When Harry Redknapp took over the managerial job from Mark Hughes in late 2012, his new squad were already facing a near-impossible battle to stay up and, despite a valiant effort, the R's were relegated as expected. Many expected the high-profile manager to abandon the club in favor of a move to a club more suited to his reputation, but all credit to 'Arry, he decided to stay on and try to help the London club climb back to the top tier of English football.
It took a playoff win over fellow promotion hopefuls Wigan Athletic to claim the final spot for the 2014-15 Premier League season, but Redknapp and company are back. Their less than stellar goal differential (+16 over a 46-game season) is evidence of the club's poor defensive record, as well as their struggles scoring goals from multiple outlets.
They'll need to improve drastically in both areas if they are to have any chance of staying up for another season. Thankfully for the club, some promising reinforcements have already been brought in. Let's take a look at some potential fantasy stars from QPR, beginning with their most recent (and most exciting) transfer.
Steven Caulker - TBD
The former Tottenham Hotspur youth defender was surprisingly allowed to leave to join Cardiff City on a permanent basis at the beginning of last season, and the powerful center back quickly established himself as one of the best fantasy options in the game. The 22-year old has recently completed an £8m move to QPR and will certainly be looked to as the remedy to their defensive woes from a season ago. It remains to be seen at what price he will be added back to the game, but we've seen from last season that he'll likely be worth the expense.
Armand Traore - 3.5m
Though he didn't make enough of a step up from the youth ranks to make it as a first-teamer at Arsenal, the attack-minded left back is still just 24 years old and will have the chance to make the starting berth his own with club captain Clint Hill pushing 36 and likely not up to the pace of the Premier League. He's not the most likely source of goals, but assists, successful crosses and corners won aren't outside the realm of expectation for a player who enters in at a bargain price.
Esteban Granero - 5.0m
The Spanish midfielder showed loads of potential as a younger player, ascending the ranks of Real Madrid's academy before eventually making the first-team squad in 2009. He joined QPR during their last season of top-flight football in 2012, but was loaned to Real Sociedad when the club was relegated. He suffered an unfortunate ACL injury that kept him out for the majority of the season, but the creative attacker is fit again and back with the London club. With Adel Taarabt on the fringes of the squad after a disappointing loan spell with AC Milan, there's an opening in the starting lineup that Granero can easily stake a claim on. If he can rediscover the form that he showed in Spain, the 27 year-old will be a real handful for opposition defenses.
Joey Barton - 5.0m
One of the game's most controversial figures is back in the Premier League. It's unlikely you're entirely unfamiliar with the 31 year-old central midfielder, but just in case you are, he's well known for his disciplinary issues,Twitter tirades, and occasional moments of brilliance on the pitch. Without that last bit, he wouldn't make this list, but despite his propensity for bookings, there is real talent here and the potential for impressive fantasy returns.
Junior Hoilett - 5.5m
I had high hopes for this young winger during his time with Blackburn a few years back, and saw the potential for him to be the player Raheem Sterling seems to be on track to become this season. Hoilett has lightning pace, is a proficient dribbler and just has something about him that makes him stand out. Unfortunately, his decision-making hasn't quite lived up to the rest of the package and his development has stalled a bit. Another chance for him to announce himself to the top teams in England may be just what the doctor ordered for the Canadian, who may also spend some time in a more advanced role in support of the main striker.
Charlie Austin - 6.5m
Speaking of the main striker, there likely wasn't a more important leading man for a club in the Championship last season that Austin was for QPR. Across 46 league games, the Rangers scored a meager 60 goals. Austin scored 17 of those, and in only 31 appearances. Without the goals of the 25 year-old striker, the London club would surely be spending yet another season in the Championship. Austin has scored everywhere he's played with an incredible strike rate better than a goal every other game. He looks ready to make the step up to the Premier League, and unless Redknapp signs another striker before the window closes, Austin will most certainly be the star man in the attack.