’s support is one which needs galvanising after some deeply unsettling years and it may be that Holloway’s residual popularity is such that it makes Fernandes less likely to be pulling the trigger on another manager, even if it is one who’d seemed ready to settle for the world of TV work after his spells at Crystal Palace and Millwall ended extremely poorly.
As stated above, Rangers’ expectations would have been pegged pre-season at a mid-table season and that is largely what they’re getting. Although a recent run of one win in five games – that coming on Holloway’s return against an increasingly ragged looking Norwich City – they sit in 15th place going into this game, six points off the playoffs, five points clear of the bottom three. The lukewarm water of league positions, if you will. Squad wise, our own immediate attention is on the continued regular presence of Karl Henry in the team. Reports suggest that everything we saw in Karl’s final two years at Wolves – the ponderous and limited ability on the ball and the reduced ability to shield the back four – continues to be played out at his new club and he is far from a popular figure. Elsewhere, Seb Polter was seen as something of a joke figure when he first arrived at the club but has since shown strong improvement and now looks a capable if still slightly cumbersome forward. Conor Washington has struggled for goals since his arrival from Peterborough in January though this can be partly attributed to Hasselbaink’s puzzling propensity to play him out wide; it’s possible that Holloway will choose to give him a proper run up front to see if he can justify the hefty fee spent on him. Pre-takeover Wolves target Idrissa Sylla is another forward option for the R’s while in midfield Massimo Luongo and Jordan Cousins (when selected) offer plenty of class on the ball. Jake Bidwell, Grant Hall, Steven Caulker and Nedum Onuoha are all very capable defenders at this level if drilled correctly though behind them Alex Smithies tends to fall into the Andy Lonergan category of “make a couple of worldie saves after you’ve already cost the team a goal through outlandish buffoonery”.
Last line-up (vs Ipswich (A), 26.11.16, L 0-3): Smithies; Onuoha, Hall, Lynch; Perch, Chery, Cousins, Henry, Bidwell; Washington, Polter.
Top scorers: Tjaronn Chery (4), Idrissa Sylla (4), Sebastian Polter (4)
Top assists: Tjaronn Chery (3), Massimo Luongo (2)
Saturday 23 January 2016: QPR 1-1 Wolves
Sky televised this one too and with it being such a rip-roaring affair scattered with amazing skill, end to end pulsating action and two sets of players on the radar of elite clubs across Europe, it’s easy to see why they’ve picked the corresponding fixture for this season.
Back in the real world, Polter put the home side ahead in the opening two minutes after some atrocious marking in the box left him free to plant a header past Ikeme. We barely had a shot in the remainder of the first half as we insisted on hoofing the ball at 5’9” Adam Le Fondre and out of sheer fortuitousness got an equaliser just after half time when one half of the patented Left Hand Side of Doom in James Henry managed to plant a 30 yard strike beyond the helpless/hapless Smithies, via a mere three deflections. Those goals pretty much sum the game up as a whole.
Team: Ikeme; Iorfa, Batth, Ebanks-Landell, Doherty; McDonald; van La Parra, Coady, Edwards (Saville 82), Henry; Le Fondre. Unused subs: McCarey, Golbourne, Saville, Rowe, Price, Byrne, Enobakhare.
2015/16: L 2-3 (H), D 1-1 (A)
2011/12: L 0-3 (H), W 2-1 (A)
2008/9: W 1-0 (H), L 0-1 (A)
2007/8: D 3-3 (H), D 0-0 (A)
2006/7: W 2-0 (H), W 1-0 (A)
2005/6: W 3-1 (H), D 0-0 (A)
2004/5: W 2-1 (H), D 1-1 (A)
2000/1: D 1-1 (H), D 2-2 (A)
1999/0: W 3-2 (H), D 1-1 (A)
1998/9: L 1-2 (H), W 1-0 (A)
1997/8: W 3-2 (H), D 0-0 (A), W 2-0 (A, LC), L 1-2 (H)
1996/7: D 1-1 (H), D 2-2 (A)
QPR 1-0 Wolves
Firstly, we’re absolutely terrible at the moment and I’m not sure how you turn around from what we saw on Saturday to any kind of coherence inside four days or so. Secondly, I haven’t predicted us to lose in any of my previews so far and that’s been going swimmingly, so we’ll try something different.