And The Next One Please…..By Dave McIntyre For BBC Sport.

With the circumstances of Paulo Sousa’s departure now a legal issue that’s best avoided for the time being, here’s a look at the current contenders to help QPR make next season’s pay-offs.

Sorry, I mean play-offs.

Darren Ferguson.

In the frame after his achievements at Peterborough and well placed to take advantage of a possible sea-change at QPR, where the Board desperately need to get it right this time to avoid presiding over a total farce.

Beware of any Manager with a decent budget and supportive Chairman, although back-to-back promotions would still be a fine achievement and would justify Ferguson’s billing as one of the best young Managers around. It’s now trendy to portray QPR as a circus that no Manager worth his salt will go near. That’s not untrue, but it was actually more the case when Flavio Briatore was usually portrayed in a good light and Rangers, a complete shambles of a club, were mentioned as promotion candidates.

Iain Dowie for example was seen as an uninspiring choice for a club that had hit the jackpot with billionaire owners and were going places. He was an easy target when expectations and results didn’t match up. But that era’s finished. The perception of QPR is now completely different – and much more accurate. That means taking over at QPR is possibly now a more attractive prospect. Success would bring great kudos, whereas failure would probably result in the finger of blame being pointed elsewhere now some of the problems facing a Manager/Coach of the club are finally well documented.

The pressure’s on the Board now, not the man coming in. And the son of Sir Alex with two promotions behind him, if Peterborough were to go up, would have a lot more credibility than QPR at the moment. Now it’s Briatore more than the next Rangers Manager who’s in danger of falling flat on his face and having his reputation tarnished. But there are still obstacles to any British Manager taking the QPR job. It’s possibly less unattractive now – relatively speaking – but that’s not saying much.

It may not be quite the job from hell it’s often been since Gary Waddock found himself in the (extremely) hot seat. But it could be purgatory for any British Manager who know’s his onions and doesn’t want non-football people in the dressing room or at the training ground, let alone meddling in team affairs. And for an owner who wants to be part of the action rather than a mere spectator from the Diector’s Box, hearing good things about a single-minded young British Manager is one thing – actually going through with it and appointing him is another.

Dennis Wise.

Definitely not the man most Rangers fans would like to see take over. But Wise – a boyhood QPR fanatic although very much a Chelsea man now – is a contender who arguably has the experience and personality to handle Briatore. Respected as a Coach and having achieved some success as a Manager, Wise is known in the game for his contacts and scouting ability which is why he landed a senior position at Newcastle. For that reason, Gianni Paladini’s role as Sporting Director would almost certainly be affected by the appointment of Wise, who incidenly worked with Paladini’s former QPR Boardroom enemies Bill Power and Mark Devlin at Swindon. I’ve heard several Rangers fans say that they don’t want Wise not only because of his Chelsea connection, but because they don’t want QPR associated with the kind of controversy Wise has been linked to. As these people have obviously been in a coma for the last four years, it’s probably best not to upset them. They’ll discover the awful truth about what’s been going on at Rangers soon enough.

Luigi De Canio.

A return to Loftus Road is a definite possibility for De Canio, whose brief tenure was cut short when he returned to Italy at the end of last season. Rangers played nice football and had some good results under him, meaning his appointment would please many fans. It would also massively strengthen the position of Paladini, who played a particularly big role when De Canio was at the club and would be expected to do so again if he returned given the Coach’s lack of knowledge of English football. So expect De Canio to be very strongly touted for the job by Paladini’s supporters in the wake of Sousa’s sacking. He isn’t the runaway frontrunner by any means, but De Canio is a leading contender and could well be on his way back -especially if Lecce, his current employers, are relegated from Italy’s Serie A. If De Canio keeps them up he is likely to be offered a lucrative contract that would make it more tempting for him to stay put.

