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Runners and riders – Column
Sunday, 15th May 2022 17:53 by Clive Whittingham

As QPR dip their toe back into the managerial market for the first time in three years, we look at what treasures the bookies think they might find there. And Tim Sherwood.

Liam Manning 2/5

Age – 36 >>> Current Club – MK Dons >>> Previously Managed - Lommel (P30, Win percentage 46.67%), MK Dons (P54, 53.7%)

Pros:

- An excellent grounding despite being just 36-years-old. Worked in productive academies at Ipswich and West Ham, and with the City Football Group in New York. Impressed in a first managerial role at Lommel in Belgium, leading them from bottom to third in the table in 2020/21. Took MK Dons to the League One play-off semi-final in his first season in charge there.

- Style of play. It’s attractive, attacking and progressive as you would expect - MK lead the league for passes, passes completed, short passes, passing accuracy and sequences of ten passes or more - but having inherited a team playing that holier than thou Russell Martin style we talked about last week post-Swansea he added a much needed element of pragmatism. He took the team from thirteenth in 2020/21 to third in 2021/22, with five more away wins, 12 fewer goals conceded and four more clean sheets in the league.

- Player development. Manning coached Declan Rice in West Ham’s academy, and has taken Scott Twine from a £300k punt in a dire Swindon side, where the Championship collectively doubted whether a penchant for eye-catching long range goals would translate into a player good enough for their level, and turned him into a £5m prospect the whole division would now like to sign. More importantly for us he’s taken a collection of academy loans and drop outs, which many think is a much better strategy for QPR than trying to bring eight-year-olds all the way through a category two academy surrounded by category ones, and developed them into assets this season – Kaine Kesley Hayden on loan from Villa, Jamie Cumming from Chelsea, Dan Kemp and Conor Coventry from West Ham, and our own former loaned failure Matt Smith from Man City.

- Certainly a good fit for the more ‘head coach’ style role QPR seem to want this to be now. There’s a feeling among several coaches and staff at Rangers that it’s a wholly integrated system with the academy and B Team staff, head of recruitment, director of football and CEO all in sync, but increasingly Mark Warburton and his staff were operating as a separate entity to that. Communication between first team and academy staff had disintegrated, the so-called ‘pathways’ from youth to first team no longer existsed, Murphy Mahoney was the only academy player to graduate this season and even that only in an emergency after two 37-year-olds had been hauled out of basic retirement. The club’s Young Player of the Season is a loanee from Norwich. Warbs was allowed to make his own signings, both permanently and on loan, and Lee Wallace, Dom Ball, Andre Gray, Moses Odubajo, Liam Kelly and others, while useful at points, all took up squad spots while offering no prospect of re-sale value. Manning is used to being a cog in an integrated system, and is much more of a modern coach than an old-school manager, so could be a good fit.

- This is the direction football is heading in. If you could still get results from rich twenty-somethings by screaming at them and throwing crockery around then Peter Reid would still have a job. Keysie and Gray might think Big Sam should still be the England manager, you yourself may lament the loss of the game as it was and the old school managers that came with it, but it has gone and we shouldn’t pretend otherwise. The clubs that employ progressive, young coaches like this are the ones making the strides, and a new breed of managerial talent like Graham Potter and Steve Cooper is being discovered. QPR would do well to avoid the ‘tried and tested’ carousel of Championship has-beens you’ve heard of, and get on this new train before it leaves them behind. The trick is picking the right one.

- Despite his time working in the monied City Group, Manning says: “You don’t need all the bells and whistles. Ultimately, it comes down to having really good people and a good culture where people are passionate about what they do.” Which is just as well, as bells and whistles are out of our price range.

- Not Joey Barton.

Cons:

- You may not like MK Dons, but it’s a well-run club, with excellent facilities, a decent budget for its level, low expectations and a small and less than vociferous home support rattling around in an enormous stadium. It is, in short, a perfect place for a young manager to learn on the job, make his mistakes, with good resources at his disposal, and without the fear of some violent uprising if he dares to lose four games on the spin. Manning is a trendy, hot property at the moment, but so too were Paul Ince, Karl Robinson, Roberto Di Matteo, Martin Allen, Robbie Neilson and Russell Martin at various points of the last decade or so in this same role. The job that awaits at QPR is the exact opposite in almost every way – chaotic situation overhead, poor facilities, tight budget and high expectations.

- Beware a manager potentially piggybacking off the good work of others. The last time QPR went to League one for a supposedly up-and-coming manager it was Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink from Burton, but he’d picked up Gary Rowett’s team and run with it and was doing so, again, at a well run club with a small support and zero expectation. He struggled to transition to QPR. You and I may find Russel Martin’s football peculiar and infuriating, but he'd already started to build the team at MK Dons which Manning has inherited. That said, the improvement after taking over at Lommel counts in his favour.

