Saturday, 28 July 2012


not the first time that this blog has bigged up the videomakinggenius of Mary Rachel. having marvelled at the mishmashdelishness of her interpretation of a My Dougie remix, this is my england is now finding new supplies of love for a newer effort  of hers. here she brings plenty of cray(zee) to the Pelican Fly All-Star remix of Blueberry (Pills & Cocaine), a collaboration between Detroit rapper Danny Brown and UK producer Darq E Freakerblissfully bonkers.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Leon Knight: from mediocrity to madness

A much re-tweeted joke doing the rounds today reads as follows: "People are currently having to Google who Leon Knight is... and then Google the team he plays football for."

So who is he?

Well, some QPR fans will remember Leon Knight. He is the pint-sized ex-Chelsea forward who failed to make an impact when on loan at Loftus Road more than ten years ago. Eleven games, zero goals and a terrible attitude. He did go on to a more successful loan spell at Huddersfield Town, and when he later made a permanent move to Brighton he scored thirty goals there over a three-year period. But since then he has failed to settle and failed to score many goals at most of the numerous clubs at which he has been a complete waste of space. On his travels, and during what should have been the prime period of his playing career, he has slipped further and further down the lower reaches of professional football, first in England and more recently in Greece, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The list of clubs from which he has been ejected for that bad attitude includes Swansea City, Milton Keynes Dons and Rushden & Diamonds. In Ulster, Coleraine F.C. suspended him for failing to turn up to training and matches. Then, last month, his next club in the province, Glentoran F.C., fired him for making homophobic comments.

So Knight is a currently unemployed and totally underwhelming player with a proven record as a trouble-maker and gobshite. So why are people talking about him on Twitter today? Why are people joking about how obscure he is?

Because although Knight has been steadily been building a reputation as one of the most unpleasant people active on Twitter, in the last twenty-four hours his nastiness has switched up to a higher level altogether. For some reason, he has decided to direct vile abuse at the Wolves midfielder Jamie O'Hara and his wife Danielle Lloyd. While Ms. Lloyd may have a bit of a chequered past in terms of her own behaviour on television and in public places, there can be no justification for the hateful, misogynistic bile that Knight has directed at her and her husband.

Although this latest nonsense may be the low point of Leon Knight's notoriety as a Twitter pest, his comments are not without precedent. Knight regularly makes it clear he that he dislikes women:

Knight is a father. One of his young children is a girl. Are we to suppose that when his daughter is older, he will be comfortable with men speaking about her in these terms?

Leon Knight - constantly aggressive, constantly provoking people, forever getting fired for a lack of discipline and decency - is clearly a very damaged and deluded person. Perhaps he is mentally ill. Perhaps he is a sociopath. Either way, surely no football club will ever again touch him with a bargepole. Not even at the very lowest levels of the semi-professional game. However horrible he is determined to be, really he is to be pitied -  as are his children.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

bright sunlight away from the limelight

Kudos to QPR media man Ian Taylor and his colleagues. Thanks to their good work, Rangers fans were able to follow the team's adventures in the Far East and feel pretty close to the action.

Two of the three matches played in Asia could be watched live online. One of these games, the fixture in Indonesia, was viewed via Ustream, which offers a live chat window alongside the video screen. So those fans who work in offices were able to follow every kick of the ball and exchange comments along the way - all while pretending to get on with their jobs, of course.

Between matches, Taylor was busily tweeting about everything else going on, as were other club officials and the players themselves. So the Rangers were thousands of miles away. But at times it felt like we were with them on their pre-season Asian tour, sharing their obvious enjoyment of what seems to have been a useful and brilliantly well-organised trip. Not least by decorating one of his aeroplanes in QPR colours and naming it in honour of the late Alan McDonald, Tony Fernandes saw to it that the team got to feel like superstars while away from home. All the tweeting from inside the Rangers camp seems to suggest that this has done much to establish a high level of morale in the squad. Now supporters must wait with interest to see if this translates into a good start to the new season.

While those on the tour enjoyed both the experiences it offered and the limelight shone on the club by Asia's media outlets, those few senior players left behind in England have been toiling away in obscurity.

The club's website has not featured very prominently the various friendlies played by the reserves. For example, there is not yet a match report on the site for the most recent of these, a dull affair played down in Aldershot on Tuesday evening.

Aldershot Town vs. QPR: not much fun the evening sun
For anyone really keen to know the details of how that fixture turned out, this blog is certainly not the best place to look. A few comments about the match will follow below. But the details will be very sketchy indeed. As ever, any this is my england match 'report' is only ever going to be a brief jumble of impressions. For a more conventional and more detailed account of the match, Aldershot Town's website offers the best option right now. It certainly offers some clarification for those of us who did spend a warm evening in north-west Hampshire and failed to recognise some of the fellows in the blue-and-white hooped shirts.

