Ok, let me be honest. Before the start of the current campaign, Rangers were being tipped as relegation favourites. We had lost a host of established players and 15 new faces had been recruited to form a brand-new team. I would have taken fourth bottom come next May. So to be currently challenging in the Play-Off zone is a huge bonus and a very pleasant surprise. Sometimes in life you have to take a step backwards to move forwards. The wage bill at Loftus Road has been dramatically reduced by 70% during the past four years and yet Rangers now have a much better team! The emergence of exciting young players like Manning, Eze and Chair has been coupled with some of the best free-flowing football we have seen down at the Bush this century. In fact, the first half an hour at home to Luton Town recently made me think I was 12 years old again and watching Stan Bowles, Gerry Francis and Dave Thomas play in that great QPR title-challenging team of 1975/76.
However, for a side sitting in such a healthy position in the table, QPR’s defensive record doesn’t make for great reading. Are you able to pinpoint why that is?
After the recent 4-2 victory over Blackburn Rovers, boss Mark Warburton was asked a similar question. His reply was: “If we win every game 4-2 between now and the end of the season then I will be delighted!” Most Rangers fans would agree with those sentiments. It is not a problem if we keep picking up points and the supporters are being entertained. We have experienced some very dour football at Loftus Road in recent seasons so the current dish is most appetising.
This fixture marks the first time boss Mark Warburton and defender Yoann Barbet will face Brentford since joining Rangers. How have the pair fared during their spells at the club?
Well to start with Barbet, he has added balance on the left-hand side of central defence. He is dominant in the air and on the ground whilst also having the assured ability to pick out a pass. As for Mark Warburton, he was quickly won the support of the Loftus Road cognoscenti. I mentioned above about the great QPR team of 1975/76. What hasn’t been widely reported is that Mark went to every R’s home game that season as he was best mates with the son of Rangers centre-half Frank McLintock. Most QPR fans support our club because of the traditions of flamboyant, attacking football that were carved out in the late 1960’s through to the mid-1970’s. Mark Warburton was there in the crowd during that period and so he has now bought into the R’s ethos by serving up the exciting performances that we have been watching this season.
Which player has impressed you most so far this campaign?
Irish youngster Ryan Manning has moved from central midfield to become a left-back and/or left wing-back. His performances in that new role have been superb and he already has a host of goal assists. Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy was in the directors’ box at Loftus Road on Tuesday night against Reading to specifically watch Manning and he must have been very pleased with what he witnessed at first hand.
How is Warburton likely to set up his side?
Too early to tell as Rangers have switched between a back three and a back four. Also, with centre-forward Jordan Hugill now being suspended after his yellow card against Reading on Tuesday it looks as if Nahki Wells will play up top on his own.
It’s three years to the day since Brentford last won a Championship fixture at the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium but what’s your score prediction for this one?
No predictions from me as I am too superstitious about things like that. But both teams like to play expansive football so let’s hope it is a good game.
Tony Incenzo is a reporter for talkSPORT Radio and Sky TV. You can follow Tony on Twitter at @TonyIncenzo
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