QPR preview and pubs: “Relegated” Bees relish Holloway’s return
QPR’s visit on Saturday marks the beginning of a cracking end to the season for Brentford fans with two local derbies and then a match that could decide a relegation place.
Our penultimate home game is all about local bragging rights and not promotion or relegation issues as, while Rangers are not mathematically safe from relegation yet, they would need to lose their last three matches and for five teams below them to win most of theirs to go down.
The Loftus Road outfit have had a disappointing campaign, most of which has been spent in the bottom half of the table.
After ending August in the play-off zone following their first five games, they never reached such heights again and by the turn of the year were hovering just above the relegation zone.
They have stayed around lower mid-table in 2017, never rising higher than 14th, and are currently on a run of five straight defeats – their second worst sequence of the season after suffering six consecutive losses in late November and December.
Their visit marks the return of our former captain Jake Bidwell to Griffin Park.
Jake, who played nearly 200 games in our colours, missed the game at Loftus Road in October because of injury.
He originally joined us in November 2011 on loan from Everton and made the move permanent the following summer. He was a regular in our play-off and promotion sides and also in our first two seasons in the Championship.
This is QPR’s second successive season in this division following relegation from the Premier League in 2015. They have spent most of the past 13 seasons here after winning promotion from Division Two (now League One), with three years in the top flight.
WHO’S IN CHARGE
Former Brentford player Ian Holloway took charge of QPR for the second time in November, replacing Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink.
Holloway, who made 30 Division Three appearances for us firstly on loan and then on a permanent move from Wimbledon in 1986, was previously in charge at Loftus Road from 2001 to 2006, taking the Rs out of and then back into the second tier.
He has also been in charge of Bristol Rovers, Plymouth, Leicester, Blackpool and Crystal Palace – leading both into the Premier League – and Millwall.
As a midfielder, he also played for Bristol Rovers (three spells), Torquay and QPR.
While between managerial jobs he worked as a pundit for Sky and will inevitably be reminded on Saturday of his pre-season predictions, in which he tipped both the Bees and Huddersfield to go down.
WE’VE MET BEFORE
A goal in each half from Josh Clarke and Romaine Sawyers gave us our first win at Loftus Road since 1964 in this season’s first meeting.
In front of the Sky cameras on a Friday night, Clarke put us ahead in the 42nd minute after a pass from Josh McEachran and Sawyers sealed the 2-0 win with his first Brentford goal in the 74th minute.
The only sour note on the night was an injury to Lewis MacLeod which ended up ruling him out of the rest of the season.
Last season’s two matches were contrasting affairs.
The home game was another televised Friday night encounter settled by a goal from Marco Djuricin, who sealed our first win over Rangers since August 1965, and our fourth successive league victory, in the 56th minute.
The return was a dismal affair for the Bees fans who made the short journey to W12 as we suffered our third successive Championship defeat in losing 3-0.
With Alan Judge playing in a “false number nine” role, we succumbed to a 38th minute strike from Junior Hoilett and two second half goals in six minutes from Sebastian Polter and Tjaronn Chery.
BBC Radio London commentator Phil Parry explains why QPR have stuttered again this season, what Jake Bidwell is expecting on his return to TW8 and recalls the time when he pulled on his football boots and set foot on the hallowed Griffin Park turf.
Q – How would you assess QPR’s season? What was the expectation at the start of the season and what is the general feeling about a mid-table finish?
A – In many respects, Queens Park Rangers have become a by-word for inconsistency, flux and changes in direction over the last few years. I am sure that some of the Loftus Road faithful had belief that a top six place was possible, there’s no point being a football fan without hope. But in reality, the view that a comfortable season would be acceptable was one held by a number of people I spoke to.
Another mid-season management change, a new long-term strategy and philosophy and more transfer window comings and goings all point to another nine months where the boat has been rocked by those in control of the tiller.
Heading into the last three games I think that there is a disquiet on the terraces that the club are not mathematically safe. I was at the most recent defeat to Sheffield Wednesday and quietly there was a murmur of “It can’t happen can it?” The chances are very slim of course but unless they finish with a final three-game flourish there may be a sense of underachievement.
Q – What went wrong for Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and what has Ian Holloway done to steady the ship and then turn things round?
A – Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink arrived with the oft-vaunted hope for an up-and-coming young manager and perhaps there wasn’t great expectation for his first few months in charge apart from to get his feet under the table and calm the waters. But signings made in two transfer windows don’t all stand up to scrutiny and the biggest complaint aired by supporters was the style of football, excited they were not.
The return of Ian Holloway to the club he had served previously as a player (in the Premier League) and manager (winning promotion back to the second tier) was accompanied by a fanfare and confetti. It was an inauspicious start to life back in W12 and six straight defeats up to and over Christmas caused some consternation. But a couple of decent signings in January and an upturn in form as winter started to give way to spring gave the appearance that a corner had been turned. However, in what almost looks like a bust, boom, bust pattern the “R’s” are again on a poor run.
Holloway is of course a hugely experienced manager and has the ability to galvanise people into action and after his last two managerial experiences at Palace and Millwall I am sure he will want to get this job right.
Q – If Holloway makes some astute signings in the summer, could QPR challenge for promotion next season?
A – The Championship is a tough old division to get out of, certainly at the top end, and it does not appear that next season will be any easier. Some of the underachievers will be better (Norwich, Villa, Derby) other clubs will invest or benefit from canny managers (Birmingham, Cardiff) and who knows what we will get from those who arrive from above and below. Add into the mix sides with positivity about them such as the Bees.
As for Queens Park Rangers, it would appear some balance needs to be introduced to the squad and goals. Holloway says he has a long-term plan to build some sustainability about the way the club is run and gives the impression that he will take a longer term view. There is a decent spine emerging, but he will need to add certainly to make them challengers.
