RF: A mixed start to the campaign has left you bang in mid-table but what are the overall expectations for the season as a whole at QPR?
CW: It’s a better start than many were anticipating. I doubt any set of Championship supporters were as pessimistic as QPR’s over the summer, following a calamitous end to the previous season where we lost seven of the final eight matches.
The club’s going through a painful process of trying to hack into the ridiculous costs and wage bill it lumbered itself with, while maintaining performance on the field, and while the players we bought when we were throwing money around weren’t any good, it is still difficult to even stand still in the league table while you’re halving your wage bill, then halving it again.
After a good August there were some worrying signs in September, with a return of the random team selections and half a dozen changes every match that we saw when things fell apart in April. It has coincided with five of our six centre backs all being injured at the same time though so hopefully as that situation eases, the promising signs of August will grow rather than ring the the alarm bells like in September.
RF: You brought in a lot of free transfers over the summer and didn't exactly throw money about. Has that been welcomed given some of the funds that have been squandered over the last few years?
CW: QPR really blew it, it’s such a shame. We had a once in a generation opportunity to establish ourselves in the top division again, with the perfect combination of money from new Far Eastern owners and big Premier League TV money thanks to the promotion Neil Warnock achieved for us. It could have secured the club’s future for decades if it had been spent correctly. Instead we blew all of it, purely on players, wages and agent fees. We’ve come out the other side of £300m as a Championship club with a poor rented training ground, poor rented youth facilities, and a decaying stadium. We’ve made some terrible players and/or disgusting individuals very, very rich and had nothing from them in return. We’ve allowed two so-called big-name managers do whatever the hell they like, signing dozens of players on enormous wages from their favoured agents.
We’re now in a position where the club is taking its medicine. The FFP rules say we can’t lose more than £39m over three seasons. In season one we lost £11m despite the biggest parachute payment, £10m from Raheem Sterling and £4m from Charlie Austin. The club costs £9m to operate (rent of training facilities, upkeep of ground, policing etc) before a wage is paid and our season ticket revenue is £5.6m. We’re still carrying the biggest squad in the league and a couple of the massive Premier League earners, Steven Caulker amongst them - and he can’t stay out of the pub long enough to be any use for his colossal weekly take home. We’re trying to reduce the wages and the size of the squad and get under the FFP barrier while also remaining competitive on the field, and that’s tough. It might be different next summer when a lot of big contracts are up, but at the moment there isn’t much wiggle room to make signings.
However, Josh Scowen looks a very good addition on a free transfer and Alex Baptiste has started better than I thought he would. But it’s tough times at the moment. All of it self inflicted.
RF: What's the latest on the club potentially moving away from Loftus Road? Is the site of the Linford Christie Stadium still a possibility?
CW: QPR would actually like to be part of the huge Old Oak Common development that’s going up around HS2 a couple of miles away. You kind of get the feeling the possibility of having a new stadium there is the only thing that’s keeping the club’s owners from trying to sell the thing on.
The Linford Christie Stadium is a dishevelled athletics track not far from where we are now, so it’s more attractive to the supporters as a location but probably not as lucrative to the owners as being part of a big housing and commercial development at OOC would be. The Linford Christie stadium site is small, with access shared with a prison and a hospital, it would require the local residents to back it and we’d need to get around The Scrubs Act of Parliament which protects the metropolitan open land it’s situated on.
We’ll be at Loftus Road for some time to come.
RF: Matt Smith has a handful of goals to his name already this season and he's a typical Championship-style grafter of a striker, so he'll be fancying himself against a defence that hasn't kept a clean sheet all season. Is he the main danger man for you or is there anyone else we should be worried about?
CW: The best part of the team is the midfield three of Massimo Luongo, Josh Scowen and Luke Freeman who are very good on the ball, dynamic and good to watch. Luongo has been away with Australia though and doesn’t often play the Saturday after that trip. Alex Smithies is arguably the division’s best goalkeeper as well.
Other than that we’re pretty weak, particularly in attack where we’ve got three strikers (Matt Smith, Conor Washington and Jamie Mackie) who work hard and try their best but don’t score much and one (Idrissa Sylla) who doesn’t work as hard as they do and therefore doesn’t get picked as often but tends to score when he does get on the pitch.
RF: On that subject, is there anyone in the Sunderland side you'll be watching out for?
CW: Honestly, not really. That’s not me being a twat, or saying we’ll win, because I’m not, and we probably won’t, but this is an absolute dog of a league and the vast majority of the teams in it are all much of a muchness and these two certainly are.
There’s some stand out talent dotted about, I’ve enjoyed watching Sheffield United so far this season and Wolves have obviously bought some quality, but almost every game you see at this level bumbles along for 90 haphazard minutes of mediocre, attritional, basic football resulting in a score that could easily have been the two other outcomes, on another day.
Aiden McGeady played very well against us for Preston last season - there you go, that’s a less grumpy answer.
RF: What should we expect from QPR, going into the game? What kind of approach do you think Ian Holloway will have?
CW: We tend to play the midfield three I’ve discussed, with Pawel Wszolek as a right winger, and then Jamie Mackie and Conor Washington as a high press striking pair. The back four is currently made up of which ever four of them are fit. It will probably be Baptiste, Robinson, Lynch and Bidwell. But, like I say, Luongo often doesn’t play after an international week and September saw a return to the wild team selections, multiple changes and dodgy results of April so it’d be a brave man to try and second guess what Holloway has planned.
RF: To finish off, let's have a score prediction please?
CW: I’ll say 1-1 with us falling behind and then spending the second half just adding bodies to the attack from the bench until an equaliser goes in – quite a few of our games have followed that pattern this season!