So it turns out that the lad in who pulled off a few decent saves was the young Australian 'keeper, Aaron Lennox; and it transpires that the no. 5 and no. 6 shirts were worn, respectively, by Taylor Parmenter and Ben Brown. A side mainly made up of youngsters, then. Of these, teenage midfielder Frankie Sutherland was felt to have perhaps had the best game, judging by occasional murmurs of approval from the travelling contingent of QPR supporters who spent the first half squinting into the fierce glare of the low evening sun. Left-back Mo Sharif also drew attention for having the audacity to lash a couple of long-range shots at the home 'keeper.

The little gaggle of senior players on display, however, did little to suggest they will be at the heart of Mark Hughes's plans for the Premier League campaign - Tommy Smith was largely anonymous, operating from a curiously deep position for much of the time; Rob Hulse did a convincing impression of Rob Hulse; if DJ Campbell's contribution will be remembered at all, it will be for knocking a penalty kick wide of the post.

For all of these senior players, perhaps the inference we should draw from their omission from the Far East tour party is that the club is seeking to offload them, whether permanently or on loan. Will any of them be greatly missed? Well, onlookers would be forgiven for feeling a twinge of sadness at seeing Smith relegated to the second string while his colleagues were out in Asia basking in the enthusiasm of the public there. The former Portsmouth man, after all, scored the Rangers' first Premier League goal last season, has been a useful contributor at times, and may not yet be a spent force. Hulse? No, perhaps his eventual departure will not be widely lamented. One of Neil Warnock's least successful signings, he has simply never made an impact at the club.

As for Campbell, when the time comes for him to leave QPR, some supporters may well wonder what might have been. He joined the Rangers in the wake of a decent campaign at Blackpool, having scored a good number of goals for a team that was eventually relegated. Of the players acquired last summer prior to confirmation of the Fernandes takeover, Campbell surely looked the most promising. But dogged by injuries and eclipsed by the arrival of Zamora and Cisse, it seems that the opportunity for him to make a mark at the club has now slipped away.

The match in Aldershot finished with the home side prevailing 1-0 and some of the Rangers supporters in attendance schlepping home with familiar questions on their lips. Why do I go to games like this? Am I a masochist? Am  I mental?

In some previous seasons, questions like these could have been accompanied by worries about whether the first choice players were very much better than the ones unfortunate enough to be playing their pre-season games with the reserve team. Happily, the footage from Malaysia and Indonesia and the excitement about some of the new arrivals suggests that there is much more room for optimism this year.

Perhaps it's fair to ask whether a couple more signings are needed to create a better balanced squad. Are the Rangers a bit light in terms of choices at centre-half? Could we use another left-back, given that Armand Traore seems to look better when roaming forwards than he does when called upon to defend? The arrival of Andy Johnson notwithstanding, might it be prudent to splash the (salary) cash on a proven goal threat such as Jermain Defoe or Craig Bellamy? Time will tell. Perhaps there will be more signings soon. Perhaps not. Either way, it seems to be an undeniably good, fun and hopeful time to be QPR fan. We deserve it, don't we? We deserve a bit of sunshine after living so long under dark clouds, right?

U RRRRRRRRRRssssssssssssssss

Monday, 23 July 2012

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Saturday, 21 July 2012

not a fan?


the cab pulled up
in early daylight,
right on (or maybe just off)
the harrow road,
with her (a curvy nurse, a dirty mouth),
her friend (an indistinctness),
& my heated visions
of chemical-tasting sex
with either one of them,
didn't matter which.

but of course,
in her narrow flat, they
didn't change
out of their little bits
of LOVE RANCH glitter
into something comfortable, and they
didn't change
into people who noticed I was even there,
into people I could really imagine
wanting to talk to
or be with
or think about
on the other side
of the bitterbright haze
of the pills
I passed them
by way of paying
for their time,
for the warmth of the living room,
for the mug of sweet tea,
for the having somewhere better to be
than outside the locked gates
of victoria station,
aching for the first trains to start up
and take me home
to a comedown sunday,
and too many questions.

so when it got late enough, I was off,
lighter by three red-and-yellow capsules
and the taxi fare,
if they even knew my name, because
I don't think they ever asked and
I might have never said, and maybe they
were like
who the bloody hell was that
the moment
I was out of there.

but the funny thing is,
it's, what, twenty years later
and I'm thinking
about them now, certain
that neither one of them
thought about me
ever again.

it's not important.

Friday, 20 July 2012

when public art goes wrong

- So tell me about Goldington Crescent Gardens.
- It's just a little triangle of grass and a few trees in Somers Town.
- What happens there?
- It's a cut through from St. Pancras Station. Commuters walk through in the morning and evening.
- Yes, and?
- People walk their dogs there. The dogs crap on the grass.
- Anything else?
- Street drinkers congregate on the two or three remaining benches.
- Remaining?
- Yes, there were more benches but we took them out.
- Why?
- Because of the street drinkers.
- Well it seems the place definitely needs to be improved with a nice piece of public art.
- Agreed. What kind of thing?
- I do have an artist in mind. Here, I've got some pictures of his work.
- Oh, I like this piece. What's it called?
- Giant Twiglet Sprayed Silver.
- Fuck it. That'll do.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