- There’s been a lack of adversity in a young career to this point. You learn more from your mistakes than your victories, more from the tough times than the good. QPR is already a difficult job next season. There was undoubtedly some pushing out of boats last summer, retaining our best players while breaking a previously strict salary cap to get the likes of Charlie Austin and Stefan Johansen here for a promotion push. The new manager will likely have to sell at least one of his better players for serious money; get rid of high earners where possible; manage the situation where the club has gone all out to get Johansen on a three-year contract, huge wage and captaincy just as he’s physically hit the wall; and get enough results for a crowd that still believes this is a club that could and should be at least pushing for the Premier League. That would be a lot for a much more experienced coach to take on.

- Is this us once again being drawn to a trendy, flavour-of-the month type? A year ago, absolutely no way he’d have been anywhere near the job, one good season at MK Dons makes him the favourite. A few summers back Paul Hurst was the red hot property after brilliant work with Boston, Grimsby and Shrewsbury – Ipswich took the plunge and now look at them, and him. Michael Appleton, similar. It makes me nervous. In the same way that we’re often still the club that buys Matt Phillips from Blackpool, rather than getting him from Wycombe, when it comes to managers we’re still prone to going for some trendy thing, somebody you’ve heard of, who’s in vogue at that moment, rather than making appointments where you can see genuine planning and long term thought. Swansea got Graham Potter from Ostersund, can you imagine us doing something like that?

- Hint of a hair island coming. Could trigger some PTSD among the Loftus Road regulars.

John Eustace 8/1

Age – 42 >>> Current Club – QPR >>> Previously Managed – Kidderminster (P103, 53.4%)

Pros:
- Continuity. Though, as I’ll come onto, I’m not sure that’s what they want. The club might well put that in the ‘cons’ section.

- Knows the club and its players. Has previously shown an astute eye for what’s needed, and ruthless touch, by advising Warburton not to put his faith in the squad he inherited and turnover as many as he could in the first summer here.

- Clearly rated as some sort of hot managerial prospect. Got down to the final three for jobs at progressive clubs Swansea and Blackpool, and was again linked with Watford this summer. This could just be the work of an over-busy agent keeping his client’s name about, but he’s also been brought onto the Republic of Ireland coaching staff. Would be very QPR to have the forward-thinking, hot property coach they’re looking to Milton Keynes and elsewhere for right under their noses the whole time only to let him go elsewhere.

- Came to the club originally under strong recommendation from Sean Dyche and others. Has a lot of support internally, and was put in caretaker charge and then Mark Warburton was strongly encouraged to keep him on rather than him being booted along with Steve McClaren as traditionally happens.

- Not Joey Barton.

Cons:

- It’s a non-starter. I can see why his odds are low but as we’ve reported over the last week or so there’s a split between the first team staff and the rest of the club, a feeling they’ve increasingly gone off and worked isolated of an integrated system with their players and their methods and to hell with everything else, so its almost certain that they’ll all be swept aside with Warbs. They don’t want continuity, they want change, that’s how we got here. Eustace was happy to tell fans in the hotel pre-Swansea that he’ll “wait to see what Warbs does next” and with Mark talking to Birmingham and one other Championship club last week I suspect that’s a likely next move.

- All the issues we have with Liam Manning’s lack of experience, lack of adversity, young manager in a tough job etc, several times over. Eustace has never held a number on role of his own at this level, though did enjoy consecutive play-off seasons in non-league with Kidderminster where he was praised for transforming their style of play.

Gary Rowett 9/1

Age – 48 >>> Current Club – Unattached >>> Previously Managed – Burton Albion (P142, 44.4%), Birmingham City (P106, 39.6%), Derby (P60, 43.3%), Stoke (P29, 31%), Millwall (P136, 39%)

Pros:

- Good manager. Pretty important pro that one.

- Worked his way up from the lower leagues since retiring from playing, building the Burton Albion side that Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink subsequently got promoted with. If you feel Hasselbaink got credit for somebody else’s work to land the QPR job, well here’s the somebody else.

- Had success at this level in difficult circumstances at Birmingham, where he took a team that was almost relegated under Lee Clark to just short of the play-off places when he was disgracefully sacked. The ongoing Carson Yeung situation lingered over Birmingham when he arrived and he managed well despite playing budgets being cut, transfer plans being uncertain and permanent takeover talk.

- Sparked prolonged turn arounds in form and results at both Burton and Birmingham with the players he inherited, rather than by insisting on adding a load of new ones. Has punched considerably above his budgetary weight at Millwall. QPR have very little to spend.

- Experienced, highly competent, confident and assured pair of hands with a lot of experience at this level. Tough job, as already outlined, he wouldn’t be intimidated by that, would have plenty of experience to bring to it. Could be a very sound, calming appointment at a time of upheaval, uncertainty and unhappiness around W12.

- There are doubts about the style of play, which I’ll come onto in the cons. But at their best Millwall are fast, aggressive, and attack with a lot of width which always goes down well at QPR. They’ve got one of the division’s best wingers in Jed Wallace, granted, but I bet QPR’s beleaguered strike force were looking on enviously at the pace of the attacks and the quality of service from wide areas provided in Wawll’s comprehensive 2-0 defeat of us at The Den.

- Not Joey Barton.

