It’s been 15 years in the making, but the Hoops are finally back in the big time.
Neil Warnock’s Rangers romped comfortably to the Championship title, presenting the Loftus Road side with the opportunity to taste top flight football once again.
They are certainly one of the more intriguing sides to have emerged from the Championship battleground in recent seasons, given the significant financial backing of the club and their relative anonymity in Championship mid-table in the past few seasons.
Just seven years ago, QPR defeated Sheffield Wednesday on the final day of the old Division 2 season, sealing their promotion to Division 1 ahead of Bristol City. They follow the path of Burnley and Blackpool of being former Division 2 sides to make it to the big time.
But, there are a few questions that need to be answered if Rangers are to make it a permanent stay.
In the Dugout
One major question surrounds the managerial position. Warnock is a more than capable manager at the top level, and his vast experience in English football makes him a vital component to QPR’s survival mission.
However, rumours did begin to circulate that the board were looking to replace Warnock upon the club’s promotion, although these claims were refuted by Chairman Gianni Paladini. Speculation had been that World Cup-winning Head Coach Marcello Lippi was being lined up to guide the club’s Premier League return.
With football more than ever becoming a results-based business, Warnock will have every reason to be sceptical of his job security should results not go his way from the start. The removal of Carlo Ancelotti at Chelsea highlights the cut-throat nature of managerial positions at the top level.
QPR cannot expect to be flying up the table after the early season encounters. They are a team that has been bereft of top-flight football for over a decade, and will need time to acclimatise themselves to the Premiership.
Chopping and changing the manager will not help if the club struggles early on. Warnock has Premier League experience with Sheffield United, and would be the best man to try and steer the club away from any relegation trouble. It would be foolish to bring in a bigger-name that is alien to the pace of the Premier League. The Hoops will need stability to survive.
Strength in Depth
The squad will also need to be strengthened if they are to become a competitive Premier League side. Top flight experience is in abundance in the first team squad, but none of the players stand out as having the quality to set the league alight.
Heidar Helguson had some success at Fulham, having struggled in his previous stint in the top flight with Watford. Tommy Smith is another ex-Hornets player that failed to make an impact in the Premier League. Rob Hulse did not establish himself with either West Brom or Sheffield United in the Premiership, but is a close ally of Warnock.
Peter Ramage, Radek Cerny, Paddy Kenny, Shaun Derry, Fitz Hall, Gary Borrowdale and Danny Shittu are the other players that have featured in the top flight.
However, one standout is Adel Taarabt. His skilful and virtuoso displays lit up the Championship and were the most integral part of QPR’s promotion push. His snubbing by Tottenham provided him with an incentive; prove his previous employers wrong, and get QPR promoted.
Taarabt will not be able to single-handedly renew QPR’s Premiership stay. He will need a strong supporting cast, not just to ease the burden of expectation on him, but to make QPR more difficult to beat.
With the more high-profile players from the relegated sides, like Charlie Adam and Roger Johnson, seemingly set for bigger teams, the Hoops would be better served looking at the players that don’t necessarily garner as much attention as their team-mates.
DJ Campbell was a surprise hit for Blackpool this season, and would provide a contrasting compliment to the more physical styles of Helguson and Hulse. Craig Gardner is an energetic and hard-working midfielder, and has an eye for goal, and would provide Rangers’ midfield with an injection of gusto and tenacity.
Jordan Spence could be a steal of a signing. He has shown promise progressing through the ranks at Upton Park, and would not likely cost QPR a significant amount. His ability to play at centre-back and right-back provides an extra option for Warnock, plus his wage demands would not be troubling to maintain in the Championship, should the club go straight back down.
Of course, money is no object. Backed by Britain’s richest man, steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal, Warnock has gone on record saying he needs to spend more than he did at Sheffield United to keep Rangers up. In such a competitive division, the money will have to be spent wisely.
Warnock can be trusted to find suitable targets that will keep QPR in the top flight, because their Championship-quality squad as it is would not survive in the Premier League.
The hard work will begin very soon for the Hoops, in order to secure their preferred targets before they are snapped up by other sides. All the options are there to make a trip to Loftus Road a permanent Premier League fixture. With an expectant board and fan base looking on, Warnock will be under pressure to hit the ground running.