Opposition View: Ash Rose ahead of Luton Town vs QPR
Luton Town welcome QPR to Kenilworth Road on Saturday for the Championship's early kick-off.
Saturday's visitors bring excellent form and a superb recent head-to-head record into this weekend's clash. QPR fan Ash Rose spoke to ORH about all things R's ahead of an interesting match-up...
Tell us a little bit about your history of supporting QPR?
My Dad was born around the corner from Loftus Road, and although he moved and I grew up in South East London I followed him supporting Rangers. My first game was in December 1992, a 4-2 win over Everton that saw an Andy Sinton hat-trick and two players sent off - quite the baptism. That was nearly 30 years ago, and I've been a season ticket holder on and off since then as well as covering the club across a number of media outlets - including a book on the club, The QPR Miscellany. My all-time favourite player is Roy Wegerle - one for Luton fans there - as well as Les Ferdinand, Charlie Austin and Adel Taarabt.
How has the season gone so far?
Better than expected. Not sure most fans knew what to expect when Michael (or Mick) Beale took over as he was such an unknown quantity as a number one - especially those of us who remember Stewart Houston's only foray into being a manager and how that went at QPR. Beale was highly regarded as a number two, but it's always different when you are the one in the hot seat. However, Beale has built on the foundations laid by Mark Warburton and improved the team in a number of areas. Despite a small budget he's bought in players that all seem to be working and his methods and in-game management are as good as I've seen at the club. To be sitting joint top in October is above any expectations I had going into the season and although I don't think anyone believes we're good enough for promotion, being in the mix and playing the way we are playing is certainly making for an enjoyable season.
Chair has been influential once again - Exactly how good has he been?
It's no secret that Ilias is one of our key players and he'll be even more key now that Chris Willock is out for a few weeks with a hamstring injury. Chair has kicked on from last season we're seeing a new level of maturity in his play, so much so that he was made captain against Sheffield United last week. There's still that skilful and unpredictable talent in there, but there's also more thought now, about what to do with the ball and when it's best to release it or when it's a better idea to try something special. Many fans thought he would really come into his own last season, and was on fire up until Christmas and then after the AFCON, much like QPR his form dipped. This year, there seems to be more consistency and he's now combing that with the talent he has to unlock any defence in the Championship.
How impactful have loanees Tim Iroegbunam and Ethan Laird?
One of the weak areas of QPR's team last season was the full-backs and Beale has put on a lot of his emphasis on that area as an attacking outlet, so needed the right players. On the left Kenneth Paal has been a real find and could be a real player in this league, however, he's been complemented on the right by Laird who is clearly a level above the Championship. He reminds me of when we had Kyle Walker on loan in 2010-11, in that you can see his potential and we should just take advantage of what we have while he's here. It's given the right flank a real energy and danger that we didn't have before and I can see why he's so highly thought of at Man Utd. As for Iroegbunam he's another where you can tell there's a Premier League player in him and it's obvious why Steven Gerrard rates him. Non-stop energy, is a little old school in the way he can play box-to-box and he looks better with every game. As the season progresses he could be a real key player for Rangers.
QPR have more PPG away from home - How impressed have you been with the form away from home?
We had two massive results last week in wins at Sheffield United and Bristol City and it added to the impressive away form we've had this season. As attacking as Beale likes QPR to play, he has really got the defence organised and it's shown by the clean sheets we've kept and our results on the road. We also suddenly have four very good centre-backs at this level to choose from, so even when one is out you have a more than adequate replacement coming in and all of them know their exact jobs. That solid base then allows the creative players to do their thing at the other end of the pitch, and know that if they get a goal the defence - and a special mention to Stefan Johansson who's been back to his best in the middle - will hold out for the win. Everyone seems to be working with everyone and the team is really playing for each other.
Luton have had a torrid time against QPR recently - What have you made of the Hatters so far?
Last season it was great to see Luton punch above their weight in the division and prove what a competitive league this really is. However, I think you've almost been on the other end of that so far this season where you haven't been able to string a run together like you did last year. That doesn't mean you're not capable of it and I fully expect another tough game on Saturday and for you to be back look towards a play-off push for the rest of the season. I'm not sure what the manager has against QPR though, he does seem to get really wound up for games against Rangers. Which, given the games haven't exactly gone his way in recent meetings has seen him become very angry after matches between the two clubs.
I think it will be a tough game and it's always a great atmosphere. I'll sit on the fence and go 1-1, but it could easily go either way.