There are plenty of reasons to be pleased about this campaign, and while for many it will have not met their expectations in terms of league table position, there are other factors that we can take away as positives.
I’m thrilled for Alejandro Faurlin. To complete an entire campaign relatively injury free is a remarkable achievement for someone who suffered three consecutive ACLs. In some ways, just that feat alone made him a serious candidate for player of the season.
Even if he leaves or doesn’t even play much more football, he’ll always be able to look back on this season favourably. It’s hard for us to know what he went through mentally and physically. He put himself through so much and worked so hard to try and get back.
Faurlin’s campaign is where QPR have done really well. They’ve looked after one of their own when so many others would have closed the door and said goodbye. Had QPR not done this for Faurlin, his career most certainly would have come to a premature end.
We can be pleased at Grant Hall’s progress and the way we’ve handled his season. He was slowly introduced and his form helped give him the confidence to become a mainstay in the side. He’s played more matches than he and the club first predicted, and he can now go into next season full of confidence. Chris Ramsey was attacked for not playing Hall more, but he knew the player from his time at Spurs and made the right decision, particularly as Hall’s form did dip a little bit towards the end. That’s what they were trying to protect him from, they expected it given his lack of experience. But Hall now has something to build on.
Nedum Onuoha, who is approaching 30, can also be ridiculously pleased to play every single minute of every single league game this season. That is a level of consistency he hasn’t achieved throughout his entire career to date. I am often surprised that this is the case for so many players, but getting a full campaign under your belt can only help improve you. Sure, Onuoha’s form has occasionally been patchy – but you always look for your Captain to lead by example and he’s done that through this.
We have answered so many questions over the season, positively. Tjarron Chery and Sebastian Polter moved to a new country for the first time, Massimo Luongo has made the step up from League One, and while there’s a little way to go and still questions to be answered for Ben Gladwin, Matt Ingram, Conor Washington and Nasser El Khayati, they are well on their way.
Polter has proved that through patience, hard work and time, you can improve and become effective. His story symbolises a future we want here at Rangers. One of hard work, commitment and support. He has had his doubters both inside the club and from the stands, but he’s shown that he can play a big part and that it’s all about the team rather than individuals.
There are also several high earners at the end of their contracts, who have not provided us with value for money over the duration of their time here. It’s a chance to clear the decks further, and I wouldn’t expect to see Robert Green, Armand Traore, Samba Diakite, Yun Suk-Young or Junior Hoilett offered new deals. It’s time to say thank you to them, but also wish them well and goodbye.
We do have other players whose futures are also uncertain – Faurlin, Clint Hill and Karl Henry could all be on their way out, and the club would have some justification either way. Henry has served QPR very well in his time here, way better than he’s given credit for when you think about how much abuse he’s taken in that time. However, it may be the right moment to part ways, and it would mean he is able to leave on a high note after his brilliant winner against Bristol City.
We’ve also left ourselves in a reasonable position to do business this summer with the likes of Sandro, Leroy Fer and Steven Caulker. They’ve all been successfully offloaded to Premier League clubs on loan, and whether they’ve played or done well is irrelevant. It’s that they’re there, in and around the top flight mix, which gives us a better chance of striking a deal to offload them. And we should.
We’ve started to transition as a fan base too and ended the campaign far more unified than we started. We weren’t helped by the mixed messages coming out of the club and inflated expectations, and there were periods in the early months where our support reached some incredibly low points. But green shoots of recovery have been visible since the turn of the year and there appears to be a better acceptance of where we are and what we are trying to do going forward. Les Ferdinand, Lee Hoos and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink have all played their part with that, and appear to be singing from the same hymn sheet.
If we can continue to build on these things, we stand to have a better season next time around. That’s all we can ask for at this stage, to try and do better than what we did before. How much better is always subjective and open to debate, but as long as we’re making progress on and off the field, that’s all that matters.
There is obviously a lot of work to be done, especially as we will also see the likes of Gabriele Angella and Paul Konchesky’s loan deals expire, so there is plenty of need to do business because there’s a lack of strength in depth in the squad otherwise. It’s unclear how that will go what with the FFP situation at this point, but we’ve shown this season that we can find players at more affordable prices, and we still have plenty to work with here.
It’s easy to write players off, but we have plenty of examples this season with different reasons as to why some have done well and some haven’t. The pre-season tour of Italy turned into a shambles, and that affected players like Polter, who needed more time to adjust. But we also had plenty of players who arrived late in the summer and were thrown straight into the mix; James Perch was one of those and his early season form flattered to deceive, but he found his way after Christmas. The same could be said of Henry who missed much of the pre-season through injury and initially struggled with his form before posting a very strong second half of the campaign. Angella also had a slow start before showing his quality more as the season wore on.
There are other players who had similar stories, but never had enough opportunity or time to make the adjustments they needed. Daniel Tozser is one and Gladwin another. Jack Robinson has only just made it back too. But who knows what they can go on and achieve with a solid injury-free pre-season under their belt?
We still have players here with exciting goals though. We’ve two solid and reliable goalkeepers in Alex Smithies and Matt Ingram, fighting it out for the starting spot. We’ve players like Luongo, who you want to see add consistency and goals to his game. We’ve Washington who still needs to adapt and find the net and plenty of players who’ve a fraction of action but are now in a position to push on and fight for more. We’ve seen some kids in Joe Lumley, Cole Kpwekwa and Michael Petrasso get some minutes under their belts to help aid their development.
Everywhere you look, there has been some progression on many fronts and an opportunity to challenge so many of these players to kick on.
The termination of the Nike deal and the new crest are also pivotal moments. I’m not usually a sentimental man, but when I saw the new crest for the first time, it just hit home how much the one Flavio Briatore and Bernie Ecclestone forced upon us symbolised almost everything we’ve done wrong for so long and how unhappy that whole experience had made me.
The new crest looks like QPR and feels like QPR, it’s beautiful. Welcome home.
And we shouldn’t underestimate what a crest and a kit with Hoops that go all the way around can do to unite a fan base for a club that needs to rediscover its identity and soul. We have a great chance of going into next season more together than we did this one with less unknowns. That’s an exciting prospect and is why I am already looking forward to it.