average thursday

Freshly cut
Morning light
But she didn't


someone has downgraded stu's upgrade

only an insane God

It struck him with a horrible force. His parents, whoever they were, had probably made love out of just such an itch. For fun, for this momentary satisfaction, they had conceived him, and because he was obviously inconvenient, dumped him in the orphanage; because he, the life they had created while they were being careless and thoughtless, was not part of the fun of it all; he was just a harmful side effect of the scratching of the itch; he was the snot in the handkerchief after the nose had been blown, just something disgusting to be gotten rid of in secret and forgotten. Cold rage filled him, rage at his unknown parents, rage at the life he had been given, and for such trivial, stupid reasons! For one wild second of ejaculation! For that, he had been born. This same thing that was keeping him awake nights, and inexorably turning him into a prancing faggot, was the cause of his existence. Fifteen or twenty minutes on a forgotten bed between two probable strangers had given him twenty-four years of misery, pain, and suffering and promised, unless he were to die soon, to go on giving him misery for another forty or fifty years, locked up in one small room or another without hope of freedom, love, life, truth or understanding. A penis squirts, and I am doomed to a life of death. It has got to be insanity; there has got to be a God, because only an insane God could have created such a universe.

Don Carpenter, Hard Rain Falling (1966)

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

the perils of crowd-sourced advertising?

Hats off to the good folks inside Shell's marketing organisation. Ever at the bleeding edge, they are "committed to online social media" because "after all, it's the fuel that lubricates the engines of internet communication."

With this in mind, the giant oil company has decided to dip its toes into the rainbow-hued waters of crowd-sourced advertising, promising that the best ads slogans submitted online will be used in a poster campaign. This will "take the Arctic Ready message offline, directly to the drivers who benefit from Shell's performance fuels." In a stroke of particular genius that is sure to be appreciated by colleagues in Shell's PR and corporate communication teams, the ads submitted to the contest are all displayed on the company's website for anyone to see. Will any of these entries make it onto poster sites?

Turns out that the above is a spoof. Thanks to Thom Beckett for pointing that out. What's actually going on here is Greenpeace and The Yes Men running an elaborate hoax to encourage anti-Shell messages from those unimpressed by the company expanding its operations in the Arctic. The best part is that Shell are not going to sue.

emma told me this weird story

is your dad still living in shepherds bush, I asked her.
no, she said, he's in albania now.
albania? how come?
he's working there, that's
what he does, he
goes all over the place, working, doing
something or other
for an engineering firm and
this time it's albania. he
likes it there, she said.
so where else has he been, I asked, and
do you ever go out to see him?
well, not usually, she said, but
when I was a kid I did go and see him
in dubai
and in abu dhabi.
oh right, I said, how did you like it there?
okay, I guess, she said, but
I don't remember much, I was, like,
seven or eight years old, but
I do remember one thing. we met
this lady. a porn star. she weighed about 40 stone.
haha, for real? I asked, and she
was like yes, she was actually
really nice, this woman, very friendly.
40 stone, huh, I said, I guess there's a market
for that, I guess there's a market for everything. So
how did you even meet someone like that?
when you were just a kid? in dubai
of all fucking places?
oh, she was just staying at our hotel, this
kind of resort place. she was with
her husband. or her boyfriend. or bodyguard,
I don't know, maybe he was like
her co-star,
or whatever.
was he a 40 stone dude, I asked, and
she was like, no just normal size.
oh, I said, I was hoping he was really skinny, you know
like jack spratt and his wife, that kind of vibe, like
they could have used those stage names, and
she looked at me
like she didn't know what I was talking about and she said
no, he was really muscular and I think
he was italian
or something

Monday, 16 July 2012

5-step guide to losing a follower


Notice that someone that you follow but have never met (who also follows you, and with whom you have an interest in common) has retweeted a really dismal and fairly mean-spirited 'joke'... something like this, for example:

Comment on the joke. Be sure to use a Latin term when picking apart the rhetorical device around which the joke is built. This is a very effective way of sounding like a smart arse. 

Imply that your interlocutor draws his or her ideas from a narrow selection of narrow-minded sources. 

Move from implication mode to something more like attack mode.

You're blocked!


is there a QPR supporter working in product development at Tesco HQ?


The cultural highlight of the month so far? definitely a night out at the Barbican, witnessing the genius musical stylings of Goran Bregović, blending his usual Balkan foot-stomping with monologues from Irish actress Lisa Dwan. Bregović is brilliant. The music of south south-eastern Europe is infectious. Check out some of his best-known tunes such as Kalasnjikov and Mesecina. Both of these feature in the amazing Serbian language film Underground (Podzemlje) directed by Emir Kusturica. A turbo-charged, magical-realist history of bonkers Belgrade, it's one of the most darkly hilarious movies you can wish to see. Bregović's music is woven right into the fabric, inseparable from the action, much the way the zither of Anton Karas is a huge part of The Third Man.

Thoughts of Bregović sprang to mind on hearing a tune from a UK act, Sam and the Womp. It's a belter and it's good to see the band name checking Bregović as a key influence. Perhaps it would be unkind to describe some of the brass work in Bom Bom as taken straight from Kalasnjikov. But there's a firm nod in that direction. But Sam & co. are doing something new with it, so this is fine and dandy.

