Football's fine line between love, hate and sarcasm

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It was surprising to me that QPR ended up back in the Premier League, just one season after being relegated. It's not that their form in the Championship was bad, it was that they barely showed up at all during the Play-Off Final; had Derby County energised themselves at Wembley last May and produced something like the potential they had shown throughout 13/14, they'd be the ones I'd be writing about. Alas, if I have to say one good thing about QPR in this article, it's this: they seriously have some balls. They may play unappealing, unexciting football, but they have a weird sort of stout determination, meaning they can play like utter s**t and still find themselves back in the country's top division.

This season, QPR will be trying to prove that they aren't a yoyo side, and that their grit and ability to grind points out of games will keep them in the top flight. Manager Harry Redknapp has never been one to give up easily (whether that's in the footballing world or convincing us he just really loves his dog), and having rebuilt the squad in the last year, he'll want his gamble to have paid off. Around 20 players left the squad between their last relegation and now, something 'Arry will want to prove was worth the gamble. With a few thought-provoking new players bought in, it could be an interesting season for Rangers fans.

PROMOTION GLORY
There wasn't much glory in Rangers' promotion. They found themselves celebrating a place back in the Premier League after a goal from Bobby Zamora in the dying moments of the Final against Derby. QPR had seen Gary O'Neil sent off an hour into the game, and it looked like that would be the end of their promotion hopes. However, as the Rams failed to capitalise on their man advantage, Rangers were able to find a lucky sweep. But maybe I'm being harsh. Despite only a 4th place finish in the Championship, Rangers had good stats for the season, with the highest possession in the league overall, and a pass rate only bettered by Brighton.
TRANSFER ACTIVITY
QPR came late to the show with their transfers, but have made some sensible decisions and strengthened their back line. There were goals galore within the Premier League last season and Harry will know this; therefore, it makes sense to ensure that the players at the back are experienced and able to handle a Premier League strike force. This would then explain the signing of ex-Manchester United and England international Rio Ferdinand. At first glance, this does seem like a bizarre choice. Here we have a 35 year old, injury-prone defender who spent most of his summer exercising his mouth as a World Cup pundit, rather than training for the season at a new club. Having said that, Rio does bring vital Premier League experience to the club; he won six league titles with United and may be able to keep the trickier attacking players from penetrating the R's defence.

Despite relegation, Steven Caulker had an excellent season with Cardiff City – who were let down more by their managerial woes than their playing ability. The signing of this astute centre back came at a relatively cheap £8m, doesn't have the same high price tag that some of QPR's more disappointing players have had, and offers the player himself a second chance in the Premier League. Caulker will be hoping that his performances in the upcoming season will once again attract the attention of Roy Hodgson and the England squad.

PLAYERS TO WATCH
We should not be so quick to expect that all eyes will be on one-time most-expensive-defender Rio Ferdinand, and instead look to Rangers' forward line-up to find the players we should really be keeping a focus on. Goals were not prolific for QPR in the second half of the season, after Charlie Austin suffered a shoulder injury and was unable to appear for the team for two months. When the pressure fell on Zamora, Redknapp's side lost their place for automatic promotion. But there's no denying that 25-year old Austin is a bright young player. This will be his first season in the Premier League and he will be eager to impress. If he does, I doubt QPR will hold on to him for long, especially as he harbours England ambitions. Charlie is known for scoring headers - as he stands at 6'2", this shouldn't be surprising - but he is also good on the ground, netting 19 goals for Rangers last season. I've not seen too much of this young centre forward and will be excited to see how he fares. After all, the big money signings haven't worked for QPR, so why not give a shot to guy who only five years ago was playing for Poole Town?

AMBITION
Personally, I don't think QPR should be too ambitious this season, and believe they should focus on playing solid football that will see them survive in the Premier League. In the last few seasons there has been a dog fight for survival between five or six teams in the Premier League; this season will be no different, with Rangers part of said scrap. Having just appointed Glenn Hoddle as first-team coach QPR are in good hands, but having only spent two seasons in the top flight in 16 years, this is not the time to go in all guns blazing, without being established first. Harry Redknapp can be a hot head and their Premier League survival will depend on sensible decisions and rationale, a la Steve Bruce with Hull City last season.
PREDICTION: 17TH

 

       

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