OPTIMISM: Ferdinand excited by QPR future with hopes to be ‘pioneer’
PA Ryan Browne
Les Ferdinand is optimistic QPR can return to the Premier League and feels the green light for a new training ground is the latest building block being put in place at the club.
The Sky Bet Championship outfit received planning permission in September for a new £20million training base to be built in Heston, with supporters given the chance to invest in a bond through Tifosy Capital and Advisory which will pay towards the state-of-the-art facilities.
Due to open during the 2022-23 campaign, the Rs could be a Premier League club by that time if Mark Warburton’s side continue on their current trajectory which places them sixth after 11 matches.
After various battles to stay in the second tier since QPR were relegated from the top flight six years ago, the west Londoners are on the up again having come through their Financial Fair Play (FFP) issues which have provided plenty of challenges for director of football Ferdinand since he took the role in 2015.
Ferdinand said: “The end goal is to see QPR back in the Premier League. For us and where we are at the movement, the new training ground will be a massive help in trying to achieve that.
“I would like to think in recent times we have seen the progress the club is making. This season everyone can see it out on the pitch and at the club itself with the group of players we have because it is a nice environment to be in. I can’t say it has always been like that since I have been at the club.
“So it is a good place to be, we are progressing in the right way and hopefully we can continue what we are doing and stay in the top six.”
The start of Ferdinand’s tenure at his old stomping ground coincided with a tightening of the purse strings after QPR breached FFP regulations for overspending during the 2013-14 season.
It saw the wage bill significantly reduced from the time when they yo-yoed between the Premier League and Championship and brought a new focus for recruitment on signing younger players.
League finishes of 18th, 16th and 19th have been followed by light at the end of the tunnel, with the Rs in the play-off mix during the last two seasons, and a better training ground will, they hope, attract a higher standard of players as well as allowing everyone at the club to be housed at one base.
“It has been a real learning curve for me,” Ferdinand said of his first director of football role.
“Coming from the pitch, then going into coaching and seeing the other side of the way the football club works and functions, it does open your eyes.
“There was a lot we had to change and I knew there would be a lot of pain before we could put smiles on faces, so that was tough because doing that you know you will come in for stick.
“I have come in for stick, along with a lot of other people, but we knew at the end it would be worth it and that is where I feel we are now.
“Looking at where we are going and how we are progressing, I think most people can see we have done things in the right way and we are progressing in the best possible way for Queens Park Rangers.”
The decision by QPR to promote Ferdinand to director of football in February, 2015 also represented a small step in the right direction for equality but the former England forward remains the only black man fulfilling such a role in English professional football.
While a lack of opportunities for people from black and ethnic minority backgrounds continues to be a problem, change may finally be on the horizon with ex-Liverpool striker Emile Heskey involved at Leicester City Women as their new head of football development while Joleon Lescott recently told PA about his long-term plans to go into the boardroom.
Ferdinand added: “There is not enough ex-footballers full stop who do the role in the Premier League and Championship.
“It is nice to hear other guys are looking for a way back into the game, whether it is at director level or something else. I went into this because I didn’t think I would get a manager’s job, so those boys might be thinking ‘if I can’t get a manager’s job, how can I get a director of football role?’ but it is good to be a pioneer.
“I have spoken to Emile on a few occasions and I know it is something he wants to do and that appeals to him. Hopefully he has seen there is a pathway and it spurs more on to do the role.”
Diversity in management remains an issue too, with Chris Hughton’s recent sacking bringing the number of managers from black and ethnic minority backgrounds at England’s top 92 clubs down to seven.
“I think there are a lot of people out there saying the right thing but doing the right thing is harder to come by and harder to see,” Ferdinand said.
“I spoke to Sol Campbell the other day who is still out of work and waiting for an opportunity, which saddens me.
“You look at some of the other players from his era who have got opportunities at a higher level whereas he has gone to Macclesfield to get his first opportunity.
“Paul Ince was the same and now Sol is in the football wilderness putting himself out there but he can’t even get an interview. And we’re meant to think things are changing?”
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