QPR: renovated and rejuvenated

Well, being a Queens Park Rangers fan is never straightforward. Heck, following any Premier League team is never straightforward is it, to be fair? Actually, you don’t know how wonderful it is to call us a Premiership side, seriously, after 15 years of wilderness I’m still pinching myself that I can classify my team as “top flight”. Or to be all blooming fashionable “an English Premier League team”.  We’re riding higher in the league than most of our London rivals, have turned Sky Sports News recently into the QPR information channel, have actually bought some players, and some decent ones at that.

Tony Fernandes taking over the club has been like a complete breath of fresh air. Our new owners are actually communicating with the fans for a start. Our previous owners, who were basically hated, never bothered communicating a thing to us excluding the line “we saved the club”, that and wacking our ticket prices for home and away fans up to disgustingly high levels. I personally never had an issue with Bernie Ecclestone, the F1 ringmaster never lied to the fans about what he was about, nor his level of interest (e.g. virtually zero) in our club. Flavio Briatore on the other hand is quite possibly the worst football club owner ever to grace any English league – and I include Ridsdale, Bates, Ashley and maybe even the Glazers in that one. It was actually coming to the point where he was lucky not to have some mindless lashed up fan lamp him at a game he was that unwelcome due to his actions, comments and general “arseholeness” with regards to the club and my fellow fans.

Just to clarify something though – we had the world’s richest owners, the minority owning Mittal family could buy Manchester City out of their pocket money, we were never the richest club. There’s a massive difference between someone’s bank balance and how much they put into a business. Anyway, enough about them. That’s in the past now, thankfully.

So, at last, someone buys “Tango and Cash” (Flavio & Bernie) out! Tony Fernandes scoops us up, gives Neil Warnock some actual cash to spend and embarks on a PR exercise possibly never seen before in English Football. Now, I’m not knocking this, but this is where I am very cautious. When I got wind of the takeover I started tweeting Tony and at our first game of the season Sky cameras pictured him, on his phone, next to Flavio. Timing wise, he was replying to me J And this is where my caution comes into it. Tony loves twitter, loves facebook, loves PR in general and yes, it’s fantastic to see him (and others) communicating publicly what they’re doing. But, seeing replies to other fans, seeing messages about bullshit issues like the ladies loos in one stand, or going back to an old crest (QPR have changed their crest more times than Wenger has failed to spend in the transfer market), or bringing back an old mascot etc.. well, personally I don’t give a monkeys. And seriously, it’s what happens with regards to investing in the team, supporting our manager, and investing in our youth that really matters.

But, who I am to moan! We’ve got Wright-Phillips, Ferdinand, Young, Barton, Traore and er…Puncheon in the last week. Transfer deadline day was hysterical, and exciting for me, never ever can I remember virtually all the talk being about QPR.

So, the new owners have backed manager Neil Warnock and they’re making the right noises. But, maybe a bit too much noise? I’ve heard players on talksport non stop, I’ve heard our new CEO on every news channel on the planet, I’ve seen Tony Fernandes’ Formula 1 team change their signage to say “Team Loftus” for a race. Heck, Tony is even sending part refunds to all our season ticket holders and has dropped our match day prices. It’s all good, very very good. But, let’s see…..

I’m more happy than I’ve ever ever been about my club. But, I’m a QPR fan. We’ve been shafted by local businessmen that are “fans”, we’ve been shafted by millionaires and billionaires, we’ve had our hopes built up by everyone from World Cup winners to past playing heroes at times and we’ve been let down. So, I’m still cautious. All the noises are great, as is all the PR but there is more to running a football club than that. Only time will tell. Personally, I think these new owners may just walk the walk.

By Scott Jones – QPR fan – @ScottJonesy

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Is Samir Nasri the final piece in the world’s most expensive jigsaw?

It’s taken the best part of the summer, but Samir Nasri’s signing by Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini may well be the difference between Premiership glory and failure for the Eastland’s club this season.

The mercurial Frenchman, 24, put pen to paper on a deal worth £100,000-per-week following his £22 million move from Arsenal, joining City owner Sheikh Mansour’s multi-million revolution of the success starved club.

