Déjà hoops: Holloway phased out again at QPR

During Arsene Wengers 22 years at Arsenal there have been 16 different permanent managers at Queens Park Rangers.

In the darkest days of that period, Rangers went through five managers in just two years.

While Arsene led a football revolution in north London, there has been a revolving door of appointments at Loftus Road. 

Now, the fun starts all over again after Ian Holloway left as manager of QPR for a second time last week.

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In November 2016, Holloway joined QPR for his second spell 10 years after his first. Holloway was quietly phased out in 2006, placed on gardening leave following rumours that he was courting other clubs.

 

Holloway’s re-appointment in 2016 was a surprising one, but there’s nothing like a bit of nostalgia to help football fans forget. At the time, Holloway was focusing on his punditry work for Sky Sports after relatively unsuccessful spells at Crystal Palace and Millwall.

 

He was coming back to the club in the post-Redknapp, post-Hasselbaink era, when QPR had been struggling to create chances and the feel good factor had long left the club.

 

Famed for his unique motivational qualities – as opposed to his tactical prowess – Holloway was more of a safe choice than a progressive appointment. 

 

However, the owners had already exhausted many other options and the risk of bringing in an unknown seemed too great.

 

In his second stint at the club, Holloway was tasked with steadying the ship, reducing wages, cutting players and selling assets.

 

Arguably, he succeeded. In the 2016-17 campaign, QPR managed to reduce their overall loss by £4.6 million from £11m to £6.4m, the club’s lowest deficit since 2008. In the same season, the wage bill was cut by £10.1m.

 

The height of the Premier League is difficult to chase. QPR were so badly burnt by their most recent attempt at becoming an established top-tier team that a £40m fine is still waiting to be paid.

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However the cost cutting, as expected, effected on-field performances. The cheap approach reflected in QPR’s league table position in 2016-17, a lowly 18th.

The football wasn’t revolutionary but it was definitely up to Championship standard. Under director of football Les Ferdinand’s leadership, QPR were plodding on, surviving, but also with room to grow.

 

A year later, and QPR have trudged to a 16th-place finish, with just three wins away from home. The results were disappointing but, for most QPR fans, the stability of mid-to-low table obscurity was worth it. Holloway also introduced a raft of new young talent, promoting several players from the under-23 squad into the first team.

 

Football and politics are among the only industries where an individual, still in employment, can find their position and potential replacements make the press. 

 

There had been doubts about Holloway’s future even before the more serious murmurs began. Earlier this year, the 55-year-old hinted that he was contemplating leaving football altogether following the death of his mother. 

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Just a few weeks ago Tony Fernandes, the co-chairman of QPR, told the Open All Rs podcast that he was unsure whether Holloway would be leading the team next season.

 

He admitted: “The manager has had his highs and has had his lows. We’ll have to analyse and say at the end of the season: ‘Are we happy? Is he happy with us as shareholders? Is he happy with the squad? And then you make your decisions from there.”

 

Then, days later, rumours that Steve McClaren, who spent half a season coaching at QPR alongside Harry Redknapp in 2013-14, was being drawn up as Holloway’s replacement.

 

The news of Holloway’s eventual departure last week has left plenty of QPR fans puzzled and the strange goodbye echoed the ill feelings of 2006, when he was similarly phased out.

 

There are some among the QPR faithful that are relishing this change of management, a group with high expectations and huge ambitions. But, there is also a large layer that are angry and disappointed.

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After a season that brought comfortable safety on a tight budget, what will a change of coaching staff bring? Do the owners want promotion? Do they want a different style of football?

 

McClaren has struggled in his last few roles and he is certainly not a manager that will guarantee success and stability.

 

As the football season comes to a close, the terrifying déjà vu that the English game finds itself in is absurd. At so many clubs, familiar faces are coming and going as owners wrestle with desires that simply cannot be met.

 

If promotion is your only question, then maybe the old guard is your answer.

 

Feature written by Florence Lloyd-Hughes 

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