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The Lockdown Diaries #10

QPR fan Sam Taylor gets excited as the return of the 2019/20 campaign moves a step closer!

The restart date of the Championship looms nearer and football fans are waiting in anticipation for the return of football. 

QPR fans have been on a rollercoaster ride of emotions over this season in particular. We’ve been near the top, near the middle, floating slightly lower down and eventually nearer the top than the bottom as the season came to it’s untimely halt. 

Before the postponement of professional football, the R’s were on a winning streak and it was a massive blow to have the season put on hold at that precise moment of time considering the implications of a good run of form in the Championship. 

This week I take a moment to consider the impact this break will have on the team and try and evaluate the chances and potentialities of picking up where we left off.

Before the break QPR had just recorded a remarkable win against top six side Preston North End. The lights of the top six had truly turned their attention, although quite distant still, in our direction. 

The players were playing beautifully, and a season of gelling a new team together looked to be settling and forming into the true quality that this squad beholds. The question now remains as to whether this squad can pick up where they left off. Well, let’s look at some evidence. 

In recent years, setbacks have set us back massively and we seem to have had an inclination to delve into those setbacks further and further for maybe one week too many. 

This year however, Mark Warburton has powered a new ‘heads up’ sort of attitude into the squad. There have been surprisingly many occasions this season when the R’s have come from behind to secure the points. Sheffield Wednesday in August, Hull City in October and Preston at the beginning of March are three quality examples of that comeback attitude being put to use. 

So, I wouldn’t put it past Mark Warburton and his staff to have been drilling home that comeback attitude into his players over this lockdown period. Football is as much a mental game as it is a physical one and this football-less period of time will surely prove to be somewhat detrimental to the players being out of action for so long. It will be a really tough challenge to return to normality on that pitch, but then again, QPR and ‘normal’ are not exactly synonyms. 

The R’s have proved this season, they aren’t afraid to go one behind, get their heads up, keep going and give the best account of themselves possible. QPR are a team of great ambition as many players have revealed in their ‘Isolation Interviews’ with the club, and I have no doubt they will be pushing toward those ambitions as best as possible whenever that restart date may come. 

However, we aren’t talking 90 minutes here. We are talking nearly three months’ worth of no football. That is a ridiculously long period of time to break in the middle of a season. It is longer than most players and fans endure without football at any time of the year, and as so many have said, the time is certainly unprecedented. 

Consequently, to go back out there and pick off precisely where we left off, on the strong foot, back on top is unfortunately going to be a difficult task. To have only returned to training this week and to be asked to get straight back into play in under three weeks’ time is a big ask and it will be an incredibly hard task to produce as high quality results on the field without the necessary time spent off it beforehand. 

On the other hand, QPR aren’t the only club in England. Fortunately for us, there are other football teams competing professionally and all of those clubs have been through this same drought. Thus, the standard won’t just be dipping for us, it will be on the decline for every club returning to football. 

No one is going to be returning in tip-top shape. Yes, you may argue that all teams have been preparing their players for return differently and to different degrees of vigorousness, but in reality, professional athletes, not being able to practice their professional sport, professionally, for three months, is not going to result in Stan Bowles quality performances on the first week back. 

I would say that whatever result comes out of the remainder of the season will most likely not be reflective of the true potential QPR had going toward the end of this season. We seemed to really have found our feet before the interruption and I think fans should take into account the fact that we’ve seen this team surpass expectations. 

Mark Warburton has put his spin on the club and the players have responded positively. If you look at our form over the duration of this season it makes a lot of sense. We started off brilliantly, off the back of a freshening up in manager and roster. We carried on this form until about the end of October. 

The energy from that early season boost seemed to start to rust up a bit and we hit a detrimental run of form leading up to the new year. That form was never bad enough to worry us near the bottom but quite frankly was neither good enough to propel us toward the top. 

January came around and the R’s got back on the right foot. We had a positive start to the year, but with a major change to our squad in the January window, with the transfer of Nahki Wells, we seemed a bit unsettled as February began. 

After a little dip, the R’s got back on form and were getting those points on the board. At March time, teams seem to settle and get into the form in which is probably most representative of their squad of that season. 

We had a brand new squad and a brand new philosophy and were essentially massively overachieving until reality settled in towards the end of 2019. The boys took a step back and took a step forward and a step up into a more positive and formidable run of form and seemed to be finding their feet just before the pandemic started to grow. 

It would be a shame if we had a poor end to this season considering the quality we have repeatedly shown as a club this year, but the times are of course, slightly insane and whatever comes I think we just have to put an asterisk next to the upcoming results. 

I have no doubt in my mind that every QPR player will get back on that field, despite the lack of live fans, knowing that thousands of blue and white hoops are watching from home. 

We were pegged for relegation by the bookies coming into this season as essentially a brand new squad, and to play the way we have been playing and to show the energy and spirit we have been showing has been a remarkable testimony to the players, management and staff behind the scenes at QPR. 

They’ve turned a group of misfits into a side we as fans, can be proud of. I would say looking at that top six, it may be a tough challenge to truly push for one of those coveted spaces, and I reckon we’d probably have to win about 90% of our games left minimum to truly challenge at the top, but honestly, the Championship is a ridiculous league and season after season surprises come and shock the EFL fanbase, especially towards the end of the campaign. 

I don’t expect us to mount a title challenge in the upcoming weeks, but I do expect us to take it one game at a time and see what comes of it. Any finish above our position in the table last season, we should see as a massive improvement.

All I can say is whatever the outcome, I genuinely can’t wait to have Queens Park Rangers back in my life. If we win, lose or draw, I will still be at home, screaming at the TV, insulting the match officials and disrupting my family’s livelihoods as I sit glued to the screen taking in Mark Warburton’s blue and white army, giving it their all. 

Under three weeks to go, time is ticking… I can’t wait.