Nasri, a £7million signing from Marseille, joins an array of talent at Mancini’s revolution, and has already made an impact with an impressive showing in City’s 5-1 demolition of Harry Redknapp’s Tottenham Hotspur.

But days after the transfer window has slammed shut, could the signing of Nasri be pivotal in the Eastlands side’s bid to wrestle the championship away from bitter rivals Manchester United?

Already, Nasri gives Mancini another option if the equally talented David Silva picks up a knock or suffers a loss of form. However, he could also be deployed alongside the Spaniard, in what would be a daunting and intelligent City attack.

Nasri during his Marseille days

Although it could be argued that both are the same type of footballer, what Nasri possesses better than Silva is an urgency and directness when during attacks. Nasri offers Mancini’s men a different kind of flair and an explosiveness in the final third that can help unlock even the best of defences – not just in the Premiership, but the Champions’ League also.

And that just might be the key for Man City when trying to unlock the tightest of defences that both the Premiership and Europe will throw at them this season. There is no doubt that Manchester City are now genuine contenders both at home and abroad. With the likes of Nasri, Silva, Edin Dzeko, Sergio Aguero and – until January at least, Carlos Tevez – you would write them off at your peril.

But the biggest challenge for Mancini will be to keep all of his stars happy – and I’ve named only a handful there. With the sheer size and depth of talent at Mancini’s disposal, it means not all of City’s stars will be able to play all of the time.

Yes, they have the luxury of being able to basically name two different sides, equally as strong as one another, in alternate weeks.

But, while Nasri, Silva and the rest could take Man City towards their first title in decades, the key will be how Mancini manages his squad. If managed correctly, then the Premiership trophy could well be draped in light blue come next May.

Manchester City for the title?

By Joe O’Brien – Celtic fan – @Joe11OBrien

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A quick view of League Two

This week in League Two we’ve seen Morecambe come close to top spot, Crewe continue their revival and the ‘Paolo Di Canio show’ rumbles on.

On Saturday Jim Bentley’s surprise package Morecambe took on Phil Parkinson’s underachieving Bradford. With it looking like The Shrimpers would take all the points Bradford snatched a draw at the death, which still keeps Morecambe in the top three.

Crewe’s youthful side won comfortably at The Alexandra Stadium 3-1 over a poor Oxford side that still hasn’t found their form this season.

With no Premier League action the Sky camera’s visited the County Ground to witness an action packed game with Swindon coming out on top over Rotherham 3-2 with sub Alan Connell scoring his first goals for Swindon.

In other selected results, Wimbledon’s Christian Jolley scored a 95th minute winner against Port Vale to secure their first ever Football League home win.

Crawley put last week’s defeat behind them with an impressive 4-1 home win against Bristol Rovers, and Torquay put 3 past a hopeless Macclesfield at Plainmoor.

Plymouth’s nightmare season continued at Burton Albion with the home side winning 2-1. Jamie Pitman’s Hereford had a big home win against Dag & Red.

Team of the Week

GK – Ben Smith – Shrewsbury

DR – Marcus Marshall – Rotherham

DL – Lawrence Wilson Morecambe

DC – Brett Johnson – Wimbledon

DC – Brian Saah – Torquay

MF – Matt Richie – Swindon

MF – Jermaine McGlashan – Aldershot

MF – Ben Smith – Crawley

CF – Alan Connell – Swindon

CF – Alex Revell – Rotherham Utd

CF – Shaun Miller – Crewe

Calvin Zola, Jack Compton, Tyrone Barnett, AJ Leitch-Smith, Sam Hatton, Danny Shelley, Luke Murphy, Ryan Hall, Ian Craney and Damien Scannell all had brilliant weekends for their clubs.

Upcoming fixtures (key games in bold, with added predictions):

Shrewsbury (2) v (0) Hereford, Aldershot (1) v (1) Wimbledon, Bradford (2) v (0) Bristol Rovers, Cheltenham (1) v (2) Macclesfield, Crewe (3) v (1) Barnet, Gillingham (3) v (0) Accrington, Morecambe (2) v (2) Crawley Town, Northampton (1) v (1) Torquay, Oxford (2) v (0) Burton Albion, Plymouth (1) v (3) Port Vale, Rotherham (2) v (0) Dag & Red, Swindon (3) v (1) Southend.

