Question Time is back this week, featuring Phil Pierson of QPR Offside. As you may or may not recall, this site was originally part of the Offside, so we're always pleased to chat with another Offsider, and Phil has been kind enough to answer the questions we had ahead of today's match. What better way to get yourself in the mood to watch what will inevitably be a stomach turning match than by reading the words of the enemy? So without further ado...Bolton started the season off with a bang, beating your boys 4-0 on their own turf. Since that match there's been little to make Bolton fans smile. QPR on the other hand have remained at 16th or above for most of the season. What has been key to this success when playing with the big boys? What are some weaknesses the higher level of competition has exposed?
Phil Pierson: This might sound conceited for a newly promoted side, but honestly I don't think we've been playing as well as we could / should be. Looking at our roster, I'd expect us to be in the top 14, at least. To the extent that we owe our success (such as it is) to anything, it would be our ability to scratch out draws, along with being in a league that has 4 teams that are playing even crappier than we are. No offense.
Weaknesses - several, but especially our back line and its inability to clear loose balls, crosses, and rebounds in front of our goal. Every time an opponent gets a ball into our area, even if it looks harmless, we turn it into a f-ing adventure.
Last season Queens Park Rangers secured promotion on the 30th of April. As Bolton has been in the Premiership for over 10 years now, many fans have forgotten the feeling of promotion (or in my case, weren't following football closely at the time). How did it feel that day?
PP: Winning promotion was great. For as long as I'd been following the club, we'd been a Championship-level team, so for me it was wonderful just to know I'd be able to watch them on TV regularly - as opposed to checking the Sky Sports line-up every month to see if they might show 1 or 2 of our matches.
I'm not sure if you remember this, or if this was even newsworthy at the Premier League level, but last year we were involved in a legal fight over Alejandro Faurlin's allegedly unlawful contract. So even when it became clear we were going to finish in the top 2, there was still a chance that we'd be docked points - so we really couldn't celebrate until the case was resolved, which was the day before the end of the season. At that point, it was more a feeling of relief.
It turns out that you also run Bayern Offside. How would you compare supporting a relatively big and successful club like Bayern Munich to a smaller outfit like QPR?
PP: Interestingly, one thing they have in common is that 95 percent of the people where I live don't have the slightest clue who either of them are. I mean, you can walk up to someone in DC and mention "Queens Park Rangers" or "FC Bayern Munich" and you'd mostly get blank stares.
As far as supporting them, they're a good pair to root for. I definitely don't see any conflict in supporting them both: different leagues, different countries, and at this point entirely different statuses and aims in the footballing world. This Saturday will be great, because the QPR match is on ESPN 2 at 7:30 AM (my time) and then the Bayern match is on ESPN Deportes at 9:30 AM. So I can get up at 7 and watch non-stop for 4 hours. My wife is a very patient young lady.
As far as writing the two websites, they're massively different. The QPR blog has a small readership and a very laid-back feel; I can crack jokes and go off on unrelated tangents and no one seems to mind. Whereas the Bayern blog has a large readership and every post gets thousands of hits, and it has to be handled in a more business-like fashion. For instance, if I'm writing about something from years ago, and I get the date wrong, 4 people will immediately write in and be like "it wasn't 2007, it was 2008, you jerk! Man, why can't they FIRE you and get someone BETTER??"
And I'm like "Jesus, dude. Settle down." You know?
Mark Hughes, who was idly connected with Bolton for a while, was installed in the place of Neil Warnock in January. How has he fared at Loftus Road? Do you see him as the man to take QPR forward?
PP: Pretty sure I'm in the minority of QPR fans here, but I'm not feeling great about the decision to hire him. My hope was that, when Warnock left, we'd get a young, bright, but somewhat unproven guy who could install a new system, rather than an established veteran like Hughes, who's more of an experienced "man manager" type. But as long he keeps us out of the bottom 3 this spring, he can show up on the touch-line naked with pig's blood on his face for all I care.
Going forward, my dream scenario would be: QPR goes on a winning streak and finishes in the top 15; some big club is impressed with the job Hughes did and lures him away; and Tony Fernandes (our owner) allows him to walk becuase he's already lined up the suddenly-unemployed Andre Villas-Boas (who I think was horribly treated by Chelsea). But that would require a number of lucky breaks.
Obviously the reverse fixture did not exactly go your way. What's your prediction for Saturday's match? What do you think the difference will be?
PP: Our squad is much different from what it was on opening day, though it's not clear how much better. I guess I'll predict a 2-2 finish, with QPR taking a lead into the late stages and a defensive blunder allowing Bolton to level. Each side gets a point and stays alive, but neither gets the big boost they were hoping for. Good luck to you guys.
Thanks again to Phil for taking the time to do this! Be sure to check out my answers to his questions here!