When Queens Park Rangers were relegated from the Premier League last season the biggest challenge facing manager, Harry Redknapp, was to rejuvenate the squad. The mercenaries had to be cleared out and be replaced by a group of hard-working, quality players. There were obvious deficiencies during the 2012/2013 season; QPR conceded 60 goals and only scored 30 so it was paramount to strengthen at both ends and Redknapp needed to get his players playing for the shirt week in, week out. The 66-year-old faced an unenviable task.
But nine games into the season, QPR sit top of the Championship, unbeaten, three points clear of the chasing pack and Redknapp’s attempts to improve the squad have so far been met with nothing but success. He released the deadwood in the summer; shipping out the likes of Djibril Cisse, Jose Bosingwa, Anton Ferdinand and Rob Hulse and loaned out those who did not seem to be fully committed to the QPR cause such as Adel Taarabt, Loic Remy and Stephane Mbia. To replace the sixteen who have gone, Redknapp brought in ten new players including Charlie Austin, Richard Dunne, Danny Simpson, Niko Kranjcar and Karl Henry whilst Tom Carroll and Benoit Assou-Ekotto have been brought in on loan to help bulk out the squad.
A defence, which has only leaked two goals, has been crucial in ensuring their brilliant start. Goalkeeper, Rob Green, has equalled a club record of seven consecutive clean sheets whilst Clint Hill and Richard Dunne have used their experience to successfully marshal a strong looking back line. The midfield seems to be working well together with Joey Barton, Jermaine Jenas, Karl Henry, Gary O’Neil and Niko Kranjcar proving they are more than capable of working as a cohesive unit. The only issue with the current QPR squad is that the strikeforce is paper-thin. Injuries to Andrew Johnson and Bobby Zamora have further depleted the already thin attacking options and Redknapp has had to recruit Uruguayan Javier Chevanton to bolster forward line. Despite the problems, new signing Charlie Austin has scored three goals so far whilst Joey Barton, Clint Hill and, young striker, Tom Hitchcock have also opened their accounts for the season.
Until last Saturday’s 2-0 home win over Middlesbrough, QPR hadn’t won a game by more than one goal. The came back from behind on the opening day, against Sheffield Wednesday, to win 2-1 and drew 1-1 away to Huddersfield, once again after conceding first. After that draw came 1-0 wins over Ipswich, Bolton, Leeds and Birmingham before a 0-0 draw against Brighton, where they were perhaps unlucky not to pick up all three points. A scrappy 1-0 win followed, before goals from Barton and Austin secured three points against Boro in what was the best performance of the season so far.
At the start of the season, QPR were the majority of people’s favourites to win promotion and so far they have lived up to expectations. With one of the best squads in the league and their current run of form showing no signs of coming to a halt, very few would back against them to be playing Premier League football this time next year.