View from the opposition: Ian Holloway may just be the best of a bad lot for QPR
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Queens Park Rangers fan Clive Whittingham, editor of fan site Loft For Words, takes a look at tomorrow's season finale at Carrow Road.
Have you been pleased with Ian Holloway's work since replacing Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink in November?
It's difficult to be happy when he started off by losing six matches in a row, and has finished the season by doing the same – the club had lost only six league games in a row three times before and now we've done it twice in five months. Hasselbaink's team were difficult to watch – defensive, but not in a way that a decent team couldn't pick apart (Newcastle 6-0 our record home league defeat this season), and it had no plan of attack whatsoever. We've seen many signs of improvement under Holloway, and our first choice XI with Grant Hall at the base of midfield looks quite good, but he makes half a dozen changes every game and seems to thrash around rather. He's got it into his head that we need to have half a dozen ways of playing so that we're unpredictable to opponents, but really he should just get his best XI (which is pretty good) playing consistently together rather than start worrying about plans B, C and D.
So is Ollie the man to lead the Rs again next season?
The last thing we need to do next season is – for the third season running – make our plan and spend our budget with a manager over the summer only to then sack him in October. It basically destroys the whole season. If the board have any doubts about Holloway, and believe they could get a better replacement, they should act now. Personally I have doubts, but I don't believe we need more upheaval nor that our club would hire anybody better if it came down to it. We change managers all the time and never get any better, that should tell us something.
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Which of your players has impressed this season?
The goalkeeper, Alex Smithies, won all the awards he was eligible for in our end-of-season prize-giving. He's been brilliant, and there are clubs like Everton, West Ham, Bournemouth and others in the Premier League who have far worse goalkeepers who must be having a look. Luke Freeman has been very good since signing in January and Ryan Manning has been something of a revelation since stepping up from the youth team in January.
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And which has been disappointing?
It's been a disappointing season all round really. Joel Lynch was brought in to be the 'head it, kick it' centre back to replace ageing Clint Hill, and Jake Bidwell was bought to be the steady 6/7 out of 10 left back from Brentford last summer. Bidwell has been mediocre, exposed by our formation and often caught out for pace, while Lynch has been turned too easily too often and seems to spend most of his time and concentration screaming at Bidwell. Meanwhile, Hill, nearly 40, has been winning awards at Glasgow Rangers. For expectation over delivery, those two have been the most troublesome.
Have you been surprised to see Norwich miss out on the play-offs?
Yes. I liked Alex Neil, you started very well, and the parachute payments obviously weight it massively in the favour of the clubs coming down in the first year. But then you look at the defence in particular, with ageing players like Sebastien Bassong who've always been accident prone still being relied upon, and perhaps it's not such a surprise after all.
Which of City's players will you be most wary of?
Well Cameron Jerome has scored a lot of goals and we're poor defensively so that's the obvious answer, but that doesn't mean I think he's any good because he isn't and his record says as much. I'm surprised Alex Pritchard hasn't played more because we were all really impressed with him when we saw him at this level previously.
And lastly, what is your prediction for the game?
Goodness, who can tell? Does it matter? We make six changes to the team for games where there is something at stake so goodness only knows what XI we'll put out now it doesn't. Norwich score loads, we concede loads, I've said 4-4 somewhere else this week so I'll stick with that. We've got a Sunday lunch booked in town afterwards and that's the real quiz.
Clive Whittingham is the editor of fan site Loft For Words.