Harry Redknapp has joined Queen's Park Rangers on the understanding he will be allowed to invest in his side this January if he can get the team up the table before the transfer window and demonstrate to the club's owners there is a glimmer of hope that they can avoid relegation.
The 65-year-old finalised talks yesterday to succeed Mark Hughes, despite misgivings that the challenge of keeping QPR in the Premier League is even more difficult than when he began his doomed attempt to keep Southampton in the division in the 2004-05 season. He will be at Old Trafford for the game against Manchester United today but will not take over running the team until Monday.
"You know what the game's like. I lost my job at Tottenham and Mark Hughes is a top, top manager and a great guy. Sometimes these things happen," said Redknapp, who is set to sign a two-and-a-half year deal worth £3m a year, plus a significant bonus if he keeps Rangers up. "QPR couldn't get the results they needed. You couldn't have too many worse starts but I'm ready to give it a go and see if I can change their fortunes around. If I can keep them up I'll be the happiest man around.
"There are some good players there but I've got to find a way of picking a team that can win some games."
The priorities for the side are a new centre-back and a centre-forward and, despite QPR's significant outlay on wages for new players this summer, there is a willingness to help Redknapp if he can show some form of improvement in the team.
Redknapp is expected to bring his assistant Kevin Bond with him and goalkeeping coach David Coles, although Joe Jordan, who also worked with him at Tottenham, is not a certainty to join. He remains in the frame to get the Scotland manager's job.
Redknapp was approached over the Ukraine manager's job this week. He was so keen to get involved in management once again that friends had to talk him out of considering the job, arguing that he would be completely unsuited to the demands of travelling to Ukraine regularly, as well as coaching a non-British national team.
Of the group of players Redknapp inherits, arguably the most influential is the attacker Adel Taarabt, an erratic but occasionally inspirational presence who was in and out of favour with Hughes. Redknapp sold him when he was Tottenham manager but has since indicated that was a decision he regretted and his arrival will by no means herald Taarabt's departure from the club.
As for Hughes' assistants Mark Bowen and Eddie Niedzwiecki, they had, as of last night, not yet been told whether they had a future at the club. Given their loyalty to Hughes, with whom they have served for the majority of his managerial career, it is not certain they would stay on even if invited to do so.
After tomorrow, QPR have seven games until the transfer window opens in January, of which four are at home against Aston Villa, West Bromwich Albion, Fulham and Liverpool. The team are currently bottom of the Premier League table, five points from safety having taken just four points, all of them draws, from 12 games.
As it stands, Redknapp has no plans to bring Joey Barton back from his loan spell at Marseilles. His first challenge will be to heal damaging rifts in the squad between the players who survived from the previous Neil Warnock regime and the new players who joined the club in the summer. The atmosphere has been described as "poisonous" at times this season by those close to the club.
Redknapp added: "The players have got to start performing. If they do that we've got a chance... find a way to pick up points, be hard to beat and win some matches. It's all about the players."
Tweet goodbye: How Tony spells doom
* Queen's Park Rangers chairman Tony Fernandes was noteworthy in his support for Mark Hughes on Twitter – right up to a week before the Welshman's removal.
"Stop wasting your time and energy on negative tweets. QPR needs time and stability. We have great squad great manager great ceo. Takes time and a bit of luck." 21 October
"Mark has my backing and the shareholders. We need a little luck and no injuries. I honestly believe we have one of the best managers in the premier league. And we are in for the long term. Whatever happens." 29 October
"Won't be happening For the one millionth time. Hahaha. Stability." 16 November
* Fernandes' support for previous Hoops manager Neil Warnock also wavered in the days before his sacking. On 6 January he wrote:
"Its important to note no one job is safe. Results are key. If I don't deliver I would be first to step down as chairman. We owe it to all the fans. Good money is paid and results are key." Warnock was sacked two days later.