QPR FanZoner Chris King believes staying away from the headlines has been key to the R’s impressive start to life in the Championship.
There is something bizarre going on at Loftus Road these days – complacency.
After years of tabloid back pages, and sometimes front pages, boardroom scraps, bad owners, high-profile transfers, on-pitch disasters, off-pitch disasters, foolish acquisitions, vain boasts and millions of pounds wasted, all is unnervingly calm.
Queens Park Rangers are, as one observer pointed out, adopting a binary approach to football – winning 1-0 so often is has become one of the safest bets around for those fond of a weekend accumulator.
In fact, QPR have become so efficient that they are roundly ignored by pundits and relegated to a Stoke City 0-0 Norwich City-sized slot on The Football League Show, their success so far dismissed out of hand as “inevitable”.
Perhaps it is, given that the Rs have easily the best squad in the Championship, complete with players that would not look out of place in the top flight, and in Harry Redknapp, a manager who led Tottenham Hotspur to the Champions League.
Nonetheless, a modicum of praise at least ought to be directed towards Robert Green, whose eighth consecutive clean sheet against Barnsley was a club record, and a back four that has conceded just two goals in ten matches.
However, this was barely mentioned in the aftermath of Saturday’s game, which suggests that people are only interested in Rangers when they are pure soap opera: signing Christopher Samba for £12.5million only to flog him a few months later – and lose half a million.
Anyway, enough bitterness. The fact is that QPR are, for the first time since the title-winning season, a sure thing: supporters turn up at the ground expecting the team to win, keep a clean sheet, and so far it has been thus.
Were this Manchester United, such arrogance would be unsurprising, but we are talking about a side from West London that has sporadically raised its head above the parapet, but more often than not been the epitome of average, occasionally lapsing into disaster.
Can such a state of affairs last? Looking at the upcoming fixtures, the answer would be probably not. The Rs take on Millwall away next, which given Rangers’ surprisingly robust recent record on the road, looks eminently winnable, before an early title showdown against Burnley.
Ah, Burnley. The current table toppers and people’s choice boast a formidable 19-goal strikeforce of Sam Vokes and Danny Ings, which will surely be the stiffest test so far of the centre back partnership between Clint Hill and Richard Dunne.
Hot on the heels of the Lancashire side are games against Wigan Athletic, who are yet to find their feet in the second tier, and Derby County, which will see Steve McLaren return to Shepherd’s Bush after a brief coaching spell with the Superhoops.
To sum up, QPR are flying, the addition of Niko Kranjčar has already proved to be a masterstroke, and with Junior Hoilett returning from injury, and Joey Barton in excellent form, there is no reason to believe that Charlie Austin will stop scoring any time soon.
Minor issues persist, such as the lack of goals (just 14 so far, six courtesy of the £4million hitman), Austin’s isolation in Redknapp’s favoured 4-5-1 formation that was so visible in the 0-0 draw against Brighton & Hove Albion, and the fact that the Rs have only faced one top-half opponent.
Given how tragically last season ended, with all the vitriol, catastrophically low levels of morale, disjointed squad and recent history of abject failure, Rangers’ start to the season has not just been impressive: it is nothing short a miracle, strong squad or not.
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Originally published on TEAMtalk on Thursday October 10 2013.