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Fan Focus: QPR fan Nicholas says new signing Chris Martin will “make a difference” v Sunderland!

Ahead of Sunderland’s match tonight, Matty spoke to QPR fan and writer, Nicholas Tunney, to discuss their recent bad run of form under Neil Critchley!

Matthew Crichton: Michael Beale lasted only 6 months as QPR manager before rejoining Rangers - how did his departure go down with supporters?

Nicholas Tunney: As you can imagine, not very well at all! Only weeks before he was linked with the vacant Wolves job and gave the fans some spiel about loyalty and not being the first to jump ship from this project - then he does it!

The fact he was a “guest” at Rangers when Van Bronckhorst was under pressure should have been a clue about what was going on behind the scenes.

After such a promising start, Beale’s departure has led to a horrific run of form and a lot of fans still look at this as a real turning point.

MC: The man who replaced him, Neil Critchley, has won just one of his nine matches in charge, how would you summarise his tenure so far?

NT: Not great, it has to be said. Granted, he had to pick up the pieces after Beale left us in the lurch but his style of football so far is pretty dull for the most part.

We have had a lot of injuries to key players which never helps but you get the feeling he will find it hard to turn our terrible form around.

Ironically, he started with a win at Preston in December and we could have had another couple of wins but late equalisers put paid to that.

Hull City v Queens Park Rangers - Sky Bet Championship - MKM Stadium
Neil Critchley guided Blackpool to League One playoff victory, before leaving to become Steven Gerrard’s assistant at Aston Villa.
Photo by Ian Hodgson/PA Images via Getty Images

MC: QPR currently sit 16th in the table, 7 points off the playoffs - are fans still optimistic about your chances?

NT: I would be stunned if you found a QPR supporter who was optimistic about a late surge into the playoffs!

We simply can’t buy a win and the players look devoid of confidence and form. A win could get us going on a great run - they say winning is a habit - but we don’t score anywhere near enough and are too soft in defence, currently.

MC: Striker Lynden Dykes was recently admitted to hospital with pneumonia - how is he currently and how long is he expected to be out for?

NT: The good news is that he has now been discharged and is resting at home, so we wish him well.

There is no timeframe on when he is expected to return but it would surprise me if we saw him back this season after such a debilitating illness.

He is one player who divides the fanbase, but for me, we will miss him. His work-rate is superb and on his day, he is a real handful.

Sunderland v Queens Park Rangers - Sky Bet Championship
Ross Stewart and Ellis Simms put Sunderland 2-0 up against QPR earlier this season, before a late comeback saw them steal a point.
Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

MC: The man signed to replace him was Chris Martin, who a small proportion of Sunderland fans wanted to sign to replace Ross Stewart, what were your thoughts on this deal?

NT: We were in desperate need of a striker or a replacement for Dykes and Martin knows the Championship inside out.

We need his experience to get us out of this very tough patch we are in and, although we lost, it was ideal to see him score on his debut.

I think as a short-term deal this was a no-brainer for the club and it could prove to be an inspired signing.

MC: Chris Willock, a player you previously highlighted as your star man, was taken off just seven minutes after coming on through injury on Saturday - how big a miss will he be?

NT: The Willock we saw between August and October was arguably the best player in the league. Clinical finisher, creative, strong and a nightmare for opposition defences.

Sadly, he picked up a hamstring injury in the win at Bramall Lane in October, just after he scored the winner and he hasn’t been the same since. This goes back to last season when he needed surgery on his hamstring and he seems to have no confidence in his body.

Added to that, he went off with what looked like a new injury on Sat so we hope it isn’t too serious as the Willock we saw at the start of the season would propel us up the table.

Sunderland v Queens Park Rangers - Sky Bet Championship
No one can ever forget Seny Dieng’s late equaliser at the Stadium of Light!
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

MC: We couldn’t chat without discussing that goal from Seny Dieng earlier this season, has he been coming up for more corners since?

NT: Haha, he did on Saturday and after Millwall half-cleared a corner in the 90th minute, he decided a couple of Cruyff turns were the way to go to win another set piece!

Obviously his header in the return fixture was one that any number 9 would have been proud of and he started his career as a midfielder, so there is definitely a player in there.

MC: What tactical approach can Tony Mowbray’s side expect from Critchley’s side?

NT: Critchley’s Blackpool team was set up as a 4-4-2 with wingers vital to the make up of his side.

We don’t have the personnel to be able to play that yet so would imagine Martin or Sinclair Armstrong will start up front with Ilias Chair and Jamal Lowe playing off them.

It will be 4 at the back with potentially two holding. The main issue is the lack of pace in the side and we are very pedestrian on the ball. This needs to be changed - and quickly.

Sunderland v Doncaster Rovers - Sky Bet League One
Jimmy Dunne made 14 appearances for Sunderland during a loan spell Burnley, scoring once.
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

MC: Sunderland fans will remember both Jimmy Dunne and Jake Clarke-Salter from their time with us - which eleven players do you think Critchley will select?

NT: Unfortunately, Clarke-Salter spends a lot of his time in the treatment room as was yet again absent from the squad against Millwall.

Dunne will no doubt start and would expect the team to be similar to the one on Saturday. I think he will bring Aston Villa loanee Tim Iroegbunam back in. His form has dipped but he is the one midfielder we have who can carry the ball forward.

Dieng, Laird, Dickie, Dunne, Paal, Field, Johansen, Iroegbunam, Lowe, Chair, Martin.

MC: Sunderland’s last victory at Loftus Road came in 2016 through a Paddy McNair brace - what is your score prediction for tonight’s game?

NT: You guys are on a great run away from home and we haven’t won in 7 at home so it all points to an away win. However, I think Martin will make a difference and can see as nicking a 1-1 draw.


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