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Stats rarely tell the full story

PUBLISHED: 13:01 15 October 2008 | UPDATED: 13:23 24 August 2010

26 Oct 1997:  Mike Sheron of Queens Park Rangers in action during a Nationwide League Division One match against Manchester City at Loftus Road in London. Queens Park Rangers won the match 2-0. \ Mandatory Credit: Graham  Chadwick/Allsport

26 Oct 1997: Mike Sheron of Queens Park Rangers in action during a Nationwide League Division One match against Manchester City at Loftus Road in London. Queens Park Rangers won the match 2-0. \ Mandatory Credit: Graham Chadwick/Allsport

By Ben Kosky THE first 10 games of a league campaign are often regarded as a fairly reliable litmus test for a club s chances of success. And, with QPR dropping to 11th place in the Championship after picking up just one point from their last four outings

By Ben Kosky

THE first 10 games of a league campaign are often regarded as a fairly reliable litmus test for a club's chances of success.

And, with QPR dropping to 11th place in the Championship after picking up just one point from their last four outings, it's perhaps understandable that fans have begun to question their team's capabilities.

Or is it? A glance at Rangers' recent record suggests that, in fact, the first 10 matches have little bearing on their prospects for the remainder of the season.

This is QPR's 10th season at this level since relegation from the Premier League and the current team's total of 14 points is better than the average return from the first 10 games in each of those campaigns.

Statistically, the Rs' best start came in the aftermath of promotion in 2004/05, when Ian Holloway's side wobbled initially before embarking on a run of seven straight victories.

Ultimately, a lack of depth in the squad cost Rangers the chance of a play-off push and that winning streak proved to be insurance against a relegation battle.

Hopes were high again the following season and QPR garnered 15 points from their first 10 games - yet Holloway's protracted sacking destabilised the club and, although never in danger, they eventually finished just one place above the drop zone.

It was a similar story back in the autumn of 1997, when Stewart Houston had splashed out big money on John Spencer, Gavin Peacock and Mike Sheron and Loftus Road was brimming with confidence.

Houston's team won five of their first 10 games and reached second place in the table - only for the wins and the funds to dry up at an alarming rate and they staved off relegation by just one point.

The next year Rangers could only muster six points in 10 games, but they somehow beat the drop on goal difference thanks to an extraordinary 6-0 thrashing of Crystal Palace on the last day.

By contrast, when the Rs' luck finally ran out and they plunged into the third tier in 2000/01, they had actually collected a reasonable return of 11 points from their first 10 games that season.

So what does any of this prove? Well, the most significant statistic when you compare Rangers' recent history is that their best finishes have come in a season WITHOUT a change of manager.

Gerry Francis led them to ninth place in 1999/2000 and Holloway's side ended the campaign 11th in 2004/05. Every other recent season has been a struggle.

Houston's sacking in 1997, Ray Harford's nine-month reign in 1998, the dismissals of Holloway and Gary Waddock... even with the significant investment that followed John Gregory's exit last season, Rangers could only finish 14th.

The message is very clear to those grumbling at Iain Dowie's selections and systems at the moment. Chopping and changing has never got QPR anywhere in the past.

Despite hitting a bumpy patch of late, Dowie has organised his team into a determined unit that can pull off wins at Norwich (with 10 men) and Aston Villa, the kind of results they would never have achieved in recent years.

Coupled with the flowing football we saw at the start of the season, that is reason enough for fans to cut him a little slack. Whether Dowie's bosses are acquainted with reason and common sense, though, is another matter.


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