DEAN’S AXED AS CAPTAIN AS BEES TRIUMPH
QPR manager’s injury fears over schedule
BRENTFORD boss Dean Smith says he meant no disrespect by resting ten players for the Carabao Cup first round as he revealed contract rebel Harlee Dean has been stripped of the captaincy.
The Bees will play west London rivals QPR in the next round but needed extra-time to beat AFC Wimbledon 3-1 on Tuesday.
Like other Championship managers, the volume of players given the night off was high but in the end he got away with sweeping changes.
The main focus, though, was on a player recalled. Dean, 26, linked with Sheffield Wednesday, still hasn’t signed a new contract at Griffin Park. He has a year to run on his current deal.
Suspended for the opening day of the season against Sheffield United, the centre-back has yet to comment on his future.
But boss Smith is happy to talk and said: “I had a chat with Harlee when we started pre-season but he’s in limbo at the moment.
“He is in contract negotiations and while that is going on I feel it is right that somebody else carries the armband. He is right behind that.
“I can tell you that there have been no bids, it’s only speculation. There’s been no bids for any of our players in fact.
“His representatives have been in talks with the club, but I’m sure they have been pitching him around to other clubs as well.
“But he is fully committed to the cause. I have a good relationship with him and I hope that continues.”
Regarding his team selection against the Dons, Smith was frank.
“August is a really long month, we now have seven games,” he said. “I didn’t mean to be in any way disrespectful to the competition but we’ve got a deep squad and this was an opportunity for them to get some game time and press their claim.”
QPR boss Ian Holloway has called for the Carabao Cup scheduling to be altered – to avoid injuries to players in the opening weeks of the season. The R’s saw off the challenge of League One side Northampton Town with a 1-0 victory in front of a meagre 4,317 fans at Loftus Road last Tuesday, courtesy of Yeni Ngbakoto’s first half goal. It made it two wins from two for the west London outfit following their impressive 2-0 opening day Championship success against last season’s play-off finalists Reading. However, Holloway has reservations about the demands being put on players in the opening weeks of the season. It was one of the reasons he made nine changes to his starting lineup against the Cobblers. In his programme notes for the Northampton tie, the former Blackpool boss said: “If we win, it’d mean seven fixtures in the first four weeks of the season. “In my opinion, I think the first round would be better if it was played as a pre-season fixture. “It not being so adds to congestion – it adds to injuries. How can you not play for almost two months, then have that many games in the first four weeks? It’s wrong, for me, but there you go.” It’s clearly a subject ‘Ollie’ feels strongly about as he returned to the theme in the post-match Press conference after his much-changed side’s hard-fought victory, which earned them a second round tie against neighbours Brentford. “For me, I would change the format,” the 54-yearold insisted. “I would put this game as the very last of our preseason and have a clear week. I think it would make it an awful lot easier.
QPR have been written off by pundits and bookies alike this season, with some tipping them to drop into League One.
While the R’s splashed the cash in the past, they’re now living a more frugal existence, while others – the likes of Aston Villa, Middlesbrough and Wolves – do what they used to do.
Yet the experienced Holloway believes that work-rate and ‘co-ordinated togetherness’ can go a long way to making up for a lack of star signings.
“People can do and say whatever they want,” he said. “It’s about us keeping working.
“I’ve had it thrown back at me what I’ve said as a pundit. It’s all about proving people wrong. The group needs to do that over and over again.
“What we have to do is fight together and I saw that in abundance out there again tonight.
“I don’t care if it’s good, bad or ugly. We’re going to be attempting to take it on the chin whatever happens instead of what I’ve seen over a few years where certain people just threw the towel in. This lot will not do that.
“It’s just two games and we ended both of them against ten men, we’ve had a little bit of luck.
“Am I getting carried away? Not in a million years. Am I happy with them? Yes, I am.”
“Now we’re going to have seven or eight games in August, which is far too many. The big clubs wouldn’t dream of doing that, we’ve got to.
“Where’s the crowd? Where are we? All I’m saying is, do people listen anyway? I just think common-sense wise Northampton the week before would be a great fixture.
“What have we got coming up? It’s whoa, heavy congestion. In that time it’s a nightmare, but I’m glad we’re through.”
DECISION: Harlee Dean
KEY MAN: Skipper Nedum Onuoha was just one of two QPR players to retain his place for the Carabao Cup tie and, insets, R’s boss Ian Holloway and the paltry Loftus Road crowd for last Tuesday’s game