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Monday, January 18, 2010

A Change of Hart

When Italian businessman Flavio Briatore took over as owner of Queens Park Rangers in 2007, the West London club earned the tag "the richest club in the world."

Usurped in that particular stake by Manchester City after their own takeover a year later, at least Rangers can console themselves with being the biggest laughing stock in English football.

That's because Paul Hart's departure as manager last week, after just five games at the helm, made it six permanent managers who have been and gone at Loftus Road in less than three years.

To date Luigi De Canio, with 35 games at the club, is the longest serving manager under Briatore's stewardship.

However, as those outside the club mock the absurdity of such rapid turnover, it threatens to be anything but a laughing matter for the future of the Rs.

Hart, appointed in December to replace the axed Jim Magilton - who himself only came into the job last summer, walked of his own volition over rumoured disagreements with the club's hierarchy.

Even during his short reign though rumours had persisted that he was nothing more than a stop gap, with former West Ham and Charlton boss Alan Curbishley sounded out as a longer-term candidate.

Of course, many would put the use of 'longer term' when concerned with the QPR manager's position down to pure fantasy if the current trend is anything to go by.

Soon after their big-money takeover, Rangers parted company with John Gregory and have since hired and fired De Canio, Iain Dowie, Paulo Sousa, Magilton, and now Hart has chosen to leave.

A relentless task from the club's owner to find the right man to spend the money to take them back into the Premier League? Or a trigger-happy policy where if someone isn't quite what they want or desire they are given the push?

It's hard to accept the former. Indeed, Rangers must be glancing an envious look up at Sousa's Swansea, currently 4th in the Championship standings. If Briatore honestly thought the Portugeuse wasn't good enough, Sousa seems intent on proving him mistaken.

Both Hart and Dowie can also point to previous top six finishes in the Championship in the past, and in the latter's case promotion to the Premier League with Crystal Palace in 2004.

No, it appears that the Italian is intent on running Rangers his way, and probably won't be satisfied until it's him who's picking the starting eleven every weekend.

Waving goodbye: Paul Hart is the latest manager to leave QPR

However, the most worrying aspect for QPR on their search for a new manager is just who would want to take on the risk, for that is now what the job represents, at Loftus Road?

Will promising young managers who have built their reputation in the lower divisions, learning their trade and waiting for the opportunity at a high level, take a chance if offered the Rangers post?

They will know all too well that if they get on the wrong side of the owner or fail to achieve instant results - and in attractive style too - then they could find themselves out of a job a few months down the line with their career going backwards.

No, they will avoid the pitfalls present in West London, and instead seek out other more stable clubs with, relatively, more patient chairmen willing to give them their break.

Similarly, will successful established managers like Curbishley even want to drop down to take on the challenge? Some might be tempted by the money on offer to them, but would it really be worth taking the risk for?

More chance the Rs will be forced to turn to the merry-go-round of older, failed managers. Those men who get a job, keep it for a short while, fail at it, get the sack but still manage to find future employment.

Is that the quality of candidate a club with top flight ambitions needs? Critics though would argue that Hart's appointment is proof that the stigma associated with the club's hierarchy has already begun.

His early success at Nottingham Forest, where he was eventually dismissed, has only been followed by failure and sackings at various levels of the pyramid with Barnsley, Rushden, and Portsmouth.

It's hard to believe a four-times failed manager was ever the right man for Queens Park Rangers, or indeed would last very long. However, perhaps this is the future for a club currently being so poorly run.

Hart's assistant, Mick Harford,
himself sacked twice as a manager, stepped into the caretaker's role for the 2-2 draw at Blackpool at the weekend. It could be a sign of the calibre of managers to come.


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