Football: Francis' hopes for Hoops
Relegated or not, QPR's manager is in for a long haul.
After five successive defeats, the less-than-super-hoops go into their final game of the season at home to Crystal Palace with only three teams below them in the First Division. Bury are behind them only on number of goals scored and have a winnable home game with Port Vale.
It is a grim state of affairs for Gerry Francis, five years after being touted as the next England manager and seven months after returning to the club that was always his first love. As a player, he had captained them to within a whisker of the 1976 championship and during his first period as a manager, Rangers finished as London's top club in 1993 - an extraordinary achievement on such limited resources. Now he faces the prospect of derbies against Brentford and Leyton Orient, ancient rivals from the Third Division South, where Rangers spent most of their first 40 years in the Football League.
An anxious couple of days ahead then, Gerry? "The most anxious time I had was making the decision to come in the first place, which took seven or eight meetings. We were bottom of the table, six points adrift and it shocked me when I studied the balance sheets.
"The one object was to keep them up. I left a very good Premiership side behind me but for four years the club's been in decline. Results don't lie. In 40 away games I think they've won three, two since I've been here.
"You've got to say the squad needs improving and that's very difficult with no money, so the job of changing QPR around is not an easy one. If we survive it'll have been a really good achievement. Sunday is our cup final, no doubt about it, but the day after that the rebuilding starts and it's going to be a long haul."
After the miserable reigns of Stewart Houston and then Ray Harford (four wins in 35 games), Francis seemed to have turned things round remarkably quickly, claiming the division's manager of the month award in November as his revitalised team won four games out of five.
Then the injuries started: the oldest excuse in the managerial book but, in this case, not without substance. There are currently 10 players unavailable, most of them defenders. The Finn Antti Heinola has started three games and ended each one in hospital.
Goalscoring - one in the last five matches - is the other problem. Mike Sheron, the leading scorer, had to be sold, and when a Premiership striker was lined up for a loan transfer on deadline day, he decided he did not fancy it and went incommunicado.
Meanwhile the share price has dropped to 8p - Francis has one million of them, now worth considerably less than what he paid - and Chris Wright, the club's owner, says: "We are losing a lot of money and I'm propping things up with personal loans, which can't go on forever."
It is Wright, rather than his manager, who sounds anxious and may not sleep well tonight. "It would feel like the end of the world if we lost," he said. "It will be an agonising afternoon." For Francis: "I'm sleeping well. It's not so much the sleeping, it's when you wake up." One way or another, a new dawn awaits Queen's Park Rangers tomorrow.
Latest in Sport
The muddy truth of the Christmas Truce game
Premier League: Chelsea vs West Ham match preview
Sir Alex Ferguson on Jose Mourinho: 'He's good looking, speaks five languages, wins everything - it's unfair'
The best sport selfies of 2014
Jose Mourinho on Sir Alex Ferguson: 'A good friend, a good person, a fantastic sense of humour. I like him very, very much'
- 1 Planes go hybrid-electric in important step to greener flight
- 2 Christmas comes early to Hong Kong, as millions of bank notes spill out onto busy street
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food
£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...
£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...
Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...
Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...