Blog Details

Home   /   A Drink with Gareth Ainsworth.

Subedited by: James Butler

When I was younger, Gareth Ainsworth helped with football at my primary school. Now, we’re sat at the Bosco Lounge in Woodley and I’m about to grill him about his career so far over a drink. The 49-year-old played professional football for 26 years and his best form came for the team he now manages, Queens Park Rangers.

Embed from Getty Images

As Ainsworth tells me his story, it’s clear to me that the ex-pro turned manager has a found a perfect balance in life. He manages to be confident in himself and his achievements while still coming across as a humble man, who has been able to separate his personality from the consuming role of manager.

Gareth’s playing career started with the Blackburn Academy, yet he never represented the mat a senior level. He spent a few years moving around the country playing a few seasons at different clubs, and even lining up for Wimbledon in the Premier League. It was at QPR that the midfielder found a home. He spent seven years with The R’s and twice acted as caretaker manager during his playing years. He joined Wycombe Wanderers on a short-term loan, and then re-joined them permanently. It was here that Ainsworth’s love affair with the Chair boys began.

Wycombe appointed Ainsworth as manager in 2012, although still registered as a player. He spent ten and-a-half years in charge of Wycombe Wanderers, leading them to automatic promotion to League One in 2018. Two years later his team beat Oxford United in the play-off final, finding themselves promoted to the second tier of English football.

When I spoke to Gareth about this achievement, rightly, he was still proud of his team in the 2019/20 season. Despite all the joy he, the players and the fans would’ve felt that day he mentioned: “The only black mark against the achievement was that it was during the Covid season.” Expressing his disappointment that Wycombe fans were forced to miss out on such an outstanding achievement.

Ainsworth was on a great run of form at Wycombe Wanderers again this season, with six wins in his previous seven before he left the club, the team looked in a good position to make the play-off places. However, when the QPR contacted him, he couldn’t say no to the challenge of a relegation battle at the club he formally captained, after letting himself become more comfortable at Wycombe.

He said: “Wycombe was obviously a challenge, but the challenge at QPR is bigger.” He signed for QPR this February becoming their third permanent manager of the season. “There are different styles in management as well as different styles in football.” He admitted, “The third manager of the season is always going to cause problems. Gareth Admitted: “There is a really big job to do, and the immediate challenge is keeping Queens Park Rangers in the Championship.” He knew before he signed the three and-a-half year contract that steadying QPR’s uncertain future would not be an easy task.

It’s safe to say problems are occurring as predicted for the team, they have only won one match since Ainsworth was appointed, registering six losses and most recently a draw away to West Bromwich Albion. Ainsworth admitted the record is not great: “but it is an improvement compared to one win in 17,” which was QPR’s record before he was appointed.

Embed from Getty Images

There were two areas that Gareth highlighted to me that needed to be improved if QPR were going to remain in the Championship this season. The first of which being the squad’s morale. The team have been on bad form for a long while now and this is clear in the players demeanour.

Ainsworth is confident he can turn this around: “trying to pick players up is a speciality of mine. The other area in which Ainsworth felt the squad was failing was leadership. He believes: “every successful team, other than a couple of freak incidents, has had leadership in the squad”. When he was promoted at Wembley with Wycombe, he immediately credited the leaders in the squad like Adebayo Akinfenwa. He mentioned: “Leaders and experience are just important as talent, the lack of this at QPR is an issue.

“It’s too late for the QPR to bring in a leader to help with this season’s relegation scrap, but they plan on solving this issue in the transfer window in the summer. It doesn’t matter what league they find themselves playing in next season, leadership will be vital to any hopes of success. Reading FC, the team closest to Gareth’s home in Fincham stead, have just been hit by a six-point deduction for breaching budget restrictions agreed with the EFL. This means the Royals have been dragged into the relegation battle with QPR.

As a football fan, Gareth doesn’t like to see points deducted from clubs, he doesn’t like to see clubs in the English pyramid struggling financially when the teams Premier League are thriving. It’s getting more difficult to compete against teams with larger financial backing. However, he admits: “it does give us an advantage over them.” He had been at training earlier, and speaking to his squad about the deduction he told them: “In life, you’ve got to know when opportunities come and take this is an opportunity.

Embed from Getty Images

Gareth’s footballing days didn’t end once he retired from the professional game. He’s played games for his local team, Fincham stead FC’s, Sunday team as recently as this season. The reason Ainsworth chose to play for Fincham stead was due to the excellent facilities that they have at their ground at Memorial Park. He continued: “The pitches are brilliant, Finchampstead is a great place to play.” Ainsworth also played Semi-Professional football for Woodley United until his late 40’s but found himself back playing for Finchampstead once he couldn’t continue at the Semi-Professional level.

In the Bracknell Sunday League Cup final in 2019, Ainsworth proved he still had it with a freekick goal to secure the victory for Finchampstead. He didn’t boast about it however when I asked, he simply replied, grinning: “the wall disintegrated, so it wasn’t a fantastic one.” They all count the same though, and Finchampstead lifted the cup.

Outside of football, Ainsworth’s hobby is singing. He is part of a band called ‘The Cold-Blooded Hearts, who have an album releasing soon. He also sings with his friend, Pauly Zarb. He and Gareth did the living Advent Calendar in Wokingham. The two of them have also performed at the Redan – a local pub, in support of the Ollie Young foundation. It’s a fantastic charity that supports children with brain tumours and researches the condition. Gareth personally knew the family of Ollie Young, the young boy who tragically passed away in 2012 because of a brain tumour, through Finchampstead FC. He said: “I’ve done a few events for them, the more we can raise the better.”

Just from half an hour sat over a pint, Gareth Ainsworth demonstrated what kind of man he was. Despite the troubles on the pitch, which he explained but did not shy away from blame, I had learnt about not just managing a football club, but how managers should present themselves outside of the technical area. Ainsworth is a real genuine figure in a world of hyper-egotistical madmen running football clubs.

Leave a Reply

Follow Overtime on Twitter

TikTok Feed


May 2024