Cons:

- That all said, if you’re expecting a glorious departure from the 4-2-3-1 approach, and a whole load of attractive attacking football, don’t. His style and approach can be overly negative, even at Stoke where he had a litany of very good attacking players for this level to pick from. Millwall have drawn 32 league games in two seasons, easily the most in the Championship, and 12 of those have been 0-0. After five consecutive wins had propelled them into surprise play-off contention in March they then went to Blackburn, a team above them they were hoping to catch and one in lousy form of their own, and drew 0-0 without a single shot on or off target. At their best Millwall are very good, but quite often they’re an unwatchable snooze. I think QPR fans could become quite frustrated quite quickly.

- Spent big money on far better players than he would have to work with at QPR and made a mess of things at Stoke. Previously did the same at Derby, though I take less notice of that because everybody seemed to go the same way at Derby and a bit of adversity on a CV can be a good thing. But even Birmingham fans were critical of his team selections and tactics - overly cautious, faith in favourites and so on – though as I said to critics of Warbs last season you’re never going to get a manager whose selections and subs you agree with entirely.

- Sometimes talks like he’s got a chip on both shoulders. I mean, not Nathan Jones levels of rabid aggressive fantasy and conspiracy, but his Stoke team had millions lavished on it, didn’t perform and there was no humility at all through that spell – interviews were needlessly passive aggressive and loaded with excuses. QPR don’t need excuses, it’s a tough job, we get it, we need somebody that will embrace that not give it the ‘woe is me’ routine or demand a load of expensive loans to haul his arse out of the shit.

- Availability. Les Ferdinand has been a fan for a long time, and we’ve tried to appoint him several times before, but his availability never coincides with our desperation. In the last few days there have been stories surfacing that he’s set to leave Millwall so… maybe. But, unless things have changed dramatically in a short period of time, QPR made a tentative enquiry about him more than a fortnight ago and were told it was a no-go, both for him and for Millwall.

- In the same way that a more head coach-style appointment makes people like Liam Manning and Darren Moore attractive, does it not surely count out candidates like this? Les Ferdinand is coming in for criticism for his performance, people are questioning whether we even need a director of football, and whether his presence would put managers off. While I think you can criticise how he’s doing the job, I do think the job has to exist because we’ve seen what leaving managers to it under this ownership can result in under mark Hughes and Harry Redknapp, and most clubs operate a system like this now so managers will be used to it. But appointing somebody like Rowett would just be setting yourself up for a lot of the same problems they ended up experienced with Mark Warburton – he’ll want his head, his players, and he’s not going to be picking a load of projects and young kids to learn on his time when poor results might get him the sack.

Shaun Derry 9/1

Age – 44 >>> Current Club – Palace >>> Previously Managed – Notts County (P77, 33.8%), Cambridge (P124, 38.7%)

- Much loved, promotion-winning player for the club. Knows the club and the supporters and what they expect. Would get a lot more time to get this right than a lot of the other candidates without the crowd turning.

- Has done a tough apprenticeship. Notts County have been a shambolic basket-case for years, Cambridge are frequently battling the financial odds. Also had a stint assisting Karl Robinson at Oxford, and we know Les Ferdinand is a fan of the work that he does down there and the players they develop.

- Has since gone into youth development in one of the most productive academies in the country at Crystal Palace. There he won promotion from the second tier to the first in the academy league via the play-offs in 2021. Could be a useful connection and knowledge base for potential loans, or cast offs they’re going to release that we could pick up and run with.

- Very much in the young, progressive, development coach within a system model that’s going to keep coming up through this piece, rather than an old school manager wanting to write the theme tune and sing the theme tune.

- Might bring Clint Hill.

- Has a straight-talking, no-nonsense, zero bull-shit manner about him which will please those QPR fans for whom Mark Warburton’s “first contact, second ball” schtick had started to perhaps wear a little thin.

- Reasonably adept musician, as he displayed on one of his many personable appearances on the QPR podcast. Long coach journey back from a 3-0 midweek away defeat? Go get the guitar.

- Not Joey Barton.

Cons:

- No Championship managerial experience.

- At Notts County he just about saved them from relegation in League One, finishing twentieth in 2013/14 having taken over in November. The following season he didn’t make it to the end, and they were relegated. At Cambridge he finished ninth and eleventh in the two seasons he completed, and they ended up twelfth in the third where he was sacked in February after three wins in 17 games. It’s not exactly Queen's Birthday Honours.

- Would he be anywhere near this job without the connection to the club? I think the work in the Palace academy, and our desperate need to be developing players, does negate this concern somewhat. But, nevertheless, beware, as we did with Ian Holloway, making an appointment no other club at our level would do just because we think the guy is a top bloke.

- Killing another legend. This paragraph is actually repeated further down this article for Gareth Ainsworth but I am going to copy and paste it in here regardless. It pained me to see QPR fans talk about Ian Holloway in the manner they did during his second spell after what he did for us first time around, and he’s not alone in giving great service to the club as player and/or manager only to be run down, criticised and slagged off by keyboard warriors. Look at some of the stuff Charlie Austin has had to put up with this year. Do we really want to risk turning Shaun Derry into the latest target of the social media hate mob?

