An in-depth look at QPR’s activity in the transfer window.

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Last week the summer transfer window finally slammed shut, for the next four months it is time to hopefully enjoy watching the football until the rumours and the ITKs on social media start up again.

Many QPR fans have vented their frustration that the club has failed to sign another centre-half, full-back and striker. Although the window was not perfect, there were a number of positives, with Holloway building on his decent business from the January window.

Let’s take a look at the ins and outs at Loftus Road this summer.

PLAYERS IN:

incomings

Low risk-

I would describe this window as low risk, but potentially high reward. The likes of Paul Smyth, David Wheeler and Bright Osayi-Samuel speak to QPRs history of taking players from the lower leagues on the cheap and allowing them to fulfil their potential in W12.

One of the prime examples being Les Ferdinand, a player signed from non-league Hayes and Yeading for £30,000, who made his debut for the Rs at just twenty-year-old. He would go on to score 80 goals in 163 appearances and win 17 caps for England, scoring 5 goals.

The 1994/95 was especially impressive, with Les managing to score 24 times in the Premier League, you cannot help but wonder how much he would have been worth in today’s market.

As fans we will have to be patient. However, I think I speak for most Rs fans when I say I much prefer this approach than signing big name, big money has beens. The likes of Smyth, Wheeler and Osayi-Samuel are all young and see QPR as a step up rather than down. In their interviews they all came across as good characters who genuinely want to work hard and do well.

The days of  the QPR hierarchy and players being branded as ‘clowns’ are a far cry from how things are being done at the moment. Tony Fernandes gets a lot of stick on social media from Rs fans but the club is now being run in a sensible manner and in the right way.

Whilst it may take time to get back to the Premier League, I feel that when we eventually get there we will be a lot better equip than the days of spending £12.5 million mid-season, paying £100,000 a week to an unfit centre-half.

QPR going back to its roots is an exciting prospect. Signing young players that we know little about other than they have great potential is something that all Rs fans can be optimistic about.

The average age of the squad is now 25-year-old, suggesting that for most of the players their best years are still yet to come. Much more exciting than watching Premier League and Champions League winners jog around, picking up their final lucrative pay checks.

Josh Scowen-

The signing of Josh Scowen on a free was a real coup. He is a player we have needed for years, one that epitomises the character that Olly, Les and Birch have been talking about since they arrived.

Describing himself as a ‘little rat’, Josh has grit and determination in abundance, coupled with the ability to create. He slotted in straight away and has become one of the first names on the team sheet alongside his two midfield partners Luke Freeman and Massimo Luongo.

He is particularly good at keeping it simple, although, when the chance presents itself he is very capable of skipping past a few players and with him in the side we look far more balanced.With him playing the anchorin the middle more often than not, it allows Freeman and Luongo to be slightly more forward thinking. As yet the midfield trio has been working brilliantly, so long may that continue.

To get Josh on a free transfer, especially when he had more lucrative options to move to the Premier League with Huddersfield for instance, shows how much of a coup this was for the Rs.

Credit must go to those behind the scenes at the club, signings such as Scowen and Freeman, who arrived for just £500,000 in January are perfect for us. These acquisitions have hopefully increased the fans confidence in our scouting network and it will be interesting to see what the likes of Wheeler and Osayi-Samuel will offer.

Out and out wide players-

Out of the six summer signings four were natural wide players. Whilst many Rs fans were criticising the club on social media for not investing in a goal scorer, it appears that Holloway thinks our strike force is good enough, they perhaps just lack good service. Considering that Sylla and Smith both are players that are strong in the air, it was a good move to strengthen our options from out wide.

Considering the price it would have cost to buy a goalscorer similar to Charlie Austin, perhaps Holloway’s decision to keep faith in our front men will pay off. For instance, Britt Assombalonga scored 14 times in all competitions last season, only 2 more goals in Idrissa Sylla. However, to secure his services Middlesbrough had to pay an incredible £14m to Nottingham Forest.

