A lot can change in football in a short space of time…
For example, this time last year and for the first part of last season many QPR fans were calling for a change at the helm but since the start of the year Mark Warburton has silenced his doubters by turning the club’s fortunes around.
And the QPR boss and his backroom staff have worked tirelessly over the summer to build on the momentum of last season’s ninth place finish – the club’s highest league finish since they were promoted via the Play-Offs in 2014.
Such has been the progress, Warburton has been rewarded with a new contract as he looks ahead to a third season in charge knowing the expectation now is for the club to push on.
The fact he is the first manager since Ian Holloway in 2005 to earn himself a contract extension suggests QPR may have finally found a sense of continuity after a recent history littered with instability and uncertainty.
The fact all last year’s impressive loanees have re-joined the club permanently speaks volumes for the direction in which they appear to be going as well as the effect Warburton has on the dressing room.
An unbeaten pre-season which involved games against Manchester United and Leicester City shows QPR are now a balanced, cohesive side receptive to Warburton’s belief in playing exciting and attractive football.
Keeping the highly-rated Seny Dieng has been key this summer and the goalkeeping ranks have been further bolstered by the signing of Jordan Archer who, alongside Dillon Barnes and youngster Joe Walsh, offer healthy competition between the sticks.
It also seems Warburton has learnt from previous mistakes of being too carefree at the back with the permanent capture of Jordy De Wijs after last season’s impressive loan another astute piece of business.
The Dutchman will partner Rob Dickie at the heart of the defence with young Irishman Jimmy Dunne offering cover while former Sheffield Wednesday full-back Moses Odubajo’s sensational pre-season displays have seen him awarded a full-time contract after an impressive trial.
In midfield, Stefan Johansen and Sam Field are crucial to the way Warburton wants his QPR side to set-up by controlling play and linking up with playmakers Ilias Chair and Chris Willock.
The fact Johansen has been appointed new club captain demonstrates the Norwegian’s influence both on and off the pitch with his presence crucial in aiding the development of the younger players around him – including highly-rated England U20 Andre Dozzell who has joined from Ipswich.
Another player who has already benefited from the players behind him is Ilias Chair who is starting to show Adel Taarabt-esque qualities while Chris Willock also flourished in the second part of last season.
Up front, the permanent signing of Charlie Austin cannot be underestimated and the veteran striker will not only provide goals but also continue to provide much-needed support to strike partner Lyndon Dykes’ development.
The Scottish international was reinvigorated on Austin’s return to the club in January with the potential of a mouth-watering partnership for the QPR faithful to savour.
It’s never an easy ride following QPR but this season really does feel different – there hasn’t been such a buzz around W12 since the last time the Hoops won the Championship.
That season the club also recruited superbly and, buoyed by the return of fans, could see something special occur at the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium this season.
Anything less than a top six finish will be a huge disappointment given the work and the progress the club have made on and off the pitch over the past nine months.
However, if the Hoops start the campaign well, don’t be surprised if there is a general automatic promotion push with the QPR fans driving Warburton’s side over the finishing line.
LFS Verdict: 5th