EFL outcast catch up

In the build up to today’s game with fellow EFL badboys QPR, we spoke to Clive from Loft For Words about their season so far and their feelings on their off the field situation.

How’s the been season so far for you?

Very up and down but quite enjoyable overall. We made the worst start to a season in the history of the club with four defeats from the first four games and 13 goals conceded, including seven in one game at West Brom. We then went out and signed some decent players on loan at the very end of the window and have turned it round with their help. January was disappointing because we’d played our way into play-off content with a good December but we’re into the fifth round of the FA Cup for the first time since 1997 and in general the fans seem reasonably happy and optimistic for a change. We’ve got three youth teamers in the starting 11 and another two or three knocking one the door for next season.

Well we had a transfer embargo in January as part of the punishment for the historic FFP breach and while that didn’t stop the mouth breathers and clickbait websites deciding we were about to sign Adel Taarabt and Charlie Austin, the clue really is in the name – it’s a transfer embargo.

Were you pleased with the McLaren appointment? It felt like it was one that would initially divide opinion of fans?

It did. First of all Ian Holloway divided opinion. He was a bit of a club legend after his playing days and first spell as manager here, he was working within very tight financial constraints that required him to get rid of the big earners in the squad while maintaining Championship status, he had no quality strikers to pick from and he was getting that job done. That said, his mental outbursts, inconsistent team selections and failure to ever win an away game (except at Birmingham) had a sizeable minority of fans against him.

QPR do actually like Steve McClaren a good deal more than most clubs/football fans. He was a coach here when Harry Redknapp was phoning it in as manager and set the team and the defence up for a promotion winning season in 2013/14 – we were unbeaten in the first 11 games when he was here and never as good once he’d left. But he has had numerous failures before and after that and when we lost those first four games in the manner we did it looked like a big mistake appointing him. He’s won people over though, we’ve been quite impressed with how the team has played, the results he’s got and the improvement in numerous players. He is doing it with Nahki Wells and Tomer Hemed on loan though, two players Holloway would have killed for.

Can you see McLaren sticking around and is he the man to take you forward? Are the fans all behind him?

Well at the moment he’s got almost universal support. People are losing their minds at the thought of an FA Cup run. I can’t really remember seeing a message board post or Tweet, or hearing any murmerings in the pub or the ground, for months now really questioning him. Somebody on our message board the other day was advocating giving him three years at least but one of the replies summed it up well – look in again if we lose the next three matches. You’d be a fool to back any manager to stay anywhere long term, particularly at QPR, but he’s done well so far.

Quiet January for you.. How are the finances and FFP situation looking for you now? Back to normal in the summer?

Well we had a transfer embargo in January as part of the punishment for the historic FFP breach and while that didn’t stop the mouth breathers and clickbait websites deciding we were about to sign Adel Taarabt and Charlie Austin, the clue really is in the name – it’s a transfer embargo. Since the ruinous days of Hughes and Redknapp early in the Tony Fernandes era we’ve got the house much more in order.

With Les Ferdinand as director of football and the old Burnley CEO Lee Hoos running the club now, costs and wage bills have been cut as the parachute payments have reduced, we’re much more focused on youth development now and we’re we’ve so far been well within the FFP rules, albeit while still losing money every season. Had Ferdinand and Hoos been running the joint when we had money our club would probably look very different now, and wankers like Jose Bosingwa and Joey Barton would be considerably poorer.

How did you and other fans feel about the punishment set out by the EFL?

It had dragged on for so long there was a degree of relief that it was over and while it wasn’t published in the ruling the enormous fine is payable over 10 years. The board have also committed to paying it themselves, and it doesn’t count against the club’s future FFP calculations, so that’s about as good as a £20m fine ever could be.

I think two things on this. Firstly, it seems completely counter intuitive to try and force financial prudence on a club by fining it £20m. It’s just perverse. The rules as they were written in 2013/14 were unworkable, which the league admitted when it changed them to the current three year accounting period. So to be fined so heavily under rules the league itself admitted weren’t fit for purpose doesn’t seem fair.

I think two things on this. Firstly, it seems completely counter intuitive to try and force financial prudence on a club by fining it £20m. It’s just perverse. The rules as they were written in 2013/14 were unworkable, which the league admitted when it changed them to the current three year accounting period. So to be fined so heavily under rules the league itself admitted weren’t fit for purpose doesn’t seem fair.

