AUSTIN SET POWER-ED AND FOR THE FINAL PUSH
Simpson backs £4m Charlie to fire R’s to Wembley glory
CHARLIE AUSTIN’S £4m price tag could prove to be the bargain of the season if QPR finish the job against Derby on Saturday – and Danny Simpson hailed the striker after his double downed Wigan.
Rangers will play for a return to the Premier League – and a potential £120million bounty that comes with top-flight football – when they clash against the Rams in the play-off final this weekend.
And it’s all thanks to nerveless Austin, a former bricklayer, who bagged a penalty 17 minutes from time before laying the foundations for a Wembley showdown with a typical poacher’s goal in extra time which sealed a 2-1 aggregate win.
“Charlie must have had some nerves before he took it but we knew he would put it away because he has been top class for us all season,” said Simpson.
“Then for the winner he came out of nowhere to score, I didn’t think anything was on. It was a great flick from Bobby Zamora and Charlie’s so sharp he knew to get into the box and poke it in.
“He’s scored goals all season and been a brilliant signing for us and well worth the investment the gaffer made.
“We’ll be going to Wembley full of confidence after these two games, especially because this was the tougher of the two semi-finals.
“I believe we do deserve to be Premier League as we’ve got the right backing, manager and players. There are loads of Premier League appearances between
this squad. Some people have been writing us off recently but we showed how much we want to be in the Premier League.
“Hopefully we’ll win that game and then everyone can have a welldeserved break. Then it’ll be up to the owners and the manager to recruit and make our team even better for next season.”
Despite starting his career at Manchester United, and more recently plying his trade with Newcastle, Simpson has never played at Wembley.
But Rangers’ squad of high-profile stars – which includes the likes of FA Cup winner Niko Kranjcar – have been busy offering the 27-year-old words of advice.
“Derby are a tough team but I think our experience could help,” added Simpson. “We have players who are able to give those who haven’t played at Wembley advice.
“I’m one who hasn’t played there before so I can’t wait. We have strong leaders and that’s a positive thing for this team.
“If we continue our excellent preparation for the semi-finals, I’m sure we will be more than ready for the final.”
Tipped as pre-season certainties for promotion, big-spending Rangers have flattered to deceive at times this term and stumbled into the play-offs on the back of just three wins in eight games.
They overcame an almighty scare in the second leg at Loftus Road on Monday night after James Perch had given Wigan a ninth-minute lead.
But with the likes of former Manchester City stalwarts Richard Dunne and Nedum Onuoha by his side in defence, Simpson is sure the R’s have what it takes to return to the Premier League at the first time of asking.
“To win after coming from behind proves the spirit we have here and shows the advantage of having the second leg at home,” he continued.
“The fans were brilliant, even when we were 1-0 down they made so much noise.We still believed we could turn it around and if anything got a little bit stronger.
“I want to give credit to all the players, staff and fans involved.
“There were a few nervy moments near the end but we were confident of holding on, as we’ve done it for most of the season. We’ve won a lot of games 1-0 where in the last ten minutes teams have been throwing everything at us.
“It’s easier when you have (Richard) Dunne and Nedum (Onuoha) at centre back winning everything – they were rocks.
“Everyone was just throwing themselves in, sliding for every ball because we’re desperate for promotion.
“Wigan ran out of ideas because we were so on top of them our fans were right behind us and I know they will be the same at Wembley.”
BIG-TIME CHARLIE: Austin celebrates his equaliser with Danny Simpson. Inserts, top, Austin mobbed by fans after scoring the extratime winner, below