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What to expect from Neil Critchley as QPR boss

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Neil Critchley has been named as QPR’s new head coach following the departure of former boss Mick Beale.
The 44-year-old has been out of work since leaving Aston Villa in October, where he was assistant manager to Steven Gerrard – a role he held for just four months.
Critchley left his job as boss of Championship side Blackpool after QPR appointed Gerrard’s former assistant Beale as their new head coach in June.
At Blackpool, Critchley won promotion from League One via the play-offs in his first full season in charge, having been appointed during the 2019/20 season, which was curtailed by the pandemic, before guiding the club to 16th in their first season back in the second tier.

It is his only first-team management job to date, but Critchley also comes to QPR with a stellar reputation as a coach, having previously managed Liverpool’s Under-18s and Under-23s.
So what can QPR expect from Critchley?
Flexibility, pragmatism and rotation
During his time at Blackpool, Critchley showed himself to be someone who was not afraid to change personnel or system depending on the task in front of his team.
His time at Blackpool will rightly be viewed as an overwhelming success. You only need to look at where the Seasiders are currently sat in the table to understand his impact on the team.
But it’s easy to forget that Critchley could have been sacked early on in his spell at the club. A sense of excitement among the Blackpool fanbase had been generated by some impressive signings going into his first full season but his side won just one of their opening seven games.

Critchley favoured an attacking 4-3-3 formation to start the campaign but his team were too open and conceded far too many goals. They were hammered 4-1 at home to Ipswich and sat second from bottom in the league after a 1-0 loss to Charlton in October.
Critchley recognised that his choice of system was not giving his team the best chance to win games, and a switch to 4-4-2 with two more defensive-minded, ball-winning midfielders shortly after reaped enormous rewards. Blackpool never looked back.
Did Critchley want to switch from his original preference or plan to use a 4-4-2 at the start of the season? Probably not. But he recognised what needed to be done with the squad he had.
Blackpool were superb out of possession and defensively that season, finishing with the best defensive record in League One, and his proven record of organising a team to become incredibly difficult to break down should provide enormous encouragement to QPR fans.
Critchley has used various other shapes too depending on the opposition faced. His tactical decisions and instructions, including on who played, hinged on how he believed his team could best hurt who they were playing, especially in the Championship when Pool were often going into games as underdogs. And he usually got it right.
“We worked on it yesterday. The gaffer said they were vulnerable at the back post and as I keep saying, he’s normally always right and he’s got another one right,” striker Gary Madine said after scoring the only goal (with a back-post header) of the game against Swansea last season.
One of Critchley’s biggest strengths is his ability to identify weaknesses, and create and practise specific game plans to exploit them.

Fans might look at Critchley’s preference for a 4-4-2 shape while at Blackpool and wonder how that would work at QPR. But Critchley will set up in the way he thinks will give QPR the best chance of getting results based on the players in the squad, and he will not be afraid to change if it is not going well.
Don’t be surprised to see rotation in his starting 11 based on the opposition and the players he feels are best suited to that respective task. He very rarely named an unchanged team from game to game while in charge of Blackpool.
But it will be interesting to see whether Critchley’s tinkering and tactical tweaks will continue at QPR, given the superior squad at his disposal compared to that of Blackpool means his new side will go into games as favourites far more often.
Continuity from Beale
Critchley was very much seen as the continuity candidate by those making the decisions at QPR during the appointment process.
Beale was appointed partly because of his experience working with young players and bringing them on, something which has also been a focus of Critchley’s career to date. Like Beale, he is a former academy coach and has worked with well-known players like Trent Alexander-Arnold and Harry Wilson at Liverpool.
His track record of players improving under him is very impressive, including while in charge at Blackpool. Defender Marvin Ekpiteta, striker Jerry Yates and winger Josh Bowler are just some of those who came on leaps and bounds while he was in charge.
Having a coach who gives younger players the best opportunity to improve is massively important for QPR, given the situation the club is in. Financial fair play restrictions make life for clubs like Rangers extremely difficult, and having saleable assets is a necessity. The business side of football means it is not just about results on the pitch.
Ilias Chair and Chris Willock were having excellent seasons under Beale prior to his departure. Sinclair Armstrong also looks like an exciting prospect after being handed a first-team opportunity.