That said though, secondly, it was a flagrant and deliberate breach of the rules. QPR’s defence was we had players under contract that we simply couldn’t get rid of, but we signed another 16 players that season including Charlie Austin and Matt Phillips who were basically the league’s two best players. When Austin got injured in January Redknapp was allowed to replace him with Kevin Doyle and Mobido Maiga and Will Keane and Yossi Benayoun and he already had Andy Johnson and Bobby Zamora to pick from. We had a wage bill approaching £80m. For the play-off final we had players like Ravel Morrison, Benayoun, Tom Carroll, Luke Young, Shaun Wright-Phillips and others not even in the matchday squad. It was a disgusting, Redknapp led, season’s of gross excess. We knew the rules and we deliberately ignored them, so you can’t bitch and moan about the punishment too much.

Any chance of you keeping any of the loan players beyond this season? Do you want to?

I would crawl on bare hands and knees over broken glass to fellate John Prescott after he’s spent a long, hot day digging his garden if it meant we could keep Nahki Wells.

It’s not likely. This season is our last parachute payment so costs will have to come down again next season and that means that not only will Wells, Hemed and Cameron be going back but also that several of the out of contract first teamers are probably going to have to be shifted on as well. The hope is some of a clutch of talented youngsters that are all currently out on loan – Paul Smyth at Accrington, Ilias Chair at Stevenage and Aramide Oteh at Walsall chief amongst them – will be able to step into the first team as Joe Lumley, Darnell Furlong and Ebere Eze have this season.

The original pitch was that they’d all be playing this year but after the nightmare start there was a bit of a panic and the loans were brought in. That’s fine for now, and we’ve loved having them, but where it leaves us in August I’m not sure. Presumably scrabbling round looking for similar loan deals only for less money? If we could keep one, or get him back on loan, it would be Wells. After relying on Conor Washington for so long it’s such a stark difference having a player like that up front.

QPR always seem to produce decent youngsters and there’s a few in the squad now. Who has stood out the most? Who are you most excited about and who are you concerned you may lose any in the summer?

Ah well I’ve kind of answered this but to run through them in more detail… We sold our brilliant goalkeeper Alex Smithies to Cardiff in the summer with the intention of bringing the number two Matt Ingram on, but his poor form in August and Joe Lumley’s rapid progression through the youth ranks mean he’s usurped him now. He’s statistical porn – 12 clean sheets in 28 games for us this season, nine in 17 on loan at Blackpool last season and eight in 19 for Bristol Rovers the year before. Bit of a cockney loudmouth, looks a bit like Rodney Trotter, we love him dearly. Darnell Furlong, son of Paul who played for us both, is an athletic right back who we all think will migrate to centre half sooner or later – he’s already filled in there well this season. Ebere Eze was the great white hope at the start of the season – a maverick ‘ten’ with brilliant skill and touch, we basically had an offer for him made by Hoffenheim on the touchline at the end of our friendly there in the summer. He started the season brilliantly and was getting linked with big money moves (which is what the club needs to happen) but he’s played nearly every minute and looked very tired and leggy just lately. McClaren finally rested him for the midweek cup game.

We’ve got eight others out on loan here there and everywhere. Oteh scores for fun at U23 level and already has two first team goals so we’re hoping he tears it up at Walsall and reduces the impact of Wells leaving at the end of the season. Smyth is a tiny winger with a nasty streak and an eye for goal – impressed in the first team last year. Chair is another clever ‘ten’ in the style of Luke Freeman, man of the match in his first Stevenage game at the weekend. Ryan Manning recently got a first Republic of Ireland call up and impressed at Rotherham in the first half of the season. So yeh, thanks to Les Ferdinand and his academy director Chris Ramsey, we’ve got some good boys coming through at last.

How do you expect the rest of the season to go?

We’ve tailed off in the league lately but progressed in the cup for the first time in a generation. Everything really hangs on that Watford game on Friday. Win it and the place will go nuts. Lose it, difficult to see it going anything other than quietly downhill into the summer. A lot of these players won’t be here next season so a bit of a drift is only to be expected if we’re in mid-table with nothing to play for. February looks very tough as well – we play a Premier League team, second, fourth, fifth, sixth and eighth in the next 17 days. I said we’d finish sixteenth again before the start of the season and I might end up being right, but there’s been improvements all over the place so far.

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