As the final whistle blew at Wembley on Saturday, the return of Queens Park Rangers to the Premiership was confirmed. Just minutes before full time, Bobby Zamora had fired 10 men rangers to a 1-0 lead against Derby County in the Sky Bet Championship playoff final. Now, just 2 days on, Harry Redknapp and Tony Fernandes will be contemplating life back in the top tier of English football.
Following relegation last season, the hoops from West London were put under immense pressure to bounce back the first time of asking. They did achieve their aim, although not automatically. The R’s started the season looking like they would be up in the fight for automatic promotion, but following big injuries to Matt Phillips, Ale Faurlin, Danny Simpson and top scorer Charlie Austin, they soon slipped into the playoff places. Nonetheless, Rangers are now back in the big time and here’s what to expect from them next season.
What they bring to the Premiership
What QPR do bring to the Premiership is excitement; there is always some sort of drama or controversy down at Loftus Road, whether it is threats of points deduction, racist scandals or deadline day dramatics. So, the Premiership will be looking forward to the drama that comes with the Londoners.
On the field, they will be looking to improve the goal drought suffered this season. They scored very few goals, but defended well. The style in which they played this season, is what they would like to do next – keep possession and look for the opening. Even though this will be harder to carry out in the Premiership, its well worth a go.
The whole club will be hoping they have learnt from past mistakes. In a Sky Sports interview with club chairman Tony Fernandes following Saturday’s promotion, he claimed that the short lived two seasons in the Premiership last time were ‘learning curbs’ and they have moved on. So, going into next season experienced, and knowing what to do, and more importantly – what not to do, is going to be vital for QPR. However, their main strength in my eyes is Loftus Road. As mentioned before, QPR’s home form three seasons ago was one of the main reasons they stayed up. Talking from first hand experience, when Loftus Road is rocking, and the R’s faithful are in good voice, it is quite something.
Rangers are still dealing with the aftershocks of relegation. Threatened with a £54 million fine for breaching the Financial Fair Play conditions, QPR are still in financial trouble. With a wage bill higher of both Bundesliga runners up Borussia Dortmund and La Liga Champions and Champions League finalists Athletico Madrid, finance was always going to be a problem. No doubt the lucrative £134 million reward for winning Saturday’s match will be a big help for Tony Fernandes and the directors of Queens Park Rangers.
Another weakness which could hinder QPR if not sorted out this summer, is the average age in the camp. In the starting 11 which faced Derby on Saturday, the average age was 29.5 years old, with only four players under the age of 30. However, Rangers do have youth in Austin, Hoilett and Phillips; and surely Harry Redknapp will be looking to improve on this in the summer.
It will be interesting to see how well top scorer Charlie Austin copes in the Premiership. With no top tier experience at all, he will be making his first adventure into the unknown with Queens Park Rangers, who he joined from Burnley last summer. If he adapts as well to the Premier League as he did to life at Loftus Road, he will no doubt be a key player for the hoops.
Jumping from Premiership innocence, to Premiership experience; Joey Barton has been ever present for QPR this season, much against the odds. As the outspoken midfielder returned from his loan spell at Marseille, he vowed on twitter not to be playing in the Championship with QPR. He did just that, and with great aplomb – starting 38 games for the Rs’. If he can carry this on to the Premiership, he could be vital for the Premier league push.
Depending on the transfer activity that will be carried out by Rangers this summer, they could be in for a shout on survival. If they can sort out the contract issues, invest well in the team and most importantly keep the team spirit and togetherness that has been there during the final playoff push, they’ve got a good chance.