As the curtain came down on QPR’s Championship season at the weekend, it could also have signalled the end for a quartet of key players at the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium.
The win over Luton Town once again reinforced the importance of Charlie Austin and Stefan Johansen to Mark Warburton’s side with the duo getting on the scoresheet alongside Albert Adomah’s injury time strike.
Since arriving in January from West Bromwich Albion and Fulham respectively, the duo have been integral in turning the club’s fortunes around and securing a ninth place finish – QPR’s best finish in the second tier since their relegation from the Premier League in 2015.
QPR are arguably in the best shape both on and off the pitch for years and it’s hard not to compare the quality and togetherness of the current crop to either the 2010/11 Championship winning side or the 2014 Play-Off winning team.
Jordy de Wijs has been equally impressive on-loan from Hull City, forming a formidable partnership at the back with Player of the Year Rob Dickie and the ever-present Yoann Barbet.
The Dutchman is the most likely of QPR’s loanees to sign a permanent deal in the summer and should he stay it would not only be a massive boost for the club’s promotion hopes but also help fill the void left by the departing Geoff Cameron.
QPR’s captain announced his intention to return to his native USA ahead of Saturday’s win with his leadership skills integral for younger players such as Osman Kakay and another loanee, West Brom’s Sam Field.
Similarly, Johansen’s presence has seen a marked improvement in both Ilias Chair and Chris Willock’s performances, with the former in particular turning on the style in the second part of the season – reminiscent of a certain QPR legend Adel Taarabt who routinely terrorised defenders week in, week out.
And of course then there’s Austin, who’s affinity for the club and place in QPR fans’ hearts has only grown with his exploits in front of goal during his second spell in W12.
This goalscoring touch has also clearly rubbed off on Lyndon Dykes who before Austin arrived in January was devoid of confidence in front of goal.
Dykes has learnt from the elder statesman, now running and finding positions akin to Austin with the Scottish international a player reborn after Austin’s influence.
Even if Austin does not return to QPR, he will leave a reinvigorated Dykes who may well also find another morale-boost this summer with the opportunity to impress for Scotland at the delayed Euro 2020 tournament.
Austin has made it clear he would love to stay if the club intend on making a promotion push next year but with West Brom relegated from the Premier League and Fulham also unlikely to survive, it may be unlikely QPR see both him and Johansen back at the club.
Following Saturday’s game, Warburton was keen to praise the impact all four loanees have had this season with it now coming down to the board and finances as to whether any, if not all, will ultimately stay.
“With Charlie (Austin), Stefan (Johansen), Jordy (de Wijs) and Sam (Field) we have been very lucky,” Mark Warburton told London Football Scene.
“They have adapted to our style of play well and it has suited their own individual game so it has suited everyone perfectly. That doesn’t often happen.
“You can get loans where it is difficult and you have young players who can’t adapt, but in this case it has worked out really well.
“They have all embraced the way we play. They are footballers who want to get on the ball, be brave and play forward.
“All these things you hear managers say sound like the same old rhetoric, but the fact is that every party has benefitted.”
It is clear all four loanees have enjoyed playing for the club this season and Warburton also confessed he wanted to sign each of them permanently.
Whether any of them do actually return may be unclear but one thing is certain – the QPR manager is on a mission to drive the club forward under a distinct style of free-flowing football.
Warburton also hinted at having ‘alternatives’ lined up if permanent deals cannot be made but whoever they may be, they will have big shoes to step into as the club look to push on towards the Premier League next season.