Cottagers Confidential: It's been quite a while since Fulham and Queens Park Rangers have faced off. What do you expect the atmosphere at Craven Cottage to be like and how many "travelling" fans do you expect to turn up?
Loft for Words: Well, I think we’ve sold the 4,000-odd tickets we’ve been given and there’s a fair few picking up those in the neutral section as well so we’ll be well supported, as we should be just a mile down the road and making a reasonable start to the season. For once, a Sky move should help, under the lights is always better for a local derby – shame that between the TV company and the Football League they’ve deemed it appropriate for us to play our local games on a Saturday while sending us to Leeds, Sheff Wed, Blackburn, Derby and Middlesbrough on week nights.
It’s not exactly Rangers v Celtic this though is it? Fulham’s glory periods coincide with QPR’s fallow years and vice versa, so there’s not been a lot of fixtures to build up much hostility. A lot of QPR fans I know hold Fulham with a degree of affection – anybody other than Chelsea. We’ve been very poor in these fixtures on the pitch in the modern era so hopefully we’ll give a better account of ourselves for the away supporters.
The atmosphere last time was dire because everybody had been given some inflatable clapping sticks so all you could hear was two bits of plastic being banged together.
CC: Much has been made of the financial issues at QPR. Given those issues, how important is it for the club to regain it's spot in the Premier League? What do you think happens if they have to spend a few years in the Championship?
LFW: Last time we came down we basically ignored the FFP regulations altogether. Having Harry Redknapp as your manager and Tony Fernandes as your chairman is never likely to lead to any amount of sensible spending is it? The club does have a valid point in that when it went up to the Premier League and handed out contracts the Championship didn’t have FFP regulations, two years later it did and we were expected, presumably, to shift on an entire squad of contracted players without relegation release/reduction clauses. But that, deservedly, falls on deaf ears when you think we spent £8m on Austin and Phillips, loaned in Benoit Assou-Ekotto, added Richard Dunne and then when players got injured later on brought in Yossi Benayoun, Ravel Morrison, Kevin Doyle, Mobido Maiga (shudder) and so on. The accounts say the wage bill was £77m for the club that season, which is astonishing for this division and was still only enough for us to bore our way out of the league playing mostly awful football.
We’re able to negotiate our fine for that firstly because we went up, moving out of the league’s jurisdiction so they were unable to punish us in the same was Forest and Blackburn, and secondly because they realise the rules aren’t legally enforceable as originally written and have changed them since. If QPR went to court over the punishment as written there’s a good chance they would win, because the rules have since been changed and you’re not legally allowed to fine a company disproportionate to its turnover in any case. That would be a disaster for the league as the rules would collapse completely, and Forest and Blackburn would be knocking on the door with solicitors too.
We’ve done it better this summer. Big earners like Barton and Wright-Phillips have been moved on, they’ve loaned out Steven Caulker who they might like to have kept, they tried to sell Leroy Fer but he failed his medical, they’d have sold Sandro if they could have got him back in the country in time, and Austin and Phillips would have gone too if any of their suitors had talked less and met the stated asking price. Coming in, we’ve walked away from some deals – Southend wanted too much for Daniel Bentley so we signed Alex Smithies instead – and we’ve refused to get involved in a wage war with others – your own Tim Ream for example. There’s also £10m of Raheem Sterling money to factor in.
But having surprisingly not received an offer at the asking price for Phillips or Austin, we’re probably still over the limit. A promotion would therefore be useful. If not, what’s the worst? A transfer embargo? I’m being facetious of course but it might actually do us some good, going by how awful we’ve been in the transfer market prior to this summer.
CC: This is the first time that I can remember Brentford, QPR, and Fulham all being in the same division. I'm sure it's happened before, but I haven't had the time to do the research as to when. When a QPR supporter ranks the rivals which team is the biggest rival? You can throw Chelsea into the mix as well if you like.
LFW: Chelsea, it always will be. The few Chelsea fans from pre-2000 understand why as well, the newcomers all see us as the little club down the road and think their main rivals are Arsenal, Liverpool and so on but they’ve had a couple of nasty shocks from QPR on the field in recent times – Chelsea one of the few Premier League teams we’ve done consistently well against during our most recent stays in the top flight.
Brentford absolutely hate us, historical thing going back to a merger attempt in the 1960s. They sing anti-QPR songs at matches, but a lot of QPR fans quite like them and used to go to Brentford home matches when QPR were away back in the day. Still, I’m sure they’ll be very excited when we go there on a Friday night next month.
As I’ve said, Fulham don’t really fit when it comes to hatred and rivalry. It’s local, we’ll be well supported, we’d love to win, but there’s just not that animosity there as there is with Chelsea. As I’ve said, this comes from a lack of fixtures between the two teams I think. Fulham’s support has grown a lot over the last 15 years – that’s not a dig, it’s a fact – and those newcomers will know regular QPR fixtures so maybe dislike us as a local derby thing. QPR’s support has hovered between 10,000 and 17,000 at home games pretty constantly for 30 years, and Fulham haven’t really figured too often on the radar in that time.
CC: Finally, could you predict a lineup and score line?
LFW: Robert Green in goal; back four of James Perch, Nedum Onuoha, Gabrielle Angella and Paul Konchesky; two deep lying midfielders Karl Henry and then either Daniel Tozser or people’s champion Ale Faurlin; three ahead of that Massimo Luongo, Tjaronn Chery and Matt Phillips; Charlie Austin lone striker.
We’ve been conceding a lot and scoring a lot generally, so I’ll say 2-2.