Freeman is currently acting as our main play maker and his service into the box to Matt Smith in particular has been excellent, with the latter scoring a number of headers. Paul Smyth will be starting his Rs career with the club’s U23 side, although, let’s hope Osayi-Samuel, Lua Lua and Wheeler can provide better service to our strikers.

Interestingly though, David Wheeler, signed from Exeter is considered a wide right midfielder. However,  last season he managed to score 21 goals and is said to be versatile. With the amount of wingers now at the club perhaps it would not be a surprise to see Wheeler playing in a two up top.

The acquisition of more wingers will also allow Holloway to be more flexible and move from a 3-5-2 with full backs to a more traditional 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 with more attack minded wide players.

Where are the defenders?-

Rs fans again questioned why we did not strengthen our most vulnerable position which is our defence. The signing of Baptiste may be good for the dressing room but after that Brentford game many are already writing him off, early days yet though.

I can only think that with Steven Caulker returning and Joel Lynch and Grant Hall nearing a return from injury that Holloway thinks we can make do with what we have. The long term injury that James Perch sustained had many calling for the Rs to sign a right back.

However, it seems that Holloway may be ready to instil his trust in Darnell Furlong, or alternatively perhaps use club captain Nedum Onouha in the position, one that he has filled in numerous times throughout his Rangers career.

However, the concern for Rs fans is that if we get hit with an injury crisis we could be in trouble. It happened last season when Grant Hall got injured towards the back end of the season. Resulting in a long losing streak that brought us one point away from relegation into League One.

Let’s hope that this season we will better luck with injuries. Two games a week when lacking depth is very difficult to sustain in this league.

Although, on the positive, Hall should be nearing a return soon and he has been our most consistent defender when fit. If he can stay injury free his return will be like a new signing coming into the heart of the Rs defence, be it a back four or five.

PLAYERS OUT:

outgoings

Keeping Alex Smithies!-

For many fans keeping our star man Alex Smithies was the best aspect of the window. He has regularly linked with what some may call a dream reunion with an impressive Huddersfield side promoted to the Premier League last season. With the start they have made it would have been difficult for any Championship player linked to Wagner’s side not to consider it.

From a selfish point of view the move never materialised and keeping Smithies is huge if we are going to do anything serious this season.

No mass exodus-

Compared to the years gone by this window has been very quiet. As QPR fans we slowly became accustomed to transfer windows bringing almost a new squad of players in each time.

Whilst last season was not the best, the players that left the club this window were not even making the match day squad regularly. Therefore, it has been a while since QPR have been able to keep all the regular members of the squad together at the club.

The performances so far this season have looked good and the players look comfortable and used to each other. As many are young perhaps they needed last season to get used to the Championship.

For the Rs it was also another season of transition, not just with the change of manager but also with Tjaronn Cherry and Sebastian Polter, two starters who suddenly departed last January.

With more stability and team chemistry this season it looks as though it has paid off and hopefully our position come the end May will reflect an improvement on recent seasons.

Opportunity for playing time-

Eze Ebere and Brandon Comley are two young players that have looked promising when called upon. However, realistically the chance of regular first team football will be greater at Wycombe Town and Colchester United respectively.

Brandon Adams is an attacker that has been doing well with the U23s. As part of the Smyth deal, he goes the other way to Linfield on loan, let’s hope that it is also a chance for another Rs youngster to get experience and playing time.

Interestingly, Matt Ingram is another player that has gone on loan in search of playing time. The 23-year-old made 140 appearances for Wycombe before joining the Rs in January 2016. However, the form of Alex Smithies has limited Ingram to only 10 appearances.

The news of Ingram signing on loan with Northampton Town is good news for both parties. For Ingram it must be difficult to train day in day out with no match to play come Tuesday or Saturday. He was a mainstay in the Wycombe side so the chance to go to the Sixfields and play games will be good for Matt.

