History is in Harford's favour

By Ben Kosky SIX games have elapsed since Mick Harford took charge at QPR – and these days, that s close to the average shelf life of any Rangers manager. Just ask Harford s predecessor Paul Hart, who didn t even chalk up the half dozen, joining a long li

By Ben Kosky

SIX games have elapsed since Mick Harford took charge at QPR - and these days, that's close to the average shelf life of any Rangers manager.

Just ask Harford's predecessor Paul Hart, who didn't even chalk up the half dozen, joining a long list of men who came, saw and departed Loftus Road in controversial circumstances.

Already, following a draw and five demoralising defeats in a row, there are ominous rumblings that Harford's tenure in the Rangers dugout could also turn out to be extremely brief.

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Admittedly, that record is hardly much to shout about - but QPR's recent history emphasises all too clearly how little can be read into the first six matches under a new boss.

During the last quarter of a century, there are only two other Rs managers who have failed to win any of their opening six league games - and they are generally regarded as more successful than all the rest.

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Only Paul Merson's injury-time equaliser denied Gerry Francis a winning start to his first spell as QPR boss in August 1991 - but it wasn't until the ninth league game, away to Luton, that Rangers finally broke their duck.

A year later, of course, Francis proudly guided the Rs to the top of the inaugural Premier League table and an eventual fifth-place finish that made them London's top club.

Francis lasted three and a half years as manager - and, incidentally, lost his first three games in charge when he returned to Loftus Road in 1998, but still rescued Rangers from the drop at the end of that season.

One man has occupied the manager's chair for longer in the last 40 years - Ian Holloway, who succeeded Francis in March 2001 and could not prevent the Rs from sinking into the third tier.

Holloway's team collected just two points from his first six matches in charge and it wasn't until the 10th game that they finally gleaned a win - against Tranmere, the only side below them in Division One.

However, it was Holloway who held the club together against the gloomy backdrop of administration and ultimately restored pride among Rangers fans with the promotion campaign of 2004.

So which managers have actually overseen a successful start at QPR?

Ray Wilkins - who went on to guide the Rs to relegation from the top flight - picked up three wins from his first six games, as did Jim Smith and Don Howe.

Stewart Houston, Ray Harford and Gary Waddock all averaged a point per game - two fewer than John Gregory and Paulo Sousa, but better than the ever-popular Luigi de Canio and recent incumbent Jim Magilton.

Interestingly, the QPR boss who made the most successful start of the last 25 years was one who was often maligned by supporters and lasted only a few months - Iain Dowie.

Dowie's team won four of their opening six games, including a 4-1 home thrashing of Southampton, and drew at Bristol City, with a 3-0 reverse at Sheffield United the only blot on that record.

The message, therefore, is not to read too much into a handful of results - but then, again, when have footballing logic and the current QPR owners ever sat at the same table?

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