Mike Rigg’s major re-structuring of the club is reportedly almost complete. Dave McIntyre explains all in his recent comprehensive article for West London Sport (I wonder what Alec Stock would have made of all this ?) – Steve Russell
‘Four-and-a- half months since his appointment as technical director, the basic model which Mike Rigg has been looking to introduce at QPR is already almost in place. When Rigg arrived at Loftus Road he immediately conducted an audit with a view to setting up a structure based largely on a template recommended to clubs by the Premier League. The structure is made up of five main departments which, as Rigg puts it, constantly “feed in” to manager Mark Hughes. These departments are:
Football Operations (everything from administration and kit to player care and catering – essentially the ‘engine’ of the club)
Sports Science and Medical:
Scouting and Recruitment:
Riggs’ intention was to recruit heads of these departments and strong teams around them. He was almost starting from scratch given how weak the infrastructure had been at the club for some time. The vision was a long-term one, but the need to put something in place was immediate because of an impending review of every club’s set-up by the football authorities.
Football Operations and Academy: Shaun Hallett has now been appointed to lead in these areas, overseeing a huge amount of change in a very short period of time.
Prior to Hallett’s arrival, the club’s academy had two full-time employees. Just week’s later it has over 20 and that figure is likely to rise to 25 shortly. Almost all of these staff members were already working for QPR on a casual basis and have now been given formal contracts. These include former Rangers forward Paul Furlong, whose full-time coaching role was recently confirmed.
The academy structure itself is divided into three phases:
Foundation (ages 6-11)
Youth Development (ages 12-16)
Pro-Development (ages 17 and 18)
Within the academy set-up another new role, this time responsible for player care and welfare, has been created. It has been filled by Steve Quashie, a longstanding employee of the club.
Hodges has a major role at QPR.
Hallett has just implemented a four-month action plan ahead of the Premier League and Football League’s audit of the club academy.
QPR, who are applying for category two status, initially thought this audit would happen sooner, but now believe it will take place shortly after Christmas. It will be a four-day intensive assessment of the club’s educational, sports science, welfare, coaching and player development facilities, as well as the staff structure.
Coaching: Glyn Hodges was appointed as head of this department during the summer.
The intention is for the above age groups to have full-time head coaches who are backed up by an assistant coach and will report directly to Hodges.
In the interim period, he has had his work cut out, taking evening sessions for various age groups that are currently without a full-time coach, in addition to his overseeing role. Hodges has a very strong relationship with Hughes. They were international team-mates and worked together at Blackburn and Fulham.
One of Hodges’ first recommendations to Hughes was that young midfielder Frankie Sutherland, who impressed for the new development side while the first team were in Asia, was taken on the subsequent pre-season visit to Germany.
Sports Science and Medical: Damien Roden has been appointed as head of this department. Roden’s first job is to oversee the treatment of injured players but, more importantly, to try to prevent injuries in the first place. He has set about introducing an approach to training and nutrition which runs through the whole club from the first team downwards.
But there is also an intention to pay more attention to individual players’ needs according to their body type and other factors rather than simply apply methods across the board. There have been noises about this from inside the club for some time. Several years ago, Harold Winton questioned why two players he helped sign, Doudou and Dan Shittu, followed exactly the same regime despite being so physically different. There was a similar kind of internal discussion over the conditioning of Scott Donnelly.
Scouting and Recruitment: This aspect of the club is being overhauled fairly radically. Kevin Cruickshank will co-ordinate a team of three head scouts: Stuart Webber, Steve Hitchen, who is based in France, and the Holland-based Hans Gillhaus – a former Chelsea chief scout.
Hughes has made several changes.
Rigg also has contact with a number of scouts based around the world, including South America. While at Manchester City he called upon the services of several scouts, including former Norwich defender Rob Newman and ex-Wimbledon player Andy Sayer, who both live abroad. Closer to home, Terry O’Sullivan is responsible for scouting on a local level., both in terms of finding players for the academy and sounding the alarm if a potential first-team player suddenly pops up at, say, Hayes & Yeading.
Opposition Scouting: This department within a department is also beefed up. Neil Warnock’s assistant Mick Jones introduced some important changes in this area, but there was still a reliance on old-school methods and paper rather than computerised reports. Hughes favours a more scientific approach, relying on videos and data with Head of Performance Analysis (the ‘Prozone guy’ in old money) Andy Belk having a key role along with three scouts whose specific task will be to assess teams rather than players.
Another key man in the set-up is Paul Roberts, who is responsible for the first team players’ welfare. His role is especially important because of the influx of foreigners to the club and his job is to help them settle as quickly as possible. The extent of Roberts’ involvement varies from player to player. He assisted Fabio for only four days following the Brazilian’s move to London, as the defender already speaks English and has family members in the UK.
Samba Diakite, on the other hand, requires more help. Even before Diakite’s recent return to France for personal reasons, it was acknowledged that Roberts would have a much greater role in helping him settle in England given that, unlike Fabio, he is single and does not speak the language.
QPR Code of Conduct: This was recently drawn up for the first team and will soon be formally applied for all age groups after input from the likes of Hallett and Roden, so that it runs right the way through the club. The intention is to school players in ‘The QPR way’ from the age of six upwards.
Next Steps: Rigg has essentially been working on two main fronts. The first involves implementing immediate change and the second ensuring that these changes bear fruit over a period of five to ten years and even well beyond that.
While the club has been focusing on adding to the team in the short-term, the longer term model devised by Rigg involves having a ‘succession plan’ for each player, with the club identifying long in advance whether an eventual replacement for each squad member is likely to come from the academy or elsewhere based on factors such as length of contract, age, future value and so on.
Much of this sounds grander and more unique than it actually is, especially in the Tony Fernandes era of slick PR and a regime still popular and trusted enough for fans to see almost anything in a positive light.
The basic structure is something most moderately well-run Championship clubs would be expected to have and take for granted. For example, most clubs take having scouts as given and feel no need to proudly broadcast their appointment in the way Rangers have during the last five years or so. But in the context of QPR, where the set-up has been so uniquely terrible for so long, it represents a huge transformation in ideas and philosophy as much as structure.’