EDL: shrinking numbers, expanding waistlines

Here in the UK, mainstream thought sometimes seems be shifting towards notions so perilously simplistic that they really ought to be outliers in the parade of ideas vying for acceptance. You know the kind of thing. Foreigners are taking our jobs. Muslims are terrorists. Pakistani men are paedophiles.

But there's a bit of a British paradox going on. We are living in a time when ideas like these may seem a bit more attractive than they might have done a while ago. But the far right groups actively pushing these ideas are on the wane. Of late, the BNP has been crippled by debt, spanked at the ballot box and wracked by arcane internecine feuding. The English Defence League, meanwhile, has a struggle on its hands - the struggle to attract significant numbers of marchers to its demonstrations. This was exemplified on Saturday, when only around 300 EDL supporters rocked up in Bristol for a demo. This was despite the confident prediction of a turnout of thousands from one notable American EDL fan:

The very compact size of the EDL's group in Bristol is made very clear by a few seconds of stop-motion footage shot by the good people at a tech start-up firm in the city:

It wasn't just the small size of the EDL turnout on Saturday that was striking. Also notable was the childishness of their antics. The predominantly short-haired chaps on the march seemed to be having a lot of fun while singing their own version of that old nursery favourite She'll Be Coming Round the Mountain, which, as every EDL member is doubtless aware, is based on an old negro spiritual song.


As the singsong continues, check out the three particularly chunky chaps at the front. Presumably they will have already been on YouTube to revel in Saturday's little adventure. One wonders which advert popped up when they did so. The first time this is my england had a look, the ad which preceded the video was one that definitely seemed aimed the fellows in the foreground:

A handful of fatties singing silly camp fire songs? This is a taste of things to come? Terrifying.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

ameripass nineteen ninety

in new orleans we stepped off the greyhound bus and
did all the usual things:
walked the length of bourbon street drinking something
sweet and strong, yes
all that and
we stayed in yet another
cheap place, a dark ground floor room and, yes
more fighting and angry fucking
on stiff sheets and
when the rain came and
the streets boiled
with swirling chocolate milk tides,
the water lapped at the threshold
and slid
quite a way across the carpet tiles, then
when it subsided we were bedevilled
by bold brown roaches,
big fuckers, watching
as you lay insensible
on that buggered bed and
as I moved joylessly
in and out of you, and
to the cracked corners
of the shower stall
when I tried to scrub out your smell.

in a moment of clarity we decided on arizona,
southern arizona,
reasoning we needed some dryness.

we didn't have a good time there either.
phoenix seemed a bright shit-hole, and
when we ate fat and protein
in some wide diner
every blank face in there
just looked at us.

Friday, 13 July 2012


“We should do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian Darwinian theory he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.”

Richard Buckminster Fuller

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

John Terry and the army of twits

H.L. Mencken once contended that no one in this world has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. If the sage of Baltimore were still alive, it seems doubtful that a good look at Twitter would cause him to row back from this view, especially if he followed the chitchat around John Terry’s trial for a racially aggravated public order offence.

Given the fame of the defendant, and given the level of interest around the alleged crime of which he stands accused, it is not surprising that a lot of people feel inclined to comment on the case. But for anyone who prefers not to recognise Mencken’s very gloomy characterisation of the general public, the nature of many of the comments will perhaps come as an unwelcome surprise. This is because so many people feel able to state pretty strong views about the case without having first grasped even the most basic facts about it.

A lot of Twitter twits start out by labelling the case as being a clash between Terry and his alleged victim, QPR defender Anton Ferdinand. This is incorrect. This is not the case. Ferdinand has not brought a private prosecution. The tawdry affair being played out at Westminster Magistrates’ Court is R vs. Terry NOT Ferdinand vs. Terry. “R??” explodes an angry tweeter. “Who the fuck is R??”

R is short for Regina. AKA the Queen. You know. That dear old lady who has been our unelected head of state for the last sixty years. 

For the avoidance of further doubt, this is a CRIMINAL trial. John Terry is the defendant. Anton Ferdinand, as the alleged victim, is simply a WITNESS. The other party is the Crown Prosecution service, which is bringing the action against the defendant on behalf of the Crown. Terry is NOT being sued or otherwise prosecuted by Anton Ferdinand. That’s NOT how criminal law works. So the case should properly be referred to as “R vs. Terry” or “the Crown and Terry”.

Of course it is fanciful to suppose that very much public debate on this or any other issue will ever be based on firm possession of germane facts. We don’t have the right sort of education system to encourage it. We don’t have the right sort of print and broadcast media. Pick up most newspapers this morning. You’ll doubtless get the full scoop on the fluctuating waistline and thigh-firmness of some creosoted dimwit currently starring in a structured reality TV show. But you won’t learn much about the country you live in, much less the wider world. Who cares about a bunch of boring facts anyway? Empirically testable knowledge? Bollocks to that. Informed discussion of difficult issues? Bore off. Too clever by half, that’s your fucking problem. Facts? Evidence? I’ll fact you in a minute, you mouthy little twat. etc. etc. etc. 

