By Micah Chudleigh
Oh Gaz I really do hope it works out.
I bang on about this to anyone who will listen but Ainsworth was an important and necessary part of the first QPR team I ever supported. Long hair held back with a thin headband, all black boots and the baggy Binatone short sleeve shirt. That’s my QPR.
Rowlands, Gallen, Furlong; in amongst the Londoners that knew all too well the pressure on them, the slightly detached, free spirited lunacy of the Padulas and Ainsworths was, well, important and necessary. YouTube ‘Ainsworth goal Rushden & Diamonds’ – you think Gallen shoots from there? Rowlands is at least taking a touch before he does so, but Furlong? That man didn’t even know what the outside of the 18-yard box looked like.
Ainsworth though? Important. Necessary.
Anyways, I’m probably over-romanticising probably one of the lowest-quality eras in our clubs history, but that was my first team, so I’m allowed to. And with Ainsworth set to take on the reins, (for the third time, technically) this gives me the perfect chance to say ‘give a remnant of my childhood a chance!’ Not just because of my own affinity, but dare I say it, this might actually make just a bit of sense.
I get it, the nostalgia based decisions at QPR have an awful recent history. You probably think ‘wow the board have done exactly what they set out to with this kid’ – maybe they have. Other than Sunderland and reportedly Blackburn last summer, no one’s really been that interested in Ainsworth’s success. We took Hasselbaink from an overachieving League One side, hoping he could adapt, maybe even teach us a thing or two and look how that went.
I get it, I really do.
But maybe there’s method in the madness.
Did you know, that in 11 years of Ainsworth-ball, Wycombe have spent a grand total of £0 on permanent players? Zero great British pounds. Calling that a shoestring budget is disrespectful to shoe strings. Two promotions in that time, by the way. Also, the relegation that’s held against him (extremely unfairly) was down to results going against poor old Wycombe on the final day. They did their job and beat Boro 3-0, in case you were wondering. Meanwhile, McClaren was happy to let a year of Osayi-Samuel and Manning’s contracts run down because he wanted, well, Tomer Hemed? I can’t really remember, but you get my point. ‘Precious little’ as an adjective for our transfer budget is practically wealth compared to what Gaz was used to.
Look, nobody likes watching Wycombe play football. I can name 3 occasions where I actually have. Yet, amongst the 157 long balls I would watch them ping into Adebayo Akinfenwa, I did notice one thing; those Wycombe players would do anything for that man. Speaking of Akinfenwa, I could attach one of the numerous positive things he’s said publicly about Ainsworth – but you guys know how to Google. Sometimes the management is as simple as having players believe in the manager or, perhaps more importantly, the manager believing in the players.
The Critchley era came to a premature end for one of many supposed reasons: Les and Lee Hoos maybe, could’ve been the board, maybe it’s the players. The Warburton era supposedly came to an end because – well, copy and paste. Much is made of the personality type needed to succeed at QPR; we need a smooth-talker like Beale or a personality like Warnock and Ollie. Potentially, but may I present to you an alternative theory:
Is it at all possible, perhaps, that we lack a bit of actual man management to go along with the required tactical nous?
This is the most Millennial/Gen Z way to judge anything but I didn’t see a single player post a ‘goodbye’ message to Warburton on any socials – even Redknapp got one off that rat Barton (birds of a feather?). Based off some of the quotes from the players in the early-Beale days and the run of 5 wins in 18 preceding him, I’d say it’a entirely plausible that Warbs’ methods weren’t resonating anymore. I feel safe in the assumption Neil ‘it hasn’t nothing to do with tactics’ Critchley didn’t quite get it right either. Meanwhile, the news wasn’t even confirmed yet and Garath McCleary was on Instagram telling QPR to ‘do one’. That should go a long way in telling you how much Wycombe players, past and present, love Ainsworth.
Zero pounds by the way, I’m still coming to terms with that. If that was a manager at a trendier club with a fancy data and psychology department, you’d have begged for him to come. And yet, coming with him is his right hand Richard Dobson – a QPR fan, much heralded for being tapped into the psychological side of the game, as well as an impressive record of developing young players. I think we can all agree that will go a long way with this current group of mentally exhausted, inexperienced footballers. It doesn’t stop there, performance analyst Josh Hart will be following him to the Rangers, which makes me think much of the opposition to Ainsworth is turning our nose up at the playing style.
Worth pointing out that our most successful loans since Les Ferdinand’s gap year in Turkey was Ebere Eze to Wycombe. Also worth pointing out that Anis Mehmeti just went to Bristol City after doing his induction to mens football with Gazza and Dobbo. Also worth pointing out that the man is a literal rockstar and the idea that he doesn’t encourage flair or self-expression isn’t only backed up by his work but by his very character. If you were tired of seeing Dickie and Dunne playing carefully weighted passes to each other, maybe you’ll like Willock and Chair getting on the ball as fast as possible. If Sam Field in possession isn’t your cup of tea, maybe you’ll enjoy Field exclusively sitting and breaking up attacks instead. Let’s not even get to the physical similarities between Armstrong and Akinfenwa. I’d be lying if I said he was my first choice but do I hate it? Do I see sense in it? I really think I do.
QPR aren’t going to turn into the reincarnation of Stoke City in the 2010s – we simply do not have the players for it. You think Andre Dozzell is just going to become Glenn Whelan? No coach worth their salt is going to try and turn this group of players into a flat 4-4-2 team with Sam Field at right wi- okay, I see where you’re going. But putting some defensive structure around our flair players really wouldn’t go amiss.
Important. Necessary. Maybe I’m overdoing it.
No one epitomises that more that Ainsworth. The shaggy haired rockstar on the right-wing that would shoot from anywhere and score. When I think of QPR, I think of Rowlands bombing on from midfield, I think of big Dan Shittu winning his headers, tricky Lee Cook on one wing and on the other? QPR’s 57th first-team manager.
I really hope it works out Gaz.