Karl Robinson (Oxford) 12/1

Age – 41 >>> Current Club – Oxford >>> Previously Managed – MK Dons (P346, 42.5%), Charlton (P74, 36.5%), Oxford (P232, 42.2%)

Pros:

- Exactly the sort of progressive, modern, hungry, up and coming young coach QPR say they’re looking for.

- Adept at building a solid foundation and moving a club and squad forward from a low starting point. MK Dons were in their infancy when he went there, with a home ground that’s empty and silent on matchdays and were training on council pitches after getting changed at the stadium and being mini-bused there. Robinson got that set-up into the Championship, the only manager so far to do so.

- Developed Dele Alli, Patrick Bamford and Bennick Afobe among several other talented youngsters in what is hardly a hotbed for the sport, again exactly the sort of thing QPR say they want to do. At Oxford he’s overseen the scouting, signing, development and sales of Rob Dickie, Rob Atkinson, Tariq Fosu and Shandon Baptiste among others – Oxford have reinvested wisely and maintained their ability to push on towards the play-offs in a division that has become laden with fallen giants able to vastly outspend them. All of that bodes well for the job he’d be inheriting here.

- Prefers an attractive brand of football, with attacking intent and ball on the floor. Scored 117 goals in a single League One season.

- Tends to bring an experienced number two with him – worked with John Gorman and others at MK Dons.

- Good cup record, knocking out Manchester United 4-0 in the League Cup, and our good selves on two occasions among other higher division teams at MK. At Oxford in 2019/20 he made the League Cup quarter finals as a League One team, punting out higher division clubs Millwall, Sunderland and West Ham on the way before finally being downed by mega bucks Man City. I still don’t think QPR, and its managers, quite get how much damage it does to their standing with the fans and the mood of the support base when we ditch out of cup competitions the way we do. We were unlucky with a refereeing decision against Sunderland, and missed a catalogue of chances at Peterborough, last season, but that’s still two eminently winnable games for a quarter final away at Arsenal and a televised fifth round tie at home to Man City. QPR plead poverty with their fans, I sit here and try my best to simplify and amplify what the accounts tell us, and yet you still see them doing things like resting Bright Osayi-Samuel and Nahki Wells for a home cup tie with Sheff Wed and losing, picking a second string tie away at Blackpool and going out, getting knocked out by Peterborough. We’ve also been in this division seven seasons now, and there’s little indication there won’t be another seven seasons to come. That’s an awful lot of league games with Preston. A brow-beaten fan-base thrives on the excitement that cups bring – look how we responded to a fifth round tie at home to Watford. A manager who buys into that would be most welcome.

- Had a difficult time at Charlton, which we’ll mention shortly, but in the modern game for a manager to do 346 games at his first club and 232 at his third is pretty out of the ordinary. Clearly those that have employed him so far have rated his performance highly.

- Is decent mates with Les Ferdinand so that relationship which has broken down between first team and those above and below wouldn’t need much repairing.

- Not Joey Barton.

Cons:

- Limited Championship experience – one season in which he finished second bottom.

- Can be very combative, to say the least, particularly on the touchline during games. Has served multiple touchline bans, including a four-match stint in 2021, for abuse of match officials and behaviour towards opposition benches. When we talk about how well Mark Warburton represented QPR, and how professional he was, that may take a bit of a battering with this appointment. That said, a lot of us have often bemoaned how meek and quiet QPR are, even in the face of some shocking refereeing, and opponents screaming the house down and influencing officials. I don’t think any of us would condone us setting up Brian McDermott’s three-man refereeing committee here, nor doing a term at the Preston Knob End School of Shithousing, but a little bit more of a voice about us wouldn’t go amiss sometimes.

- While I don’t mind, and quite like, a bit of a failure and adversity on his CV, the Charlton performance, and how quickly he fell out with everybody, and the fans, down there is a concern. MK and Oxford are both well-run clubs, with a clear plan, and managed expectations. I’m not sure QPR are. It’s much more a situation like the one at The Valley where there’s a lot of managing up to do, and you’re inheriting a team with issues that needs work – albeit one with a good core of talented players.

- A very good promotion to this league with MK (as runners up) apart, he’s found success tough to see through. He’s qualified for the play-offs on four occasions, twice at MK and twice with Oxford, and lost every time. Is he actually that good? Has he found his level? Or was that as far as those teams could realistically go? Legitimate concerns.

Gareth Ainsworth (Wycombe) 14/1

Age – 49 >>> Current Club – Wycombe >>> Previously Managed – Wycombe (P512, 39.5%)

Pros:

- Achieved big things at Wycombe on a budget that wouldn’t even suffice for a weekly shop or a full tank of petrol in this country at the moment. Has experience there of fighting against relegation and then for promotion (both successfully) and building a team on a shoestring.

- Worked with QPR recently on the development of a number of our younger players on loan deals, most notably Ebere Eze.