Phil Parkinson takes charge at Valley Parade for the first time against a Bristol Rovers team who haven’t won in 3 League Two games and need to get back on track.

Third place Morecambe entertain League Two leaders Crawley at the Globe Arena in a top of the table clash. Plymouth will be aiming for their first win of the season against Port Vale.

And finally Paul Sturrock returns to his former club Swindon in big game for Paolo Di Canio who needs to continue his winning run in Wiltshire.

By Dan the fan – Swindon Town fan – @danjohnson6

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United fans attempt to incite violence against City rivals

Some Manchester United fans active on the online forums of the fanzine and Red Issue, have disgraced their club by encouraging fellow fans and members of the site to incite violence between Napoli fans and City fans on the Italian club’s ‘ultra’ messageboards by impersonating Manchester City fans. Under pseudonyms such as ‘mancityhooligan’ and ‘Bluemoon’, they have threatened violence, both in Naples and in Manchester when the two clubs meet in the Champions League, as well as abusing members of the Napoli forum. A particularly vile example of which is where one United fan writes, “I hope that the Napoli fans go to town on them before and after both games.” By and large, it would appear that the majority of the Napoli fans are savvy to the fact that it is United fans appearing on their forums and abusing them, however I believe that all possible steps must be taken in order to ensure that no misunderstanding is left to fuel anger within the Napoli ultras. My hope is that, with further exposure and raised awareness, the idiots responsible will be given deserved punishment and that any potential tension between Napoli and City fans in the upcoming Champions League ties will be diffused.

The links at the foot of this article show first a screenshot of the Red Issue fanzine thread in question via a City fan site and an example of the incitement on a popular Napoli message board.

The Red Issue fanzine and the instigators of this abhorrent incitement should be condemned for their disgusting conduct that has no place in any modern society. These fans have taken the footballing rivalry between City and United too far, and in appearing to think that the loss of the lives of City fans would be amusing, shows their behaviour is simply abhorrent and should be exposed for the pure evil that it exhibits. A few however, have chosen to deflect attention from these fans by saying that this happens all the time and that nothing will come of a few harmless words on the internet. I have a very strong answer to anyone who thinks that this is a trivial matter. The words of the minority can be ignored by the majority as trivial, but when these words are aired in the right place they can cause a chaos that is very real. In other words, whilst this is a minority amongst the United support, it only takes one fool to cause trouble, and where human life is in question, no risks should be taken.

The instigator, whose name has been made very public, particularly on Twitter, and those others who were involved, have been reported to the Greater Manchester Police.

A Screen-shot of the thread from the Red Issue Fanzine:

http://www.bluemoon-mcfc.co.uk/Images/redissue.gif

An example of the incitement:

http://www.sscnapoli.it/forumzone/default.aspx?g=posts&t=132460

By Matthew Hewitt – Manchester City fan – @MatthewHewitt

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F*ck the system

Let’s be honest, the Premier League is an amazing league, filled with great talent, great teams, and great managers. The league makes ungodly amounts of money for the clubs. But here’s my problem with it, outside of the ‘big six’ teams (Arsenal, Liverpool, the Manchester Clubs, Spurs, and Chelsea) who else is really capable of  going up the table and competing?

It wasn’t too long ago that in the old First Division, you could have small teams sneak up the table, and grab second place. Heck Everton, who have never been a world beater have two First Division titles, and a European Cup Winners Cup from the 80’s.

Wimbledon lifting the FA Cup

We’ll never see a club like Wimbledon, or Norwich City, or even something like Oxford. While it looks like I’m sitting here and opining on a begotten era, and hating the new fangled league, let’s not forget something, the Premier League has been around since 92. So it’s not new, it needs some fixing. Let me also say this, I haven’t seen much of the football from the 80’s, and being American I never did.

The best example nowadays we have to a small team challenging for Europe, or being in that next mid-table section of the Premier League, is Stoke. And no one is ever going to mistake them for the great Everton sides of the 80s, or Brian Clough’s Forest teams, because they can’t. They’ll never have the capital or have players that want to join the club.

