All Change Again At QPR As Paul Hart Gives His Affable Nature A Big Test

The following article on the revolving door at Loftus Road was written by Tom Dart and appeared in ‘The Times’ –

Paul Hart faced the key questions yesterday. Have Queen’s Park Rangers got what it takes to win promotion ? Will there be money to spend in January ? Have you ever head-butted anyone ? “Not since I was a Manager, no,” Hart joked.

Three weeks after being sacked by Portsmouth, he is back in the game, but the Ringmaster of the Cirque du QPR was not at their training ground yesterday to introduce Jim Magilton’s replacement. Flavio Briatore, a club spokesman said, “is away for the festive period”, having head-hunted Hart to be the Coca-Cola Championship club’s fifth permanent Manager in the past 26 months. Late on Wednesday, QPR issued a statement saying that Magilton and his assistant, John Gorman, had left by “mutual consent”. Sources claim that the heated disagreement between Magilton and Akos Buzsaky in the dressing room after QPR’s 3-1 defeat by Watford on December 7 that precipitated the Manager’s departure was blown out of proportion and that Magilton did not head-butt the midfield player, who was seen wandering around Vicarage Road with pride wounded but cranium intact.

QPR launched an internal investigation, although Wednesday’s announcement made no reference to the accusations against Magilton being proven or otherwise and said that he “completely denies the allegations”. There could be no argument that Magilton’s position had become untenable. QPR had won only one of their previous seven matches when he was suspended two days after the Watford game amid reports of player unrest. Anyway, Magilton lasted for 23 matches, which almost qualifies him for a QPR long-service award. A carriage clock with a ticking time bomb inside, perhaps.

So QPR turn to Hart, football’s equivalent of the safety car. The 56-year-old has joined until the end of the season and he is as mellow as Magilton was intense. “This could well be a longer agreement but it suits at the moment to be what it is,” he said. “We feel we might cause a little bit of damage in the Championship.” Maybe even to other clubs.

QPR are different. The plaything of millionaires – and one shareholder, Lakshmi Mittal, is a billionaire – yet they share their basic training ground with a university. In the press conference room yesterday, behind the sheet of sponsors’ logos – a Spanish bank, an Arabian airline, an Italian sportswear firm – was a wall-mounted roll of honour, listing the university’s cricket, hockey, tennis and football captains. A Miss N Pleaden was Ladies’ Sports Rep in 1966-67, when QPR won their only significant trophy, the League Cup.

To Hart’s right, on a shelf behind the bar, were four empty bottles of a brew called ‘Old Farty Pants.’ In the car park were some vehicles worthy of Barclays Premier League stars, others that would qualify for the Government’s scrappage scheme.

How does Hart find Briatore ? “Everybody I’ve met, I’ve got on well with – but then, I do,” he said. “Not an awful lot fazes me anymore. The days of me looking over my shoulder and worrying about things I can’t be master of are gone. I work in an honest way, I’m up-front, in return, I expect the same and that’s all. It’s always a two-way street.” Or is Loftus Road more of a dead end ?

Changing of the Guard

Queen’s Park Rangers Managers since the consortium including Flavio Briatore and Bernie Ecclestone agreed to buy the club in August 2007:

John Gregory: Sacked on October 1, 2007, with QPR bottom of the Coca-Cola Championship. Mick Harford, now back as Paul Hart’s assistant, took caretaker charge.

Luigi De Canio: The Italian, formerly coach of Napoli and Siena, took charge on October 29 but left the next May for personal reasons.

Iain Dowie: Lasted only 15 games, leaving in October last year. His departure sparked rumours that Briatore had interfered in team selection. Gareth Ainsworth replaced him as caretaker until mid-November.

Paulo Sousa: Manager for five months but started legal proceedings after his dismissal in April this year for, the club said, divulging “confidential and sensitive information”. Ainsworth again took temporary charge.

Jim Magilton: Left “by mutual consent” on Wednesday after 23 matches, after a dressing room incident with Akos Buzsaky.

Tom Dart – The Times