Not even the shadow cast by the Football Association disciplinary panel his club will face this week could dim QPR or Neil Warnock's excitement at the prospect of returning to the Premier League.
"I'm looking forward to putting a team together and having a go," the Queen's Park Rangers manager said at Vicarage Road on Saturday after his team had secured the points that should give them the Championship title and return them to the top flight after a 15-year absence. "I was brought in to get promotion and as far as I'm concerned, I've achieved that aim."
Warnock did not sound like a man expecting the worst when the FA give their verdict – expected on Friday – on the alleged breach of rules on third-party ownership of players when Rangers signed Alejandro Faurlin. The club deny any wrongdoing over the recruitment of the Argentine midfielder, who joined before Warnock's arrival at Loftus Road last year.
The FA, meanwhile, have distanced themselves from a report that they are about to impose a 15-point penalty, which could take Rangers below even the play-off places. If there is any appeal against the FA's verdict, plans for the play-offs could be thrown into chaos.
Warnock admitted that, in the past, he might not have trusted players like his captain, Adel Taarabt, the Championship's player of the year, but now recognises how essential such talents are, especially at the highest level.
"You have to score goals to win games," he said. "We'd have been up before now if we'd taken half the chances that we've had in the last few weeks. But I've told Adel that he's at a very crucial period in his career. He has the ability to be one of the best in the world, but he's got to be more dedicated. He's got to listen to me and take it on board."
Having turned his team's fortunes around in little more than a year – Rangers were facing a relegation fight when he joined – Warnock considers the seventh promotion of his managerial career to be his greatest achievement so far. Nevertheless, there were times when it seemed that Rangers might be forced to wait until the final weekend before achieving their target.
Warnock's men had to regroup after losing Paddy Kenny and Fitz Hall to injury, the former in the warm-up and the latter after only 23 minutes, and were on the back foot for much of the second half until Taarabt converted Tommy Smith's cross at the near post. Smith followed up with a second goal from outside the penalty area two minutes into stoppage-time.
Watford, who were in contention for the play-offs until recently, improved after a scrappy first half. Malky Mackay, their manager, saw no shame in losing to Rangers. "They have been consistently the best team all season," he said.
Booked: Watford Cowie
Man of the match Gorkss.
Referee N Swarbrick (Lancashire).
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