So we will doubtless see more of this stuff:

Ryan Glynn from Liverpool believes that Anton Ferdinand is trying to get John Terry banned and that the QPR defender’s role in this affair is akin to waving an imaginary red card at the referee. Ryan has not checked his facts. If he had done so, he would know that the alleged offence was reported to the police not by Ferdinand but by a member of the public. This fact was in the public domain before the court proceedings began to unfold this week, and the testimony heard in the trial only serves to make this even clearer. 

Jamie Doyle, a Chelsea fan from Hastings, believes that Ferdinand is providing his witness testimony to the court not because he is obliged to do so and because he is under oath but because he is seeking fame. To have arrived at this view, Jamie can’t have any understanding of the differences between a criminal case brought by the CPS and a civil dispute between two individuals. A later tweet from Jamie indicates that he is a graduate. Twelve years in school, three years at university – and he doesn’t have any idea, even at a very basic level, of how the law works in his native country. If he is a representative case, then we do have to question the value for money offered by our education system when it comes to shaping the well-informed citizens of the future. Or perhaps we don’t want well-informed citizens…?

This lack of even a very basic understanding of how the law works seems to be widespread. Twitter timelines were full of this stuff yesterday. The witterings of Ryan and Jamie were just plucked at random from a vast morass of similar nonsense. 

But the dubious worth of some comments about the John Terry case do not only touch on ignorance about the interplay between the police, the CPS, victims, witnesses and the courts. Consider this offering from Joshua Keeligan of Leeds:

At least Joshua understands that the work of the CPS – prosecuting criminals – is paid for with public money. He, surely, gets the point that Ferdinand is not himself prosecuting John Terry. So, on this point at least, we can’t accuse Joshua of ignorance. But he seems to object to the idea of the prosecution of alleged criminals being funded from the public purse. How far does this extend? Should we not fund the prosecution of burglars? Muggers? Rapists? 

Or perhaps he means something else. Perhaps he means that public money should not be used to bring to justice specifically those accused of committing racially aggravated crimes. If this is his belief and if we choose to make the assumption that Joshua does not actually approve of racism, this raises a question that we could put to him: Why do you think that racism is less acceptable and less widespread in our society than it once was? Many would contend that the law has had a role to play – introducing sanctions both for discriminatory practices on the basis of race and for the racially aggravated element of some crimes. Perhaps Joshua believes we have arrived at an arbitrary point in time when “enough” has been done to discourage racism and that it’s time to roll back the various mechanisms that have combined to hold it somewhat in check. But given that Joshua has the wit to understand some very simple facts about the legal system, perhaps we should be optimistic about the chances of at least having an intelligent discussion with him about such questions. 

For others, though, the prospect of such an informed debate seems a more distant one. Take Charlie Harkness from Corbridge in Northumberland, for example:

Charlie believes that hitting a black man is a racist thing to do but shouting the words “fucking black cunt” to him is not. The odds on Charlie winning Mastermind at some point in his life became rather longer the moment he wrote that tweet.

The trial, as they say, continues. Let’s see how much more bullshit is tweeted about it.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

AVB: our part in his downfall?

Covering the mishaps of a reluctant young conscript, the first of Spike Milligan’s autobiographical war stories rejoices in the title Adolf Hitler: My Part in his Downfall. The tongue-in-cheek hubris is magnificent.

For QPR fans, perhaps there is some fun of this sort to be had when considering the irritable and seemingly very naïve Portuguese man who managed Chelsea for part of last season. It does feel, after all, as though our ragtag outfit played their part in his downfall. André Villas-Boas even admitted as much himself.

People love a handy initialism. The young Portgueezer provided one, his name quickly being reduced to 'AVB' by the English football public. An initialism favoured by many QPR supporters? ABC. Anyone But Chelsea. So it was music to many pairs of west London ears when, in February, sports journo Yann Tear reported on Chelsea’s badly stuttering attempt to recapture the Premier League trophy. The Pensioners' then-manager felt that his side’s acrimonious defeat at Loftus Road was the beginning of the end of Chelsea’s title bid. Lovely stuff.

During that bad-tempered match, it certainly became clear that the southwest London side could be rattled. Apparently surprised by the hostile crowd and the doggedness of the home team, Chelsea’s discipline evaporated. Seven players booked. Another two sent off. The captain getting drawn into a situation that led to him being charged with a racially aggravated public order offence.

It also became very clear that Villas-Boas could be rattled. His tetchy post-match comments to the press and his attempt to remonstrate with the referee got him in hot water. This lack of composure also surely provided encouragement to any other managers considering the use of mind games.

But let’s not kid ourselves. The Rangers may have done their bit in sowing the seeds of doubt in the inscrutable mind of AVB’s temperamental Russian sugar daddy. But the young Portuguese boss was undone mainly by his own mistakes and shortcomings.