- Wants the job and my God when you look down this list doesn’t it really bring it home just how few candidates could be counted even as acceptable and also willing to come?

- Plenty of experience in ‘managing up’, and dealing with QPR’s boardroom mentalness, having been the go-to caretaker manager during Flavio Briatore’s wild days in W12.

- QPR connection. I’ve deliberately left this a little way down the list because I do think QPR fetishize this idea of bringing former players back in one capacity or another more than most clubs so it shouldn’t by a primary reason for consideration. But it is a fact that he’s a bit of a legend in the eyes of QPR fans from his playing days and that would bring with it a feel good factor, an immediate lift in atmosphere, and buy him more time than many others on this list would get if it doesn’t go right.

- Plays attacking football with a high press.

- Would probably still be one of our better players, if we got desperate.

- Band could do the POTY Dinner, a key cost saving that means we might be able to get that event back one day.

- Not Joey Barton.

Cons:

- Wycombe’s style of football is rudimentary to say the least. They are bottom or second bottom in League One for all the metrics Manning's MK Dons are top for - though they have just beaten them in the play-offs. Whether that’s a manager picking a horse for a course or just the way he likes to play remains to be seen when he does eventually get another job, either here or elsewhere, but as we saw with Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink patience wears very thin very quick among QPR fans when the football is kick and rush stuff. He was linked with Preston earlier this season, and Blackburn now, and I’d actually like to see him get a Championship job somewhere else just to see if this is him working with what he’s got or whether that’s just how he likes his teams to play. I certainly think these doubts are a big factor in him still being at Wycombe despite sustained success there.

- Only one season of Championship managerial experience. He’s dealt with, and achieved, a lot at Wycombe, but its his only club so far. QPR is a seriously difficult job next season, would it be too much for him?

- The QPR connection. Unlike the return of Ian Holloway (which was an appointment no other Championship club would have made) Ainsworth’s achievements in getting on for 550 games at Wycombe (where he’s maintained a 40% win ratio) mean he has been on the radar of other clubs at our level. But it doesn’t speak well to how we go about scouting for and appointing managers that because somebody who used to play for us and was well liked is doing quite well at a club up the road we just go for him.

- Killing another legend. It pained me to see QPR fans talk about Ian Holloway in the manner this did in his second spell after what he did for us first time around, and he’s not alone in giving great service to the club as player and/or manager only to be run down, criticised and slagged off by keyboard warriors. See Charlie Austin this season. Do we really want to risk turning Gareth Ainsworth into the latest target of the social media hate mob?

Darren Moore (Sheff Wed) 18/1

Age – 48 >>> Current Club – Sheff Wed >>> Previously Managed – West Brom (P48, 47.9%), Doncaster (P78, 44.9%), Sheff Wed (P69, 43.5%)

- A force of immense, uplifting positivity in a bleak world.

- Has quickly amassed really good experience in three challenging jobs. West Brom had a talented squad, and a big budget, but it was a squad clearly coming to the end of a cycle and deeply ingrained in the worst kind of football after extended time being managed by a collection of the sport’s most notorious dinosaurs. He didn’t take them up, as we’ll come onto, but he restored positivity and pride and transformed the style of play giving Slaven Bilic a better platform to build to promotion the following year. Finished ninth in his first full season at Doncaster and they were upper midtable again when he was poached by Sheff Wed, where he’s taken another challenging situation and qualified for the play-offs. Has registered win percentages north of 40% across all three jobs so far, and Doncaster have crashed and burned into League Two without him.

- Style of play. QPR like it so much they repeatedly loaned him goalkeepers for them to practice playing out from the back – Seny Dieng and Joe Lumley both had spells there.

- Would you want to mess with him?

- It’s a realistic prospect. Unlike many on this list, and those the Twitterati think are possibilities hut absolutely aren’t, Moore’s name came up in conversations very early on in this, along with Manning and Robinson, and I’d be reasonably surprised if it doesn’t end up being one of those three as it stands. Sheff Wed’s play-off failure, and a testy situation with the board there, could get him cheaply even though he’s in employment. I think he’s got fans at QPR. “Worth your consideration”, said Smooth Jimmy Apollo.

- Would continue to enhance QPR’s reputation as a club where opportunities exist for BAME coaches in a sport that continues to overlook them. I’m always so wary of venturing into this territory as a middle class, white, journalist, called Clive, so I’ll leave it to Paul Hall who said in interview with us that it does make a huge difference when trying to bring young lads from diverse backgrounds through at the club to see and hear from people from similar backgrounds who they can related to. Link.

- If Darren Moore can’t stop us conceding from set pieces then, frankly, who the fuck can?

- Underrated extras role in Monkey Dust, the greatest television show of all time.

- Not Joey Barton.

Cons:

- Has been well resourced in two of his previous three jobs, and ultimately failed in both. For all the positive turn-around he enacted at West Brom, and his sacking at the time certainly seemed premature and harsh, he had an expensively assembled squad, full of Premier League players, with parachute payments, and the season was clearly slipping towards the play-off failure that materialised after he left. Sheff Wed is a bit of a car crash football club, and I don’t think you could really criticise him for failing to rescue them from an inevitable relegation, but they’ve got good players and budget for League One and he has, again, failed in the play-offs.