Shifting deadwood-

With respect, players such as Michael Doughty, Nasser El Khayati and Ben Gladwin could be considered deadwood. They were players who were largely used from the bench, although often times not even making the match day squad.

Moving them on was best for all parties as the Rs could cut the wage bill down and the players now have a chance to reignite their careers elsewhere. Doughty has moved onto a new challenge at Peterborough United, Nasser at ADO Den Hag and Ben at Blackburn Rovers.

On behalf of all QPR fans we wish them every success and good luck.

A good window?

Overall, I think Rs fans can be happy with the work that has gone on over the summer in W12.

We have opted to sign young, ambitious players on low fees and wages who have character and a desire to succeed. Players who also see QPR as a step up in their careers rather than a step down.

We have also signed Baptiste, who brings a wealth of experience, a player that Holloway has described as one of the biggest characters in the game, who for sure will do no harm in a youthful, perhaps slightly inexperienced dressing room.

Considering the market, signing a goalscorer was always going to be difficult. It will be interesting to see whether Holloway will try Wheeler up front, considering he scored 21 goals last season and Pawel Wszolek has made the right midfield position his own.

Osayi-Samuel is a player that I am excited to watch,  one that resembles Matt Phillips in terms of physique and speed. The player is 19, one year younger than Mide Shodipo, although Osayi-Samuel has more experience on his side, playing 42 times last season for Blackpool. However, when Mide returns from injury I think he will be a useful player to have in and around the squad so let’s hope the young players can really push each other on.

Thank you for reading.

Let me know your thoughts.

You Rs!

 

 

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Transfer Weekly (#1)

Transfer weekly is a new feature to the blog that will track both the ins and outs of what is set to be another busy transfer window for the club.

Josh Bowler:

18 year old Josh Bowler joined the club in 2013 after being released from Fulham. He signed his first professional contract in February this year. Just a few weeks ago Holloway gave Josh his debut in the 4-0 away defeat to Norwich City on the final day of the season.

An initial bid of £3 million was rejected last week. Whilst it is thought that Rangers are keen to hold onto Josh, it is reported that Everton are preparing a second bid. With parachute payments slowly drying up, it will be interesting to see how the R’s respond.

Shay Given:

It was been reported that Alex Smithies may return to former club Huddersfield Town if they are able to beat Reading in this afternoons play off final at Wembley. QPR are reportedly considering a free transfer for 41 year old Shay Given, recently released by Stoke.

Last season Smithies was phenomenal, we need no reminding that his performances perhaps kept the club in the second tier. His departure would be extremely disappointing if a moves materialised.

Alex Bruce:

After being relegated from the Premier League, the 32 year old shockingly found out that he had been released from Hull’s Twitter account.

Making over 100 appearances for Ipswich and 85 for Hull over a number of years, Bruce could provide the experience that the Rangers defence has been crying out for since Clint Hill departed. In what is a fairly inexperienced and youthful dressingroom, a deal for Bruce on sensible wages would be a wise move.

 

QPR’s academy at last showing signs of life

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(Image credit to Associated Press, AP)

Richard Langley made his full debut at Rangers 19 years ago, since then the academy production line has froze, a problem that is widespread across academies all over England, especially in the top flight.

Raheem Sterling was very much the one that got away whilst Ray Jones and Kiyan Prince were unfortunate tragedies.

However, QPR’s academy has recently been showing promising signs of life. When Tony Fernandes took over in W12 in 2011 he said: I want the fans to be proud of what we’re doing…I am keen to create a good academy, so that there’s a constant supply of players.

All good things take time, whilst mistakes have been made along the way, concentration and investment throughout Tony’s 6 years as chairman are finally showing signs of life. I think we have finally turned a corner, at present two youth players in Manning and Furlong have established themselves as first time regulars, with Manning being one of the first names on the team sheet.

Let’s take a look at some of QPRs most exciting prospects:

Ryan Manning:

In January 2015, then manager Harry Redknapp bought in Irish teenager Ryan from Galway United for a reported £60,000.

