Gareth Ainsworth has been confirmed as Queens Park Rangers’ manager on a three-and-a-half-year deal after accepting the chance to take charge at his former club.
QPR are long-term admirers of Ainsworth’s work at Wycombe and swiftly identified him as their No 1 target to succeed Neil Critchley, who was sacked on Sunday. Ainsworth has been joined by his longstanding assistant, Richard Dobson, who had been at Wycombe for 15 years, and analyst Josh Hart.
Ainsworth took training at QPR on Tuesday afternoon after saying his goodbyes to Wycombe players and staff. Ainsworth extended his Wycombe contract in June but the lure of managing QPR, where he made 141 league appearances across a seven-year spell, was too big to turn down.
“It has been a whirlwind two days and leaving Wycombe Wanderers was very tough because of the connection there,” Ainsworth said. “But this is QPR and when I spoke about something special forcing me away from Wycombe, this was pretty special.
“It’s the club where I was most known for playing and you get moments in your career that resonate with you forever. I loved my time here as a player and hopefully I can go on and love my time here as a manager as well.”
Ainsworth launched his managerial career with Wycombe in September 2012, as caretaker player-manager, and spent 10 and a half years in charge, guiding them into the Championship in 2020. Critchley, who worked as an assistant to Steven Gerrard at Aston Villa, replaced Michael Beale in December with the club targeting the playoffs. QPR felt they had to seek their third manager of the season after Critchley won one of his 12 matches.
Ainsworth and the former Blackpool manager Michael Appleton were on QPR’s three-man shortlist when Beale got the job last summer. Critchley was preferred to Ainsworth in December but QPR have moved quickly in the hope of tempting Ainsworth this time. QPR, who are 17th, host Blackburn, where Ainsworth was born and started his career, on Saturday.
Wycombe have an agreement in principle for their former captain Matt Bloomfield to replace Ainsworth. Bloomfield, who previously worked as a coach under Ainsworth, was appointed as Colchester head coach in September, his first managerial role, and has steered the League Two club impressively clear of relegation trouble.
Bloomfield retired from playing in February last year after 558 appearances after a fifth concussion in four years. “I don’t want to be that person in life who is always harping back to his past, looking backwards and feeling sorry for himself,” the former midfielder told the Guardian. “I still have a lot of life to live and I want to be the best coach – and maybe manager – that I can be.”