Ever since Coventry City returned to the Championship, they’ve acted as an odd barometer of QPR’s short-term fortunes.
September 2020. QPR go into the new season with optimism. Jordan Hugill has regenerated into Lyndon Dykes, just like in Doctor Who. We’ve lost Ebere Eze but it’s time for Ilias Chair to shine – and I’m sure Bright Osayi-Samuel will renew his contract eventually…
A vaguely convincing attacking performance slips quietly into a fairly pathetic defeat – a sign of things to come for an extremely tepid first half of the season.
April 2021. From being gloomily looked down upon by Hoos and Ferdinand in the directors’ box, phones in hand ready to deliver the “you’re done” text, Mark Warburton has turned things around and Rangers are one of the division’s form teams.
This time, Coventry prove QPR right. 25 minutes of relentlessness, orchestrated by a beautiful Johansen-Field link-up, and QPR have a win that demonstrates just how good they’ve become.
August 2021, and fans are starting to wonder if the season could genuinely live up to the hype. Unbeaten after six games, the fans are back, a couple of heroic performances against Boro and Barnsley. If it’s gonna be our season, we’ll have to beat fellow play-off contenders like Coventry.
After a nervy hour, Dykes and Barbet score to make us wonder what we were so worried about – and the season continues broadly along that tone.
With nearly 4000 Rangers fans set to travel to Coventry this weekend, what does the crystal ball have in store?
QPR are in searing form. Jake Bidwell’s just signed for the Sky Blues. Todd Kane, friend of the site, has excelled since being *cough cough* sent *cough cough* to join Mark Robins’ team.
The pessimist in me would say: Todd Kane, 91st minute, 1-0.
The optimist in me would say that this season is different – that Charlie Austin’s goal against West Brom put the rubber stamp on our brand-new, shiny, bulletproof winning mentality.
But I land somewhere in the middle. Coventry aren’t the barometer any more, because we’re beyond the point where an individual game can set the tone for our whole season.
Mark Warburton’s done a fantastic job, but in his first couple of seasons, the stereotypes tended to stick once they took hold.
We’ve conceded a couple of goals from corners… hold on, we’re conceding quite a few goals from corners… Jesus Christ, why can’t we stop conceding goals from corners?
Lyndon Dykes isn’t scoring from open play… hang on, Lyndon Dykes hasn’t scored at all in a while… Lyndon Dykes will never score a goal for QPR (a take I genuinely saw some idiot post on Twitter).
This season, it’s been different, and (so far) we’ve been impervious to The Narrative.
We can’t score without coming from behind? Nah, don’t worry – clean sheet wins against Blackburn, Cardiff, Luton and Huddserfield are just around the corner.
Chaz isn’t his old self? He scores against Barnsley. Wait, but Chaz really isn’t his old self… he scores against Luton. Hang on, but Chaz isn’t his old- West Brom, 1-0.
We’ve won football matches in both cups. BOTH cups.
It’s been mad, and it means we can’t get that much information from an individual game.
If we win on Saturday, suddenly 2nd place looks tantalisingly close, and people will start to dream – could we break into the top two? Maybe if Fulham only score five goals rather than six in each of their next few games, we could catch up with them? I know we’ve lost seven games already, but maybe it’s not too late to go the whole season unbeaten?
If we lose, you’ll get the usual suspects on Twitter, peering out from within their profile pictures with a VK in hand and a soulless, empty stare. They’ll pronounce that Warburton doesn’t know what he’s doing, the players are “pony” (shut up) and we need to sign a striker, a wingback, and a goalkeeper – and send Jude the Cat to be put down because he dared to be happy about something to do with football.
But this time, neither group will be right. This season, supporting QPR actually has a bit of unpredictability. Things are looking pretty good, and they’ll probably keep looking pretty good, but it’s simply not worth predicting.
Coventry, give it your best shot.
Images: QPR FC