Holloway gave him his full debut in December, a 1-2 away win to Wolverhampton Wonderers, a debut that Holloway said was the “best he had ever seen”.

Since then memorable moments include Ryan’s fantastic assist for Mackie in the 0-1 away win to Reading and his first goal in the 1-1 West London derby against Fulham.

Ryan has looked comfortable from his first game and I’d say at the moment he is one of the most consistent performers, definitely one of the first names on the team sheet and is quickly growing into a fans favourite.

His mature performances recently earned him a new contract, keeping him at Loftus Road until the summer of 2019.

Darnell Furlong:

Darnell joined Rangers academy at the age of 10. Fast forward 9 years and 19 year old teenager Darnell made his breakthrough, notably playing in the games against Hull City away from home and Arsenal at Loftus Road, finishing the season as winner of the EDS young player of the year award, an award voted on by R’s fans.

Now 21, Darnell has benefitted from loan spells at Northampton Town, Cambridge United and Swindon Town. Holloway made it clear early on that he was keen to recall both Furlong and Michael Doughty from their loan spells.

His return to the club saw him thrown straight into the starting XI in the 1 nil win away to promotion hopefuls Reading, his first league appearance for the R’s after almost 2 years away. What impressed a lot of Rs fans was how quickly he slotted in and immediately forged a good partnership with his wide man on the night Pawel Wszolek.

His energy and pace on the right flank has impressed the R’s faithful, also the loan spells have improved the defensive side to his game. After his return, a number of impressive performances, has seen Darnell rewarded with a new contract also keeping him at the club until the summer of 2019.

Mide Shodipo:

19 year old Mide joined QPR’s academy at the age of 15, impressing in his professional debut against Leeds United, this season’s opening fixture at Loftus Road. He went on to make a further 13 appearances before moving to League one outfit Port Vale on loan.

Rangers fans have always loved an exciting winger with pace, trickery and the ability to beat his fullback, and Mide certainly ticks all those boxes.

Offensively Mide is very talented, however it is the defensive and tactical side of his game that Holloway wants to fine tune: “He’s brilliant going forward, but needs to work on the defensive side of his game. He’d probably do better with a little bit of a loan spell.”

Hopefully Mide will do well and gain good experience  in what is a difficult league and then return to QPR in the summer. With a solid pre season under his belt I believe Mide could establish himself as a first team regular at Loftus Road next season, something I am sure the fans would love considering he is one of our own.

After his breakthrough and string of impressive performances Mide also was rewarded with a new contract, keeping him at Rangers until the summer of 2019.

Osman Kakay:

Nicknamed ‘Ozzy’, Kakay has been at QPR since the age of just 8 years old.

The 19 year old made his debut in the EFL cup, on the night he looked bright and energetic, impressing at RB against Rochdale. Notably he played 90 minutes against Premier League opposition in Sunderland in the third round of the EFL cup and I felt he more than held his own, and definitely did not look out of place.

Osman primarily plays as a RB but can also operate in midfield. Darnell currently has a 3 year advantage on Osman and currently has the shirt as the clubs first choice right back.

Consequently, Osman recently went out on loan to League one Chesterfield to gain some experience of playing so called ‘mens football’ as oppose to the more comfortable u23 reserve level.

Hopefully Ozzy can benefit from a loan spell or two in a similar way that Darnell has and come back and fight for his place in the first team.

Reason for optimism:

Whilst the players listed above are currently the ones that have been in and around the first team, I think it shows how far QPR have come when there are also many other players who I could have included that are exciting prospects.

For instance, in this article we have not even spoke about the likes of Michael Doughty, Joe Lumley, Michael Petrasso, Reece Grego Cox, Niko Hamalainen, Axel Prohouly, Ebere Eze, Brandon Comley, Gianni Crichlow and so on.

It has been well documented that Fernandes has made some mistakes and spent a lot of money doing so. He is often the target of at times very harsh abuse on social media.

