It’s waistcoat season. ‘Sir Gareth Southgate’ single-handedly reintroduced the waistcoat into mainstream fashion at this summer’s World Cup, with some dazzling performances on the touch line throughout an inspired campaign.
An iconic look for Southgate follows a string of England managers who have had their particular ‘look’ – Steve McClaren most notably with his infamous umbrella, whilst Fabio Capello opted for the Postman Pat, and Sam Allardyce, retired criminal living in Marbella. But it beg’s a burning question. If Southgate’s predecessors had achieved the same or some sort of success at a major tournament as Southgate did this summer, would we have seen for example, fans dressing up as Postman Pat at the games?
With Schteve the only of the three to be in management for the upcoming season, now with Queens Park Rangers, we have an opportunity to imagine a Loftus Road teaming with club-crested umbrellas when (what’s hard to imagine), McClaren lifts the Championship trophy to the Rangers’ faithful this season.
Waistcoats and umbrellas aside though, QPR enter the upcoming Championship season in a not too dissimilar fashion to what England entered this summer’s World Cup – with a young, emerging team playing under a manager whom nobody had expected to perform.
The Kids Are The Future
England ranked as the third youngest team at the tournament, joint second with France with squad age average’s of 26 years, and behind only to Nigeria with a squad average age 25.9 years. In the Championship, QPR also rank as the third youngest team with a current squad average of 24.9 years, and with their very own ‘golden generation’ of youngsters impressing the pre season, of which Ebere Eze looks to most promising.
After his January-return from a successful loan spell at Wycombe Wanderers, Eze, 20, flourished under then-manager Ian Holloway and found himself a first team regular come the end of the season. The former Arsenal youth player has scored twice already this pre-season, including a fine individual goal in the open fixture against Charlton Athletic.
QPR’s Class of 2018 emerged last season under Holloway, who was forced to recruit from inside after the transfer funds were slashed to near-zero come January, following the club’s order to pay a record-breaking FFP fine issued back in 2014, was settled in October of last year. Several others blossomed into first-team players under ‘Ollie’, including Bright Osayi-Samuel, Paul Smyth and Ilias Chair.
To earn their respective places in Holloway’s squad selection, they showed the same ability, confidence and fearlessness that exuded from Southgate’s England, and now in pre-season under a manager renowned for his ability to develop young players, are becoming ever-more important to the first team.
Piers Morgan And The Doubters
Many got it wrong about how far England would get in the World Cup this summer, including one Piers Morgan, who said in a TalkSport interview after England’s 4-0 win against Malta back in September:
I’m not as excited as he (Southgate) is, and I’m not entirely sure how he thinks he’s proven himself… I only know him as the guy who starred in the pizza adverts when England were humiliated in the past.
Piers has since said he got it “spectacularly wrong”.
It won’t surprise you to know that some football fans, particularly those of Newcastle United, Derby County and Nottingham Forest amongst others, have displayed similar comments about Queens Park Rangers’ appointment of the former England manager.
The expectation levels of QPR are largely underwhelming, and Twitter’s annual pre-season predictors are rife, many predicting a lowly finish for the Hoops this season.
But maybe the lack of expectation, and the subsequent sense of freedom on the pitch that comes with the underdog-reputation isn’t such a bad thing to have going into the new season, as Southgate proved with England. Steve McClaren and his young QPR team have the foundations to replicate the heroics of England at the World Cup, and make it rain umbrellas in West London.