Six things that have shaped QPR’s troubled season

It has been another troubled season for QPR, who are still not completely safe from relegation with two matches remaining.

It’s not all been bad. Ian Holloway’s second reign, while making the stability/mind-numbing tedium of the first part of the campaign seem a distant memory, produced some major positives before the recent losing run.

Here are six things that have shaped the course of Rangers’ season.

Jimmy’s boot camp

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s emphasis on super-high intensity in training and matches was always likely to make or break him as QPR manager. It was either going to give Rangers an advantage in an extremely tough division or have the opposite effect.

The answer was revealed within weeks of the start of the campaign, when Hasselbaink’s players already looked at best leggy and at worst out on their feet. And those were the ones fit enough to be selected.

The manager’s methods had backfired so spectacularly that a common criticism of his team was that it lacked intensity – the exact opposite of what he was determined to achieve.

Hasselbaink’s training methods certainly raised eyebrows among his players but, crucially, didn’t raise fitness levels. And they certainly didn’t raise morale. This defined his failed spell as manager and set QPR up for a problematic season.

The Newcastle debacle

Directly linked to the failure of Hasselbaink’s methods is the hammering by Newcastle in September, which hit QPR extremely hard and had a lasting effect.

When being pushed to the limit physically, players generally need to see signs of it working in order for those methods to be sustainable.

Coming after he’d pushed his squad so hard during pre-season, a 6-0 home defeat barely a month into the campaign undermined Hasselbaink’s approach enormously. In terms of morale, Rangers had hit a wall.

The Telegraph sting

Although his team were beginning to struggle, Hasselbaink’s reputation as a suave young manager of some promise was still intact at the time of the Daily Telegraph’s sting. A seemingly growing number of QPR fans were instead questioning the role of director of football Les Ferdinand.

Rangers strongly stood by Hasselbaink after video footage emerged of him discussing working for a company also involved in player signings. The club successfully kept the focus on him not being involved in corruption, such as taking bungs, rather than the more pertinent question of a possible, or at least perceived, conflict of interest. The storm quickly passed.

But the effect on Hasselbaink’s standing was two-fold.

In a large sense, he owed a debt of thanks to the likes of Ferdinand. This removed the question of whether, during choppy waters, he’d be tempted to divert pressure away from himself by playing on the perception some fans had of Ferdinand and point the finger elsewhere.

Secondly, it meant he had used up a lot of goodwill from the Rangers hierarchy, who were less inclined to keep standing by him as performances on the pitch continued to be dreadful.

Rowett no-go

For the second time, QPR believed they might be able to prise Gary Rowett away from Birmingham City only to be left disappointed.

While the ultimately unsuccessful attempt to install Rowett was ongoing, Rangers’ owners were being lent on by allies of Holloway from his first spell as manager to bring him back to the club.

The sweet-talking worked. Within a few days, Holloway went from being a fringe candidate to the owners deciding he would be appointed if Rowett was a no-go.

Once it was confirmed that Rowett was staying at Birmingham, who sacked him a month later, the job was Holloway’s.

All change – again

Whatever their respective merits – and the notion that QPR had lost something only Holloway could reignite was a very rational one – he and Rowett are very different characters.

Holloway’s first spell as manager involved a prolific turnover of players, often on the basis of just a couple of bad results, and this is a culture which has prevailed at Rangers since.

Sure enough, the tedium of the Hasselbaink era has been replaced by a passion and excitement that was sorely lacking. But the very up-and-down nature of Holloway’s managership has also been evident again, with rants, rows, sudden changes of opinion, a losing run followed by a winning run and then another losing run, as well as wholesale changes both in terms of team selection and in the transfer market. It’s certainly not been boring.

Cousins’ injury woe

Something Hasselbaink and Holloway have in common is that Jordan Cousins is – or would have been – vital to how they like to play.

Signed after impressing at Charlton, and seen as a major upgrade on Karl Henry, Cousins was supposed to be the midfield engine of Hasselbaink’s high-tempo, pressing team. He is also a player Holloway had high expectations of given his preference for hardworking midfielders.

Both managers had some success in adapting; Hasselbaink helped by Massimo Luongo’s willingness to be remodelled, and Holloway by moving Grant Hall into midfield and bringing through Ryan Manning. But Cousins effectively being a write-off this season has been a big blow.