A crucial point for Rangers in Harry Redknapp's first game against Spurs since his sacking
And that's exactly what they've done. Rangers are, for a couple of hours at least, off the bottom of the table, having now grabbed four points in two games against Champions League chasing Chelsea and Spurs. Tottenham stay in third, though Chelsea could well usurp them later today. Redknapp and Villas Boas embrace warmly on the touchline, a nice postscript to the match. Which was not a classic, but Rangers won't give a flying hoop. "Christ, that was awful," sighs Paul Keane. "Neither team seem to be able to string one pass together a lot of the time. Perfectly summed up by SWP actually getting into a promising position and tripping over the ground. Ah well, at least they were both able to fahkin' run abaht a bit."
90 min +1: Harry Redknapp has now assumed the Calm Down pose, both arms straight out, palms to the floor. His side look like they've earned a precious, and well deserved, point.
90 min: There will be two added minutes of this. Loftus Road is a tense place. On the touchline, Harry Redknapp is throwing semaphore shapes.
89 min: This is petering out. Rangers appear much, much happier with this state of affairs, much as you'd think. Spurs, collectively, have the hectic face on, each man a study in desperation.
86 min: A comedic interlude, as Mbia, in an offside position but running at high speed and certain of clattering into the onrushing Lloris, evades the keeper but manages, mid-air, to thrust his studs in the general direction of the keeper's front tail. Thankfully, he misses the French international's fruit arrangement, but tweaks something himself and rolls around in anguish, a karmic moment. Happily, he too isn't inflicted with anything serious, and is soon up and about.
85 min: Wright-Phillips has the ball at his feet in the area, coming in from the left. He's played a one-two with Taarabt, having kept the ball in play tight on the touchline with a lovely high backflick. And, for the second time today, having showcased some super skills to work his way into position, he fluffs his lines, taking a wild fresh-air shot when looking to steer home from ten yards. The crowd bay for a penalty, but nope.
84 min: Mackie rather clumsily clatters into Dempsey, 25 yards out, just to the left of the target. A gilt-edged invitation to Bale. Shot, sir? He steps up, and drags an awful effort wide right, Julio Cesar waving it past the post in the ostentatious fashion.
82 min: More Tottenham possession. An awful lot of it. But it's all in front of the QPR box, and they can't break through a tightly-packed back line. A free kick out wide left, but Sigurdsson's weak delivery is easily headed clear. A lot of frustration for the boys in monochrome.
80 min: Sigurdsson represents the last roll of AVB's dice. He's on for Lennon.
78 min: Bale and Dempsey nearly prise QPR open with a couple of deft flicks down the inside-right channel, but the ball's hacked clear. It goes straight to Taarabt in the centre circle, and he takes a touch before a sliderule diagonal pass from the inside left nearly releases Wright-Phillips through the centre. For a second, it looks like the wee man's in, but Lloris is out of his box like a flash to slide-kick clear. End to end capers, and no mistake.
76 min: QPR have done well to douse Tottenham's early fire. This half is mirroring the first period, much to Harry Redknapp's glee no doubt. "Didn't Ekphrasis play at the back when Greece won Euro 2004?" quips Ryan Dunne, because somebody had to.
73 min: Fabio fights his way down the left, chasing a reverse ball from Taarabt. He nears the byline, then drags an inviting low ball through the six-yard box, but there's nobody to take advantage, and Lloris calmly waves it through. "For shame I'd never heard of the Family Cat or Steve Jelbert," writes Mark Jelbert (43 mins), who has clearly spent the first 28 minutes of the second half buggering around on Wikipedia, "but I'm from Cornwall like him so you never know, not closely related though. Saying I have an evocative moniker has made my day, so cheers for that!"
70 min: Lee Probert's Rhythmical Toaster™ kicks into gear again, Mbia seeing yellow for wafting a hand at the ball. Still plenty of time for another eight or nine bookings, so come on Lee, do your thing.
69 min: That's Adebayor off to the African Cup of Nations, then. Dempsey comes on to fill the gap.
68 min: Adebayor shimmies into the Rangers area down the inside left, released by a tasty flick from Defoe. He doesn't fancy having a first-time dig, though, and settles for a corner. He might as well have booted the ball all the way back upfield, for all the good that comes from that.
