Mark Warburton admitted his frustration after QPR’s latest defeat but reiterated that the club currently face financial restrictions.
Rangers were beaten 1-0 by Bristol City at the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium and have lost three of their past four league games.
The sombre mood among fans was compounded by the sight of Nahki Wells coming on as a second-half substitute for his Robins debut.
Wells scored 14 goals this season while on loan with Rangers, who wanted to sign him on a permanent basis but missed out when City agreed a deal to buy him from Burnley.
Manager Warburton did not add to his squad ahead of Friday’s deadline despite Toni Leistner, Josh Scowen, Matt Smith and Jan Mlakar also leaving.
“The best thing is to be honest with the fans,” said Warburton.
“There’s no lack of ambition or desire to finish as high as we possibly can, but we can’t afford to go and spend £3m, £4m or £5m on players.
“I hear people say ‘He’s a free transfer’ but they don’t understand that a free transfer comes with a massive agents’ fee and a great big basic wage. There’s never a free transfer.
“I had phone calls saying “Only on £25k a week. Only on £30k a week’. Come on. It’s not our league.
“What we’re doing is we’re working with our young players and there’s some really talented young boy here.
“We’ve kept our young talents and the senior players are working really hard on and off the pitch in a mentoring capacity.
“So I hope the genuine fans can see a lot of work being done.”
There is a belief at QPR that their financial position will be stronger in the summer, partly because other Championship clubs are struggling to comply with Financial Fair Play rules and could face sanctions.
The decision was therefore taken to bide their time and not to spend during last month’s transfer window.
Warburton explained: “You can go out there and try to spend beyond your means, but businesses can’t run like that. You can’t get into massive debt and hope that you go up.
“There are teams with huge debts and pushing FFP. You never want any teams punished, but you very much hope that if clubs like QPR are going to adhere so strictly to the guidelines that there will be a level playing field.
“As long as we’re honest with our fans, answer their questions and be really clear, then I hope very much they will have an understanding of where we are.”
Wells was certainly missed by Rangers, who put City under pressure in the second half as they searched in vain for an equaliser.
“We had so many chances and so much of the ball and feel very frustrated right now,” Warburton admitted.