Clive Whittingham from loftforwords.co.uk gives Vital QPR an insight of what he expects for the season ahead as well as some stirring memories.
What inspired you to follow the R`s?
It was a father son thing. My dad got into QPR in the 1970s when he was training in the Met Police, when he moved back up north he kept going with mates from the force and later the insurance company he worked for. Every week there was a car load going from Grimsby to see Rangers play and as I grew up I got more and more curious about this place my dad went off to on a Saturday. Swept along and a wave of optimism following the 4-1 win at Old Trafford he took me to my first game a week later – we lost 2-0 at Southampton in the FA Cup and Clive Wilson missed a penalty. I was bored, and cold, and my legs hurt because 90 minutes standing up on that weird chocolate box terrace they had at the Dell was a bit much for a seven year old. The following season though I started going regularly and have had a season ticket ever since.
The best moment you`ve seen following QPR?
Well it was fantastic to watch QPR going to places like Everton and Arsenal and hammering them in the Premiership, I remember New Year`s Eve at Highbury like it was yesterday. For atmosphere, raw emotion and wild celebrations though it`s got to be the play off semi final at Loftus Road – I know people who`ve been going to Rangers a lot longer than me who say the same thing. All my mates think I`m mad when I say the best bit so far is a 1-0 home win against Oldham Athletic but that was a an amazing night. Any goal scored by Devon White is also a highlight.
The worst moment you`ve seen following QPR?
I could write a book of these if you`d like. Last season I went to Colchester on the train on a Tuesday night with no way of getting back home after the match, the sheer stupidity of that only started to set in at 4-2 down. Thankfully Dave Thomas of AKUTR`s fame helped me out with a lift back to Sheffield. Further back I did a similar thing at Port Vale once on a Tuesday night, again we lost, and I ended up padding through the streets of Burslem in the middle of the night telling myself I was a bloody idiot. In the end I managed to bus/train/taxi it as far as Manchester before getting one of the night time trains from the airport back to Sheffield – this got out into the Peak District and then promptly caught fire and we had to sit on the side of the tracks in the middle of nowhere at three in the morning for an hour and a half until they could find another train to take us the rest of the way. 5-0 at Wimbledon, 5-2 at Sheff Wed, 5-0 at Preston and 4-2 at Barnsley all within about four months of each other wasn`t fun. I missed one away game all season in 2000/01, Gillingham, and it was the only one we won. The last minute goal that relegated us at Huddersfield wasn`t fun although the disappointment was tempered slightly by those scum bags getting relegated with us a week later. And so it goes on really. Watching Tony Roberts and Alan McDonald play in a pre-season friendly in Sorrento and realising that Gary Waddock and his team were heading for a monumental disaster, losing to Vauxhall Motors, signing Brett Angell. And all of these are only within the last five years or so. I`ll stop now, I`m depressing myself.
The best era to watch the R`s and how it compares to now?
Well presumably the 60s and 70s was the ultimate period for QPR fans but I wasn`t around for that. The early 90s was as good as it`s ever been in my time and despite all this talk of Champions League football and the like I think it will be massively difficult for a club like us to get out of this league and up as high as fifth in the Premiership again. Certainly if we are promoted the admirable current policy of being careful with the money, picking up loans and free transfers, will have to go out of the window. If they really do have European ambitions we`re £50m worth of players at least away from that as we stand now. Sunderland spent pretty close to that last season and still nearly went down.
What did you feel about the appointment of Iain Dowie?
Well the sheer terror induced by possibly having Steve McLaren or Sam Allardyce as manager made me quite thankful to see Dowie appointed – any port in a storm and all that. Personally I was quite sorry to see De Canio leave because he got the team playing excellent football but there were problems with him in charge – the language barrier was more of an issue than anybody ever let on publicly and it prevented him re-organising things during a match, therefore when situations changed like at Norwich where a man was sent off or at Sheff Wed where they made two changes before half time we didn`t deal with it at all well. The organisation, particularly away from home, left a lot to be desired. Dowie should certainly sort that out, hopefully without doing away with the great football – a best of both worlds if you like. In the end though I, like everybody else I think, would have preferred a bigger, better name. Walter Novellino appealed to me at the time. I`ll give Dowie the benefit of the doubt for now.
