Cardiff City host Queens Park Rangers this weekend looking to maintain their 100% league record after suffering their first – unsurprising if disappointing – defeat of the season against Burton Albion in the League Cup last Tuesday night. Unsurprising because the number of changes and the personnel Neil Warnock used for the cup match suggested it wasn’t a high priority for the City boss. Disappointing because, with the exception of youngster Cameron Coxe on debut, none of the fringe players made much of a case of selection this weekend.
Nevertheless, I doubt Warnock lost much sleep over it and given that Burton drew Manchester United in the next round, that sort of tie may have provided an unnecessary distraction. Cup runs are not why Warnock is still in management; he’s here to try and earn Cardiff a promotion and keeping the players focused on the bread and butter of the league is much easier when there’s no ‘glamour’ tie ahead to think or worry about.
QPR’s visit is the final match before the first international break of the season and the Bluebirds will be out to continue this historic run and take their flawless start to the league campaign into September. Cardiff fan’s shouldn’t be carried away and certainly shouldn’t expect QPR to come and rollover for the early pace setters.
Ian Holloway’s team have also made a decent start to the season themselves considering they were tipped by most to struggle. They stand 6th in the table with 7 points ahead of this clash, having beaten fancied outfits Reading and Hull City at home, while their only defeat came away to Norwich and a draw at Sheffield Wednesday accounted for their other fixture. Considering the difficulty of the first four fixtures on paper, Holloway’s side appear to be in fine fettle.
The traditional approach to any match preview is usually to look at the respective form of each side, weigh up the key players, take into consideration recent meetings etc. However, should Cardiff be taking into consideration an alternative, i.e. the QPR manager himself? When you look into it a little deeper it seems that Ian Holloway holds some kind of hoodoo over Cardiff – he’s not a manager the Bluebirds have enjoyed a great deal of success against.
While there is no overt animosity, there has been a feeling of unofficial rivalry between Holloway and Cardiff. There may be some Bristol-Cardiff aspect to it, but it certainly goes back to a historic meeting between Cardiff and Holloway’s Queens Park Rangers (in his first spell at Loftus Road) in the 2003 Division Two Play-off final at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium. As any self-respecting City fan knows, Andy Campbell scored the only goal that day as Cardiff were promoted at QPR (and Holloway’s) expense. However, the source of any enmity seems to be the setting off of fire alarms in QPR’s hotel the night before the game – allegedly by an influential Cardiff fan at the behest of then Cardiff owner Sam Hammam.
Holloway would ultimately get revenge on Cardiff seven years later when his Blackpool side defeated Cardiff 3-2 in the Championship play-off at Wembley to earn promotion to the Premier League. However, since that day in the Welsh capital 14 years ago Holloway has held a grip on Cardiff that he’s become something of a bogeyman (and he always seems to enjoying putting one over on the Bluebirds).
To put it in real terms: in 15 meetings with Holloway sides since that Millennium Stadium win, Cardiff have managed just two wins. The first in an end of season dead rubber at Ninian Park in May 2005 between Cardiff and QPR; the second, more crucially, when Malky Mackay’s Cardiff defeated Holloway’s Crystal Palace 2-1 at the Cardiff City Stadium in December 2012 during the Bluebirds’ Championship-winning season.
|Cardiff’s league record v Holloway-managed sides (post-May 2003)|
|0-1||QPR (away)||December 2004|
|1-0||QPR (home)||May 2005|
|0-1||QPR (away)||December 2005|
|3-3||Plymouth (away)||September 2006|
|2-2||Plymouth (home)||December 2006|
|2-2||Plymouth (home)||September 2007|
|0-0||Leicester (away)||November 2007|
|0-1||Leicester (home)||March 2008|
|1-1||Blackpool (away)||August 2009|
|1-1||Blackpool (home)||January 2010|
|2-3||Blackpool (Wembley)||May 2010|
|1-1||Blackpool (away)||September 2011|
|1-3||Blackpool (home)||February 2012|
|2-1||Crystal Palace (home)||December 2012|
|0-1||Millwall (away)||November 2014|
|1-2||QPR (away)||March 2017|
|Won: 2; Lost: 6; Drew: 7|
Furthermore, Cardiff have suffered six losses to Holloway sides since 2003, with seven fixtures ending in a draw. The Bluebirds have never won a league match away from home against a Holloway outfit, so there is some crumb of comfort that Saturday’s meeting is at the Cardiff City Stadium.
If Cardiff’s record against Holloway isn’t very good, what about current manager Neil Warnock?
In that, at least, there is a little more optimism. In the league, by my count, Warnock and Holloway have met nine times – every time at this level (the second tier). The record stands at 4 wins each and 1 draw across 9 meetings. Three of Warnock’s victories over Holloway have come in home matches and Holloway has never managed an away win versus Warnock (that’s good). Their last meeting saw Holloway’s QPR side defeat Cardiff 2-1 at Loftus Road last season – Jazz Richards’ own goal deciding the matter.
|Warnock v Holloway (league only)|
|Warnock club||Holloway club||Result||Venue, Date|
|Sheff United||QPR||1-0||Loftus Road, August 2004|
|Sheff United||QPR||3-2||Bramall Lane, April 2005|
|Sheff United||QPR||1-2||Loftus Road, August 2005|
|Crystal Palace||Leicester||0-1||King Power Stadium, January 2008|
|Crystal Palace||Blackpool||4-1||Selhurst Park, October 2009|
|Leeds United||Blackpool||0-1||Bloomfield Road, April 2012|
|Leeds United||Crystal Palace||2-1||Elland Road, November 2012|
|Leeds United||Crystal Palace||2-2||Selhurst Park, March 2013|
|Cardiff||QPR||1-2||Loftus Road, March 2017|
Ultimately, it is unlikely either manager will put too much stock in their respective records against each other, or this apparent Holloway hoodoo that Cardiff seem to suffer. What is probably true is that it will be a very tight match. Ian Holloway’s sides are never easy to defeat; like Cardiff’s own manager, the QPR boss tends to build his teams in his own image: they are spirited, no-nonsense, at times entertaining outfits.
Like Warnock, Holloway will have no compunction coming to South Wales and asking his side to grind out a result in an ugly manner. Both men are far too long in the tooth to care too much about what others think about their sides on a game-by-game basis. Results and performance will come first always; if they can be achieved with a flourish that’s a bonus.
It will be another good test for the Bluebirds, especially mentally after last week’s historic win at Wolves and the first taste of defeat in midweek. While the team that was beaten by Burton will hardly resemble the XI that starts on Saturday, it was a startling reminder that Cardiff are in no position to take any game or any opponent for granted.