Since the sides last met, Neil Warnock returned to the dugout only to be replaced by Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink. How's Hasselbaink been after his impressive spell in charge at Burton Albion?
After a bright start to this season he's starting to come under some pressure now. Dull, defensive, lifeless displays against Preston (who were bottom at the time and beat us 2-0) and Blackburn (who were bottom at the time and drew 1-1) culminated in that 6-0 annihilation by your friends up the road and then a 2-1 loss at Huddersfield. That's enough for some to have the pitch forks and flaming torches out.
To be fair, there's a bit more to it than a bad fortnight of results. There's a perception that he's too defensive, and too rigid with his tactics - we always start 4-2-3-1 and we always start with Karl Henry as one of those two. We were told by the Burton fans that JFH is quite defensive, but he hung his hat on us playing with a high tempo and pressing teams high up the field - Clint Hill and Ale Faurlin, modern day legends of Loftus Road, were both released in the summer because it was perceived they didn't have the legs to play that way. Opening day against Leeds it was all there, but there's been little evidence of it since.
The problem, rather than formations, is that we're too slow, there's no tempo to us. There will always be some mouth breathers who think winning the Champions League with Crewe on Football Manager means they know what they're talking about and 4-4-2 is the be all and end all, but I think everybody is finding QPR pretty dull to watch at the moment.
The Warnock thing has been a bit of an issue from the start. Obviously he was fantastic at QPR first time around and a lot of supporters would like to have seen him stay on permanently for a second spell. At the time he told the club he couldn't do it long term as his wife was ill but there's a school of thought that says he could/should have been persuaded - and his remarkable spell at Rotherham subsequently added fuel to that fire. Some supporters are now saying they'd like to see him come back and replace Hasselbaink.
Personally, I think it's all premature. He's been here ten months, we brought in seven players over the summer, mostly from abroad, mostly right at the end of the window so they didn't have pre-season with us. To be talking about sacking people because it hasn't quite clicked by the middle of September seems very QPR to me. We've got to stop this hiring and firing blame culture that has infected the club since the money arrived.
Looking through your squad, there's quite a few young players involved in first team affairs. Any standouts from the youngsters who you have high hopes for?
QPR's lack of youth team graduates to the first team has been a standing joke for years - Richard Langley was the last serious find and he came through in 1999. Marcus Bean wasn't too bad, Ray Jones' story is tragic, Raheem Sterling went before playing a game for us, but it's not an impressive total. Director of football Les Ferdinand wants to start bringing players through the academy again, and has completely restaffed the youth set up with some controversial departures along the way. Whether we can do that with the meagre training facilities we have and clubs like Arsenal, Spurs, Chelsea, Reading, Palace and Southampton with excellent set ups right on our doorstep remains to be seen. We're in the middle of a protracted planning application for a new training ground of our own.
Meanwhile, Mide Shodipo has come from nowhere to make a few starts this season - tricky little winger who weighs about 5 stone soaking wet and hasn't grown into his arms yet (you'll see what I mean), takes his full back on every time and tries to deliver a cross which makes him look like a rocket scientist compared to the rest of them.
I see former Sunderland loanee Nedum Onouha is wearing the captain's armband these days. He's fondly remembered on Wearside after a Maradona-esque goal away to Chelsea so I'd be interested to know how he's been overall since joining QPR permanently.
Onuoha was signed at a bad time, when Tony Fernandes, Mark Hughes and Kia Joorabchian were busy stuffing our club full of scum like Jose Bosingwa. Was initially well-liked by the QPR fans, because he tried hard, played reasonably well in a poor team, and is obviously a really intelligent lad who spoke well about the club and the problems it was facing. Quick, very promising player initially. He suffered through being stuck between full back and centre half, then when he did get his centre half spot after relegation he started the season really well only to suffer a bad hamstring injury.
He's stuck at full back more often than not now and he struggles with all the non-defensive elements of that position. That goal at Chelsea, which I remember well, was a dog having a day. In the modern game you can't really have a full back who can't pass and can't cross. When he is played at centre half, he's not playing particularly well. People will tell you he's not very good, I think it might be a confidence thing – it's been a really tough four years at our club.
He's the captain which, again, a lot of the message board experts say he's not suited to, presumably because he's not permanently bandaged up and spitting blood in his team mates' faces and therefore he's not a "pwopah leadaaaah" but I've no idea how supporters would be able to tell if he's a decent captain or not unless they trained and played with him every week. That said, we do seem to be quite a quiet team – with each other, with the referee and with opponents.
What's your thoughts and expectations for the season? Think you can get promoted?
I predicted tenth or eleventh before we started the season, and even that looks optimistic at the moment, but hopefully if the new players bed in and a few of them turn out to be useful we can still attain a midtable spot. Wouldn't take much for us to get sucked into a relegation battle at the moment though – the impact of losing 6-0 at home stretches far beyond that one match on that one night.
All this is against the backdrop of our parachute payments ending in 18 months' time. Having completely ignored FFP when Harry Redknapp was here and spaffed the best part of £200m going up and coming back down again, we're now having to cut cloth accordingly when ideally we'd be making a concerted push to get back to the Premier League money, if only to restart the bloody parachute payments again.
If we're still in the Championship when they end then our biggest income becomes the season ticket revenue, which is somewhere just north of £5m per season. Our CEO Lee Hoos (fairly brilliant, poached from Burnley to sort us out) says that before a single salary is paid to a player the club's operating costs (stadium, renting training ground, renting youth training ground, road closures, policing, stewarding etc) are around £8m so you can see the sort of club we could potentially shrink to in the era of FFP.
Anyone in the Sunderland team you're particularly worried about? Bare in mind that Jermain Defoe is out!
I'm more worried about our lot to be honest, we're causing enough problems for ourselves at the moment before we even start thinking about who's coming to try and take advantage. Anybody who can head a ball is likely to be dangerous at corners – our zonal marking system has not been a conspicuous success.
How do you think Hasselbaink will approach the game and how do you see the team lining up?
Well unless the ghosts of QPR past, present and future visit him during the night tonight it'll almost certainly be 4-2-3-1. I'd expect Sandro to grace us with his presence in midfield for only the second time since dinosaurs roamed the earth. Hopefully Ariel Borysiuk, who was bought to replace Karl Henry but has so far spent most of his time injured or on the bench, will get a start. Idrissa Sylla, another new boy, lanky front man, impressed as a sub at Huddersfield so may get the nod as the one.
I really, really hope we don't make a load of changes. We're not going to win the league this season and it's a real pet hate of mine when teams with no chance of winning their division stick a weakened team out in the two other competitions they might win. It's teams like QPR and Sunderland pulling shit like that which devalues the cups more than anything else. We've only been to the fourth round of this trophy once in 20 years I think, so to come this far, get a beatable (sorry) Premier League team at home and then make a load of changes to focus on the important business of finishing in the middle of the world's most monotonous, attritional football division would really boil my piss.
Finally, can we have a prediction please?
It really depends on what frame of mind our players and crowd are in. Cheap tickets, a Premier League team at home, the rare prospect of a cup run, a couple of weeks ago I was really looking forward to this one. Now I fear for the confidence of the players, the team selection we're planning, the fans response if it doesn't go well. I wouldn't be surprised if it went to extra time after a 1-1, but if you tell me we get beaten 3-0 and people start turning over cars and looting shops I wouldn't be surprised at that either.