In stark contrast to recent summers, Queens Park Rangers’ pre-season has been spent with eyes more firmly focused on the training ground than on the transfer market.
While their Championship rivals are spending eight figure sums or signing former England captains, Rangers are one of just three clubs in division yet to spend a penny on transfer fees ahead of the new season.
The West Londoners finished just two points from relegation last season, yet manager Ian Holloway believes that a brighter future has rarely been found at Loftus Road by turning to big names with even bigger price tags.
“For me, it’s about us, it’s about what we bring through the building every minute of every day,” said Holloway, whose team begin their campaign at home to Reading on Saturday.
“Any young lad I get out there, I want him to become a star of the future like those in pictures on the walls here.
“Our lads, normally they weren’t stars before they came here. Les Ferdinand, coming from Hayes and Yeading, Andy Impey from the samy area, Andy Sinton, Trevor Sinclair, David Bardsley — how many more do you want me to mention?
“When we’ve tried to go and buy those ones who are already those names, what’s happened to us? Good God alive! Our most recent striker who’s scored goals for us, Charlie Austin, where did he actually come from? Before Burnley he was stacking shelves! I’m not sure too many people will remember that.”
Holloway was named Rangers boss for a second time last season, 10 years after his first spell of 252 games was ended.
Few people know QPR more intimately than the Bristolian — Holloway has managed more games than any other coach in the last half-century — yet the club he returned to last year had changed markedly in a decade of two promotions, two relegations, two takeovers and 11 different managers.
Whereas the 54-year-old’s first stint was characterised by financial hardship, much of the intervening period was marked by speculative spending of the sort QPR have consciously bucked this summer.
Successes were short-lived — the Hoops only managed Premier League survival once — while heavy losses were incurred on the club’s bank balance, triggering Financial Fair Play disputes.
“We’ve got to understand as a group of people, as a group of fans, that this club has turned,” he says.
“We went from very modest dressings and now we’ve got sparkly floor tiles and glitzy, very professional looking surroundings.
“But really, we weren’t that. That was a different era to this. And I’m not sure I like that era.
“We went somewhere, got there, but did we deserve to get there? To the Premier League? Did we try and spend to stay there? Yes we did. Did we spend on the right people? Probably not.
“So we’ve got to be careful where we’re going and our fans have got to be careful when they walk in this building to make sure that that expectation that they have for the club is not too far ahead of where we might be at the moment.”
Holloway’s call for a more sustainable pace of progress have been echoed in statements from chairman Tony Fernandes and director of football Les Ferdinand, who cited the example of Huddersfield as proof that you don’t need to splash out on transfers to win promotion.
“Huddersfield fans bought into everything their manager and players did,” agrees Holloway.
“They had a unity that was unbelievable and it carried them all the way through. And they deserve it.”
QPR will be given an early chance to test their credentials of emulating Huddersfield when their defeated play-off finalists Reading arrive at Loftus Road this weekend.