Football: Hollins grins and bears it

Queen's Park Rangers 1 Barker 61 Stoke City 1 Forsyth 4 Attendance: 11,923
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The Independent Online
IT IS a mistake to think of John Hollins as one of the usual suspects whose names invariably emerge when managerial vacancies arise.

Nearly a decade has passed since his tenure of office at Chelsea ended in unkind circumstances - though are there any kind ones? And afterwards he drifted out of the game into what he called "the real world" for seven years. He has been a reserve team manager at Loftus Road since then but he has not been on many short-lists. Indeed he has been more in the news for being the father of Chris, who scored a century in the Varsity match at Lord's.

But here Hollins Senior is now in the frame, perhaps in the box seat, at least temporarily, for the top job at Queen's Park Rangers. Installed as caretaker but given scant encouragement that he actually possesses the credentials to be considered for the post, Hollins saw his new charges earn a draw against Stoke City yesterday.

Neither the performance nor the result proved anything conclusively, though he might have felt like withdrawing his job application after four minutes when Rangers conceded their first goal under his stewardship. For almost an hour afterwards they struggled to break down a Stoke rearguard which was not partial to giving much away, but eventually drew level with the award of a somewhat novel penalty.

Hollins said: "I would love to do it but I don't really know what's happening. The chairman hasn't told me anything. He just came in and said that he wouldn't be seeing us next week. I'm here anyway and I'm thoroughly enjoying it."

The early goal was a silly one to give away. After Stoke won a corner on the right the ball fell to Graham Kavanagh on the edge of the area. His looping ball to the far post found Richard Forsyth whose header was beyond the reach of Tony Roberts. Stoke immediately resorted to lying deeper than the ocean and while Rangers had no choice but to attack them, they lacked invention and flair. Trevor Sinclair is a genius too occasionally and they might have expected more from him as the first half wore on without much semblance of genuine threat.

At that stage Hollins might have been able to see the job disappearing before his very eyes. In a match programme profile, the Rangers midfielder Simon Barker had said in answer to the question "Who is the dressing-room joker?" that Hollins was one of the funniest guys he knew. The sense of humour might have been diminishing as his lads failed to make in-roads.

But in the 61st minute came the penalty. John Spencer forced his way into the area with Larus Sigurdsson in close attendance. He got in his shot which struck the bar but the referee, having allowed initial advantage, decided that none had accrued and to penalise what he adjudged to be an infringement. It was Barker who stepped up to score from the spot-kick.

It hardly had Hollins laughing as Gavin Peacock, Mike Sheron and Sinclair were all denied in a rousing finish in which Stoke played their part, but at least he smiled slightly.