QPR can progress under new boss Steve McClaren

Gabriel Sutton by Gabriel Sutton / 18 May 2018, 20:37

News of Steve McClaren being appointed Queens Park Rangers manager might not please English football’s meritocrats who believe successful lower league bosses should be given more opportunities in the top two divisions.

The rise of Gary Rowett and Chris Wilder among others supports that view, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that more experienced managers like McClaren should be disregarded entirely.

The York-born boss did an impressive job in his first spell at Derby County; he transformed a middling squad into the best footballing side in the Championship over the following 18 months, during which they were denied promotion only by play-off final mugging by QPR.

Before he took charge in October 2013, he perhaps benefited from a period of stabilization: Nigel Clough had lowered the wage bill after previous overspending, developed young players whilst building an energetic team, but then again, one that was perhaps too limited to get any higher than midtable.

Clough’s job is very similar to the one Ian Holloway did at Queens Park Rangers, before leaving this month. ‘Ollie’s supporters praise his passion for building a team that shares the heart he had at Loftus Road as player, relentlessly fighting until the very end: after two injury-time goals secured a 2-2 draw against rivals Brentford in November, he made a rallying cry to the fans asking them not to leave early.

That battling spirit he projected helped the Rs rescue 18 points from losing positions in 2017-18 when Barnsley and Sunderland, who have also had to hang their hat on youth for financial reasons, only took 12 points from losing positions between them and paid for mental frailties with relegation.

On the flip side, Holloway’s critics point to frequent rotation and thus failure to organize a defence that shipped 115 goals in 76 Championship games, meaning the team spent just 51 days out of a possible 443 in the top half of the table (we’re kind enough not to include pre-season days in this).

It is possible therefore that while QPR are more likely to progress because of Holloway’s work in his second spell, they require another manager to deliver it.

McClaren’s arrival could spark a tactical re-think. Although Matt Smith should remain the key target man, he might not be brought into play at every moment and perhaps more of the build-up play might go through the full-backs; Darnell Furlong might be given the licence to push further forward.

There is plenty of talent capable of fitting into a 4-3-3 system: Luke Freeman is one of English football’s best crossers outside the Premier League while versatile forwards Eberechi Eze, Ilias Chair and Paul Smyth have all shown flashes of potential.

Massimo Luongo has developed nicely in central midfield while Josh Scowen can hold things together with his ball-winning qualities. The obvious area to improve is the defence; centre-backs with both the intelligence to play out from the back and the fitness to last a whole campaign will be required, to take some of the burden off goalkeeper Alex Smithies, keeping hold of whom will be McClaren’s first port of call.

Changing manager is a risk for QPR, but there might yet be method within the madness.

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