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Saturday, February 12, 2011

QPR Report Saturday Update: Warnock's Weekly Column...Year Flashback: Relegation Bound...Warnock Incoming?

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Year Ago: QPR Headed for Relegation
-The QPR Run: Last 17 - LDWLD - LLDDW - LDLLL - LL

The Championhip Table from Year AgoDerby 30 36
QPR 30 34
Sheff Wed 30 34
Crystal Palace 29 33*
Ipswich 29 33
Sc*n*horpe 30 33
Reading 14 32
Plymouth 29 27
Peterborough 31 21
[*Palace Deducted 10 points]

- Year Ago: Warnock to QPR Media and Messageboard Rumours

Nottingham Post

Garry Birtles column: Pressure is on QPR as Forest look to force title twist

Paul KoncheskyTO many, tomorrow's showdown at Loftus Road will be viewed as a potential Championship title decider.

But I am not among them.

Because when QPR take on Nottingham Forest in front of the TV cameras all of the pressure will be on one side.

And I don't mean Forest.

Quite simply, there is more at stake for QPR when the game kicks off at 1.15pm.

They are top of the table; they are carrying the weight of expectation.

Neil Warnock's side will view this as an opportunity to establish an advantage.

And, given that they are the home side and their lofty perch, their fans will be expecting them to win again.

But they are not invulnerable at Loftus Road.

While they have enjoyed three comfortable wins during their last five home outings, they have also been held to a draw by Bristol City and, more significantly, been beaten by Watford.

Even little blips like that will have sowed a seed of doubt in their minds, given the size of the goal they are pursuing.

If they lose, they will start to feel they are no longer unbeatable.

In contrast, if Forest do not win, they still have two games in hand to fall back on. They have two aces up their sleeve.

Forest will also make the journey south in a mood of extreme confidence, following a remarkable run of six straight wins.

Beyond that, in fact, Billy Davies' side have only dropped two points in their last nine league outings.

They are hitting form at precisely the right time.

At this stage last year, Forest had begun to stutter.

But right now, you sense the belief is such that, even if they do lose tomorrow, it will not dramatically change things.

I, like the manager, worry about what will happen if they pick up a few more injuries.

But that is, quite honestly, my only real concern about the side at the moment.

At the back, they have conceded only one goal in four league matches.

And the reason for that is the defensive solidity given to them by a back four that looks to be perfectly balanced.

What I like about Wes Morgan and Luke Chambers is that they just defend in straightforward, un-fussy fashion.

They do not dally in possession, they do not try to play clever cross-field passes.

And they get the job done in dominant, powerful style.

They head it and kick it and, when required, are capable of working the ball into midfield.

Chambers, in particular, has also added an attacking threat from set-pieces, that Forest did not have with Kelvin Wilson.

And either side of them, they now have two outstanding, pacy full-backs.

Chris Gunter's quality has been plain to see since day one and now, on the opposite flank, Paul Konchesky can have a similar impact, with pace, poise and an attacking threat.

But what encourages me most about Forest is the number of chances they create.

Some might be concerned that Lewis McGugan, a midfielder, is far and away the top scorer, with 11 goals.

But there are a few reasons for that – not least the fact that his talent has started to shine through, now that he has sharpened up his attitude.

In contrast, the club's strikers have not exactly torn up the scoring charts.

But that is because – and this is not a criticism – Davies quite often rotates his front men.

He changes his front line on a game-by-game basis, almost.

And while Robert Earnshaw and Dexter Blackstock may only have netted five league goals apiece, that is partly because they have been in and out of the side.

And while Blackstock's season has been cut short by injury, his replacement has certainly hit the ground running, with Marcus Tudgay having netted five already, in just nine appearances.

He will continue to get goals as well, because any decent striker will in that Forest side.

One of the biggest thrills of my career was playing in a Reds side that had so much creativity.

Obviously John Robertson was a legend, when it came to delivering balls into the box. If you couldn't put away his crosses, then you did not deserve to call yourself a striker.

