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Championship: Gareth Ainsworth called in by QPR

Queens Park Rangers have appointed their third head coach of the season, with Gareth Ainsworth leaving Wycombe to take up the challenge of arresting the Championship club's slide.

Like the Chairboys, Ainsworth has a history with Rangers, having played for the club between 2003 and 2010, a tenure that included two spells in temporary charge at Loftus Road.

The 49-year-old was a fan favourite throughout his playing career thanks to his swashbuckling runs down the right wing but has built his managerial reputation upon solid defensive foundations.

They have allowed him to guide Wycombe to a pair of promotions, including a season in the Championship. However, with the Buckinghamshire side sitting seventh in League One and primed for another play-off push, Ainsworth has decided to take on a new challenge.

He takes over a side sitting 17th in the Championship and without a win in 11 games.

A rollercoaster campaign

Life is never dull at QPR and the 2022/23 season has been as tumultuous as ever.

Ainsworth is the club's third permanent manager this season following the departures of Michael Beale and then Neil Critchley.

After successful spells as a sideman under Steven Gerrard at both Rangers and Aston Villa, Beale was appointed to his first top job last summer and made a decent start to life with the R's, guiding them to the top of the Championship.

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That reportedly prompted Wolves to offer him their manager's job in October and, while he decided against moving to Molineux, he was tempted back to Glasgow the following month to take over at Ibrox after just 22 games in charge.

Critchley, also part of Gerrard's squad at Villa, was installed in December and made a winning start with a 1-0 triumph at Preston.

However, that proved his sole success in the role as he was sacked on Sunday following the previous day's 3-1 defeat at Middlesbrough, leaving his side 17th in the table.

Ainsworth's first game in charge will be Saturday's match at home to his boyhood club Blackburn, for whom he played youth football.

QPR are 13/10 to win at home in the league for the first time since 22nd October, with the draw 23/10 and Blackburn 2/1 to succeed, as they did in July's reverse game.

A coach who maximises his resources

Ainsworth's long hair, buttoned-down shirts and slick shoes suggest he is a non-conformist. However, despite his rock 'n' roll image, the new QPR boss has never made any secret of his preference for playing pragmatic football in this age of free-flowing, possession play.

Look back at Wycombe's 1-0 win over Bolton on Saturday and you will see a side, who while not aesthetically pleasing, produced a display full of grit and endeavour.

However, their showings were often sprinkled with stardust, as Lewis Wing's winner from a well-worked corner showed against the Trotters.

The statistics show they are by no means pretty to watch, with the Buckinghamshire club's average of 43.50 per cent possession seeing them ranked 22nd in League One for that metric.

Both Beale and Critchley are known for playing positive football, preferring to dominate the ball, rather than place the onus on their opposition to make the game.

This is borne out by QPR being ranked seventh in the Championship possession figures, having last season been fifth in the same numbers for the second tier under Mark Warburton.

Ainsworth may have to tailor his style to the players but, with one win in 12 games, he will also appreciate the importance of returning to basics as he looks to recuse his new side's campaign.

Great timing for Gareth

Ainsworth's introduction may have come at the perfect time for QPR. Blackburn's promotion push has been hindered by a run of just one away win in eight and they are clearly happier at home.

Rangers then head to 21st-placed Rotherham on 4th March and, while they host high-flying Watford the following Saturday, they also take on 22nd-placed Blackpool and 18th-placed Birmingham before the next international break, which provides the 49-year-old with a fortnight to focus on shape.

However, while time on the training ground might be limited, Ainsworth will waste little time in trying to get his message across and give his players "the foundation, and the footbridge to build upon".

That's how Adebayo Akinfenwa has described his approach and the 'Beast' knows him well, having arguably had his career extended by Ainsworth, who managed his minutes at Wycombe and always played to his strengths.

While QPR have a squad packed with talented technical players such as Ilias Chair and Stefan Johansen, they also have physicality through Rob Dickie and Lyndon Dykes, and those two could have a big say on their side's fortunes under the new man.

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