Warnock guides QPR to points record

IN years to come, QPR’s win at Middlesbrough may well command no greater significance than three points on the road to promotion.

However, any fans with a penchant for statistics may have noticed that the Riverside result took Rangers past a noteworthy landmark – their highest points total at this level since relegation from the Premier League.

Neil Warnock’s team have now amassed 67 points and look comfortably on course to pass the 80 mark – maybe even 90, which would certainly be sufficient to guarantee a return to the top flight next season.

And Warnock’s prospective achievement is all the more impressive when you consider the Rs’ previous performances in the second tier since 1996 – this is a club that has NEVER mounted a genuine challenge for even the top six in that time.

Only on three occasions have QPR been even vaguely in contention for a play-off place at this stage of the campaign – and managerial stability has always been a key factor.

Here is the message someone should have drummed into the bumbling board of directors a few years ago:

Don’t change your manager mid-season if you want to be successful – and certainly don’t do it two or three times.

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Until this year, Rangers’ best finish was the year after relegation, when they did replace Ray Wilkins with Stewart Houston, but the new manager had all but five weeks of the campaign to try and guide them back to the top level.

Houston’s side eventually finished ninth with 66 points – five short of sixth-placed Crystal Palace, who went up in the play-offs – and the Rs’ other best performances both came in seasons when they kept the same manager right the way through.

Ray Harford, Houston’s successor the following season, kept Rangers up by just a single point and Gerry Francis, who returned to take charge of a rock bottom QPR side in October 1998, led them to safety on goals scored at the end of the season with a memorable last-day thrashing of Crystal Palace.

Given a full season in charge, though, Francis kept his team on the fringes of the play-offs the following year and the Rs matched the total of 66 points as they eventually finished 10th.

The dark clouds of relegation and administration followed a year later, but once Rangers had resurfaced under Ian Holloway and regained second-tier status, their momentum carried them to 11th place in their first season at Championship level.

And, since Holloway’s controversial departure in 2006, it has been a familiar tale of relegation scraps, then massive investment and bluster, coupled with a lack of continuity – and a trio of modest mid-table placings to show for it.

Financial muscle has, of course, played a part – but Rangers’ current success just shows what they can achieve when the manager is actually allowed to do his job.