Sunday, 30 November 2014


Newcastle Utd 1 Queens Park Rangers 0

Queens Park Rangers 3 Leicester City 2

I've had the pleasure of a stay-cation this past week. It's been a chance to recharge the batteries, sort out some life admin, catch up with friends and family - and enjoy a little football. Not enough credit is given to simply taking time off as most of us in the Western world are so used to jumping on that plane for a holiday in the sun. Many of us are spoilt and forget how lucky we are. Nevertheless, if you can honestly switch that blackberry off and pretend to yourself at least for a few days that you've got no reception, staying at home is a low-risk holiday.

Mine started with an early morning and a 7.30 train ride from Kings Cross to Newcastle. Arriving at Kings Cross at 6.30am I panicked when I saw that M&S was still closed but was delighted when it opened at 7am for my obligatory pre-train ride beer and wine shop. It was a great train ride up with some of my favourite QPR pals, for whom waking up that early is worthwhile. As for the match, while a point would have been a preferred earning, it was always going to be a big ask to beat Newcastle in their current form. I had promised myself when I visited Newcastle nearly 3 years ago, that I would never go again as you are so far from the pitch and it's a long way to go for a 7 storey hike up stairs and a view of Bergen but the time with friends was an opportunity not to be missed. As for the performance, I continued to take heart from QPR's continued persistence and fighting spirit. I know I know I know, it's not just about the performance as we need the points. But I honestly believe that for what we need to do - which is ultimately, to survive, the wins will come. To use a cliché we must 'take the positives' in order to turn things around eventually with points on the board.

Perhaps it's because I've been influenced by this book I mentioned a few weeks ago called Good to Great - a book that sets out some key principles around how to make good companies great companies. In its final chapters there is this concept of a flywheel. It's about continuously pushing a big heavy wheel, inch by inch...then turn by turn...then eventually the wheel is able to move and push forward on its own momentum. So, with each turn the 'flywheel builds upon work done earlier, compounding your investment of effort'. I think of this when I think about how the football fans are extremely good at panicking and moaning about a marginal loss away from home. Call me an optimist but I was a little shocked by several people claiming that the Newcastle match was the worst football they've seen the team play in ages. Really?

I do think that sometimes it behoves us to just give the players a little bit of a break - to take a step back, take a deep breath and take everything in to account. And, in some ways, I feel vindicated by the result against Leicester City. The fans and the players all felt that the hard work, grit, determination paid off and won the game for us. With Sandro and Zamora both sadly out, it was good to see Kranjcar being given a chance to play, and add some creativity to a creativity-less mid-field (and didn't he look pretty with his new haircut and shave?). Having Barton back is also encouraging for the team spirit and Henry continues to perform unexpectedly well - perhaps a dark-horse contender for player of the season? Something tells me though that our striker hero Charlie will be the one to gets the plaudit. I think many thousands of QPR fans (men and women) would happily plant one big soggy kiss on those lovely lips of his.

On the one hand, I do agree that what separates the winners from the losers, the great from the the desire and the will to win. So I can see (grudgingly) why that the result at Newcastle may have felt like wasted effort, or like it was due to a lack of desire. But on the other hand ambition comes in many forms, and it is the definition of that ambition that can sometimes be a little hazy. We have to remember that it is a long season and that there is a job to be done that spans far beyond one match, or even one season for that matter. I am hopeful about our flywheel, but it has probably only completed one turn so far.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Hard work

Queens Park Rangers 2 Manchester City 2

I'm not usually able to catch QPR's official weekly show 'London Call In', and to be honest I have never cared for it too much as it always feels a little too official and censored. The QPR Podcast with Finney et al has always been a lot more fun, and something I can relate to. But this week I watched the Rodney Marsh special and was struck by something that he said about QPR fans in particular. He called our fan base a 'cult' and said there will always be that hardcore 17,000 no matter what- rain or shine, league two or premier league. The reason why it struck me is because I've always wondered whether all football fans are the same and whether the only thing that separates us is the club that we support. I'd very much like to think that we were all different, after all- how can an Arsenal fan be anything like a QPR fan? Their version of disappointment must be extremely different from ours. I can't imagine their fans saying things like ' I wish the team really wanted to play for our shirt', or 'Wouldn't it be nice to be first on MOTD?'.

Currently we're pretty happy with our team's performance on the pitch. We've only gleaned 4 points from the last 4 games, but most of us don't care because it is such a pleasure for us to finally watch a  blossoming team - with team being the operative word. Like most I can't fault anyone's performance in the last few games, but for me at the heart of it is this player called Charlie Austin who would much rather see us win a game than see himself score a goal. It is obvious that he getting fitter (no pun intended), and more confident and I am even more excited about having him with us now than ever before. But, and I have said this before, what makes it all so great is the fact the epitomises what we British folk all love - a working class hero who has been through the hardship and come out the other side. Scratch that, people love someone who has worked hard regardless of who they are, for what they have. At least I'd like to think that is exactly how QPR fans are.