65 min: Taarabt skins Naughton down the right, reaches the byline, and enters the Spurs area for the first time this afternoon. He's got time to send a dangerous ball into the centre, where a couple of team-mates await, but opts to faff around in the insouciant style. Eventually he's forced to turn tail, and the danger is snuffed out. A rare chance for the home side to cause bother, and it's spurned.
63 min: Naughton flings the ball into play from the left, forcing Nelsen to slice haplessly out for a corner. Spurs waste the corner. Not too much in the way of quality on display at the moment. Something reflected, some would say, in this report. Does this MBM qualify as ekphrasis?
59 min: Spurs triangulate awhile down the right. Rangers are chasing shadows. Adabayor wins a corner. It's whipped in towards Adebayor on the penalty spot, Hill forced into a diving clearing header for another corner. Dawson meets the second delivery with his nut, but his effort isn't on target. QPR can't keep living like this.
57 min: A spot of light relief for the home side, Mbia the main star of a period of gritty possession down by Tottenham's right-hand corner flag. Eventually the ball's lost, but QPR need more of this in order to put a stop to the Spurs gallop.
55 min: Spurs are doing more of this passing thing. Rangers are struggling to get a foothold in this game at the moment.
53 min: Picking up a ball from Adebayor, Defoe jigs around on the edge of the box, cuts in from the left, and hammers a low shot straight at goal. Julio Cesar is down too early and going the wrong way, but manages to deflect the ball wide with a trailing leg. From the resulting corner, bugger all occurs. But Spurs are on heat here. It's surely only a matter of time before they score, if things keep on like this.
52 min: Lennon, tearing down the inside-left channel, is clipped on the back of the heel by Fabio. Not much contact, but enough to send Lennon onto his teeth, and it's a free kick on the very edge of the box. Bale stands over it looking threatening, but it's Walker who hits it, and he hits a screamer which curls inches wide of the top-right corner. Julio Cesar was rooted to the spot, and probably wouldn't have got anywhere near it if he had tried. Such a wonderful effort.
50 min: Spurs stroke it around a lot, both hither and, furthermore, yon. Parker nearly releases Bale down the inside-left channel, but the ball's too strong, and Bale's back on his heels anyway, and the move fizzles out. For the second time today, Rangers have failed to get going at the start of a half.
48 min: Parker hits a rising effort from nigh on 30 yards. It's a decent strike, but straight at Julio Cesar and always clearing the crossbar. Still, Tottenham have started this half with some purpose. Then again, they did that in the opening period too, and look how that ended up.
47 min: Bale takes a four-step run-up and looks for the top-right corner. He beats the wall, but the effort's too close to Julio Cesar, who makes a three-course meal of gathering the ball, but manages it nonetheless.
No changes made by either side. Spurs kick off, immediately win a free kick to the right of the Rangers D, Defoe being plonked on his face mid-jink. This is a fine opportunity for Bale to do his thing.
Meanwhile to satisfy the man who gave me this earworm, Mark Jelbert (43 min), Will Bouma's story can be found here, in this MBM, not that we're treading old ground in what is becoming an increasingly tired format, or anything. "Look at 3.46pm and 4pm for my story," writes Will. "Injury ended my career and I now coach AFC Mymms in St Albans Sunday league division 5."
Rangers and Harry Redknapp will be happy enough with that, Spurs having been thoroughly frustrated in the wake of their opening burst of post-bothering activity. Should set us up for a great second half.
45 min: Not for the first time, Wright-Phillips wastes a promising chance, cutting in from the left, reaching the area, and sending a weak shot wide of the target. Admittedly he did create the opportunity himself, sashaying in from a tight position on the left touchline with a couple of fancy shimmies, so perhaps I shouldn't be so critical. "Both teams also wore their change strip in the Swindon-Arsenal League Cup final of 1969," adds Fraser Thomas. "Must have been a Swinging Sixties thing. And the fact that I knew that, instantly, frightens me."
43 min: A lot of huff and puff and bugger all else. Which may explain why Mark Jelbert is wondering what righteous hammer-wielder Will Bouma (star of our pre-match Redknapp "debate") did in a former life. "He didn't use to play for Aston Villa by any chance did he?" No point asking me. On the offchance Will's not stopped reading this nonsense and decamped to the BBC report, perhaps he can email in with an answer. Seeing we're on the subject of evocative monickers, you're not related to the guitarist from 1980s Television-referencing indie legends and t-shirt vendors The Family Cat, are you?