For QPR, the hope will very much be that Critchley can continue to help players who will hopefully have their best years ahead of them to progress and develop. It is an enormous part of his remit.
Target current and former Premier League academy youngsters 
With that in mind, the recruitment – as it was under Beale in the one transfer window he spent in charge of the club – will likely be focused on those players whose best days are ahead of them.
There will likely be an emphasis on recruiting players who Critchley knows well from his days as a youth coach. At Blackpool, he signed several players – both on loan and permanently – who had spent time at the academies of big Premier League clubs.
Those include Callum Connolly, Josh Bowler and Ellis Simms (Everton), Dan Grimshaw (Manchester City), Demetri Mitchell (Manchester United), Dan Ballard (Arsenal) and Dujon Sterling (Chelsea), among others.
Under Beale, QPR signed Jake Clarke-Salter after he left Chelsea, Tim Iroegbunam from Aston Villa, Ethan Laird from Manchester United and Taylor Richards from Brighton. Elijah Dixon-Bonner also came to the club mid-season via Liverpool, and Kenneth Paal was a player Beale had first encountered when managing the youth teams at Chelsea abroad.

By appointing Critchley, QPR will hope his knowledge of current and former academy prospects, his previous relationships with them, and their knowledge of him will help to persuade more of these players to join QPR over the many other competing clubs who will be hoping they can do the same. And the club should, ideally, benefit from that in the long run.
A different character
But for all their similarities in terms of background, Beale and Critchley are very different characters.
It’s not hard to imagine Beale erupting after a poor half of football, or at a player for not following instructions. He relished in telling the media about his “honest conversations” with players.
Critchley, on the other hand, is a much more reserved type. He is softly spoken and rarely let his temper show in his post-match duties while in charge at Blackpool. Conversely, Beale was not afraid to let his frustration be known.

Critchley clearly has skill as a communicator or he would not have done so well at Blackpool, but the QPR players will likely experience a change in approach in the way that communication is done compared with their previous boss.
Ultimately, the biggest way Critchley can get the players to buy in is by having his ideas and tactical decisions pay off and come to fruition on the pitch, as he did at Blackpool, to earn the trust of the players.

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Graduate Organist vacancy in London and Home Counties – Church Times

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Graduate Organist vacancy in London and Home Counties  Church Times

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The dwindling case for living in London

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The recent debate around ‘levelling up’ may be missing something. I would argue that there is another way to consider geographical inequality – and, by this alternative measure, a levelling has been under way for more than 20 years.

I’ve spent three decades working in advertising, so it’s unsurprising that I tend to view economic life through the lens of consumption. By contrast, mainstream economists tend to view disparities through the medium of earnings or wealth. To me, measures of wealth should include not only the quantity of money you have but the breadth of worthwhile options available in choosing how to spend it.

Let’s put it another way. If you live in a boring village, and suddenly a great pub or café opens on the high street, then by my measure you have become richer; by the economist’s measure you have not.

Things that would once have been available in London decades before the provinces now appear everywhereat once 

There was undoubtedly a time when you were richer in London in two ways. You had more money, but you also had a far more exciting range of ways to spend it. Now not so much.

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London is a great city but, in terms of consumption quality, it has not improved markedly in the past 20 years. Over the same period, many smaller cities and even towns have advanced rapidly, significantly narrowing the gap. The kind of things that would once have been available in the capital decades before making it to the provinces – like sushi – now appear everywhere at once. Consider Turkish barbers, who seem to have taken over the country in only five years. (I can remember a time when it was enough just to get a haircut without having burning methylated spirits flicked in my ears. Back then I just didn’t know any better.)

This levelling is especially true of anything in the digital world: Amazon gadgets, Netflix films, Asos fashions and PlayStation games hit Aberystwyth the same day they hit Islington. But it also applies to the physical environment, as anyone over 50 can attest. I went to Manchester and Sheffield for the first time in 1989. Compared with London, they were then, let’s be honest, utterly rubbish. Now, when I visit those same cities, I experience mild ‘northern envy’. There are interesting places open everywhere. Northerners have better cars, because they have more money left over after paying for housing. And they are much better-looking, because they can nip home to get changed before going out.

Relatively speaking, London has improved far less dramatically than these provincial cities have. (New York, many aficionados argue, has got worse.) OK, the Tube is better than it used to be. Uber is a handy addition. But some things are awful – the last pleasure of driving in London ended when they put speed cameras on the Westway. Accommodation costs for the young wipe out any salary gains.

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By my measure, high property prices won’t just hit Londoners once – they’ll hit them twice. Not only do high rents wipe out what you earn, they also put at risk London’s once unassailable advantage as a great place to spend what money you have left. Creative businesses of any kind require space at a price which allows them to take risks. For a time, London found this space by moving its heartland from west to east. But suppose the people supporting what Douglas McWilliams calls ‘the flat white economy’ flee altogether? In my own experience, Kent suddenly seems weirdly full of fascinating restaurants founded by London exiles. If more of these people leave, the case for staying weakens further.

Londoners always say things like ‘Yes but there’s the theatre’. Let’s face it though – even Shakespeare left London for Stratford in his mid-forties. As he no doubt found, the theatre is all very well, but it’s nothing like being able to park outside your house.

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Gentrification is not a sin

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Gentrification is not a sin – UnHerd

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