Harry hit the nail on the head in his post match interview with his son Jamie yesterday. He used all the other 'excuses' around the players that he had, the fitness levels and the injuries to explain the earlier poor performances. But admitted that at the end of the day it was the simple premise that if one doesn't put in a good shift on the pitch (i.e. vs. Manchester Utd and Tottenham), one simply isn't going to stand a chance of getting anything out of a match. Last week I talked about some simple things that needed to change and that the team appears to have discovered. Add to that one overriding simple point - if you ain't prepared to put in, you ain't going to get anything out. I often wonder whether this highly digital world we live in, this world of video games and Millennials sitting next to each other who are talking to each other on their phones via whatsapp versus face to face, the idea of effort is slowly disappearing. In the UK in particular, as the work place continues to change from one of industry to one of service and technology, are we surprised that many people (not just the young), are trying to find quicker ways to provide minimal effort for maximum effect? And is that the right thing to do, or the right way to go?

I'd like to think not. And on that note I've been hearing about a documentary being made about QPR called The Story of QPR. It's a project by the The Octavia Foundation and QPR in the Community Trust working with young people 16-24 to produce a range of multimedia telling the story of QPR. It's fantastic project and I've seen a 'teaser' here on youtube: Story of QPR Teaser. But I would say that wouldn't I? Although I don't think I am biased in saying that for a small club like ours with a cult like following, we do a hell of a lot of good stuff that really matters in this world.                  

When I see effort and projects like this, it's hard to believe that there is any truth in the theory that we're all going through a bit of a change in society and  in our cultural beliefs about work and what it means. I don't know what's going to happen but I would be horrified if we see a huge value shift and we stop respecting the Charlie Austins that come our way.

But, I am comforted by what I see in football and the little world of QPR that we know and love.

Sunday, 2 November 2014


Queens Park Rangers 2 Aston Villa 0

Chelsea 2 Queens Park Rangers 1

I'm reading a book called Good to Great by Jim Collins. It's a study and guide on why some companies only stay good and how others become truly great. The book is based on years of research and study, so it's compelling and credible. Throughout the book, myths are debunked, particularly on the topic of leadership, for example: great leaders of great companies aren't always charismatic - often they are quiet, unassuming and unglamourous. In addition those who do have charisma need to be very careful with that charisma and how it is used as it can be off-putting. It goes on to explain that all the CEOs of the studied great companies, have something called 'compelling modesty' and humbleness. But what strikes me the most as I read this book is the simplicity of its findings and theories. I always think that it's easier to solve problems if we divide things up in to chunks or buckets - easier to say than to actually do of course!

Having said that, the last three Rangers matches have given us some hope. Whilst we've taken 3 points, it feels as if we've taken more because we're finally seeing a team play with some passion and pride, in addition to having a clear system for delivering results and an objective to work towards. I think it's been easy for us to point fingers at the players and presume that their hearts haven't been in it - especially after the West Ham game. The legacy of the Mark Hughes era has left me paranoid for one. But I think a few simple things have happened that have allowed the team to begin the dogged fight for survival for real...

The first is a framework with clear objectives. Within this, there are tactics, formation and team selection. Whether it be by chance, luck or the fact that Rio simply had to be dropped - there appears to be a framework for the team to work within. If people aren't given a framework to work towards, how can they deliver? If you don't know what is actually being asked of you how do you know if you are doing the right thing? From everything I've read, Harry has always been known as a man-manager than as a coach. I've heard many players say they like working with Harry because he 'let's me express myself' and 'play how I like to play'. That's all well and good but it seems to me that other than the likelihood that Fernandes had a word or two to say to Harry after that match at the Boleyn ground, there were a few others whose socks were pulled up- after all what was the point in hiring Glenn if he wasn't actually going to do his job and coach the team on this framework?

The second is that we've been able to develop what appears to be a clear understanding of what we might actually be very good at...within this I think there's something in there about our doggedness in midfield with players like Henry and Sandro frustrating teams with players of a higher quality. It also includes a better respect for Charlie and an understanding of what he can do. We know he will score goals when he's playing in a double-act up front and Bobby coming back in to the team has helped us to see that. 

Thirdly, passion appears to have been re-ignited. Gemma and I had a great view of the corner flag after Charlie scored the goal yesterday at the swamp and the look on Fer's face among others was wonderful to behold. I am looking forward to witnessing more moments like this. I did also wonder what had happened to the sports mentor Steve Black as he appeared to work wonders at the back-end of last season. And as I watched the Villa game 'tunnel cam' there he was - coming out of the dressing room just before kick off @5.30m!
As I've said before, so long as the players are united in one common goal and in an understanding that being at QPR is about survival and not much more, and if the above three things continue to play a part we will 100% be able to achieve it this year. 

I was horrified like many other QPR fans as I watched MOTD last night. I felt like chucking up when they used words like 'exquisite' and 'almost perfection'. Chelsea, the 'best team' ever to grace the Premier League, pass the sick bag.

But what of Charlie and his story? I can't help but think that while he has scored some spectacular goals for us - what makes him so bloody good is that fact that at its simplest he is a poacher. It ain't always pretty and if you think that back-heel isn't in its own way 'exquisite' that's fine MOTD pundits. I'm not sure that your confidence is required for QPR to survive and frankly I'm not sure I'd like it much anyway. 



For those that don't yet know I have made it as a finalist for the Football Blogging Awards this year. I'd love it if you could vote for me. Details can be found here:

FBA Finalists