Q – As a Griffin Park regular, do you have any stand-out moments, amusing incidents from your many trips to TW8 either for work or pleasure?
A – There have been many memorable occasions at Griffin Park professionally and personally, and in recent years the team have created some great memories. The conclusion to the 2012/13 season lives long in the memory. As if the last few moments against Doncaster were not dramatic enough then the second play-off leg against Swindon took my commentary to another level. At one point I recall looking to my right to colleague Billy Reeves as extra-time ensued and he had taken the headphones off and wandered away, the tension getting too much for all of us.
I sat with my son in the stands for the game against Fulham in November 2014, the first league meeting for 16 years and the level of excitement was what makes football such a great sport.
From another perspective, I have actually had the pleasure of playing on Griffin Park, invited by the Community Sports Trust, who do such great work. There were three teams and we played a round-robin set of games. At one stage I got possession, ran as fast as possible to the byline and cut the ball back for a goal before realising I was shattered and so I had a little rest on the pitch before hobbling back to the halfway line. It was still a brilliant evening, topped off with a welcome pint at The Griffin.
Q – What do you remember about this season’s game at Loftus Road?
A – Unfortunately, I was not at the first game this season as we were away on a family break, doh! And where we were staying did not allow any access to radio or web coverage. However, I must admit watching my social media feeds that evening was very interesting especially seeing the contrasting emotions.
I had been at the Loftus Road encounter last season and recall how tough an afternoon it was for Dean Smith. While Dean has only been at the club for a relatively short time and the ending of 52 years of hurt had greater resonance with long-standing fans, I was pleased for him.
Q – Which QPR players should we watch out for?
A – 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. He has been consistent for his new club this season which will no doubt not surprise Brentford fans, but as a left-back it is not a position which grabs the headlines.
Elsewhere Massimo Luongo is a player who will make QPR tick if they can get enough ball and provide him with it. January arrival from Fulham Matt Smith is a proper target man who can make a nuisance of himself. His battle with the likes of Harlee Dean would provide a nice cameo providing that he gets the nod. Darnell Furlong, son of Paul, has really started to make a name for himself, and like Bidders as a defender it is harder to stand out, but he gets forward well and can provide extra support to attacks.
QPR have chopped and changed their formation in recent weeks – so much so that Jake Bidwell played at both left-back and centre-half during Monday’s defeat to Sheffield Wednesday.
They do have one Championship ever-present in the squad though in goalkeeper Alex Smithies (ex-Huddersfield).
Rangers played a back three on Monday with James Perch (ex-Wigan) on the right, Jake Bidwell on the left and Joel Lynch (ex-Huddersfield) in the middle.
Captain Nedum Onuoha (ex-Manchester City) missed the match after suffering concussion, only the second game he has not been involved in this season, but is almost certain to return if passed fit and that would push Bidwell forward into a wing-back role.
Former trainee Darnell Furlong was another injury victim who would play as wing-back if fit while Grant Hall (ex-Spurs) has been out for the past couple of weeks after picking up an injury in training but could be in contention to return at Griffin Park.
Monday’s five-man midfield featured former trainees Michael Petrasso, making his first senior start of the season, and Ryan Manning, Jack Robinson (ex-Liverpool), Massimo Luongo (ex-Swindon) and Luke Freeman, a January signing from Bristol City.
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.
Former Scotland international Jamie Mackie, in his second QPR spell, and Guinea international and top scorer Idrissa Sylla, who has found the net in the last two games and made more substitute appearances than starts this season, formed the forward line.
But with Matt Smith, who moved in January from Fulham, and Northern Ireland international Conor Washington (ex-Peterborough) also available and five changes made for Monday’s game, more alterations to the line-up are likely.
They were both on the bench on Monday along with Poland international winger Pawal Wszolek, on loan from Sampdoria, DR Congo international midfielder Yeni Ngbakoto (ex-Metz), goalkeeper Matt Ingram (ex-Wycombe), midfielder Sean Goss (ex-Manchester United) and on loan Brighton midfielder Kazenga Lua Lua.
Former Manchester United midfielder Ravel Morrison is also at Loftus Road on loan from Sampdoria.
PUBS IN BRENTFORD
For QPR fans coming along, you are probably aware there plenty of pub options pre-match and all are most welcoming.
There are now only three pubs around the ground, following the closure of the Royal Oak.
The Griffin is closest to the away end (like 30 secs walk) and is very popular with away fans – but also very, very busy. The New Inn is on the other side and is also popular with away fans. The Princess Royal is the other option.
Other pubs slightly further afield for the more creative amongst you include (and this is by no means a definitive list) …. The Globe (Windmill Rd) is the Beesotted pre-match pub. This boozer & The Lord Nelson (Enfield Rd) are both incredibly friendly and cosy away-friendly pubs and about 1 min walk from each other .. frequented by ‘away fans in the know’.
The Plough (Northfields Ave) in Northfields is a decent stop-off if you are coming by tube to Northfields (it’s a much better pub crawl route getting off at Northfields than South Ealing) before making your way down to the ground (normally stopping off at The Globe and Lord Nelson en route).
There is also a pub right by Brentford station always referred to as … the Pub by Brentford station.
For ale head to the Magpie and Crown pub on Brentford High Street. The Royal Horseguardsman can probably hold 15 of you at a push. The Brewery Tap is a cosy boozer by the river. And if you are super adventurous, get off at Kew Bridge and visit the brand new boozer One Over the Ait right on the river – beside the bridge. There are loads more too.
A quick Google search and you’ll find them all. There are many many more too if you have a look around.
Parking is pretty easy away from the ground going up towards and over the A4 Great West Road (ie. North) via Ealing Road or Windmill Road.
You can check out details of how the tube is running on Transport for London’s website here.