Nedum Onuoha: QPR and Austin are a match made in heaven
EXCLUSIVE: By Alessandro Schiavone
Nedum Onuoha might be impressed but he’s certainly not astounded by Charlie Austin’s scintillating exploits since returning to QPR in January.
Austin, who rejoined the Hoops after five years on a six-month loan deal from West Bromwich Albion in January, has picked the floundering west London outfit off the floor with his five strikes in 15 Championship outings, easing relegation fears in the process.
With Austin pulling the strings, QPR have turned their season around in the most remarkable fashion imaginable, racking up 29 points from 45 available, two more than fourth-place and promotion-hopefuls Brentford.
But for former QPR skipper turned pundit Onuoha the fact that Austin’s second coming has stopped the club’s bleeding didn’t come as a surprise because he is well aware of what his former teammate is capable of when he has sight of goal.
Onuoha believes Austin’s emotional connection with the club has gone a long way towards reviving QPR’s fortunes.
He said: “Charlie Austin scores goals like that. It’s just the way that he is, he’s got this ability to do it and always has done. For me the fact that they managed to bring him back was a great thing for them because he obviously has a relationship with the club. And with some of the offers he might have received he could have gone elsewhere, but he wanted to go back to QPR.
“In the Championship overall, performance kind of matters but it’s essentially just about finding ways to win games and when you have one of the best goalscorers in the history of the Championship you’ll always get goals. And that’s the difference because some teams, as I say, play well but miss that final bit.
“When we got promoted in 2014, I’ll be honest, there were some games where we weren’t playing well but because we had Charlie on there, there was always a chance we’d score. We always had a chance as well as belief we could win a game because we had someone like him who was a proven goalscorer at that level.
“Now he’s come in there, he’s been a big boost, he’s a familiar face and didn’t need to time to adjust. He’s a great signing. And when you bring in someone who has the history that he has there, somebody who wants to prove a point, somebody who wants to get back to playing and get back to goalscoring, it’s essentially a match made in heaven.”
Austin’s future in W12 is up in the air as club and player have yet to decide whether to continue together but Onuoha is confident that if he stays put, his eye for goal can set the stage for QPR’s return to the big time for the first time since 2013/2014.
That prosperous yet unexpected promotion-winning campaign, Onuoha marshalled the Hoops’ backline and Austin rattled the opponents, netting 19 times in the Championship as Harry Redknapp’s side bounced straight back to the Premier League following a season-long absence.
Football pundit Onuoha, who has worked as a pundit on BT Sport and BBC after hanging up his boots in November 2020, cites Barnsley as the example to follow. The Tykes stayed up with basically the last kick of the game and now sit fifth and are in with a shout of going up. This, despite a lack of investment and financial muscle.
The 34- year old added: “I don’t know if long-term Austin is going to stay there but in the short-term what a fix, what a person to be able to have. And it’s good to see him happy there and it’s good to see the team doing well again with him there.
“All you need to do, if you want to figure out what the Championship is like, you look at Barnsley who are in a play-off position now and who look like they’ll finish the season in the play-off, and they stayed up with basically the last minute of last season. So why would you be a team in the Championship that believes that you can’t go up? Literally anything is possible.
“If Barnsley invested a £100million in their team then I’d say fair enough. But they didn’t. They got better, they found a level of consistency, they found the right manager, the right approach and everything was great. So why not believe? As the first ball is kicked, it’s possible. It might not work out but it’s more than possible because in this league it just takes one good season before you know that you are back up there.”