Sixy Talk – QPR

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We’re back with another Sixy Talk ahead of the weekend trip to Loftus Road, in That London.

The format remains the same, 5 questions about Latics’ opponents Queens Park Rangers and then some insider info on where to get a decent pre-match pie.

I’ve done another Paxman impression and asked the difficult questions to Clive Whittingham, the man behind the excellent QPR website, Loft For Words.

A lot of Latics fans’ most recent memory of a trip to Loftus Road will of course be the second leg of the play off semis in 2014… Leaves a bit of a sour taste as we had real aspirations of going back straight up to the Premier League, even more so seeing as you were subsequently fined due to breaking FFP rules that season… What do you make of all that? And has that fine had an effect on what’s going on now at the club? (All of your signings this summer were free transfers.)

Yeah that night feels a long way away right now. We basically ignored the rules that season and spent whatever it took to get straight back to the Premier League. The owners were still fairly new at that point, they certainly didn’t get involved at QPR not to be in the Premier League, they made a mess with Mark Hughes and they just chucked money at the problem to get us back up. It was a flagrant and deliberate breach of the rules, with a wage bill knocking on the door of £80m. When Charlie Austin got injured in January Redknapp was allowed to bring in Kevin Doyle, Mobido Maiga, Will Keane and Yossi Benayoun to cover for him. It was disgusting really.

In our defence/mitigation, the FFP rules as they were then have since been torn up and re-written. You’re now judged over three years and can lose £39m across that period, back then it was judged over one season with a lower threshold.

Several other clubs – Leicester, Bournemouth, Wolves – have ignored the rules to various degrees since and won promotion as well. Several others – Villa, Sheff Wed, Forest – have ignored/are ignoring them now to try and do the same. It is now a division where half the teams are gambling on breaking the rules and getting up, and the other half are scrambling to comply – we’re now in the latter half grumbling about how unfair that is.

You can’t help but think that the rules aren’t working and, actually, a better ‘fit and proper’ test for owners would safeguard clubs more. The league are very pleased with themselves that clubs don’t go into admin any more, but you’ve got the Allams, the Venkys, the Oystons, Sisu – and what’s more dangerous to a club’s wellbeing? Our owners wrote all the debt off, converting it into equity, so they paid for their folly.

And to cheer you up, the wreck you see before you on Saturday is entirely because of that season, and the failure to stay in the Premier League once we got back there. The club is scrambling to qualify for the new FFP rules in a tiny stadium with a rented training ground, it’s had a huge fine handed down to it, all the money we got from the Premier League went in the pocket of wanker footballers and their agents. So it may have stung Wigan that night, but we’re basically going to be paying for that season in many ways for years to come. Serves us right? Maybe, but it wasn’t the supporters making those decisions and it’ll be us still here once everybody involved has gone.

If rumours are to be believed, it was a two horse race between Steve McClaren and Owen Coyle for the Wigan Athletic managerial position back in 2013, a race “Schteve” eventually lost due to Coyle being the cheaper option. What do you make of him as a manager? Is he the right man for the job or should we all be straight down the bookies on payday with it all on him for the sack?

We sacked Ian Holloway at the end of last season when he was doing his job. He divided opinion, he was far from perfect, his behaviour and team selections were erratic, but he was doing the job. He knew the problems, knew the restrictions, knew the score and was working within all of that. He knew senior players would be leaving this summer, he was blooding the talented youngsters we have in the first team, he knew the sort of summer targets we’d be able to go after and was ready to accept it and work with it, and we sacked him.

McClaren is popular with the QPR board because at the start of that play-off season we’ve just talked about he came in as a coach for three months while Redknapp phoned it in and got the team playing well and winning. But that was a long time ago, and as said that was a £100m team in the Championship. We had a lot of very good players back then. McClaren has since failed at Derby twice and Newcastle.

