Football: Francis begins the uphill struggle

Huddersfield Town 2 Queen's Park Rangers 0
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The Independent Online
HALF AN hour after the match, Gerry Francis walked along the touchline with Iain Dowie, seeking a moment away from the media scrum to talk to the man who becomes player-coach when the new era begins at Queen's Park Rangers today. It had been Dowie's last duty in temporary charge and Francis, appointed on Friday as director of football and manager, wanted to know his thoughts.

It did not take them long to conclude that the job ahead is a daunting one. Tranmere's defeat of Watford means that Francis begins his second term of office at Loftus Road at the bottom of the First Division, a far cry from the position in which he left them, four years ago, when they were fifth in the Premiership.

Worse still, the club are pounds 5.6 million in the red. Realistically, they are relegation material and yet the chance to go back to the club at which he made his managerial name proved curiously difficult to resist.

Out of football for 11 months after parting from Tottenham, Francis says he had no burning desire to return. But when Chris Wright, the Rangers chairman, asked him to rejoin Rangers, he could not say no. "Chris said my heart had ruled my head and he was probably right," Francis admitted.

But is it really a wise move? In recent history, few managers have gone back to the scene of past success and made it happen all over again. Francis risks acquiring a sullied reputation and a personal sense of failure. His chances of re-establishing the club as a Premiership force are remote.

For now, of course, he is optimistic. "I had no money at Bristol Rovers (his first managerial post), nor here the first time and even at Tottenham I had no money for a year," he said. "This is no different. We have to work with what we have and the fans will need to be patient. We'll turn it round."

He might just. At least, in a team still boasting Steve Morrow and Gavin Peacock, Mike Sheron and Kevin Gallen, there is no shortage of quality and experience. And Francis, unlike Ray Harford, may be the man to make the best of it.

After six weeks in pole position, Huddersfield wish merely to be taken seriously, although so long as they can juxtapose a performance like Saturday's with the kind that resulted in a 3-0 defeat at Swindon in their previous match then they will not be. Consistency is vital if they are to dislodge Sunderland and Bolton as promotion favourites.

Then again, there is no arguing with results and Huddersfield have won eight of their 14 games. Goals by Rob Edwards, with a sweetly-struck left- foot shot from a well-rehearsed free kick, and by the consistently impressive former Manchester United winger Ben Thornley saw them home here. A repeat performance against Sunderland at home on Wed-nesday and they may get their wish.

Goals: Edwards (12) 1-0; Thornley (48) 2-0.

Huddersfield Town (4-4-2): Vaesen; Jenkins, Dyson, Morrison, Edwards; Beresford (Phillips, 88), Horne, Johnson, Thornley; Stewart (Barnes, 88), Allison. Substitute not used: Dalton.

Queen's Park Rangers (5-3-2): Miklosko; Murray (Scully, 56), Breacker (Rowland, 86), Ready, Maddix, Baraclough; Rose (Slade, 56), Peacock, Morrow; Gallen, Sheron.

Referee: P Richards (Preston).

Attendance: 11,276.

Man of the match: Thornley.