- The style of play, while progressive, can become a little bit staid and half back passes to the wing, back to the centre, back to the wing, back to the centre, centre holds it, holds it, holds it. I don’t think there’s going to be a lot of tolerance for that at Loftus Road early next season after the way Mark Warburton’s swashbuckling, attacking side resorted to that sort of tedium over the last three months.’

Tactical Tim Sherwood 18/1

Age – 53 >>> Current Club – Unattached >>> Previously Managed – Tottenham (P28, 50%), Villa (P28, 35.7%)

Pros:

- The sort of character – strong minded, brash, confident – that wouldn’t be intimidated by one of football’s most difficult jobs. He doesn’t care what you think, and he wants you to know that.

- Part of the Tottenham academy set up that brought through Harry Kane and others, with an excellent strike rate for graduating youth players to first team – exactly what QPR say they’re looking for. Has a record of giving youth players first team opportunities rather than leaving them parked in the academy set up or out on loan which was one of the big problems with McClaren’s approach, and Warburton’s too in the end, in the eyes of his employer.

- Has worked successfully with Les Ferdinand, Chris Ramsey and others at QPR before at Spurs and this would at least suggest that the people who run the club day to day are getting to pick the manager as well, rather than having sacking and appointments foisted upon them. Ciomes in with his eyes wide open.

- Would hopefully have learnt lessons from chastening experiences at Aston Villa and Swindon. Although, does that feel like something that Tim Sherwood would do? I think in my mind I can hear Tim Sherwood saying “Tim Sherwood took nothing from those jobs, Tim Sherwood was placed in an impossible situation by others which even Tim Sherwood could only do so much with” more than I can “of course it was a huge learning experience for me, the lessons of which I’m looking forward to taking into my next job.” “It’s Tim Sherwood my angel, Tim Sherwood’s been sacked,” said Tim Sherwood.

- Said chastening experience only came after his two best players – Christian Benteke and Fabian Delph – were sold and replaced with a disparate collection from all over the world sourced in part by a newly formed transfer committee above him.

- Nobody succeeded at Villa at that time, it wasn’t just him who failed there. And he’d initially saved them from relegation and taken them to a cup final.

- Plays an attacking style of football with wingers and strikers (plural) which will play well to the bored galleries at Loftus Road. A bit of excitement would go a long way at Rangers at the moment – look how we all lost our shit at McClaren’s good run through the autumn and subsequent couple of FA Cup wins.

- Takes cup competitions seriously, reaching the final of the FA Cup with Villa. Copy and paste that paragraph from the Karl Robinson section. I do think it’s important, and I think Warbs, McClaren, Holloway, Ramsey, Redknapp and Hughes all did themselves further damage here by not realising it.

- Flammable.

- In success would offer an obvious new clothing line to a club retail operation that once produced commemorative t-shirts when Emmanuel Ledesma scored a hat trick against Carlisle United in an early round League Cup game.

- Summer Patreon interview would certainly be lively. Overdrafts the least of my worries here. Pray for Nick London.

- I don’t think this is a realistic prospect. I’ve only included him because the Les connection means the bookies have a price for him and I quite enjoy writing this bit about him every so often.

- Even Tim Sherwood, is not Joey Barton.

Cons:

- Bloke comes across as an absolute helmet. Almost deliberately. I feel like inviting him into our lives would be like deciding you’re going to take up smoking in your late 30s – you know this is stupid, you know this is bad for you, you know this has no good end, you know this is going to irritate everybody, and yet here you go anyway.

- Many of his claims about the young players he brought through into Tottenham’s first team don’t stand up to scrutiny. For instance, he mentions Ryan Mason a lot, who was part of Sherwood’s academy set up, but actually made 0 starts and 0 sub appearances for him as first team manager.

- His Harry Redknapp-style “football is about footballers not systems” comments are not only totally outdated but also unhelpful at a club of QPR’s size where our budget is never going to be as big and players never as good as clubs we’ve nevertheless got to find a way to compete with. We’re to trying to be a development club because it’s a nice thing to be, we’re doing it because it’s the only route open to us financially.

- Related point, he probably won’t want the job. There’s no money to spend, senior players have to be released, it’s not an attractive proposition. Much better to just gob off on Soccer Saturday every week where there’s no pesky results to prove you wrong.

- Initial refusal to drop down and take jobs outside the Premier League, because apparently six months as caretaker at Spurs means you’re a Premier League manager, means he not only has zero Championship experience but also comes across as an arrogant knob.

- When he did pitch up at Swindon Town, to help out the owner who he’s friends with, he initially positioned himself as director of football, only to then start turning up in the dugout and touchline on matchdays. When it all went to shit he tried to pass it off as him just popping in every now and again to help with transfers.