But we also had Martin O'Neill, Viv Anderson, Frank Clark, and Bryn Gunn who were more than capable of putting quality deliveries into dangerous areas.

And that was just the wide players. There was creativity running through the spine of the side as well.

As a striker, it was fantastic.

I'd enjoy playing in this current Forest side almost as much, for similar reasons.

As well as Konchesky and Gunter, Forest have McGugan, Radi Majewski, Paul McKenna, Paul Anderson and Nathan Tyson who can all carve out a chance in the blink of an eye.

And, among that list of names, McKenna is somebody who deserves a special mention for different reasons.

Last season, Forest badly missed their captain, to the extent that, in my view, it was a major factor in them missing out on promotion.

This time, they should have him around until the finish, luck permitting.

For me, it all adds up to one thing – a team that, regardless of the result tomorrow, can challenge for the top spot come the end of the season.

And I suspect QPR will discover as much tomorrow. Nottingham Evening Post

- QPR REPORT Q&A: A Nottingham Forest Fan Perspective of the Club on and off the Field)

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- Next Nottingham Forest: Stats & Previews

INDEPENDENT - Neil Warnock: I just hope Billy has the usual Manager of the Month luck in our top of the table battle

What I Learnt This Week

Saturday, 12 February 2011

This week has been all about getting ready for our fantastic home game tomorrow against Nottingham Forest. It's first v second in the Championship, live on TV with a 1.15 kick-off. It promises to be a full house, a great atmosphere and a cracking game. If you can't look forward to a match like this you shouldn't be in the business.

The odd thing is we're underdogs, which I can't remember being the case with a team being top of the league before. But Forest have won six on the trot to climb through the pack and on to our heels. Not that I expect Billy Davies to agree, he usually writes his teams off. With me saying this it'll even things up.

I was pleased to see Billy win Manager of the Month. Congratulations, and I hope he enjoys the traditional luck winners have.

This is our sixth game of the season moved for live television coverage and we've already been told two further games in April, at home to Sheffield United and away to Cardiff, have been changed. I suppose it means you are doing well if TV want to show you, and I know it is good for fans who can't get to games to watch us, but it inconveniences the ones who do come and doesn't always do us any favours. With the Sheffield game moved from Saturday to Monday we will go 16 days without a match because it follows an international break. We then have four games in 12 days including trips to Barnsley and Sc**thorpe. It's daft.

We've been bubbling in training, as you might expect after that great win with 10 men at Reading last weekend. As I mentioned in later editions of last Saturday's paper, if Ronald Zubar's last-minute error for Wolves at Bolton made you question why anyone is a football manager, a result and performance like ours at Reading is the answer.

After the match I floated home and it was great to have a weekend with the family in Cornwall. On Saturday night I had a father-and-daughter evening – Sharon was with William – and I took Amy to a lovely restaurant in Looe. I have to say, even at this time of year with the waves crashing over the sea wall, I can't think of a better place to wind down. All managers have their own places and ways of doing that, Cornwall's mine.

2. England's Danish delicacy was a rare treat to watch

I actually enjoyed watching England play this week, which is almost unique for me. It felt like a proper football match, both teams played with a bit of desire. I was interested to watch Wilshere and Bent enjoy the first half, and just as pleased to see the changes for the second. While I'm a big fan of Rooney and Lampard, it is nice to have that bit more pace around when playing against the better sides and I do feel in the next 12 months Fabio Capello will be under pressure to possibly leave one or two of his big players out. It'll be interesting to see what he does.

While all the talk was about Wilshere I thought Denmark's 18-year-old Christian Eriksen was the best player on the pitch. I'm sure one or two of our big boys will be looking at him. I was pleased to see young Kyle Walker get a call-up. Kyle played the first half of the season with us. He was so brilliant I said he would play for England, but I didn't expect him to be called up so soon.