Among these was an inability to win over the big egos in the Stamford Bridge dressing room. It’s a tough gig down there. In the popular imagination, a cabal of senior players can get managers fired by refusing to go along with any boss with whom they do not click. Whether or not this is a fair characterisation of what goes on behind the scenes at Chelsea, the newspapers were soon reporting that Villas-Boas was somewhat aloof, apparently not communicating the rationale for his team selections to those players disappointed at being dropped. Some managers are able to rule their clubs with an authoritarian style at the same time as commanding the respect of their players. AVB did not manage to pull off this balancing act at Chelsea. Why was that? One can only speculate, but his background may well have been an issue. Not much older than most of his senior team members, he came into management with no career as a professional player behind him. You have to ask whether the likes of Lampard, Terry and Drogba ever took him seriously when he was crouching in his technical area, gesticulating enthusiastically and trying to give detailed tactical input. Is it really fanciful to imagine that when ‘Lamps’ and ‘JT’ looked over at him their thoughts were along the lines of “cheeky little cunt, never played the game and he’s telling me where to fucking run”?

It’s hard to see why this approach to match-day communication and to man management will go down any better at Spurs than it did at Chelsea. The Tottenham squad have reputedly become used to a regime which was all about letting talented players express themselves, playing the game without the shackles of overly prescriptive instructions or overly rigid tactics. Their former boss is also someone known as a highly personable man manager. The transition from Redknapp to Villas-Boas, then, may not be a smooth one for some Spurs players. How long, one wonders, will it be before the spiky Portuguese coach is clashing with members of his new team?

We should also observe how Villas-Boas handles the media in his new job.

It seems to be the case than here in England it is possible for foreign managers to create an initially very favourable impression. They speak slowly and carefully. We think this means that they are more articulate and more intelligent than our home-grown gaffers, failing to realise that slow, careful speech is simply a consequence of operating in a foreign language. When we compare these guys to a Sam Allardyce or a Mick McCarthy, we think of them as more suave and sophisticated. But that’s just because we are better able to make judgements about the education and background of our own countrymen than we are about people from other countries.

Fooled by the appearance of a calm, almost scholarly demeanour, we perhaps imagine that managers from mainland Europe will be clever and unflappable when interviewed. We assume they are all going to be charming. But they all crack in the end. The pressure here is great. Our newspapermen are bastards. Our pundits can be cruel. The only real surprise with Villas-Boas was that he cracked so quickly, almost immediately proving unable to charm the media. He answered pretty harmless questions rather warily, looking paranoid in the process. He thereby showed signs of weakness. This is fatal. Our newspapers are sharks. They go in for the kill when they scent blood in the water.

At Spurs, AVB faces a particular challenge. His predecessor was a media darling, a great favourite of the football press, who united almost as one to proclaim him as the only viable candidate for the England job. Unless Villas-Boas has somehow radically reinvented his approach to media relations, there exists the danger of him being given a very rough ride indeed, especially if Tottenham do not make a strong start to the season.

For our part at QPR, we don’t get to give a Villas-Boas-led team the full Loftus Road treatment until January. But other managers, teams and fans would be well advised to test his temperament before then. Unless the man has changed a lot over the summer, he looks vulnerable to psychological warfare and is unlikely to enjoy the lessened pressure of a long honeymoon period in the media. 

QPR 2011-12: upset and upsets

Here, finally, is the much-delayed this is my england look back at QPR's first Premier League campaign for what felt like a zillion years. No insightful match analyses. No in-the-know stuff. Just the usual personal ramble, more impressionistic than accurate. If that's not your cup of tea, do not read on. If it is, here goes... 

That our club had a funny old season is beyond dispute. Our first campaign back in the top flight after a long, long absence was fraught with upset and marked by upsets...

Just another shit ref
Upset? Plenty of that. Consider the performances we saw from some teams of match officials. We saw serial controversialist Joey Barton sent off for a phantom head-butt, the officials conned by Norwich City’s sneaky cheat, Bradley Johnson. We saw a vital match up at Bolton spoiled by the linesman failing to spot that Clint Hill had stabbed the ball some distance over the goal line. Had the Rangers not eventually avoided the drop, that incident would surely have been one to moan about for years to come. As it was, Bolton’s handy failure to register more points in their last couple of games felt like poetic justice to QPR fans (if not to Patrick Barclay).

Another memorable outrage came at Old Trafford, where another cheat tumbled to the ground when only breathed upon, winning a penalty and getting the tough-but-honest Shaun Derry sent off. That the cheating Ashley Young was offside when the supposed offence happened - well, that just compounded the sense of frustration for all Rangers followers watching the match. Sure, this was not a game that the visitors would have expected to win, but the terrible mistake on the part of the ref ruined it as a contest very early in the first half. Any QPR fans who had travelled up to Manchester must have felt particularly aggrieved, having paid through the nose only to be robbed of a meaningful spectacle. That the club's attempt to have Derry's red card overturned was dismissed out of hand by also caused some of us to suspect that incidents involving current members of the England team are treated differently by the FA than is the case with other contestable dismissals.

Enough with the queasy provincial love-in
Also unsettling for some of us was the protracted media wankfest around the two other clubs promoted into the Premier League at the end of our successful 2010-11 campaign.