He’s started appallingly. It was always going to be tough with Nedum Onuoha and Jack Robinson leaving from the middle of the defence and Alex Smithies our outstanding goalkeeper getting sold, but the team is in absolute freefall. The youngsters Holloway blooded, who were playing well last season, have, bar one exception, been dropped or loaned out. The signings suggested were ignored bar Toni Leistner from the German second division. We’re now frantically scrambling around trying to get some Premier League loans in, while losing games 7-1 trying to execute some budget Man City/Barcelona routine playing out from the goalkeeper.

What do I make of him as a manager? Not a great deal at this point. Talks the talk, can’t walk the walk.

QPR’s poor start to the season has been there for all to see. It would be typically Wigan Athletic to perform well for the opening four games and get results against decent opposition and then lose to a struggling side. How do you think it will go on Saturday? (We don’t have a very good record at QPR incidentally.)

Neither did Bristol City – 16 games at Loftus Road without a win going back to the late 1970s, won 3-0 on Tuesday without breaking a sweat. The time for a reaction to the 7-1 shellacking at West Brom was Tuesday, I expected us to get our backs to the wall, muck in, restore pride, grind out a 1-0 win. Instead we were pathetic.

The signings of Nahki Wells and Tomer Hemed are much needed and give fresh hope, but honestly based on what I’ve seen in the last two games and the way Wigan are playing it looks like a 2-0 defeat to me.

(Only two? We’re averaging two a game against so called decent teams! – Editor)

Just what exactly has gone / is going wrong down there?

Pretty much what I said in 1) and 2). We’re paying for years of horrible overspend on wanker footballers. We’re trying to be FFP compliant and reasonably sustainable, but we’ve got a tiny, ageing stadium and two rented training grounds in West London – the club costs about £9m to run before a single wage is paid and our season ticket revenue is about £5.4m a season. Parachute payments about to end.

We’ve got some good players coming through at U23 level and towards the end of last season the likes of Paul Smyth, Bright Osayi-Samuel, Ebere Eze, Darnell Furlong, Ryan Manning, Ilias Chair and others were in the team and playing well. We’ve kind of hung our hat on developing cast offs from other academies and selling them on for big money, but sacked the manager that was doing that, went for McClaren and it’s gone into a freefall.

We lost a lot of senior players over the summer because we couldn’t afford to keep them – Smithies, Onouha, Robinson, James Perch, Jamie Mackie. That was a lot of quality, and a lot of big dressing room personalities, to lose all at once. To bin the manager off at the same time as well, it looks like too much at this stage.

Is it inevitable that you will leave Loftus Road at some point? I know there was talk a few years back of a new 40000 seater stadium – What are your thoughts on that?

Well we need to leave for the reasons I gave above, it’s slowly strangling the club. The current proposal is to move about half a mile north and redevelop the Linford Christie Athletics Stadium into a modern 20,000-30,000 stadium that costs less to run and can generate income on non-matchdays.

We love Loftus Road but the old girl looks tired, and isn’t really fit for purpose any more. Problem is, Linford Christie Stadium is on the edge of protected parkland, and a quest to build a new training ground on a far less complicated site to the west has become mired in red tape and court battles for the best part of five years now. We haven’t got the boxes packed just yet let’s put it that way.

The one thing Wiganers always want to know when we’re on our travels is where we can get a decent pie. What’s your favourite and where do you recommend near Loftus Road for Saturday? Is there anywhere that does proper gravy?

Cookes pie and liquor on Goldhawk Road used to be world famous, so they closed it naturally. Can we interest you in some fried chicken? We’ve got plenty of that. There won’t be pie or gravy but King Solomon’s on Uxbridge Road is pretty legendary.

A pie shop called “Cookes” has to be a good omen for the ‘tics? (Even if it has closed down and wasn’t even spelt the same – expect a 1-0 defeat!)

Thanks to Clive for answering our questions, he can be found on Twitter @LoftforWords

(We also returned the favour and answered some questions on Latics for him – they can be found here.)

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