39 min: Probert's Toaster™ finally creaks into action, Dembele booked for a tug on Mackie's shirt as the Scotland international looks to jink down the right.
37 min: Fabio goes to elaborate lengths in order to keep a loose pass in play down the Rangers left, chasing after a ball surely destined to smack some poor spectator full in the coupon. He redirects the ball from the sideline with a highkick, scampers after it before it goes out for a corner, then hoicks it upfield away from danger. As you might be able to tell, nothing important's going on at the moment, and I'm trying to kill time.
34 min: Bale scampers down the left. It looks like he's got the jump on Onuoha, but wastes the good field position, lumping an awful cross out of play on the other side of the pitch. "What is with modern studs?" wonders Prateek Chadha. "So many injuries today are ascribed to studs sticking in the turf, whether it's when a player is turning or when they are tackled. Surely, the added grip can't be worth the increased number of injuries." You didn't get this back in the day with QPR's Omniturf, I can tell you that for free. Everyone ended the game with their legs, arms and faces covered in second-degree burns, mind you, but it's swings and roundabouts.
32 min: Bale lifts a long free kick into the Rangers area from the centre circle. As the ball arcs over Dawson's head, the defender falls over, clattering into Hill in the slapstick fashion at the tail end of the pratfall. He claims a penalty, but come off it. Dignity, please!
29 min: Vertonghen attempts to find Lennon down the right with a glorious crossfield ball from the centre circle, but Fabio is over quickly to cover, and head back into the safe and loving arms of Julio Cesar.
28 min: Walker has a look from the edge of the area, but his first-time snap sails miles wide left, and at some pace to boot.
27 min: Park feeds Taarabt down the left, but the latter fiddles around and eventually runs the ball out of play. That injury to Sandro, and the resulting pause in proceedings, has robbed this match of its momentum. Second wind, please, game!
25 min: Aye, that's Sandro carted off. Scott Parker comes on in his stead.
23 min: In an attempt to hook a pass straight down the middle of the park, Sandro's studs stick in the turf and he twists his right knee. A grimace, and a shake of the head. He'll not be continuing, I'll be bound.
20 min: Bale tries to beat Julio Cesar from 35 yards. I know he kept whacking balls past the former Inter keeper in the 2010/11 Champions League, practically every other minute in fact, but even so, come along, some respect here please, all professionals here!
19 min: Villas-Boas is on the bench, looking anxious. Handsome, but anxious.
16 min: It's high-tempo nonsense at the moment. Mackie nearly breaks clear down the inside-right channel, but can't blast his way past Naughton and Vertonghen. "Considering WBA and QPR have a tendency to wear stripey or hoop-ey kinda kits, why do they look Chelsea vs Leeds in 1970?" wonders Philip Davis. "I can only guess it looked better on black and white TV (just like Spurs strip today)." No idea. Actually, didn't West Brom and Everton contest the following year's FA Cup final both wearing their change strips? What was going on? I'd blame the marketing men, though back in 1967 and 1968 such preposterous creatures didn't yet exist.
13 min: A couple of corners for Rangers, with not much coming from either of them. What a strange game this has been so far, all Spurs, now all QPR. It could, and probably should, be 1-1, but here's where we are.
12 min: But the Rs revival continues apace. Taarabt slides a ball down the inside-left channel to release Wright-Phillips into the area. The little winger cuts inside and sends a shot goalwards, but he's taken an age to get the effort away, allowing Dawson to stick a foot out and deflect the ball away for a corner. Wright-Phillips should really have scored then.
11 min: Mbia picks the pocket of Dembele in the centre circle, powers towards the Spurs box, and screws a laughable shot towards the left-hand corner flag. Oh dear.
10 min: Taarabt sends a looping cross into the Spurs area from the right. There's nobody in the box to compete for the ball and Lloris claims without fuss, but that's a better 60 seconds or so from Rangers, who have taken a while to start.
9 min: QPR can't get going. Mackie and Mbia attempt to unlock Spurs down the right with a couple of wee flicks, but the combo doesn't come off.
