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Saturday, March 07, 2009

Assessing Sousa's Job Prospects and QPR's Managerial Turnover

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Dave McIntyre/BBC606 - Down but not out - yet
- Paulo Sousa is under pressure but still on solid enough ground to keep his job if QPR lose to Sheffield United on Saturday. - Unfortunately, I’ve got plenty experience of seeing Rangers managers in trouble.
- I won’t ever forget telling Ian Holloway I was writing a story that a bloke called Ramon Diaz was being lined up to take his job – a crisis he came through after his players rallied round and produced a sudden winning run.
- Holloway, who was never slow to give me a piece of his mind, showed tremendous dignity and was a gentleman towards me then, as he was 18 months later when I was about to break the news that he was being put on ‘gardening leave’ after a series of bad results and problems behind the scenes.
- It was also tough to write about the impending appointment of John Gregory in place of Gary Waddock, who I liked a lot.
- Then there was Iain Dowie. Like the Ramon Diaz debacle, reports that the manager was in trouble before the season had even started were taken by many as proof of the media’s madness rather than QPR's, and understandably so.
- Dowie made it to the start of the season but was soon gone.
- Even Gareth Ainsworth was replaced at the first sign of problems.
- His caretaker title made the decision to remove him seem less significant than it was.
- But at one stage Ainsworth was very much the board’s man for the job, despite bigger names being linked with it, and he lost that mantle after a home defeat against Burnley.
- One home defeat really is enough to turn the tide against a Rangers manager these days.
- But, having seen a few men in an all-too familiar position to Sousa’s, I don’t think his time will be up until at least the summer and even then, he could emerge intact.
- That of course means Sousa is now bound to be sacked.
- After all, less than a year ago, Gigi De Canio was so adamant I was wrong to suggest he’d be off after the season’s final game against West Brom, I suspended all judgement in an article titled ’QPR double act continues.’
- His position changed after that conversation and once the article was eventually published the following week, De Canio’s ‘double act’ with Gianni Paladini continued for all of 24 hours.
- The stick I got for that continued for considerably longer.
- How much longer Sousa has as Rangers coach remains to be seen.
- He is in the position De Canio and Dowie quickly found themselves in, under pressure from within to stick to a 4-4-2 formation and select certain players.
- But that pressure isn’t as severe, because in crucial ways Sousa is different to his predecessors and so are his prospects – at least in the short term.
- For starters, unlike in the cases of the five ousted Rangers managers in recent years – and I’m including Ainsworth but not De Canio, who quit – there has been no firm move to line up a replacement, which gives the current man some breathing space.
- More importantly, Sousa is different to Dowie in that he is very much Flavio Briatore’s man, whereas Dowie was a recommendation whose appointment was merely rubber-stamped by the co-owner.
- That means Sousa being ditched after just a few months would inevitably reflect badly on Briatore himself – especially in his native Italy, where Sousa is a major star after making his name as a player with Juventus.
- And regardless of who he is and whose choice he was, getting rid of yet another coach would just look so bad at this point there would be little to gain from doing it now, especially as this season is almost a write-off.
- There is also a financial factor. Following a pay-off to Gregory, the quick dismissal of Dowie was expensive and with two years of Sousa’s contact left to run, removing him as well would involve more money being wasted at a time when the club are looking to cut costs.
- At such a volatile club, anything could happen. But for now, it’s likely that the worst fate awaiting Sousa if Rangers’ slump continues is to have his card well and truly marked between now and the end of the season.
- And unless Rangers make a spectacular charge to the play-offs, it’s at the end of the season when matters will come to a head.
- Someone, possibly Sousa, will almost certainly carry the can. BBC606

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