We had three players away, which isn't too disruptive: Adel Taarabt, Petter Vaagan Moen and Kasper Gorkss, with Morocco, Norway and Latvia respectively. Kasper even came back with a win, which doesn't happen every often. They beat Bolivia. Fortunately the game was played in Turkey for some reason, otherwise he'd probably still be on the way home.

3. Roy has landed on his feet with Albion's excellent set-up

If there's one lesson from West Brom's decision to change their manager it is to enjoy it while you can. Both managers who won automatic promotion from the Championship last season have now been sacked, which shows how quickly things can change in this job.

Whether West Brom are right will be decided at the end of the season. If they stay up they will believe they did the right thing, though who's to say Roberto di Matteo wouldn't have kept them up?

I think it is a good job for Roy Hodgson to come back into, not least because in Michael Appleton and Dean Kiely he will have good back-room staff. They are both cracking boys. Dean, who played for me at Bury, knows his goalkeeping, while Michael is an excellent coach who I think will do well in management when his time comes.

4. I could sit back and drink in all last Saturday's drama

What an extraordinary day's football last Saturday. One incredible match after another. I was in the perfect place to follow events and think about all those managers sweating on the touchline – sitting by my window, looking down the coast, watching the goals roll in on Sky Sports with a glass of wine in my hand.

Then I watched Wolves beat Manchester United – with our friend Zubar playing his part in a sterling rearguard action. Incidentally, I did say a few weeks ago United are as likely to lose to someone at the bottom as they are one of top six, and it was no fluke. You have to hand Wolves credit. Listening to Jez Moxey, the chief executive, and owner Steve Morgan talk about the club not being in debt shows how well run it's run – and it is not as if they don't buy anyone. It proves it can be done.

The craziest match was at St James' Park. I feared for Newcastle at half-time and I felt a bit sorry for Alan Pardew. I thought if they get beat eight or nine... yet Alan will remember that day for ever with a warm glow. And though Arsenal went away despondent at a 4-4 draw, by Sunday night they had cut the gap on Manchester United and were a point further ahead of Chelsea.

Talking of Newcastle, who have they signed this week but my old striker Shefki Kuqi? I have to say on a bad day he's not very good, but on his day he's a handful and I can understand why Alan signed him, having lost Andy Carroll at the last minute and then had some injuries. He will give Alan 100 per cent whether he comes on with 20 minutes to go or 10. They don't have anyone else like him, and when Kuqi puts himself about for 20 minutes there are not many centre-halves who want to play against him.

5. Hope Harry's a good tipper after our 'waiters' got revenge
On Tuesday I took our reserves to Spurs. You may recall we lost 8-3 there recently, though Sky Sports News reported it as 9-2 and Harry Redknapp said he thought I had brought a team of waiters along. So you could envisage my pleasure when I left with five minutes to go and us winning 2-0. I walked past Tim Sherwood and Les Ferdinand and said, "Tell Harry I'll bring the waiters next time so he can win a game."

Imagine how disappointed I was that our result failed to make the SSN bulletin. They only mentioned that Jonathan Woodgate had had another game. I wonder who's supplying their information?

You can tell what a good player Woodgate still is, he was head and shoulders the best on the pitch, he just needs to get that sharpness back. Likewise we were pleased to give Akos Buzsaky a run, he played his first 45 minutes for about four months, which will be good for him.

6. Love is in the air – but maybe not for Amy this year

I might go in early on Monday with it being St Valentine's Day, to give the postman a hand. Remember my female readers, you still have the chance to post a card.

I did have to laugh at Amy, she's gone eco-friendly and doesn't believe in sending cards. I wonder if it is because she found out the only one she got last year was from me. INDEPENDENT

- ANOTHER QPR Game on TV: QPR vs Derby County (List of QPR/TV Games)
- Rowan Vine (Loan till Feb 15) on His Brentford Time
- Dennis Signy Out of the Hospital
- Year Flashback: Rumours that Sporting Director Gianni Paladini Was Departing QPR
- World's Richest Clubs List
- Two Years of QPR Trust Success

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