As­ton Villa are on the box to­day... but that is not good news for Steve Bruce

The Football League Paper - - INSIDE - By Chris Dunlavy

JAMES PERCH knows ex­actly what rel­e­ga­tion smells like. Two years ago, he was play­ing for Wi­gan when the toxic stench set­tled over the DW Arena.

FA Cup win­ners in 2013 and Cham­pi­onship play-off fi­nal­ists 12 months later, budget cuts and man­age­rial up­heaval saw the Lat­ics form take a nose­dive the fol­low­ing sea­son. And while Perch’s heroic ef­forts at the back clinched a sec­ond con­sec­u­tive player of the year award, the for­mer New­cas­tle de­fender was pow­er­less to pre­vent Wi­gan slump­ing into League One. Fast for­ward to the present and Perch’s new side, QPR, find them­selves in an equally un­ex­pected dog­fight. Since the end of Au­gust, the not-so Su­per­hoops have won just three times, and only once in their last eight. They started the week­end three points above the drop­zone and, de­pend­ing on re­sults yes­ter­day, could yet spend Christ­mas inside it. Like the Lat­ics in 2015, the Hoops boasted Premier League sta­tus two years ago. Like the Lat­ics, they have re­sources and big names. And, like the Lat­ics, they ditched their man­ager in Novem­ber, swap­ping Jimmy Floyd Has­sel­baink for old favourite Ian Hol­loway. Do QPR need to worry about the par­al­lels go­ing fur­ther? Not ac­cord­ing to Perch, who in­sists no­body at Lof­tus Road har­bours a “too big to fail” men­tal­ity. “Maybe that’s what some peo­ple think but it’s cer­tainly not the case from my point of view,” he in­sists. “I’ve seen what can hap­pen to big clubs who get com­pla­cent. “Hav­ing said that, though, I’m not pan­ick­ing about be­ing down the bot­tom of the ta­ble. I’ve been in rel­e­ga­tion scraps where you’re fight­ing des­per­ately to get points and they just won’t come. “Week in, week out, there’s a real sense of ‘Where’s the next win com­ing from? How do we get out of this?’ You can’t see the light at the end of the tun­nel. It was like that at Wi­gan. “Ob­vi­ously it hasn’t gone well here and we are in a bad po­si­tion. But I’ve never got that sense of des­per­a­tion we’re so close to get­ting re­sults. “We lost 1-0 to Derby in mid­week but if you ask Steve McClaren or any

of their play­ers, I’m sure they’d say we ab­so­lutely bat­tered them. They’re one of the best foot­balling sides I’ve ever faced but we dom­i­nated.

“We went to Rother­ham, out­played them for 89 min­utes and they ended up beat­ing us thanks to a sloppy goal. On pa­per it looks bad but they lumped it for 90 min­utes and we dealt with it re­ally well. I’m con­vinced it will all click soon.”


Key to Perch’s con­fi­dence is the ar­rival of Hol­loway, back for a sec­ond stint at Lof­tus Road fol­low­ing a decade away that yielded Premier League pro­mo­tions with Black­pool and Crys­tal Palace.

Af­ter the rigid fit­ness-focussed regime of Has­sel­baink, Perch says Ol­lie’s fa­mously off­beat and ef­fer­ves­cent per­son­al­ity has lifted the dress­ing room.

“He’s re­ally en­thu­si­as­tic, re­ally en­er­getic,” adds Perch. “I was like ev­ery­one else – you see him on TV and you think ‘Is that re­ally what he’s like or is it just a per­sona?’ But it re­ally is him.

“He’s bouncing around, full of life. If any­thing, it’s a bit toned down for TV. In the flesh, he re­ally is larger than life.

“I wouldn’t say it’s any eas­ier, but it is per­haps more en­joy­able. I’ve got no qualms with Jimmy. He brought me to the club and I would never crit­i­cise his work.

“But he had his own ways and the new man­ager has his. Now the fo­cus is on get­ting ev­ery­one to­gether, mak­ing them happy and get­ting ev­ery­body to feel more like a team. He wants ev­ery­one to love com­ing to work as much as he does. “I know some of the old Black­pool lads – I played with Keith South­ern at Hud­der­s­field and I’ve talked to oth­ers. They ab­so­lutely loved it and did ev­ery­thing to­gether, on and off the field. “When you get an en­vi­ron­ment like that, it spreads onto the field. If one per­son is strug­gling in the game, the other dig in and help their mate out. “Look­ing at QPR in the past, it was a lot of tal­ented in­di­vid­u­als on big money but they weren’t re­ally a team. Black­pool were the op­po­site of that and I think that’s what’s he’s try­ing to recre­ate.

“It’s com­pletely dif­fer­ent to the pre­vi­ous man­ager, so it will take a bit of get­ting used to. But once it clicks, re­sults and con­fi­dence will fol­low.”

A fort­night ago, the visit of As­ton Villa would have promised scant chance of break­ing the dis­mal run. But the mo­men­tum gar­nered from Steve Bruce’s ar­rival in Oc­to­ber has stalled of late, with two de­feats in the last three dam­ag­ing hopes of an im­me­di­ate re­turn to the top flight.


“When we saw them com­ing down you im­me­di­ately think ‘Wow, As­ton Villa, that will be a proper test’. You put them in the same bracket as New­cas­tle but they didn’t re­ally live up to it.

“But you have to re­mem­ber how much pres­sure they’re un­der. Af­ter what hap­pened last sea­son, it’s tough for those play­ers. They’ll im­prove, I’m sure – but so will we.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Images

UNITED FRONT: QPR are more to­gether now un­der Ian Hol­loway, says James Perch

BOUNCING: Ian Hol­loway has brought the fun back at QPR

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