The slow, tedious wannabe tika-taka of the division’s Welsh interlopers was applauded by many commentators. This, we were told, was how the game is meant to be played. Well, those of us who schlepped our Christmas hangovers up to the architecturally sterile and curiously small (why build a brand new ground with a capacity of only 20,000?) Liberty Stadium would beg to differ. Swansea seemed a dull side. What’s so interesting about watching the ball move around between the goalie, the fullbacks, the centre halves and a holding midfielder?  Over and over and over again? Until all of the oxygen is sucked out of the occasion?

Norwich, meanwhile, did offer better entertainment value, scoring more freely and not needing to rely on boring their opponents into submission. So it is harder to complain with proper justification that media interest in the Norfolk side was over-the-top. But it still rankled. It was still irritating to hear the Canaries widely praised as a good example of a promoted club making a real go of its first season back in the top division. Because those sort of plaudits were simply not directed at the Rangers for much of the season. Which is fair enough, really. Because QPR did make heavy weather of finding decent form.

Shopping on the cheap, followed by a mad splurge
That QPR failed to perform as well as the other two promoted teams is due in no small part to the inauspicious circumstances the club was facing at the beginning of the season. Though we have ended up with a hugely popular and ambitious chairman who now seems set to lead the Rangers into exciting new territory, the timing of his takeover was not conducive to a well-ordered 2011-12 campaign. The poisonous troika of Briatore, Ecclestone and Paladini did not relinquish control until the season was already underway. Clearly intent on selling the club, they were not minded to give then-manager Neil Warnock a sizeable transfer kitty. His spending constrained, then, Warnock shopped around for a ragtag collection of bargains. Then when the Fernandes takeover was finally concluded, the manager was left with a very short time in which to go on a quick spree of panic buying. While some of the players acquired both before and after the change of ownership went on to make decent contributions, it seems very doubtful that Warnock would have picked up precisely the same collection of new additions if he’d had time to plan his purchases more carefully.  So while some supporters will find fault with the Yorkshireman’s tactics and team selections and whatnot, we can only speculate about whether he would have found better form and lasted the season at QPR had it not been for the unhelpful conditions with which he had to operate when putting his side together last summer. It remains the case, after all, that QPR occupied seventeenth place in the Premier League table the day Warnock was dismissed and were still in seventeenth place when the season drew to a close.

But it’s probably overly simplistic to suggest that Warnock’s replacement has not been an improvement. Mark Hughes may never be a warm, charismatic character when interviewed. He may always come across as a tad straight-laced, even humourless. But as a former Manchester United player and as someone previously trusted with a job as significant as managing Manchester City, he seems to be better connected around the game’s upper echelons than was the case with Neil Warnock. Over time, it is likely that this will continue to work in the club’s favour, raising its profile and making it a more attractive destination for higher calibre new players.

Explosions of joy
So we have had a quick look back at the upset and heartache – the terrible refereeing; the unpleasant feeling of being seen as second best to Swansea and Norwich; the chaotic start to the season. A turbulent and sometimes traumatic season, then – and this time we’ve not even dug over the bones of Joey Barton’s idiotic season finale and its consequences, a matter given fairly thorough treatment in an earlier article. For the sake of brevity, we’ve also elected not to dissect the numerous individual disappointing matches that the Rangers should have won – the draws at home to the division’s less accomplished sides. Anyway, given that the season ended on a high note and given that we are looking forward hopefully to an easier second term of this latest stint in the top flight, it seems more fitting to move on from the upset and celebrate a few of the upsets – the games in which our lads took all three points against the odds.

The first of these came in October. Registering their first league win of the season, the R’s managed to find themselves on the back foot for much of a tense fixture with that horrible lot from down the road in SW6. On the back foot and struggling to win back the ball against just nine men for much of the time. But who cares? Because all that huffing and puffing came after the only goal of the game, a tenth minute penalty from dear old Heidar Helguson. Not only because of Chelsea’s two red cards, this was a famously fiery affair, still smouldering all these months later and still emitting a horrible stink – the stench of bile and bad feeling arising from the allegation that Pensioners’ skipper (and all round piece of shit) John Terry racially abused Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand during the match. Terry gets his day in court tomorrow. We wait with interest. We wonder what sanctions the Chelsea man will face from his club and from the FA should he be found guilty of the racially aggravated public order offence of which he is charged. We look back at the further abuse Ferdinand has faced from Chelsea supporters. Abuse for simply being a witness in the case, the Rangers centre-half not having been the one to report the incident to the police.

Oh, to have been at Loftus Road the day a much needed three points was grabbed from the Pensioners! But no such joy for this correspondent. Word of the humdinger at the Bush reached my ears via mobile phone, prompting a little jig of joy at the baggage carousel of Abu Dhabi airport. What a fixture to have to miss! But never mind. A few more memorable upsets came along, never to be forgotten.

Of these, one of the finest was the recovery from a two-goal deficit to beat the visiting Liverpool. We do remain indebted to the arrogant presumption of Kenny Dalglish. Thinking he had victory in the bag, the cranky Scotsman replaced the unplayable Luis Suarez with the lumbering, ineffective Andy Carroll, instantly nullifying Liverpool’s attacking threat. The Rangers prospered and it was such sweet joy to celebrate that late winner in close proximity to the stunned Scousers (and Surrey boys) in the School End. The bruises to the shins? Worth it. The hoarseness lasting several days? Worth it. The sense of walking around for the rest of the week on a massive adrenaline come-down? Worth it. Another great Loftus Road memory. As is the home fixture against Spurs. What fun to have been part of that magnificently hostile home crowd.

