After victory over Aston Villa and hearteningly close defeats to Liverpool and Chelsea, Queens Park Rangers are in a much more positive place than they were the last time Joey Barton did up his rainbow laces in anger.
In the meantime it seems that he has slipped so far from the club’s collective consciousness that no ticket was reserved for him to take in his colleague’s derby game at Chelsea.
Yet Harry Redknapp’s side will be in for a huge boost if the (to quote his website) “footballer, question time guest, philosophy student, future coach and fluent French speaker” makes good on his expected return to fitness to face former employers Manchester City.
For all the feel-good factor generated by three consecutive respectable performances from the Super Hoops, they were accumulating points at a better rate before the Liverpudlian’s injury.
Barton started four of QPR’s first five Premier League games, during which they helped themselves to four points thanks to a draw with Stoke and victory over Sunderland.
In the five outings since that Potters’ stalemate the R’s have harvested just three points more without their much-travelled midfielder.
His return is expected to signal an upturn in creativity commensurate with the reintroduction of one of the division’s most creative centre-pitch operatives.
Only Angel Di Maria can match Barton’s mean of 3.3 key passes an outing in the Premier League this season, while the 32-year-old has also unleashed a mean 5.8 long-balls to teammates and two accurate crosses a game.
Since the Liverpudlian’s last outing in blue and white Charlie Austin has discovered the knack for the net at top-tier level too, offering further encouragement of hitherto unforeseen incisiveness.
QPR are 39/20 to avoid defeat at the hands of Manchester City this weekend, just as two of the Citizens’ last three post-Champions League game foes have done before them.