Although a Championship Play-Off place isn’t entirely impossible for QPR as they enter the final nine games of the season, it does look like a case of ‘too little, too late’ for Mark Warburton’s side.
Roll back to December though and the Hoops were teetering four points above the drop zone with a string of injuries and uncertainty surrounding the future of star player Bright Osayi-Samuel.
With this in mind, many fans would’ve probably jumped at the prospect of a mid-table finish with QPR currently sitting 12th on 50 points after winning nine out of 15 league games since the turn of the year.
Considering the side finished 13th last term with a total of 58 points, they are likely to beat that total despite the departure of big names such as Nahki Wells, Eberechi Eze, Jordan Hugill and Osayi-Samuel over the past year.
It would certainly be quite the turnaround after enduring a torrid end to 2020, picking up just one win from their final 12 matches of the calendar year
Summer recruits Macauley Bonne and Lyndon Dykes had struggled to fill the gaps left by Wells and Hugill, scoring just seven league goals between them before New Year while fellow new signing Luke Amos suffered an ACL injury in October.
Add to the fact the on-going saga of contract rebel Osayi-Samuel and it was apparent QPR weren’t just in a precarious league position but their squad was running on empty as well.
QPR’s saving grace has undoubtedly been their shrewd January transfer window activity, managing to bring in a whole host of reinforcements despite the club’s continued Financial Fair Play restrictions.
The return of club legend Charlie Austin on a loan deal from West Bromwich Albion is comparable to that of Gareth Bale’s comeback to Spurs.
However, that is where the similarities end with Austin’s QPR legacy only enhanced, scoring six goals in 15 league appearances and helping to revitalise QPR’s season alongside other January recruits Stefan Johansen, Sam Field and Jordy de Wijs.
Former Norweigan captain Johansen has also hit the ground running, becoming one of the first names on the QPR team sheet in a midfield pivot with either Dom Ball or Sam Field.
Similarly, de Wijs has seamlessly slotted into the defensive back line alongside Rob Dickie and Yoann Barbet, impressing as the Hoops already have 10 clean sheets this campaign – four more than they accrued all last season.
The incentive to secure Johansen and de Wijs to long-term contracts should be clear, particularly as Tom Carroll (sidelined for most of the campaign with a knee injury) and Geoff Cameron are coming to the end of their respective contracts this summer.
However, as QPR Chief Executive Officer Lee Hoos recently told a fans’ forum, it’s not that straightforward as already restricted finances have been further compounded by the coronavirus pandemic.
Citing Eze’s £20m move to Crystal Palace last summer, Hoos said: “The revenue from Eze has not filled the gap completely with the revenue we’ve lost through not being able to open the ground, sponsorship refunds, diminished retail, diminished hospitality.
“Streaming is the one thing that is up, but unfortunately nowhere near enough to counter everything else.
“It would have been great to be in the plus column now, but there are a lot of other clubs in a less fortunate position than we are, who weren’t able to recognise value in a sold player and have just had to soldier on somehow.”
If these loanees cannot be kept then ensuring prized assets such as goalkeeper Seny Dieng and midfielder Ilias Chair remain at the club past the summer will be paramount, although you can be sure that Warburton won’t give them up with a fight and at the right price.
There is no doubt QPR have progressed well this season and if the club are able to build on the solid foundations that have been laid – next season could be one to look forward to.