QPR’s attentions must turn towards promotion after keeping Austin and Phillips

Charlie Austin, like Matt Phillips, will remain at QPR after moves back to the Premier League failed

Charlie Austin, like Matt Phillips, will remain at QPR after moves back to the Premier League failed to materialise - Credit: Getty Images

Delight, shock and relief. The three words going through most QPR fans’ heads after the news emerged last Tuesday that not only would Matt Phillips be staying at the club, but so would Charlie Austin after the transfer window closed.

When QPR suffered a second relegation in three seasons back in May, many believed, and rightly so, that Austin and Phillips would be on their way.

You have to give enormous credit to the club for standing firm and refusing to let the pair go. From day one, director of football Les Ferdinand made clear the prices required for their services (Austin £15m, Phillips £10m). Neither was matched and as a result they remain at QPR.

The club have been exploited far too many times in the past so they were well within their rights to come out and make a statement like that.

What they now have to understand, though, is that by keeping the likes of Austin and Phillips expectations have been raised significantly. They must now be in the fight for promotion.

Rangers have taken 10 points of 15 available so far without setting the world alight. There are not many better starting XIs in the Championship, if any, when everyone is fit and available.

A push for promotion wasn’t something at the forefront of head coach Chris Ramsey or Ferdinand’s minds when they were rebuilding the club over the summer. Several high earners, such as Joey Barton and Bobby Zamora, were moved on, while the club did affordable and sensible business in the transfer window.

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But keeping Austin and Phillips raises the stakes. Rangers must accept that anything less than a play-off place would be deemed a failure. The club have taken a risk in regards to Austin’s future, though. The 26-year-old is a free agent at the end of the season so it would be in his best interests to run down his contract.

So if the club don’t get promoted this season, they would more than likely be losing out on £12m, the sum Leicester City offered for Austin’s services back in July.

Yes, Austin scored 18 goals in the Premier League last season, but with a year left on his contract and Rangers standing to make an £8m profit on him, it would have been a good deal.

But the concern for Ramsey, and rightly so, was that if they had sold Austin the money wouldn’t have been reinvested in the squad, but instead on helping the club sort out their ongoing finances, with the Financial Fair Play issue still looming.

If they do get promoted, the £120m windfall for reaching the top flight will mean it was worth it from a financial perspective. But surely it is only delaying the inevitable? Austin and Phillips are destined for bigger and better things.

Conversely, if Rangers don’t go up, surely this would be deemed as failure, and naivety on their part for letting Austin’s contract run into its final year.

After all, recruitment has moved towards a more sensible and affordable approach in light of the club’s ongoing FFP case. A salary cap of £20,000 is now in place, with the likes of Jamie Mackie and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas arriving on free transfers.

Ferdinand and Ramsey have both preached about consolidation and building an identity and philosophy in order for the club to have a stable footing for many years to come.

Ramsey more so, stressing on a number of occasions that it was important first and foremost that Rangers didn’t do a Wolves (get relegated twice in successive seasons).

Would promotion jeopardise the rebuilding plan? Quite possibly. Would promotion really be the best thing for the club thinking long term?

No. As Ramsey recently pointed out, the club are not in a position to splash millions of pounds on players now, like Burnley most recently did when they signed Andre Gray for £9m from Brentford.

After all the sensible business and the positive movements they have made on and off the field, the fact is this current squad at an absolute minimum should be finishing in the top six now come May. Ramsey knows deep down he must deliver with the squad at his disposal.

Man for man that Rangers team is very strong, if everyone can keep fit, of course. Anything less than a play-off place, or even more so promotion, would spell failure to many. Then we will see if the reccurring theme of short-termism at the club still exists.

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