What needs to happen is each team out of the European places, and above the relegation zone needs to get extra money from the Premier League. While the prize money, and the TV money from finishing in each spot is great, it needs to be better for teams to rise above the big boys. An extra £20-40 million per club wouldn’t hurt. And I would only do this once every five years. Added to that, I’d make the clubs who aren’t in Europe have to spend 40% of their profits on building the team, (new talent, better facilities, better coaching, etc). Chairmen should have to put money into their clubs to keep succeeding.

Luton won the League Cup after beating Arsenal 3-2

There needs to be more parity in English football, the days of Watford coming up getting second in 1981-82, and in the FA Cup runners up in 1983, need to come back. As much as I (a Liverpool fan) love the top teams, and the great players, who would love to see a smaller team make a run in a cup or the league? Who would love to have 1987 again? When Luton won the League Cup. Or who wouldn’t want 1988 again? When Wimbledon famously beat Liverpool and won the FA Cup. Two small clubs having unheard of success. Will that ever happen again? Doubt it.

More recently, English football fans will remember the run Stoke had to the FA Cup final last year. That was fun because it could get boring seeing the same four teams every year, or the random Aston Villa sighting.

Is there a solution to the problem?

By Stephen Brandt – Liverpool fan – @KingKennyfanlfc

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A quick view of League Two

This week in League Two we’ve seen Crawley’s 34 league game unbeaten run come to an end in the Cotswold’s, Rotherham prove there’s life after Alf and Wimbledon experience a football league hammering for the first time.

But first we’ll visit Whaddon Road and Cheltenham’s surprising win over newly promoted Crawley.

Since entering League Two this season Crawley have so far played and got the results we all expected, but Cheltenham who have already beaten another promotion favourite Swindon showed one of the reasons why we all love football, across all leagues it can be very unpredictable.

As I mentioned in my ‘Future stars of L2’ piece it would be nearly impossible for Rotherham to keep hold of Adam Le Fondre and the news all Miller fans didn’t want to hear came true on Saturday after he signed for Reading.

But sometimes when a big name and personality leaves a club it can be a good thing for other players in the squad and Saturday’s 3-0 win to take the team top was a great start to the clubs life after losing Le Fondre.

In other selected results, Wimbledon suffered a 4-0 defeat at Moss Rose to Macclesfield; Port Vale suffered their first home defeat to Southend, Swindon’s poor start to the season continued with Shrewsbury taking all 3 points and Crewe took full advantage at crisis club Plymouth with a 1-0 win.

Team of the Week

GK. David Cornell – Hereford

RB. Chris Mitchell – Bradford

LB. Dean Winnard – Accrington

CB. Steve Elliot – Cheltenham

CB. Harry Davis – Crewe

MR. Danny Schofield – Rotherham

ML. Lionel Ainsworth – Shrewsbury

CM. Marlon Pack – Cheltenham

CM. Mark Bradley – Rotherham

CF. Emile Sinclair – Macclesfield

CF. James Hanson – Bradford

Gary McDonald, Liam Dickinson, Doug Loft, Luke Gutteridge, Adam Bolder and Callum Kennedy all also played key roles for their clubs over the weekend.

Upcoming fixtures (key games in bold, with added predictions):

Aldershot (1) v Cheltenham (0), Barnet (1) v Accrington Stanley (2), Burton Albion (3) v Plymouth (1), Crawley Town (4) v Bristol Rovers (3), Crewe (0) v Oxford (1), Gillingham (2) v Shrewsbury (1), Hereford (0) v Dag & Red (0), Morecambe (2) v Bradford (3), Southend (2) v Northampton (0), Swindon (2) v Rotherham (2) (KO 12.15pm), Torquay (2) v Macclesfield (2), AFC Wimbledon (2) v Port Vale (2).

Crawley will be looking to forget about their recent setback when they take on an improving Bristol Rovers side, which will want to move into the playoff places this weekend.

I’ve picked out Southend v Northampton simply because this game could decide the future of Cobblers boss Gary Johnson, with his side having a poor start and disappointing run of results since he arrived this could be his last chance to save his job.

And finally Swindon take on top of the league Rotherham at the County Ground live on Sky Sports in a game where League Two will be on show to the whole world, and all eyes will be on Paolo Di Canio and weather he can inspire his Swindon team to victory against League Two’s best side at the moment – Rotherham United. It should also be interesting to see how Di Canio conducts himself and the reception he receives after his mid-week Carling Cup bust up with new striker, Leon Clarke (see video).

