Concern is growing for Queens Park Rangers supporters, who have been showing signs of a condition only observed sporadically at Loftus Road over the past two decades: optimism.
The failure of a host of Premier League clubs to make a reasonable offer for Charlie Austin, and accept his apparently optimistic wage demands, means he remains a QPR player. Proving that the best activity of the transfer window does not always have to involve a new arrival, hanging on to the 26-year-old means expectations have suddenly shot up in W12.
Far from finishing mid-table and avoiding being dragged into any hint of a relegation struggle, many fans are now stating their belief that Rangers should be gunning for the title. On paper at least, there is something in this. Leaving QPR’s new rickety full-backs, Paul Konchesky and James Perch, to one side, the team is as good as it has been for years.
With Matt Phillips also staying, Rangers have what looks like two good wingers, given the flashes of potential shown by Ben Gladwin since his arrival from Swindon Town. In the middle, Alejandro Faurlin has a chance to shake off the desperately unfortunate injuries he has suffered and reassert himself as a leading Championship midfielder.
Massimo Luongo has also made a positive start to his Rangers career, while Tjaronn Chery looks to be the long-awaited replacement for Adel Taarabt: a playmaker of vision and skill. How different it could have been if Austin and Phillips had left, potentially forcing Junior Hoilett, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas or Sebastian Polter into a diminished starting line-up.
Unlike Saido Berahino, who said he would not play for the West Bromwich Albion chairman, Jeremy Peace, after his move to Tottenham Hotspur fell through, Austin will not sulk. With four goals already, he has shown himself to be mature and professional, and should score upwards of 20 goals this season whether he signs a new contract or not.
Besides, with reports stating that Austin is demanding a 100% pay rise, taking him from £20,000 to £40,000, few Rs supporters would begrudge him this if it gave the club security. As has been mentioned many times before, QPR have wasted tens of millions of pounds on a host of players with no loyalty to, or passion for, the club. Austin is not one of these.
Things are even going well on the pitch, with Rangers lying fourth in the Championship table, on 10 points, after five games, having scored the joint most goals in the division. Despite worrying signs of defensive frailty in the 4-2 home win over Rotherham United, the 2-2 draw with Cardiff City and the 2-0 loss to Charlton Athletic, the Rs look relatively healthy.
Which leads neatly on to Chris Ramsey, who is clearly still learning his trade as a manager in what is a very tough division, where established sides are routinely made to look average.
Had Austin and Phillips been sold, he would perhaps have been criticised for not being a big enough name, but given a slightly easier ride when it came to end of season judgements. As it is, with the pressure turned up to 11, Ramsey has been given a mixed blessing by the closure of the transfer window. If QPR finish 12th or 13th, he will inevitably be slaughtered.
There is a fine balance to be struck between keeping hold of players at all cost, as West Brom did with Berahino and Everton have done with John Stones, and not putting up a fight. Austin will likely go for nothing if Rangers are not promoted, and even if he signs a new contract, a release clause is likely to be inserted, according to reports.
Under Harry Redknapp in 2013-14, the Rs squeaked into the Premier League with a squad that was far more expensive and theoretically talented than those of any other clubs. For all the talk of stabilising, prudence and reconstruction, a gentle return to second-tier football has just become another feverish race to grab the gold at the end of the rainbow.
Have your say | Tweet the author | @chriskking