De Canio was more open than Sousa and Dowie to his superiors’ ideas on tactics as well as signings, so his appointment would wipe out the kind of internal acrimony that has plagued the club since his departure. His return would also allow Briatore to answer his critics by claiming he was bringing back his choice as Coach and someone he never wanted to leave. De Canio is a top Coach who could probably do a job in the Premier League, but all was not well during his time at Rangers. If he were a boxer, his QPR record would probably be described as a padded one. He benefitted more than anyone from the post-takeover honeymoon and spending on players. This, along with his sudden departure following some good results, helped boost his reputation and the perception of him among many fans.

He actually struggled very badly and his position was already under review before the likes of Akos Buzsaky and Rowan Vine were signed for him. Injuries to those key players then severly hampered Sousa and Dowie who, unlike De Canio, managed to address longstanding defensive frailties despite having relatively little money to spend. Circumstances were kind to De Canio. Not least when ex-Juventus scout Franco Ceravolo, who was brought to QPR following the Briatore-led takeover, left after three un-productive months and Paladini, having initially been sidelined, persuaded the Board to sanction the signings of English-based players that were already on the club’s radar prior to John Gregory’s sacking. It was those players who helped cement De Canio’s position and his legacy.

It’s easy to get misty-eyed about De Canio’s time at QPR, but the pretty football and initial impact of several new players masked many problems that may well become more obvious had he hung around longer. The set-up at Rangers was dismal and improvements Dowie made behind the scenes during his short spell at the club were much needed. But in terms of coaching ability, De Canio is outstanding. And this time around, his return could, crucially, coincide with the arrival of a British chief scout; a summer appointmant the club have been considering for some time and one that would have added importance if De Canio or any other foreign Coach is installed.

Sven-Goran Eriksson.

An experienced foreign Coach whose arrival would have a showbiz element to it. A big name in England and, just as importantly, in Italy. A man who happily accepted a number of overseas signings brought in while he was at Manchester City. A London club with more money than sense. Can you see what it is yet ?

Gareth Ainsworth.

A genuine contender for the job when installed as caretaker Coach earlier in the season, despite more exotic names being linked. At a place plagued by internal wrangling and controversy over Briatore’s involvement, Ainsworth is well liked at all levels of the club, is happy to have “discussions” about team selection and for many typifies the kind of spirit and integrity Rangers seem to be losing. In a nutshell, he’s the unity candidate. He has also played an increasing role in co-ordinating the club’s small scouting network to provide team reports on future opponents. It’s an aspect of the club Dowie improved and Ainsworth then took overall control of – initially to provide Sousa with information after he was appointed – and has since made some progress with.

Ainsworth was the Board’s choice to succeed Dowie before a home defeat to Burnley triggered a search for a new Coach, which led to Sousa coming in. Now back in temporary ‘charge’, his chances of keeping the job are probably much slimmer than a few months ago. But if Rangers end the season well, De Canio stays in Italy and other contenders fall by the wayside, Ainsworth could yet remain into next season. And if De Canio does head to West London this summer it will be by himself this time, with Ainsworth playing a very prominent role alongside him.

Ian Holloway.

Would walk over broken glass to work for Rangers again and will at least have a conversation with the powers-that-be in the next few weeks. Unlikely to get the job though unless it’s felt the move would be welcomed by fans and help te Board restore some credibility. De Canio will probably tick that box.

Giovanni Trappatoni.

A non-starter unless he took the role in addition to his job as Republic of Ireland boss, which is very unlikely. But if that were an option you can be sure Briatore would consider it. Trappatoni is respected enough to already carry some weight at Loftus Road. Liam Miller was signed on his recommendation and Rangers also tried to sign fellow Irish international Caleb Folan. It would be worth Trappatoni at least talking to Rangers this summer – if nothing else to see if they fancy giving more of his fringe players some first-team football.

Antonio Tapia.

Coach of Spanish side Malaga who says he was previously approached by QPR.

Paul Ince.

Linked with QPR before and since Sousa’s departure, but not a strong candidate for the job at this stage.

Kevin Blackwell, Gary Johnson, Robert Martinez and possibly Alan Irvine.

All likely to be targeted if their teams miss out on promotion, De Canio doesn’t return, Wise and Ferguson don’t get or don’t want the job and a suitable foreign Coach can’t be found.

Dave McIntyre

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