Queens Park Rangers boss Mark Warburton had nothing but praise for tonight’s opponents Birmingham City, citing their mixture of youth and experience as one of their key assets as he spoke to qpr.co.uk.
The 59-year-old’s team go into this game having failed to win any of their four matches since the international break, claiming a last-minute draw against Reading and losing three consecutive games in a row since.
After such a bright start to 2021/22, winning 11 points from a possible 15 and going unbeaten in their opening five league fixtures of the season, this is a bitterly disappointing run of form and a rut they will be desperate to get out of after starting their campaign in such a promising fashion.
Quiz: Have Birmingham City ever been involved in these 18 scenarios?
However, they aren’t the only side who are going through a bumpy spell of form after a decent start.
Birmingham City conceded seven goals in two matches against Fulham and Peterborough United before their 0-0 home draw to Preston North End at the weekend, and they will be hoping this tie against Frankie McAvoy’s men has helped to stabilise the ship.
After spending much of their recent history fighting in the bottom half of the table, having been a Premier League side a decade ago, it seemed as though Lee Bowyer was going to give the Blues something positive to play for rather than a relegation scrap this term.
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And despite the West Midlands side’s recent form, QPR manager Warburton was particularly keen to highlight their key strengths, saying ahead of this tie: “Lee has done an excellent job there, obviously there are players there that everyone knows, the likes of Harlee Dean who are strong characters, they have physicality, Scott Hogan is another lad I know, a very good striker with good movement, his runs across the near post.
“You then have the physicality in the likes of [Lukas] Jutkiewicz, [Marc] Roberts, [Kristian] Pedersen, [George] Friend and [Tahith] Chong from Manchester United. I think Lee has galvanised the squad, he has the fans behind him, with a good blend of youth and experience.”
Warburton is right to point out the quality of some of their players. Don’t let their bottom-half finishes in recent years fool you, this is a side that’s more than capable of recording respectable Championship finishes and two key men who help to push them to another level: Tahith Chong and Troy Deeney.
That sums up the ‘good blend’ of youth and experience the QPR boss was talking about, because you have a Manchester United youngster who will be chomping at the bit to show what he can do after being frozen out of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side and a 33-year-old who will be desperate to show he can still make an impact at this level and be a regular.
Although you could argue the latter has nothing to prove after such a successful career at Watford, he wasn’t as involved in the Hornets’ first team last season and with that, he will be desperate to re-establish himself as a key man who can steal the headlines for his boyhood club.
Their fitness may determine where the Blues finish this season. They may not achieve promotion with the likes of Fulham, AFC Bournemouth, West Brom and Sheffield United the current favourites to return to the Premier League – but a comfortable mid-table finish would represent progress and that’s the key thing they need after various flirtations with relegation in recent years.
Whilst Lee Bowyer’s players need to stand up and be counted, it will be Bowyer’s job to get the very best from his squad and judging by these comments, it seems as though Warburton thinks this is something he can do.