Sunday, 21 September 2014

In and out of love

Queens Park Rangers 2 Stoke City 2

Do not read this blog post if you aren't going to take it in the humour in which it is intended...for it is very much a light-hearted take on of being a QPR and Niko Kranjcar fan!

It's no secret that I'm a self proclaimed Niko Kranjcar 'groupie'. But I'm certainly not the only lady who feels this way. I feel blessed to be very close to @gemcricketmad who has also fallen head over heels for the baller of a Croat. The groupie world is certainly not a lonely place when it comes to this QPR player. And his re-signing on transfer deadline day sent many of us in to a massive Niko frenzy.

Frankly, it's a good thing he is around because he is truly the 'stardust' in what is currently a team with an extremely leaky defence and an obsession with playing Rio Ferdinand in every game for the full 90 minutes. And after seeing both Spurs and Man U lose to 'lower level' teams today the nerves are kicking in a little bit about the next few horrifically challenging games we have. So far, Niko has provided that little bit of magic and creativity that we should be seeing from a handful of players at the very least (injuries for Barton and Mutch certainly not helping). And after yesterday's stunning last minute goal I believe there are several men who might be experiencing the effects of serious man-crush (some hilarious tweets circulated yesterday such as: #iwanttomarniko by @qprsludger).

I was worried at the end of last season. I always said that if Niko left QPR, the love affair would be over. That would have been difficult to do but...QPR always comes first. And, after all, the reason why it's so much fun to support him is because he does play for the Rangers. And now that he is back and obviously enjoys being with us (although frankly I am not sure I know anyone, Ukrainian friends included, who wants to be in the Ukraine), it's just a bonus isn't it?

But it wasn't always that way with Niko and several fans are eating their words about his weight, his technical ability, his tactical know-how and his fitness. Over the summer break a good article was published titled What's Next for Croatia's Forgotten Genius? Some points in there that were interesting around Niko's self-awareness about this lack of speed. I also managed to get a translation of a video that I posted in an earlier blog (Collective Psychosis). Apparently in one scene he says something about the fact that every day he weighs himself and hopes that he has lost 100 grams as he has a trouble managing his weight. With Niko- the self-awareness and humble nature is a huge reason why he attracts the so many (apart from his strikingly good looks of course).  When my friend Gem welcomed Niko back yesterday 'on behalf of all female QPR fans' he shyly smiled and said 'it's great to be back'. Awwww.

But seriously, is he a forgotten talent, or is he too injury prone and too slow for the Premier League? For if he were truly a genius footballer would he really being playing for little ol' Rangers? It's a fair question to ask. But I'd say at this stage it's too early to tell and it would be great to see him consistently perform this way. But he saved our bacon yesterday - by far QPR's man of the match by (according to several twitter quotes) a 'country mile'. And he did lose the weight over the summer period and he did get fit. No, he's not that fast but I have some empathy for him. I've been a gym goer for years, and I love running and swimming. But no matter how hard I train I have always had and only ever will have just one pace. It's frustrating but I try to make up for it with pure enthusiasm!! Hardly a comparison point I know with one quite so skilful.

I guess it is just so very easy for us to pass judgement on players and their fitness levels and weight sometimes we don't even look at ourselves closely enough. And for that matter, sometimes we're just a little bit biased about one player over another? I mean - did anyone notice how Adel came back with a bum bigger than mine? Gem was certain that in pre-season training he was wearing a tummy control pair of pants.

On the other hand, does it really matter whether he isn't the fastest or best midfielder in the world? We are just QPR after all, and to have a player as good as he is want to come and play for us, is surely only a good thing. The days of  monobrow and such like are surely behind us now.

As I finish this post, I see that wins today for teams around us have moved us to the bottom 3 of the table. It's early days but I hope and pray for a bit more magic from not just Niko but others in what should be a pretty talented squad. One thing's for sure though, Niko will one day be gone, but QPR will always be in my heart.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

You're only as good as...

Tottenham Hotspur 4 Queens Park Rangers 0

Queens Park Rangers 1 Sunderland 0

Manchester Utd 4 Queens Park Rangers 0

Everybody says that confidence is critical to success in any field. And we have seen in this world only too often, the more confident but less intelligent people lead highly successful lives, versus  the cleverer, quiet, nervous and less confident ones. I certainly wouldn't put QPR quite in the realms of clever in the context of football...but something tells me we're suffering a little from that little problem of giving the 'big teams' a little too much respect.

Confidence. It's a word that's easy to throw away as an excuse for poor performance and it is rarely examined below the surface. As I write this blog post, I am sitting in an Oslo living room with friends (post-traumatic Man U match), watching the Wolf of Wall Street for a second time. We're watching the early part where he trains his friends to sell bad stocks to that rich 1% of America. With a plan, and confidence and rapport building skills over the phone, they manage to propel a dodgy business in to something that makes a lot of dodgy money.

Today's match was a shame. I was hoping for a smaller goal difference at worst, and a draw at best. But if that's what the team was also aiming for that's probably the reason why it was such a woeful performance. Even if on paper United and Spurs are obviously 'better' than us, no team will win any match when they show too much respect for the opposing team. Admittedly, we felt the loss of Mutch and Barton today. Stats are only stats, but stats don't lie either - and it's my understanding that before this weekend Barton had floated around the top of the table for players that had created the most chances in the Premier League. I admit there were glimmers of hope as I saw us try to park the bus a little. But I think we should have had Vargas starting with Charlie up front. Much as I love Clint - was it right to start him in this of all games?

I haven't yet read any post-match reports, or listened to our manager's post-match comments. Will we be able to get an indication of how he instills or has instilled any confidence in the team by the way that he speaks. He certainly hasn't got the same leadership qualities as Van Gaal who has more of a draconian appearance. But if you had a problem that needed sorting out, would you turn to Harry or would you turn to Louis? What would give you more confidence?

I don't know who said 'you're only as good as your last game'. It can't be true in the context of the volatility of life for a team like QPR in the Premier League. And even if it were, it's a pretty hard mantra to live by if you're losing most games, and are simply aiming for survival. And therein lies the issue in a way. Is it right that we've set ourselves a lowly goal? Remember three years ago when we were a bit more 'ambitious' and rose-tinted in our approach? Is it that we should have a more  more nuanced it about saying we'll try to win every game, and concede that to survive would be not an achievement, but the bare minimum requirement? It simply feels odd to be talking in nuances when confidence is surely meant to be just a way to simply be versus something that you learn...right?

We all know how the Wolf of Wall Street ends and as a result I am left thinking that there are different kinds of confidence. And that the first one we naturally think of is the one that is only skin deep.