The story of QPR’s Championship winning 2010/11 season
- Credit: PA Archive/PA Images
Dan Bennett looks back at Queens Park Rangers’ title-winning 2010/11 season under Neil Warnock.
QPR’s 2010/11 season was certainly one of the most exciting, joyful and nerve-wracking campaigns a football fan can go through.
Neil Warnock’s side deservedly won the title and promotion to the Premier League after losing just six league games all season but heading into the final day of the campaign, there was a strong possibility it may not have happened at all.
Rangers faced Leeds United on May 7, 2011, but in the days leading up to the game it was still uncertain as to whether the club would be docked points for charges relating to third-party ownership of midfielder Alejandro Faurlin.
Before kick-off however, the news came through that a points deduction would not be enforced, allowing R’s fans to enjoy the day and their promotion to the top flight despite a loss to Leeds.
Rangers hit the ground running that season and did not lose any of their opening 19 league games, winning eight of their opening ten before a run of four draws in October.
Remarkably, Warnock’s men conceded just nine goals in that long unbeaten run and only three in the opening 12 games.
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The Hoops set out their intentions early, hammering Barnsley 4-0 at home before beating Sheffield United 3-0 and Scunthorpe 2-0.
Attacking midfielder Adel Taarabt was the driving force behind the blistering start, scoring twice and also notching five assists in the first three games, form he would continue throughout the rest of the campaign.
A 2-2 draw away at Derby County seemed to spur on Warnock’s side even more as they won the next four without conceding a single goal.
This included 3-0 wins over Middlesbrough, Ipswich and Doncaster and a 2-0 win over Leicester, Taarabt continuing to show his creative flair by assisting in all four and scoring against Doncaster.
But it was the goals of Heidar Helguson and Jamie Mackie that were also proving vital to the consistency of their side, the latter scoring eight goals in as many games.
After a late winner from Helguson handed Rangers a 2-1 victory away at London rivals Crystal Palace, Rangers hit their first tricky spell.
Despite their unbeaten run continuing, a run of four straight draws against Norwich, Swansea, Bristol City and Burnley saw them slip down to second in the Championship having led the way for most of the season.
A 3-1 win over rivals Reading despite Bradley Orr’s red card broke the winless run but two more draws quickly followed against Portsmouth and Nottingham Forest.
Clubs had started putting in place a strategy to deal with Taarabt, who scored just once across those six draws out of eight games.
This proved to be just a small bump in the road for Taarabt however, netting twice in a 3-1 home win against Preston and scoring again in a 2-1 victory over second-placed Cardiff to give Rangers a five-point lead at the top.
It took until December 10 for Warnock’s side to lose their first game of the season, going down 3-1 at home to Watford in a disappointing display which saw them concede twice in the first half and again just after the restart.
Any hopes of an immediate return to winning ways were then quashed by Leeds, who beat the Hoops 2-0 a week later at Elland Road thanks to a double from Max Gradel and moved just three points behind QPR.
Topping the table at Christmas, Rangers put an end to their run of back-to-back defeats by thumping Swansea 4-0 on Boxing Day as Taarabt bagged a brace, which was closely followed by a 2-0 win over Coventry.
The heroics of goalkeeper Paddy Kenny and defensive solidity from the likes of Kyle Walker, Clint Hill, Kaspars Gorkss, Matthew Connolly and Shaun Derry had given the attacking players the chance to flourish in the first half of the campaign.
Walker’s last game for the Hoops would be a 1-0 loss to promotion chasers Norwich, which was followed by draws against Bristol City and Burnley.
But just as they had done at the start of the season, Rangers put together a long unbeaten run and won six of the next nine including victories against Reading, Middlesbrough and Leicester.
Defeat at Millwall was quickly put to the side with three straight victories against Crystal Palace, Doncaster and a 3-0 triumph Warnock’s old side Sheffield United, Wayne Routledge scoring twice.
QPR had put themselves in an ideal position to secure promotion but a 4-1 defeat to Scunthorpe would come as a surprise, while three straight draws against Derby, Cardiff and Hull ensured the wait continued.
Victory over Watford sparked muted celebrations as fans eagerly awaited the news of whether points would be deducted.
But a memorable season was decided by an off the pitch decision to return Rangers to the Premier League for the first time since 1996.