- Touchline behaviour and deliberate attempts to look and sound like a North London letting agent will grate even more than having to deal with actual North London letting agents. This is a man who absolutely, 1000%, closes the door of his “motor” with his foot. Minimum two mobile phones.

- Friendship with Les Ferdinand will mean he’ll have very little time to get it right before the crowd turns, and they’ll both have to go if he doesn’t.

- Took an Aston Villa side that had £51.2m lavished on it, with 11 new players, and won one of the first 11 games before getting the sack. Picked seven different starting 11s in seven different systems in his final seven games. Villa eventually won only one of their first 20 and were relegated with just four wins to their name all season. This after his infamous “winners” comment in pre-season when he’d said you were about to “find out what a Tim Sherwood team looks like”.

- Much talked about (by him) 50% win percentage at Spurs came with an inherited team and still included absolute shellackings by Liverpool, Chelsea and Man City.

- Refers to himself in the third person. Never a good sign. See Steve Evans.

- Would the joy of seeing us make a cup final for the first time since 1986 be negated slightly by the manager leading us out in loafers with no socks?

Others

There are some relatively low down on the odds list that I’ve nevertheless slung into the ‘others’ section because I just don’t think they’re realistic prospects for us in our current state at all – specifically Sean Dyche (14/1) and Daniel Farke (22/1). There’s plenty of criticism to be made of Queens Park Rangers and the people that own and run it, and certainly enough people to blame to share it around, but when I see people on social media demanding Les Ferdinand, Lee Hoos, Ruben Gnanalingam and others resign and leave the club if they fail to “show ambition” and nail a high profile manager like this, followed by loads of “bang on mate” replies I just despair.

Sean Dyche was on £3.5m a year at Burnley, somewhere around £75,000 a week. QPR cannot afford to pay their best players a third of that, and in any case Dyche is reportedly waiting on a pay out of anything up to £15m after his recent sacking that he’d forgo if he took another job. Every lower Premier League club that sacks its manager next season would immediately have him as their favourite to replace. A club like West Brom might, might, be able to tempt him back to this level, but only by offering a package for him and his coaches, and a budget for signings and wage bill, that we couldn’t touch. 'But Clive, the owners are rich, they just don’t want to spend the money.' The rules of the competition we play in dictate how much we can lose – a maximum of £39m over a rolling three-year period. The latest set of accounts were good, just a £4m loss, but that included the Ebere Eze sale which would suggest that the loss for the season just gone is going to be around £24m and that is a problem. There is a very limited budget for building a team here next season, and that dictates what sort of manager will take the job. Sean Dyche on £3.5m a year ain’t it.

Chris Hughton is 12/1 but mercifully seems set on taking Ghana to the World Cup in November – if you thought you were bored before. You’d think, given the achievement and the amount of work it took to get them there, that also applies to Canada’s John Herdman (22/1) who’s had some press linking him here, Blackburn and Burnley over the weekend. He’s an interesting character, who took New Zealand Women to consecutive World Cups, won the bronze medal at successive Olympics with Canada Women and has now hauled Canada’s men’s team up 33 places in the World Rankings and to a first World Cup in 36 years – which he’d surely want to stick around for.

A point I always make in these pieces is how flavours of the month come and go. When Mark Warburton was struggling through the autumn of 2020, grinding through a ten-game losing sequence, the demand from the masses then was to go and get Nigel Pearson. Get Pearson in here, whatever it takes, give him what he wants, fuck Les off, just do whatever is necessary. Pearson has subsequently gone into a very similar situation at Bristol City and done absolutely nothing with it, so now you never hear his name. Michael Appleton has been a short odds favourite for Championship jobs before, and seen as a very progressive candidate and good option, but after getting Lincoln into the League One play-offs with Brennan Johnson on loan he found it rather more difficult without the Forest wunderkind and is now out of work and priced at 16/1. Lee Johnson, also, had some fantastic times at Bristol City, and at one stage looked like he was going to drag Sunderland back out of League One this year playing attractive football, but he’s out of work now and is probably only priced as low as 18/1 because he was at the Fulham game recently.

James Rowberry at Newport is 14/1 having been a surprise early press link, but that seems to have drifted now. One of the youngest ever holders of a UEFA pro-licence badge, he worked under several managers at Cardiff including our own legend Neil Warnock. Newport crashed out of the promotion picture with six defeats in the last nine games so he’d fit in well here.

Giving the job to Emma Hayes (40/1) might be worth it just because it would upset exactly the right people. A hugely successful manager in the women’s game, and fantastically erudite and insightful pundit, there’s absolutely no reason at all she shouldn’t be considered a far, far better option than many of the names on this list. Perhaps even most of the names on this list. Bit of a nightmare to write about, which is why I’ve put her down here and not in the main section, because every ‘disadvantage’ risks making me sound like Richard Keys – an open question about whether managing the best and most well-resourced team in the FAWSL is any kind of preparation for managing QPR in the Championship for example. The club would be taking an enormous risk here. There would be enormous media spotlight and focus on her as some sort of test case and this is a very difficult job to take on that all managers would find difficult next season. Sadly, I fear she’d get absolutely no time or wiggle room at all before the crowd turned, which would be exacerbated by her allegiance to Chelsea. If a move into the better remunerated men’s game is where she wants to go with her career, I can’t help feel there would be better jobs at more suitable clubs for her to do that. In fact, I can’t think of many worse.

