Queens Park Rangers are gearing up for a long, hard season in the Championship.
The west London side have come into the new campaign among the favourites to suffer relegation from the second tier, something that has only been fueled following a torrid start to the campaign.
While few expected them to come out on top against Watford at Vicarage Road, Gareth Ainsworth’s side were 1-0 down after just 33 seconds before going on to lose the game 4-0.
A trip to Cardiff City awaits this weekend, but as Ainsworth now knows, there will be no such thing as an easy game this season.
QPR’s troubles are the culmination of years of struggle, so where has it all gone wrong? talkSPORT.com takes a look.
A hefty financial punishment
In October 2017, a long-running investigation into QPR’s finances ruled that English Football League’s 2012 Financial Fair Play rules were unlawful, leading to an almighty punishment.
The club were fined £17million, with £3m being paid in damages to the EFL while the club’s shareholders would capitalise £21.965m of outstanding loans – taking the overall punishment to just under £42m.
Those penalties would be paid over a 10-year period and while the financial impact would not be factored into the club’s profit and sustainability reports, it would still cast a gigantic financial cloud over the club’s ambitions in the years to follow.
As a result, QPR have been tasked with operating on a shoestring budget and using loans, free transfers and funds raised from selling players in order to fund the strengthening of their playing squad, not to mention some sizeable off-field expenses.
A new training ground
After an 11-year search for a suitable site, QPR completed the purchase of land in Heston in December 2020 with the view to building a new training ground.
With an estimated cost of £20m, the Hoops opened their new state-of-the-art complex this summer with the club now able to home both their senior and academy set-up under one roof after years at Imperial College in Hounslow.
While the new training ground will see the Hoops well positioned to upgrade to a Category One academy, the time, cost and focus that came with the project has clearly had an impact on funds available to strengthen the first team.
Failing to replace Ebereci Eze and others
Between 2017 and 2020, QPR were building a truly exciting young team of players that history will tell you, would go on to become top players in the Premier League and Championship.
For the Hoops, the issue was that some of these players were sold for minimal fees that were almost certainly less than their true market value.
In 2019, QPR lost Luke Freeman to newly-promoted Sheffield United for £5m, despite contributing 14 goals and 21 assists over two seasons.
They also sold talented full-back Darnell Furlong to West Brom for just £1.7m – a player who is now one of the top right-backs in the second tier.
The following season, they sold Ryan Manning to Swansea and Bright Osayi-Samuel for cut-price fees after failing to tie them down to new contracts – with Manning now one of the top left-backs in the Championship and Osayi-Samuel having made over 100 appearances for European heavyweights Fenarbahce.
However, the biggest sale was the deal that took star man Eberechi Eze to Crystal Palace for £20m.
While that was a fair fee for the player at the time, QPR only reinvested a small amount of that sum into the playing squad and were unable to sign a suitable replacement for a player who is now a full England international and tipped for a move to one of the Premier League’s biggest clubs in the future.
Since the sacking of Ian Holloway in 2018, Queens Park Rangers have been no stranger to managerial changes.
With five bosses In the last five years, the Hoops have struggled to implement any sort of long-term plan on the pitch since Mark Warburton left the club in the summer of 2022.
Michael Beale was tipped to be the man to build a bright future for the club after gaining a reputation as one of the hottest young bosses in British football, but he was tempted away by a move to Scottish giants Rangers after less than six months in charge, leaving QPR in something of a quandary.
Neil Critchley took charge but boasts the lowest win percentage of any permanent QPR boss ever, before he was replaced in February by Gareth Ainsworth.
‘Wild Thing’, as he’s affectionately known, is a hugely popular figure at Loftus Road but with a lack of investment and a disillusioned fanbase behind him, even the former Wycombe boss faces an uphill task to restore the good times to W12.
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