Does QPR's mountain of debt mean a 'budget' managerial appointment is likely?

Colin Millar by Colin Millar / 02 April 2019, 08:58

The financial problems at Queen’s Park Rangers are well-documented.

Last summer, the West London club reached a £42m settlement with the English Football League after being found guilty of breaching Financial Fair Play regulations in the 2013-14 campaign. That season, the Rs had a reported wage bill of £66.1m - £21m more than the previous second-tier record.

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Led by Harry Redknapp, they eventually won promotion via the playoffs (coincidentally defeating Derby County, then managed by Steve McClaren, in the final) but the debts were mounting at Loftus Road.

Another season of chaotic management both in the dugout and the boardroom was mixed with yet further reckless spending and mass underachievement.

QPR finished the season rooted to the foot of the table and were unceremoniously returned to the Championship.

Led by Malaysian billionaire Tony Fernandes (who relinquished his vice-chairmanship of the club to Amit Bhatia in August 2018), the club subsequently underwent a period of a significant scale-back in investments.

The primary problem was that QPR still had a bloated squad of players on lengthy contracts whom they could not afford.

The club did not want them to be there and many of the individuals themselves had little interest in playing second-tier football in England. But no clubs who would have been interested in players of their ability could afford them.

 

On the pitch, results stagnated and continued to regress. The first season back in the Championship returned a 12th-placed finish before further 18th and 16th rankings.

The one remaining player of that final Premier League campaign, Nedum Onouha, left last summer when his contract expired. The commitment of the former Manchester City defender could not be questioned, but his exit signalled yet further cut backs.

Boss Ian Holloway – a figure popular within the club’s fanbase – was generally viewed to be doing a reasonable job in tricky circumstances. He had introduced youth players, stabilised results and formed a notable team spirit.

The football was not always the prettiest, but it was reasonably effective, and many notable results were obtained towards the tail-end of the 2017-18 campaign.

Holloway was, somewhat surprisingly relieved of his duties and replaced by McClaren – who had previously held a coaching role at the club. The reasoning, as the club put it, was McClaren’s history of developing young players and his appreciation of the club’s approach. Yet this self-styled long-term, youth-based approach flew in the face of the club’s transfer dealings.

Only two permanent signings arrived last summer – 36-year-old Angel Rangel and Toni Leistner, 28, while three loan arrivals (aged 33, 31 and 28) eventually were also drafted in.

Talented Irish midfielder Ryan Manning was allowed to depart for fellow Championship club Rotherham while forward Paul Smyth, who netted on his Northern Ireland senior debut against South Korea in 2018, was also allowed to depart on a loan basis to Accrington Stanley. Other talented youngters, most notable Eberechi Eze and Bright Osayi-Samuel, have also seen their roles limited this campaign.

McClaren headed an approach based, primarily, on short-term results and stabilising the club. Four successive defeats at the start of the campaign – including a 7-1 humiliation at West Brom – piled the pressure on the former England boss, whose credentials had already been questioned both inside and outside the club.

13 victories in the next 23 league games had appeared to transform the situation, and even giving the Loftus Road outfit a sniff of playoff contention.

But since Boxing Day, the Rs have won just once in 15 attempts in the Championship. They shipped four at home to both Preston and Birmingham, and despite a notable victory at home to Leeds, they have capitulated since. Rotherham secured their first away victory in 45 attempts in the Championship last month, 10 days after an embarrassing 3-0 West London derby loss at Brentford.

McClaren then oversaw a 2-1 home loss to second-from-bottom Bolton – who had won away just once in the league since August – in what proved to be the final straw for the club.

QPR sit 17th in the table and just eight points above the relegation zone.

Somewhat tellingly, they are 12 points short of last year’s final points tally with just seven matches of the season remaining – results have regressed and equally as troubling, the club appear to have abandoned their trust in young players and a long-term vision.

They appear to lack leadership and fans are increasingly disillusioned with the club’s structure. Neither Fernandes or Bhatia enjoy great popularity, while Director of Football Les Ferdinand’s role has also been questioned.

Who is favourite to replace McClaren?

Former boss Holloway has once again been linked, but he appeared to still hold a grudge against the club in his interview with TalkSport on Monday.

“He (McClaren) took my job…I still had another year left at the club. I'm still being paid by them now. He was talking to the chairman [Bhatia] while I was in the job, saying what he'd do. He hasn't been able to do that. What goes around comes around.

"Where the hell are the young lads I was told to bring through? I was told to promote the youth and bring people in who cared about the club, it's not happening. He had my babies and took my kids.”

 

Former Tottenham and Aston Villa boss Tim Sherwood has also been linked while former winger Gareth Ainsworth – currently in situ at Wycombe Wanderers – is another potential option.

Former midfielder John Eustace, whose only previous managerial position was at Kidderminster Harriers, is currently the club’s interim coach.

But the feelings of ambivalence from the club’s fans is telling – the general belief is that the club management are not the best people for the job and that can be seen in failure to improve results either on or off the field.

QPR are unlikely to be relegated this season, but they desperately need to implement a sustainable long-term vision if they are to shake off their current inertia.

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