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Season Preview 2020 – Part 5 10/09/2020

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
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QUEENS PARK RANGERS

INS: Lyndon Dykes (Livingston, £2,000,000); Luke Amos (Tottenham Hotspur, Undisclosed); Rob Dickie (Oxford United, Undisclosed); Tom Carroll (Unattached, Free); George Thomas (Leicester City, Free)

OUTS: Eberechi Eze (Crystal Palace, £19,500,000); Grant Hall (Middlesbrough, Free); Toni Leistner (SV Hamburg, Free); Giles Phillips (Wycombe Wanderers, Free); Marc Pugh; Dillon Barnes (Hibernian, Season Loan)

OUR EX-RS: None

THEIR EX-ORNS: John Eustace (Assistant Manager), Les Ferdinand (Director of Football), Paul Furlong (U18s head coach), Mark Warburton (Manager)

REPORT ARCHIVE:

Season H A FAC LC OTH
2013-14 0-0 1-2
2010-11 0-2
2009-10 3-1
2008-09 3-0
2007-08 2-4
2005-06 3-1 2-1
2004-05 3-0 1-3
2000-01 3-1 1-1
1998-99 2-1 2-1

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Lumley
Kakay                Dickie                 Barbet             Manning
Osayi-Samuel      Carroll   Cameron       Amos           Chair
Dykes

BLUFFER’S GUIDE: Rangers were relegated into the division as we left it five years ago, and have largely spent the interim in our old haunt of lower mid-table.  This last season’s thirteenth placed finish was a relative high, with expectations dramatically reined in since they were yoyoing in and out of the top flight five to ten years ago.

There’s a strong Watford presence in the management team, John Eustace had been managing Kidderminster but joined the Rs with Steve McClaren two years ago only to outlast McClaren and retain his position under Mark Warburton’s stewardship.    I suspect I’m not the only one who’d be quite happy to see Eustace back at the Vic at some point.

The team itself is unashamedly attacking and flamboyant, but has a habit of being exposed by full-backs – not least the attack minded Manning, who we were linked with earlier in the year – pushing up and being caught behind.  The goals against column has been pretty horrific, with the absence of a reliable midfield grafter cited as a major issue, American Geoff Cameron now being 35 and beyond doing such charging around twice a week.

The sale of Eberechi Eze was a significant development over the summer;  by all accounts one of the most talented players in the Championship last season Eze had been released by Millwall four years ago; his sale represents a success story, the sort of model that the club – who appear well-run now in contrast to previous eras – are desperate to emulate.  The likes of Bright Osayi-Samuel and Illias Chair are candidates to be the next cab off the rank, but Rangers have a job on first off of replicating the approach that has just about seen them score enough goals to counterbalance the goals against column and keep them in the division in Eze’s absence.  A lightweight side has been given a bit of aggro with the signing of Australian born Lyndon Dykes, newly capped by Scotland in the weekend’s internationals, who will need to be a success one suspects if Rangers are to avoid a relegation battle.  A 3-2 League Cup defeat to Plymouth might have been welcome in relaxing a frantic September schedule, but hasn’t allayed supporters’ concerns about that defence.

READING

INS: Ovie Ejaria (Liverpool, Undisclosed); Josh Laurent (Shrewsbury Town, Free)

OUTS: Mo Barrow (Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, Undisclosed); Tyler Blackett (Nottingham Forest, Free); Tyler Frost (Crawley Town, Free); Danny Loader (Porto, Free); Akin Odimayo (Swindon Town, Free); Charlie Adam; Chris Gunter; Vito Mannone, Garath McCleary; Jordan Obita; Adrian Popa

OUR EX-ROYALS: Nathaniel Chalobah, Adrian Mariappa, Graham Stack

THEIR EX-ORNS: Andy Yiadom

REPORT ARCHIVE:

Season H A FAC LC OTH
2018-19 2-0
2014-15 4-1
2013-14 0-1 3-3
2011-12 1-2
2010-11 1-1
2009-10 3-0
2008-09 2-2 0-4
2006-07 0-0 2-0
2005-06 0-0 0-0
2004-05 0-1 0-3 3-0
2003-04 1-0 1-2
2002-03 0-3 0-1
1995-96 4-2

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Rafael
Yiadom                     Morrison                 Moore             Richards
Swift             Ridomhota         Ejaria
Méïté                     João                   Pușcaș

BLUFFER’S GUIDE: Reading are just there.

There’s no problem with that.  There have been plenty of times in very recent history when the same has applied to us, depending on your perspective, both in this division and in the Premier League, when being just there has suited us fine thank you very much.  Nonetheless, Reading are just there.

Since we parted ways five years ago the Royals are onto their seventh permanent manager (that’s more or less the same as us, depending on how many times / whether you count Slav and Quique) and have also come under Chinese ownership.  When we visited in the League Cup two years ago – and whilst conceding that nowhere looks its best in the early stages of the League Cup – the place felt… neglected.  Crumbling.  A little unloved, though surely not by its patrons.  The latest managerial change saw Mark Bowen, having dragged the Berkshire side into mid-table, encouraged to take a seat upstairs to accommodate Veljko Paunović, a Serb who had been managing in the MLS.  Bowen declined, and there’s a wearied, unconvinced sound to the messageboards.

