Never before have QPR had to act fast to pip the Ukrainian Football Association to an appointment, but that’s precisely what happened last week as the managerial merry-go-round went into overdrive.
While neighbours Chelsea were preparing the song sheets for their first game under Rafa Benitez (it was a piece of paper with the word ‘boo’ on it), Rangers fans were happier with their appointment as Mark Hughes got the elbow and former Tottenham gaffer Harry Redknapp was swiftly lodged into the hot-seat of his fifth Premier League club.
Redknapp watched on at Old Trafford as his new charges fell to a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Manchester United, but it was not without promise as the Hoops took the lead and looked comfortable for large parts of the game.
Sunderland, who QPR face in Redknapp’s first game in charge on Tuesday evening, were also on the receiving end of a loss, but were less optimistic as they were beaten 4-2 at home by high-flying West Brom.
Such was the impact of the result among the Mackem fans that rumours circulated on message boards and Twitter that O’Neill had offered his resignation in the wake of the loss. This was soon rubbished by the man himself.
It seems odd to say about a team that has amassed only four points from 13 games – the worst start of anyone in Premier League history – but winless QPR may well fancy their chances in this game given their change of manager and the poor form of the hosts.
The Black Cats have won only twice this season and O’Neill has come under increasing pressure after seeing his side lose their last two home games. Their win at Fulham just over a week ago was the only victory in their last seven.
Sunderland are likely to be missing captain Lee Cattermole with a knee injury as well as John O’Shea, who has a calf problem.
However, QPR have two big players returning in the form of Park Ji-Sung and Jose Bosingwa.
Even with their appalling record in the opening third of the season, the London side have a squad that most of their relegation rivals would kill for, with Julio Cesar, Bosingwa, Ryan Nelsen, Esteban Granero, Park, Junior Hoilett, Adel Taarabt, Djibril Cisse and more at Redknapp’s disposal.
“The lads I met yesterday were all upbeat,” Redknapp told Sky Sports News. “They have got to realise they are in this position because they have not really performed to their capabilities at the moment.
“I need 11 people with the ability to put effort in. If they give that effort, we have got a chance of surviving. If they don’t, they are not going to play to start with and I will find 11 players who will run about and work hard.
“I’ve not go time for people losing the ball and throwing their arms up in the air or standing around with their hands on their hips.”
With some confidence and organisation embedded into his players, many believe Jamie’s Dad can haul QPR out of the mire and they are a generous 23/10 to record their first win of the season at the Stadium of Light.
However, if you believe in history and form, then there is only one winner in this clash.
QPR have lost six and drawn just one of their seven away games in the top flight this season and have not won at Sunderland since a 1-0 victory at Roker Park in 1991.
The two teams have played one another ten times since 1997, with Sunderland winning seven, including all of the last five games.
Last season saw the Black Cats run out 3-2 winners at Loftus Road and 3-1 winners at the Stadium of Light and despite their recent failures, O’Neill’s men will still be confident of three points in this one to take some of the pressure off their manager. If you agree, then you can back the Wearsiders at 6/5.
They will be highly reliant on six-goal Steven Fletcher to get them over the line in this one and the Scot can be found at 15/4 to open the scoring on Tuesday night.
There are two contrasting yet seemingly equally valid arguments for both of these sides to record a victory, which leads me to think there is a very good chance they will cancel one another out.
Three of the last ten matches between the two have been drawn and a win may be too much to ask for a QPR side still reeling from their horrific opening to the 2012/13 campaign, so the 11/5 on a draw could well be the way to go.
However, I am throwing myself in at the deep end with this one. A win is very much overdue for the Hoops and with Sunderland losing their last two at home to teams they were surely expecting to beat (with all due respect to Aston Villa and West Brom), a potentially resurgent Rangers could see this as the ideal chance to finally register their first three points of the campaign.
Never underestimate the power of ‘Arry.
Follow David on Twitter @whichdave