Funny things, reunions: whether it’s the class of 88 meeting for their 25th, or the annual get-together of a company’s ex-employees, with or without alcohol, they seem always to yield mixed results, mixed feelings. There are always some people you are looking forward to seeing: even if only to know how they are ageing (and hoping it’s worse than you), and others you are not.
In football, reunions are almost a constant feature of matches. Peripatetic footballers, and managers very often come up against their former clubs, or former team-mates from other way stations along their football journeys. Today was one such occasion, and therefore perhaps not so unusual, as Steve McLaren, a very short while ago part of the coaching staff at QPR, and allegedly sorely missed, brought improving Derby County to Loftus Road. McLaren, who will unfortunately always be remembered as the Wally with the Brolly, at least once had the England job which Harry had apparently coveted. In another of those coincidences, El Tel, a famous QPR alumnus and more fondly remembered as England manager, watched from the directors’ box. Would McLaren come with so much inside information on QPR’s players, style and orientation as to deny the Rangers of a much needed 3 points? With all this top level coaching quality on parade, were we in for a treat?
McLaren probably would not have expected Harry to set up with what looked for all the world like 4 front men, with MattPhillips and Junior Hoilett both attacking on the flanks with Charlie Austin and Jermaine Jenas through the middle. With Joey Barton energetically supporting from midfield, Rangers not surprisingly had a great deal of the play and were rewarded with a goal by Jenas after only 10 minutes. Instead of going on to increase their lead, Rangers allowed Derby to break and the apparently blind officials did not see the Derby attacker climb all over a Rangers defender to head across goal for Dawkins to equalise. How could these three men not see what 18000 others clearly saw? Was it guilt that made the referee then book 4 Derby players in the rest of the first half?
Rangers were all attack again after the break, but the game looked more scrappy in the strong,swirling wind. Clint Hill put Rangers ahead with a far post header, but it was one of those games that never quite looked safe. Control was at a premium and there was only one player on the field for my money who could clearly control his play and his passingthroughout : take a bow Saint Joseph. There are still Rangers fans who doubt, or even don’t like Joey Barton but it’s about time they were won over. Once again, and we’ve seen it several times this season, he was the most skilful player on the pitch by a country mile, and enhanced that natural talent with energy and whole-hearted passion. Just remember, Joey, sometimes you have to keep that passion in check. If you are serious about your philosophy studies, perhaps focus on Zen Buddhism rather than Sun Tzu. Keep that red mist at bay and you might just see us back into the Premiership. On today’s performance, I wouldn’t be backing us at 5/4 to win the Championship: these are far too skinny odds, but let’s face it, winning games is fun.