The Royals had finished third the season before the summer takeover.  Since then they’ve twice finished narrowly clear of the relegation places and if last season was slightly more comfortable there’s no great optimism here.  The first team has some decent players – Ivorian Yakou Méïté managed 17 goals last season – but the squad depth isn’t great.  Mid-table at best, but you wouldn’t bet against a tighter scrap with relegation.  Being just there in this climate isn’t a very healthy thing to be.

ROTHERHAM UNITED

INS: Wes Harding (Birmingham City, Undisclosed); Viktor Johansson (Leicester City, Free); Angus MacDonald (Hull City, Free); Mickel Miller (Hamilton Academical, Free); Kieran Sadlier (Doncaster Rovers, Free); Jamal Blackman (Chelsea, Season Loan)

OUTS: Jerry Yates (Blackpool, Undisclosed); Laurence Bilboe; Julien Lamy

OUR EX-MILLERS: None

THEIR EX-ORNS: Rob Scott (Head of Talent ID), Adam Thompson

REPORT ARCHIVE:

Season H A FAC LC OTH
2014-15 3-0
2004-05 0-0 1-0
2003-04 1-0 1-1
2002-03 1-2 1-2
2001-02 3-2 1-1
1996-97 2-0 0-0

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Blackman
Olusunde         Ihiekwe          Wood            Mattock
Ogbene         MacDonald        Lindsay                    Sadlier
Ladapo               Smith

BLUFFER’S GUIDE: The Millers had come off the back of successive promotions when we played them in the promotion season, Slav memorably fielding four centre-backs across the back line to counterattack the visitors’ aerial threat at Vicarage Road.

After spending three consecutive seasons in the second tier for only the second time since the 1960s, Paul Warne’s side have bounced between tiers two and three for the past four seasons, culminating in last season’s promotion as the lockdown ground League One to a halt.

All the signs are that it will be a struggle to avoid that run being extended;  escaping relegation is the height of the messageboards’ ambitions.  They’re far from a basket case;  the likeable Warne, his assistant Shaun Barker and goalkeeping coach Andy Warrington are all former Millers players, the squad had enough about it to get promoted but the attack looks a little blunt and goalkeeper Jamal Blackman, now 26, has made an anxious start to his ninth loan exile from Chelsea.  Saturday’s defeat at Salford City was the side’s first competitive football in around six months and if the 1-1 full time score before penalties decided the issue flattered City, United nonetheless managed to lose the game.  Relegation candidates, but good enough to take advantage of concerted rubbishness elsewhere.

SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY

INS: Fisayo Dele-Bashiru (Manchester City, Undisclosed); Josh Windass (Wigan Athletic, Undisclosed); Chey Dunkley (Wigan Athletic, Undisclosed); Elias Kachunga (Huddersfield Town, Free); Izzy Brown (Chelsea, Season Loan)

OUTS: Steven Fletcher (Stoke City, Free); Fernando Forestieri (Udinese, Free); Morgan Fox (Stoke City, Free); Connor Kirby (Harrogate, Free); Sam Hutchison; Kieran Lee; Atdhe Nuhiu; Fraser Preston; Jack Stobbs; Sam Winnall

OUR EX-OWLS: None

THEIR EX-ORNS: None

REPORT ARCHIVE:

Season H A FAC LC OTH
2014-15 1-1
2013-14 0-1
2012-13 2-1 4-1
2009-10 4-1
2008-09 2-2
2007-08 2-1
2005-06 2-1 1-1
2002-03 1-0 2-2
2001-02 3-1 1-2 0-4
2000-01 1-3 3-2
1999-00 1-0 2-2
1997-98 1-1/0-0

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Wildsmith
Iorfa                     Lees                 Borner
Odubajo      Luongo             Brown            Bannan        Harris
Kachunga           Windass

BLUFFER’S GUIDE: Having made a couple of stout play-off challenges in the two years after our promotion, with varying levels of help from a wide range of ex-Hornets.  Since then the wheels have fallen off somewhat with a series of unconvincing mid-table finishes.

The most dramatic recent development is a twelve point penalty, imposed for breaching profitability and sustainability rules with regard to the sale of their stadium in respect to their accounts.  Controversial both in regard of the penalty itself, but also the timing…  as anyone with an interest or a Wednesday-supporting mate will know this thing dragged on and on last season and throughout lockdown until it became pretty transparent that imposing a penalty for this coming season rather than effectively relegating the Owls last season carried far less risk of litigation;  Charlton, the wounded party as it turned out, briefly considered legal action and then gave up on the idea.

Nonetheless this leaves the Owls on a sticky wicket this season (cricketing analogy there, sports fans…).  Ignoring Wigan’s points deduction they finished seven points clear of the drop last time round and so a twelve point penalty isn’t necessarily game over.  However that seven point buffer was achieved with the help of a large number of experienced players that have since moved on…  Fletcher and Fox, two of the stronger players in last season’s side, have joined Stoke, Sam Hutchinson is speaking to us by all accounts and Fessi was too before joining Udinese having become the last of the ex-Hornets to exit Hillsborough.  Wednesday are left with a very young squad and precious little up front, although their recruitment has been better than I’d have expected in the circumstances – Tom Dele-Bashiru’s kid brother the standout name.

The psychological burden of that penalty will be a factor as well.  Every poor run, of which there will surely be some, will induce that little bit of panic as the chasm opens slightly wider.  Wednesday need a siege mentality and a good start, something that we will have a say in one way or another on our first Championship away trip next weekend.  Strong relegation candidates, obviously.

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