7 min: Defoe attempts to round Fabio on the right-hand edge of the Rs box, but goes over looking for a free kick. There might have been a brush of contact, but referee Probert is having none of it, and play continues. "Are you sure those Redknapp chants aren't coming from the press box?" quips media satirist Ryan Dunne.
6 min: From the corner on the right, Bale attempts a cheeky flick at the near post. Julio Cesar gathers with little drama. Well that period of action's blown the cobwebs away!
5 min: All of a sudden, a blast of action! Defoe cuts inside from the left, and with little backlift sends a pearler crashing off the left-hand post. What an effort! And it's a great save, Julio Cesar fingertipping it onto the woodwork. So unlucky for Defoe, that was heading for the top corner. Adebayor picks up the rebound, but is denied at point-blank range by another superlative save from the keeper! Jings. That'll be a corner, then.
4 min: The ever-hard-working Mackie bustles down the right, but like Bale before him, gets nowhere. A really good atmosphere in Loftus Road, despite the slow start to this derby.
3 min: Spurs stroke it around awhile. Bale dances down the left but doesn't really achieve much. No early pyrotechnics in this match.
2 min: A chant goes up. "There's only one Harry Redknapp!" I'm not entirely sure who's singing it. Have a load of Arsenal fans congregated on South Africa Road?
A genuinely warm exchange between Redknapp and his successor Villas-Boas before kick off, and then QPR get the ball rolling. In this first half, Spurs will be, like the Daily Mail, going on the attack in the direction of BBC Television Centre.
The teams are out! QPR are dressed in their traditional blue-and-white hoops, the visitors Spurs in a hideous monochrome affair. Nice retro badge, mind, especially compared to QPR's appalling pseudo-regal monstrosity. Anyway, 1967. "That QPR No6 must have had spring-loaded boots," suggests picture-squinter Simon McMahon, referring to the antics of future two-time Rs boss Frank Sibley. "Look at the height of that jump! And he seems to be channeling the haka too." Very possibly, Simon. Here are the words of the most famous haka, Ka Mate:
Ka mate, ka mate! Ka ora! ka ora! Ka mate! ka mate! Ka ora! ka ora! Tēnei te tangata pūhuruhuru! Nāna nei i tiki mai whakawhiti te rā! Ā, upane! Ka upane! Ā, upane, ka upane, whiti te ra!
Or in idiotspeak:
It is death! It is death! It is life! It is life! It is death! It is death! It is life! It is life! This is the hairy man who brought the sun and caused it to shine! A step upward, another step upward! A step upward, another! The sun shines!
So presumably all these "steps upwards" are harbingers of QPR's consecutive promotions under Alec Stock? Although how hirsute the erstwhile Rs boss was I don't know. He certainly didn't have a beard or moustache, though he did sport a full head of pomade-drenched hair.
Actually, perhaps Sibley was simply jumping for joy in the basic British style. We might be over-thinking this.
First up is Ryan Dunne, who suggests not. "Is it just me," he begins, "or, for all the jokes about dodgy, doggy bank accounts, illiteracy and 'just fucking run about a bit', isn't 'Arry's sacking from Spurs still pretty strange if not quite inexplicable? Isn't management in the instinctive, leader-of-men sense actually (if anything) more valuable than the excessively tactical sort? After all, you can learn the latter at uni whereas the former, as with the ability to kick a ball, is closer to a have-it-or-you-don't talent. (This is not a pop at AVB, who I like because he manages the unique feat of being both a ginger and having the best managerial hair in the league.)"
And now, coming at it from another angle, here's Spurs fan Will Bouma, a man glad to have seen the back of his club's former manager: "Harry Redknapp was the architect of his own downfall yet the media seem to insist he was hard done by. Offered a new contract in January that he didn't sign despite the club supporting him through the tax farce, he courted the England job and let it take his eye off the ball at Spurs. When Roy got the job he said he didn't mind and then said he didn't know if he ever wanted the England job. Spurs then lost their 13 point lead over Arsenal and Harry showed a lack of tactical and rotational sense as we nearly missed out on fourth. At the end of the season he wanted a new contract but it wasn't coming as he hasn't really deserved it with his behaviour. After his sacking he said he never wanted the England job and would have turned it down if offered. He accepts no responsibility and lives to suggest he was wrongly treated. He did well for us, absolutely, but was often lacking in the big games. Players since AVB has come in are saying that he never worked on tactics and preparing differently for matches like AVB does. Spurs needed a change and as a spurs season ticket holder I think Levy needs a bit of a break for what he did. I know some Spurs fans disagree, but I honestly think Harry had taken us as far as he could."
