Luton Town make the relatively short trip to QPR tomorrow evening, with the Hatters not seeing much joy at Loftus Road since their arrival back in the Championship.
Ahead of what is an important clash for both, ORH spoke to LoftForWords for an opposing view...
Tell us a little about your QPR supporting history!
I’m from Grimsby, and child of a northern family, originally so it’s a little bit convoluted. Dad trained in London in the 1970s when QPR were fairly brilliant and got into the habit of going to watch them. When he returned north and settled down he kept coming back every week on the train, much to my mum’s despair. She forbid him from forcing me, the first born, into it as well, and he wasn’t allowed to mention QPR to me until I showed an interest. I went off to school into all manner of geeky things apart from football, and inevitably got the piss ripped out of me by all the other little twats for not knowing anything about it. Being Grimsby, they obviously all supported Man Utd (as you do), and then suddenly one New Year’s Day (1992) I became aware of the family going absolutely nuts in the living room watching QPR and Dennis Bailey stick four goals through that horrible scum at Old Trafford. This peaked my interest, as something I could take back to school in my defence, and I was allowed to sit up and wait for dad to get back from the match to talk to him about it. This, apparently, counted as ‘showing an interest’, so a few days later it was off in the back of the car from Grimsby to Southampton for the FA Cup Third Round which QPR lost 2-0 and Roy Wegerle missed a penalty. I was bored, and cold, and I’ve been bored, and cold, at pretty much every QPR game ever since.
How would you assess the season so far?
Fragmented. We pushed the boat out reasonably far last season to try and put a promotion campaign together, and the scale of the collapse in the final third of the campaign, with all the fall outs and recriminations and sackings that came at the end, took a lot of getting over. There was significant hangover, and now very little budget to do anything about it, going into this season, which of course started earlier than ever when most of us were still in the ‘never want to see you again’ phase. Mick Beale Super Coach came in, made a lot of provocative noise in a Bromley accent while thumping his tub, started applying for jobs from the moment he walked through the door, and eventually pissed off back to Glasgow Rangers. The job came “completely out of the blue” apparently, coincidentally just a fortnight after he’d Instagrammed the hell out of his day in the Ibrox director’s box, and if you believe that do take a friend with you when you go to buy a used car. We’ve got several players here – Balogun, Clarke-Salter, Paal, Iroegbunam – who are here because he was here, so perhaps inevitably things toppled off a cliff while all this was going on and we did one goal and one point from six games.
Neil Critchley is now at the helm - Can he help steer a push for the play-offs?
We might have had a touch with this. Crichley was on our list in the summer, but his buy-out from Blackpool was expensive and Beale goes for so many job interviews his presentation is finely honed enough to wow the likes of us. His defection coincided with Critchley’s availability so we’ve now got a guy we would have quite liked in the summer, for free. He knows Beale, so he’ll come in with his eyes wide open to the finances and the squad’s limitations. He’s immediately set about plugging the leaks at the back, with two clean sheets from two games so far.
QPR have a selection of exciting attacking talents - Who will cause Luton problems?
Well, you might be being a little generous there. We’ve got Chris Willock and Ilias Chair, who are two of the better players in the league, but the former has lost form and confidence after a couple of hamstring injuries, and the latter has been on a watching brief in Qatar for a month. Beyond and in front of them, not a lot, and we’ve scored two goals in eight games now. It’s the same all over the pitch. We have a good starting 11, but scratch the surface and there’s nothing beyond it. We go from Chris Willock, to George Thomas, Seny Dieng, to Jordan Archer. If we’re all fit and firing, if Willock is in form, if Dykes is putting himself about, if Johansen is playing, if Paal and Laird get going down the flanks, we’re a good team. But it’s like a really old, sensitive, Alfa Romeo – the very slightest hint of fatigue, tiredness, injury, player or two missing, they fall in a hole.
What have you made of Luton this season?
Obviously very sorry to see the back of Nathan Jones, I enjoyed his TED Talks on what does and doesn’t count as disrespect. Presumably he’ll be back in 18 months or so? I fancied Luton for the top six last season, I fancied Luton for the top six this season, I fancy Luton for the top six now. Painful as it is, it’s a well run club with a very talented team. I thought you were terrific against Norwich on Boxing Day, and the last minute win against a parachute payment promotion favourite rang a lot of bells to a similar win against Bournemouth last season. I’d have your centre forwards over ours any day.