As football club’s go, I don’t mind Queens Park Rangers. In fact, I might even go so far as to say I quite like them. I have my reasons. I once dated a girl who lived on Loftus Road; her room overlooking the away end turnstiles. The boyfriend of a later girlfriend’s sister was an avid R’s fan and that served a useful common denominator at family functions. They boast classic kit designs; fellow hoop wearers, be it the blue and white at home or the Flamengo-esque Dennis the Menace away strip. Roy Wegerle scored that glorious solo goal; Trevor Sinclair that overhead kick. Lots of reasons to be favourable… but…
But then they went and spoiled it all by doing something stupid like appointing Neil Warnock as manager. Regular readers will be aware of our disdain for the man, and I am yet to find any reason for that overwhelming dislike to subside. Warnock’s ungracious touchline behaviour, his debased abuse of match officials and general obnoxiousness are often dismissed with the excuse that he’s “a character”. But we’ve come across ‘characters’ in football before; Steve Evans, Billy Davies, Phil Brown. On that basis I have long realised that ‘character’ is polite sports journalist speak for ‘annoying tosser’.
Throughout his time at Crystal Palace Warnock played up to the Eagles financial plight, he used it to create a siege mentality. And so every other press conference or interview would bring forth the words; “All I know is, I’ve got a set of good honest lads here…” Good and honest was perhaps stretching it, as the dint in the back of Kazenga LuaLua’s head would testify. Elbowed in the temple twice in the space of five minutes and eventually forced off the field when Warnock’s thuggish Palace side visited the Keepmoat at the end of the 2008-09 season.
The FAs ‘Respect agenda’ is often taken to task by the media for not working, players are still berating officials in all levels of the game. But is it any wonder, when folk like Warnock are almost actively championed for the way in which they regularly lay blame at the hands of the referee or his assistants. Ho ho ho, Warnock is having a right go at the referee, ha ha ha, what a character. He may have steered QPR to the top of the table, but until Warnock is taken to task properly over his conduct towards the match officials then he remains nothing more than a blight on the game.
Anyway, now thats out of my system – until kick-off at least – what of Queens Park Rangers, the outright Championship leaders? Today we should find out what it takes to keep your head up when all about you are losing theirs. Rangers have wealth, talent and resolve. Warnock has strengthened a skilful side with his brutish spine; Kenny, Hill, Derry and its paid dividends. The side that Rovers made to chase shadows here last season is much different in make-up now, and whilst we may match their talents on the ball, equalling their added physical presence will be the difficult task, and is also the difference between being able to top the Championship and competing with the pack.
Rovers do however have history on their side, though that’ll count for little unless history is particularly good in the air on set-pieces. Queens Park Rangers have not won in Doncaster since 1951, and indeed have lost on each of their last three visits to the town. Each of the two clubs’ Championship meetings at the Keepmoat have ended 2-0 to the home side, whilst the meeting prior to that represents the finest childhood memory for any Rovers fan in their 30s; the 1-0 FA Cup 3rd round shock of 1985. Victory for Rovers today would not be as much of a surprise, but it could at least piss off Neil Warnock, and that would be just as satisfying..
Rovers are still have half a dozen players out injured, with top scorer Billy Sharp the most notable absentee, his groin injury reportedly likely to keep him out for the season. Also absent are full-backs Joseph Mills, James O’Connor and James Chambers, centre-half Adam Lockwood and midfielder Paul Keegan. Flush with fit again players Rovers also sent a further two men out on loan this week; Byron Webster joining Northampton and Ryan Burge going to Oxford, whilst Waide Fairhurst remains at Hereford.
There are less injury worries for QPR coming into this match, indeed they have the added boost of two players coming back from injury. Danny Shittu and Fitz Hall are both set to return from recent spells on the sidelines, whilst Wayne Routledge will undergo a fitness test prior to the match for an ankle injury.
Predicted Doncaster Rovers line-up
(4-3-2-1) Neil Sullivan; Sam Hird, Shelton Martis, George Friend, Mustapha Dumbuya; Simon Gillett, Brian Stock, John Oster; Jamie Coppinger, Franck Moussa; James Hayter
subs: Gary Woods, Dennis Souza, Matt Kilgallon, Mark Wilson, Dean Shiels, Ryan Mason, Jason Euell
Travelling to the Game
This match represents QPR’s third visit to the Keepmoat Stadium, so the chances are a fair few of the Rangers fans heading north for this game will have been before. If however you are coming to DN4 for the first time you can find all you need to know about the ground in our very own guide. Everything from how to get to the stadium on foot or by car, to where to have a pint or pick your tickets up is detailed under the ‘Keepmoat Stadium’ tab at the top of the page.
Rejoice good people for comprehensive 140 character or less match coverage has returned. YepViva Rovers’ much heralded in-game twitter feed will be back in action this afternoon. If you’re on Twitter follow @vivarovers for our take on the game and the occasional whinge from Geoff too. If you’re not a Twitter user you can still keep up with our reporting by refreshing the page at twitter.com/vivarovers.
If its proper live commentary you’re after then look no further than Chris Mortley, the hardest working press office in show-business, who will be providing this via the club’s own Rovers Player service, though you will need to subscribe and touch a lot of wood to receive it. If you’re in South Yorkshire or London expect updates on the match via BBC local radio. Alternatively online there are regular updates via BBC website’s Live Text service, though sadly for throw-in fans they no longer notify you each and every time the ball goes out of play. It’s a poorer service for it too. On the box the BBC’s Final score is accessible via the red button and with Rangers leading the table we’re sure of a mention. Garth Crooks might even offer his expert opinion on Rovers’ fortunes… giving you the perfect opportunity to go and make a brew.