Onwards and upwards
It wasn’t a perfect season by any means. It started with players of doubtful value joining the club. A year on and we still haven’t seen much to suggest that Shaun Wright-Phillips was an astute signing. We haven’t seen a lot of end product from forwards Bothroyd and Campbell. We barely saw Kieron Dyer at all. We also ended up relying on the poor form of rivals, praying for bad results for both Blackburn and Bolton in the latter stages of the season. But we survived it, and so did QPR. This summer feels very different from the last one. Tony Fernandes continues to inspire confidence with his relentless positivity. Mark Hughes has time to make sensible changes to the squad, and while we won’t all agree on the value of every new signing, some of the new additions do look very encouraging. Rob Green should be an upgrade between the sticks. Park Ji-Sung will offer boundless energy in midfield.

Can it really be the case that we will start the 2012-13 season with relatively few worries? Let’s see. It’s hard to believe. Plain sailing at QPR? It doesn’t happen, right? Either way, this off-season feels long and dull.  Not because of a lack of excitement about what's going on at the Rangers. On the contrary, developments at the club are just causing some of us to wish away the next few weeks, such is the keenness to get back to following the Rangers. In the meantime, we’re not even getting any decent summer weather to offset the lack of football. Roll on August 18th. Bring on the Swansea. Come on you R’s.

Friday, 6 July 2012

pause for thought at loftus road

Make what you will of the Evening Standard's assertion that our QPR are looking to pick up a couple of unwanted Spurs players. It's not a great newspaper. It gets things wrong. There is rarely any evidence of much affection for our club. But if there is any truth in this, how excited should we be about the prospect of Jermain Defoe and William Gallas joining Mark Hughes's rapidly evolving squad?

Defoe is (just) the right side of thirty and is considered good enough by the England manager to have warranted a place in the Euro 2012 squad. He would be signing on the back of a decent 2011-12 campaign (11 goals in 25 league games, 17 goals in 38 games overall) so we know he can still find the back of the net. A reasonably exciting prospect then.

Gallas? Very much the wrong side of thirty, and looking back on a season disrupted by a variety of injuries. Were he to form a central defensive partnership with the Tottenham cast-off already at Loftus Road (Ryan Nelsen), we'd be looking at the Premier League's most grizzled pair of stoppers.

Perhaps more exciting than talk of Gallas in a hooped shirt is the news that our popular club Chairman is now looking seriously at three possible sites for a new stadium.

Loftus Road has been the only home-from-home that most of us have ever known. Only the true veterans among us can remember the 1962-63 season, when the Rangers plied their trade at the cavernous White City Stadium just along South Africa Road. Fewer still will remember the club's other short period of playing at the giant former Olympics venue. Anyone who was ten years old when QPR played the final game of their 1931-33 White City stint would be eighty-nine now. Any fans of such long standing reading this article today are warmly congratulated on their incredible staying power.

With the prospect of a new ground now seeming to be a less distant one, talk among supporters is rightly turning to concern that any planned stadium should keep us close to the pitch and able to create the Istanbul-like atmosphere that visibly rattled some visiting teams last season. But whatever the level of justified affection we have for Loftus Road, many will agree that it is not a suitable home for a club looking to establish itself at English football's top table in the twenty-first century. Small, cramped and with basic facilities, it offers no room to grow. So worries about how far any new base would resemble the current ground in terms of atmosphere are, perhaps, a nice kind of problem to have. Better, surely, than the prospect of being forever hemmed into a tiny plot of land between the flats of the White City Estate and the terraced houses of Ellerslie Road.

Should that new ground ever be constructed, it is to be hoped that as well as being properly atmospheric, its design will include elements of tribute to our greatest names from the past. Those of us old enough to remember him are still reflecting on the horribly premature passing of one of the most distinguished of these, the late Alan McDonald. Will anyone coming up through the club's youth system now go on to play more than 400 games for QPR? Or anyone who comes up through the improved system being set up by the recently appointed technical director? It seems doubtful.

With the worst of our traumas behind us, it seems, the future of the Rangers does now seem brighter than it has for many years. Great players will join us. Perhaps even players good enough to join the ranks of our few true legends. But it does not seem very likely that any of these will dedicate as many years to the Superhoops as Macca did.

If you have time, a summer visit to Loftus Road is to be recommended. The streets thereabout seem eerily quiet in comparison to what you experience on a match day. But this is fitting. It gives you pause for thought when casting your eye over the tributes to Macca which are arranged to one side of the players' entrance on South Africa Road. The book of condolence is still open and you might like to jot down a few words of appreciation. As we ponder what a seemingly exciting future may hold for our club, it's good to offer up our appreciation for one of the players who truly shines out when we look back over the often frustrating but always compelling story of QPR to date.

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