In 2011 Fernandes wanted to create a supply line and a path for academy players to break into the first team. He also wanted to build something that the R’s fans could be proud of. In more recent times the club has become something that fans are recognising again and can say they are proud to support QPR. I certainly feel a sense of pride when I see passionate blue blooded youngsters fighting for the badge.

The academy has also shown that it can produce first team players elsewhere. The likes of Josh Laurent, Max Ehmer, Michael Harriman have moved on in search of first team football. The recent selling of Cole Kpekawa for £500,000 shows signs of progress. In years gone by a lot of youngsters have been released or sent back early from loans. The academy seems to have grown, not just in providing players for our squad but also producing players who can go on and carve out a decent career for themselves.

Despite all the criticism that Tony gets I think he is now starting to deliver on the academy front. Progress was slow and very much done in the background, however I feel we are now starting to see the results of the commitment and investment put in, so credit to the co chairmen and the likes of Steve Gallen, Perry Suckling, Chris Ramsey, Paul Hall, Paul Furlong and Andy Impey, to name a few.

Come on you R’s!

 

Memorable goals scored at Loftus Road

I am now 19 years old and have been a season ticket holder for seven years, during this time I fell in love with QPR and Loftus Road became my second home. Throughout this time I have witnessed a lot of highs and lows, but also some very memorable goals. In this article I will be sharing some of my favourite goals that I have seen scored at Loftus Road.

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Charlie Austin’s brace VS Wigan (2014)

Austin’s double in the playoff semi final second leg saw Rangers reverse a 1-0 deficit, winning in extra-time to ultimately reach the play off finals at Wembley. The atmosphere, scenes at full time and feeling of pure elation will live long in the memory. This result was very important in reinforcing the whole ‘find a way’ campaign that the fans and players alike adopted as our mantra. I believe the style of this win gave us the confidence to go and clinch promotion to the promise land, albeit doing it in typical QPR style, in the most difficult way possible. What I enjoyed most about that season is there was a real feeling of togetherness throughout the season and the playoff period.

 

Djibril Cisse’s winner vs Stoke (2013)

Cisse’s 89th minute winner blew the roof off LR, the celebrations were something to behold. It was ultimately those huge three points that kept us up after we failed to get anything on that incredible final day away to Manchester City. A win for City meant the title was theirs, therefore, we had to get something from the home fixture against Stoke to alleviate some of the pressure. As Bolton only managed to get a draw against Stoke on the final day we managed to survive whilst City won the title with their own unbelievable winner right at the death, courtesy of Sergio Aguero.

 

Loic Remy vs Wigan (2013)

This goal came in a massive relegation six-pointer against Wigan. Remy’s strike was incredible, one of the best finishes I have seen at LR. Remy latched on a through ball from Stephanie Mbia, shooting first time from 20 yards with a side foot perfectly into the top corner. This goal would have been so much sweeter, although it was unfortunately dampened with Maloney’s free kick at the death ensuring Wigan left LR with a point.

 

Jamie Mackie’s winner VS Liverpool (2012)

An incredible game at Loftus Road saw a crazy second half see Rangers reverse a 2-0 deficit against Liverpool, with Mackie finishing expertly in the last minute to complete one of the most remarkable comebacks I’ve seen at Loftus Road. At 2-0 we looked dead and buried, but the fight back was something quite incredible, even Shaun Derry got on the scoresheet! The atmosphere that night was immense, night games at LR when the atmosphere is electric really is special. As the 12th man it felt like we sucked the ball into the net for the winner, and not for the first time either.

 

Adel Taarabt vs Preston (2010)

When Adel was in the mood he really was a joy to watch and at times unplayable. Adel was the first number 10 I fell in love with watching as a youngster. Against Preston it was very much a goal of individual quality, taking the ball down on the halfway line from Cerny’s goal kick, Adel dribbled past 3 or 4 Preston players, even nutmegging one in the process to then curl the ball into the top corner from 25 yards, cracking individual goal that rounded off a 4-0 home win.