By Dan the fan – Swindon Town fan – @danjohnson6

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Chelsea’s midfield options

Juan Mata

Over the summer, the main subject of Chelsea Football Club’s rumours have been linked to Luka Modrić and various other midfielders, such as Samir Nasri, Scott Parker, Eden Hazard and Javier Pastore to name a few. The general consensus is that Chelsea need a midfielder to create, but do they?

Looking at their current squad, it wouldn’t seem as if they do. The first team boasts many midfielders already; Florent Malouda, John Obi Mikel, Yossi Benayoun, Frank Lampard, Ramires and Michael Essien, although he’s out until the new year.

Adding to that, the addition of Valencia’s Juan Mata is the ‘cherry on top’. We now have a midfield to rival anyone and the Spaniard should add a huge amount of creativity and general quality to the side.

When Essien’s back at full fitness, which hopefully will happen, he is unstoppable. Nicknamed ‘the Bison’ for his strength, his other qualities include simple passes to build up play, box-to-box running and the ability to score some cracking goals.

Ramires, since Christmas, has really started to prove his worth with tough tackling, strength and stamina. He’s also been making his way through defences with some mazy runs too.

Mikel, although not a play-maker, is another top midfielder, with tackling capabilities and the ability to keep a cool head, as he has shown recently, making himself available for Chelsea despite the recent kidnapping of his father. Many players ‘heads wouldn’t be in the right place’ after that.

Malouda, who is usually a winger can operate as a midfielder too. Top scorer for The Blues last season, and also having an ability to assist. His form varies throughout the season however, and many think this could be his last season at the club. Arsenal are linked with a deadline day move.

There’s also Yossi Benayoun, who in pre-season, has looked like he has a point to prove after missing most of last season due to a ruptured achilles that he suffered last September. Many believe he is the key to Fernando Torres’ form, and it’ll be interesting to see how much game time he gets this season. However, at 31, his time at Stamford Bridge may be limited. Tottenham, Arsenal and Liverpool are linked with him.

Frank Lampard. Before last season, he had scored 20 goals or more for both club and country for the seven seasons previous to it. Even last season he still managed 15 goals. A slow start to pre-season, but if he can recreate the form of any of the past eight seasons Chelsea will be on for their fourth Premier League title, though as with Benayoun, time isn’t on his side.

But then there are two players who have plenty of time on their side – Josh McEachran and Gaël Kakuta. McEachran looks the more promising of the two, but if Kakuta can fulfill his early promise, he’ll be one for the future too.

There are also reserve players who are yet to break into the first team. Conor Clifford, whose form whilst on loan at Plymouth Argyle and Notts County earned him a call-up for the Republic Of Ireland. Jacob Mellis, has made one appearance for Chelsea, though has since been on loan to Barnsley and has a contract with the club until 2013. Two players featured in the pre-season friendly against Wycombe Wanderers, Billy Clifford and attacking midfielder Aliu Djalo. Both could be important in the future.

Nathaniel Chalobah

Nathaniel Chalobah, who is only 16, has a future ahead of him at Chelsea or so it seems. He was part of the pre-season tour in the far-east, and many think he’ll be included at points within the first team this season. He is primarily a defender, but can play in midfield too.

Then there’s also academy players. Reece Loudon, a left midfielder, Ali Gordon, a defender/holding midfielder, Archange Nkumu who is a holding midfielder, George Saville, Nathan Ake, James Ashton, Amin Affane, Anjur Osmanovic, Buomesca Na Banga or John Swift could be part of Chelsea’s midfield future between five and ten years, maybe less.

With Juan Mata being a Chelsea player too, and the possible addition of Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard, along with the Modrić rumours not going anywhere fast, Chelsea’s midfield future has the possibility of being a bright one – even if Benayoun and Malouda depart the club. The youth players are reaching the latter stages of the cups now, and what many fans want to see is young players eased into the team throughout the season. This is more likely to happen if Chelsea are playing well, but with a few hours left of the summer transfer window I wouldn’t doubt at least one more signing to strengthen the midfield for the near future anyway.

By Callum Maclean – Chelsea fan – @callummaclean91

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