The Byzantine World of QPR FC
IT IS now three weeks since Iain Dowie became the latest addition to the QPR Managerial Alumni Association - dismissed after only a few months as QPR's 'Head Coach.' The timing of the axing was a surprise; but scarcely a shock - although the reports of why he was axed were stunning. Meanwhile the usual process of appointing a manager - either from within; or from without - appear from reports to be absent at Loftus Road .
Among the names mentioned in the press as Dowie`s managerial successor are: Terry Venables, Joe Kinnear, Sam Allardyce, Darren Ferguson, David O'Leary, Roberto Mancini, Kenny Jackett and Roberto Landi. But there is a growing belief based not least on comments by the only people who actually matter on this issue - QPR`s owners - that acting manager Gareth Ainsworth has the job in his grasp. And Ainsworth has increasingly said he's be interested (but would want to remain at the club if he's not appointed.)
This latest QPR managerial vacancy began with the curt announcement that "The Board of Queens Park Rangers Football Club has terminated the contract of Manager Iain Dowie with immediate effect." Gratingly absent from the QPR statement was the traditional expression of 'future good wishes.'
As was shown in the Recent Vital QPR piece, The Managerial Merry-Go-Round, QPR fans are well accustomed to managerial turnover. However even for QPR fans inured to managerial turmoil, this latest saga is quantitatively different to the norm - either at QPR or even in football general.
QPR's owners have already adopted the 'Continental' system of not having the manager be the one to buy the players. Whether it`s a good idea or is working is debatable but moot. It`s what the owners want; and it`s just a question of them finding a manager prepared to accept those terms. But now, if the reports are true, with the dismissal of Dowie, the club has taken another step down the path of board 'involvement' with the team.
According to reports, Dowie`s dismissal came about at least in part, because he refused to play players team Chairman Flavio Briatore wanted him to play. This 'problem' seems to have been resolved under the caretaker manager, the crowd favourite, but totally inexperienced, Gareth Ainsworth. In his first game, Ainsworth played two of the players - Di Carmine and Tomassi - signed by the Chairman and who he demanded be played and Parejo has frequently figured.
Whether or not Briatore ultimately has a role in team selection, (something that both the Chairman and the Acting manager have vehemently denied), they have both acknowledge they have 'discussions' with the manager over players.
And the latest fillip: As reported in the Sunday papers: QPR co-owners Flavio Briatore and Bernie Ecclestone were meeting with the players before the game - and Briatore even gave the players a pre-match pep talk.
Ainsworth put on a positive spin on the situation: 'Flavio [Briatore] was in the dressing room with Bernie Ecclestone, motivating the players and geeing them up...Flavio likes to be involved, he's a winner through and through in sport and it's fantastic to have him on board. And it's great to see Bernie Ecclestone here - he's a bit of a lucky charm for us at the moment.' I have no problems with them being in the dressing room before the game and nor do the players....' Ainsworth added. 'Flavio likes to be involved. But the final team is mine.'
Whatever the intention of Briatore and his co-board members; and whatever the declarations of Ainsworth: this surely has the effect of undermining the man ostensibly in charge.
There has been some scathing criticism of this Board involvement - none more critical that former QPR and England Manager, Terry Venables who was unequivocal in his criticism re QPR:
'...The logical conclusion to a situation like that is what happened at QPR. Co-owner Flavio Briatore sacked Iain Dowie and decided to pick the team himself. - I could never work in a situation like that. My name`s been linked to QPR but it`s not going to happen. - Briatore may think he can do the job himself and he may even succeed in the short-term. But in the end he will fail. - The only way you can pick a team is if you`re on the training ground every day. .. no self-respecting manager would accept working for an owner who picks the team. - When it comes to tactics, team selection and transfers, the manager MUST have total control. ...'
Briatore and Bhatia have repeatedly hinted that Ainsworth is their replacement:
Briatore explained his view: "I was not happy with the football that Dowie was producing, simple as that…I know what I am doing. I have won World Championships in Formula One…, I am from the sport business...The coach is important but the money is coming from us. If we had not made the decision about Dowie, the season could have been a big disaster. I`m not scared to make a decision. Not making a decision is often a bad decision."
"You give a chance to people who deserve it. Gareth deserves a chance. I gave Michael Schumacher a chance in Formula One, so it`s ridiculous we need someone with experience"
QPR Vice- Chairman, Amit Bhatia said: 'A lot has been said about Flavio picking the team. I don't know how involved other owners or other chairmen are, but at our club we care a great deal and as a result we might be more hands-on than most people.
'But we respect the fact that the manager is there to do a job, and the team selected, regardless of what anybody around us says, has to be the manager's. ....'Do I have suggestions over what the team should be? Of course I do, like any fan. But when Gareth puts out a team, it is Gareth's team.'
Bhatia added: 'If Gareth is the best man for the job, then we have to give him a fair shot at it. He may not have much experience of being a manager, but he has the respect of all of the players. 'It is only fair that Gareth gets the chance that he deserves, and for now I am absolutely thrilled."
Thus far, Ainsworth, has actually amassed a pretty credible managerial record: (An away draw at Reading ; followed by a home win against leaders Birmingham . A disappointing defeat at Ipswich and then a late winner at home to a weakened Cardiff . And then the credible result at Old Trafford.
These results have left Rangers well positioned for a playoff challenge, even as a couple of season-long injuries, and a couple of apparent transfer deals have fallen through. But Ainsworth is someone who`s just started coaching and is without experience.
An Ainsworth appointment would be quite a gamble. But if it happens, best of luck to him. Far more troublesome if the concept of Board involvement - direct or indirect - on team selection. And that they might be appointing Ainsworth because he, unlike other managers, is prepared to tolerate this involvement.
Whatever the veracity of Harold Wilson's dictum that 'A week is a long time in politics;' three weeks in the world of football, is an eternity.
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