So there you have it. Where do you stand on this Hot Issue? Scribble your opinions on a postcard, please, and then send them to the BBC, or the Telegraph, or your next door neighbour, or your mum, or Daniel Levy, Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, Bill Nicholson Way, 748 High Road, Tottenham, London Borough of Haringey, N17 0AP. Anywhere but here, basically, because we're done with the subject now, righteous hammer-wielder Will Bouma having whacked this particular nail squarely on the noggin.
Queens Park Rangers: Julio Cesar, Onuoha, Hill, Nelsen, Da Silva, Mbia, Park, Derry, Wright-Phillips, Taarabt, Mackie. Subs: Green, Ferdinand, Cisse, Ben Haim, Faurlin, Bothroyd, Campbell.
Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris, Walker, Dawson, Vertonghen, Naughton,
Lennon, Dembele, Sandro, Bale, Adebayor, Defoe. Subs: Friedel, Dempsey, Huddlestone, Parker, Sigurdsson, Assou-Ekotto, Caulker.
Referee: Lee Probert (Gloucestershire) has a shirt pocket like a toaster, to coin ITV colour guy Kevin Keegan's famous phrase from the 1994 World Cup. He's booked 57 players in 21 games this season. His high-water mark this season is eight yellows in one game, a Europa League fixture between Associação Académica de Coimbra and Atlético Madrid, two short of the ten he dished out last year in a stramash between Brighton and Leeds. Rangers fans looking for omens may be distressed to note Probert was the whistler on the opening day of the season at Loftus Road, when the home side were given a five-goal shoeing by Swansea City. He's not taken charge of a Spurs game this season yet, though the last time he did, against Aston Villa at the tail end of the 2011/12 campaign, he sent off one of their number in Danny Rose. Let's see what he gets up to today, then.
Queens Park Rangers and Tottenham Hotspur is a fixture which, for folk of a certain vintage, brings one encounter springing immediately to mind. So, then, let's take a trip down memory lane by running through all the memorable moments of the 1982 FA Cup final one by one:
Anyway, that's the nearest QPR have come to a major trophy since their 1967 League Cup win, given their 1986 vintage infamously didn't even bother turning up for their appointment in the Milk Cup final with Oxford United. But Tottenham's roll of honour hasn't significantly lengthened since then, either. A Uefa Cup in 1984, another FA Cup in 1991, and a couple of League Cups in 1999 and 2008 represent slim pickings for such a big club. But things have been looking up for Spurs in recent seasons, ever since Harry Redknapp took over from the trophy winning but relegation haunted Juande Ramos and re-established the club as a European force.
Ah yes, Harry. Well, today's all about him, that's for sure. Having been sent skittering down White Hart Lane on his bare buttocks by Daniel Levy last summer, he's rocked up at QPR in an attempt to keep them in the Premier League. It's going to be a hell of a task, illustrated by the fact that even *he's* having trouble making signings in this here transfer window. Spurs, meanwhile, now under the wise young yoke of Andre Villas-Boas, and fuelled by the world-class Gareth Bale, are on their way to the Champions League again, surely.
All logical signs point to a Spurs victory today: they've won four on the bounce, and nine of their last 11. But there have still been signs of the old inconsistency this season - a win at Old Trafford on the one hand, a home defeat by Wigan and batterings by Chelsea and Arsenal on the other. Meanwhile QPR were ritually humiliated by Luis Suarez and ten others in their last home league game, their third defeat on the spin - but bounced back with a scarcely believable victory at arch rivals Chelsea, undoubtedly one of the funniest results of the season, given the announcer at Stamford Bridge had spent half time hubristically goading the away support about the short length of their roll of honour.
Spurs should prevail, then... but Harry is Harry, and so it's difficult to know exactly what to expect. In other words: it is on!!!
It is on at: 12.45pm.