Have the R`s fared how you expected in the transfer market?
Yes and no. If we can add Gorkss, Watson and Ched Evans as we seem to be close to doing then I think we`ll have a very good squad capable of making an impact at this level. I`m expecting absolutely nothing of the foreign loans and hoping to be pleasantly surprised – we all got our hopes up over Ward, Czerkas and Oliseh a couple of summers ago and last season Barnsley and Norwich both relied on unknown foreigners in a similar way and both ended up fighting relegation. Hopefully ours will turn out to be world beaters but I`d like to see us tie up the three deals I`ve mentioned there just in case the Italian kids don`t settle or perform up to their reputations. I think a lot of people have been disappointed with the transfer activity so far for a number of reasons. Firstly Ali Russell told us the increased revenue from season tickets would be spent on the team and Amit Bhatia said we were talking to some very exciting players and so far people have seen little example of either. Secondly we all seem to be forgetting there is still two months of transfer window left. Thirdly people have been swept up in this “richest club in the world” stuff and are expecting massive signings every day despite the board repeatedly saying this won`t be the case. Fourthly the rumour mongers and “in the know” message board posters have built expectations with promises of “massive weeks” and big name signings and when these things don`t happen people are bound to be disappointed.
Who will be the key player(s) for Rangers this season?
Well the key players could well be Ledesma, Di Carmine, Alberti and any other young foreign players we may pick up. They may be absolutely unstoppable and we`ll walk the league with 100 points and 100 goals. Or they may be bullied out of games at this level, not settle in this country, not perform in games or any number of things besides. You just can`t be sure. For that reason the key players for me will be Rowlands and Watson (when and if he signs) or whoever else we pick in the middle of midfield alongside him. Rowlands was superb last season but it was the first time for three or four years he made it through a campaign without picking up an injury. If he can continue that form and fitness, with Watson alongside him playing like he did in the second half of last season, there won`t be a central midfield in the division that can get near it and it will cover up other failings we may have. There`s a lot of ifs and buts in there though – like I say at this stage of the summer it`s hard to tell.
Where do you expect the R`s to finish this campaign?
Again it comes down to who`s still to come in. At the moment we`ll be midtable but as other additions are made I`ll start upping that prediction. The Championship is a tough, competitive and entertaining league but it`s criminally low on quality and the only reason it`s so tight and entertaining is because everybody has a pretty average team that isn`t much better or worse than anybody else`s. Last season Hull City were down the bottom with us to start with but added Fraizer Campbell and got promoted. If we could add one player of genuine Premiership quality like him we`ll be in with a great shout because it doesn`t take much to finish in the top six of this league.
Who will be?
Champions: Birmingham City – it goes against everything I`ve ever said to back a relegated team to bounce straight back but they have a good team, sound backing and essentially the same side that got them out of this division two seasons ago.
Overachievers: Swansea City play football the right way and will be a difficult place for visiting sides to get points from.
Underachievers: Norwich will struggle again I think, unless the rumoured investment comes off and goes straight into the team. Reading and Derby will also do very poorly and I expect new managers to be in charge of both by this time next season.
Young Player to Watch: At QPR I really rate Matt Connolly although I fear Dowie`s love of Fitz Hall will see Connolly pushed out if Gorkss arrives. Elsewhere Beevers at Sheff Wed is a steady player, Giles Barnes needs to start fulfilling his potential at Derby after an injury hit campaign and obviously there`s some quality coming through the ranks at Palace if they can hang onto it – Moses, Scannell and others all look like they`ve got what it takes although Bostock has already been picked off by Spurs and bunged in their massive reserve and youth set up never to be seen again.
Top Goalscorer: James Beattie if the tart can keep himself fit and motivated for a full season. Rob Earnshaw will prove a few people wrong as well.
You can visit Clive by clicking onto loftforwords.co.uk.
Previous Season Previews: Ben Kosky.
Vital QPR would like to personally thank Clive for his contribution
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