Links >>> Not in a disrespectful way – Three years with Warbs >>> Six of Warbs’ best (and worst) >>> Summer 2021 Interview >>> Summer 2020 Interview >>> How did we get here?

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stainrods_elbow added 18:38 - May 15
Some good, detailed comment here, though I'm perplexed as to how the 'disintegration' of managment communication between academy/DoF/first team lines, Warbs and Ferdinand and Ramsay etc, is now being 'reported' as if it were fact, in the absence of meaningful sources and attributed quotes. No one has any real clue what's gone on behind the scenes, so let's not try to pretend otherwise. If we'd finished in the top six, or just not collapsed as badly as we did, it's likely Warburton would still be with us, and if the problems were as entrenched as that, Eustance would have had his cards too, not having his takeover prospects being assessed.

It would be nice if, just for once, the club showed fans some respect and came out and explained the rationale for the change and the strategic planning going forward, but probaly Les's mealy-mouthed words after a round of golf are as close as we'll get.
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Wegerles_Stairs added 20:11 - May 15
We've been in the Championship for seven seasons now, Clive. How time flies when you're having fun.....
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GroveR added 21:07 - May 15
Surprised Joey Barton isn't in there. The "cons" either write themselves "IS Joey Barton" or would require more space than the Internet currently has.
2

Andybrat added 21:17 - May 15
Must be a reason why Eustace is there? I am ever the optimist and still see positives with the new training ground and currently a really good spine. We have lost the manager I believe we should have kept but the above list is not awful. Tough job yes but I believe we are a club you would want to manage. No risk of a Ramsey / Hall promotion/ renaissance? All these comments prove I have no idea but options are available. I see Joey Barton in 7th heaven also. BTW Lee Hoos has been here before, a lot of people I speak to respect him and he always seems to make sense when speaking. Could be a bit of a Hoos who.
0

ozexile added 22:40 - May 15
I'd like Emma Hayes to get it I generally would. The commercial opportunities would be endless. And as you say Clive she can't be any worse than most of the list.
0

Paddyhoops added 07:41 - May 16
Quiet like Emma Hayes but she's in the same boat as Pep in regard to the players she has at her disposal.
It's hard to fail and in fairness she doesn't.
She speaks well and puts a lot of the monosyllabic male pundits to shame.
It will never happen though.
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Northernr added 08:13 - May 16
Wegerle - you sure know how to improve a guy's Monday morning.
0

bellomatic added 10:28 - May 16
Love this bit, spot on: "inviting him into our lives would be like deciding you’re going to take up smoking in your late 30s"
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stantheman10 added 10:29 - May 16
Good insight to the alleged candidates and personally I think we should give Eustace the opportunity. I know you say that he was part of the team that went away from the clubs remit but to be fair he wasn't in charge and may not have had a say in what direction Warburton decided. He may well be happy to toe the club line. Out of interest how much money was Warburton on? I still get the feeling that part of the reason he went is because of the salary he would have wanted to sign a new contract.
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CamberleyR added 11:52 - May 16
"This is a man who absolutely, 1000%, closes the door of his “motor” with his foot. Minimum two mobile phones."

Brilliant. I nearly spat my tea out when I read that.
1

Gruntfuttock added 13:34 - May 16
WSL, it's WSL. Or to be more precise, the FAWSL...
0

stneotsbloke added 15:32 - May 16
Just seen Sol Campbell's name mentioned. FFS .......
Joey Barton suddenly seems sensible !!
0

francisbowles added 16:08 - May 16
In answer to Stainrod's Elbow, the difference between Warburton and Eustace is, I believe, that the latter still has a year on his contract. So the club can afford to wait and see how things pan out before, and if, they decide to pay up his contract.
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Andybrat added 19:45 - May 16
If Sol comes to the West it may give us links into Arsenal as well as the obvious links we already have into Spurs for loan and injured players. Southend, Macclesfield, QPR quite a CV. Saying that I saw him play a number of times and he was an immense natural leader on the field. Talking more England here. At least we should be able to defend set pieces. He’s not a mate of Sherwood is he?
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londonscottish added 09:21 - May 17
"Touchline behaviour and deliberate attempts to look and sound like a North London letting agent."

ROFL.
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HastingsRanger added 14:49 - May 17
Clive, excellent read and realistic ... unlike the bookies.

Cannot believe that Tim Sherwood is in the frame in any way.

GroveR got there first .... no Joey Barton? So looking forward to seeing the 'Is Joey Barton' in the Cons section!

As always, excellent insight but not especially optimistic of the outcome.


0

RedbourneR added 13:38 - May 20
Great piece as always, Clive. Very clear-sighted about the obstacles awaiting whoever comes in, sockless and gilet-wearing if they must. Although I hope it’s not him …
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