February was a pretty good month for QPR. Two clean-sheet wins against Barnsley and Bolton were partnered by narrow defeats, but solid performances at Wolves and Sheffield United, and a rather anomalous 5-2 defeat at home to Nottingham Forest. But the Forest game marked a milestone for a couple of QPR players – Massimo Luongo and keeper Alex Smithies both made their centurial appearances for Rangers.
The duo join the likes of Clint Hill and Trevor Sinclair in the ‘QPR 100 Club’, and are two of the longest-serving players at QPR having both signed in the summer of 2015. It’s been another frustrating season to be a QPR fan, and whilst players like Luongo and Smithies offer a slice of hope, it’s hard not to think that their time at Loftus Road is limited.
Massimo Luongo is a ball-winning midfielder and an Australian international with 32 caps to his name. His positive attitude in desperate times has made him a fan favourite, and he even has his own song to the tune of ELO’s ‘It’s Magic’. Alex Smithies is also a favourite at QPR. His goalkeeping ability often goes unlooked but his saves have probably kept the team in the Championship for the past few seasons, especially this term.
Though with all the praise and excitement surrounding these two, there is a constant thought loitering in the back of my mind that this summer, they will both look to move on. QPR has been a sinking ship for some time and the club has done well to keep hold of them for this long, but this season has been the breaking point for a lot of fans. The performances, transfers (or lack of), and Ian Holloway all represent a club with no direction and the once feared Loftus Road has become a library, and not a busy one.
There was speculation earlier in the season of moves for both players. Luongo was linked with a move to Forest back at the start of the season, whilst Alex Smithies was a January target for Huddersfield, where he previously made 274 appearances in 8 years at the club.
As a QPR fan, I fear the inevitable departures of these two. But what I fear more is that they are not the only players who could play at a higher level. The QPR team is full of quality (no, seriously) and it’s a myth how we are a team whose goal is to remain in the Championship. Players like Luke Freeman, Jack Robinson, and Matt Smith could all move onto better Championship teams in the summer, or even into the Premier League.
Now I am not Ian Holloway’s biggest fan. His second appointment brought a collective sigh from QPR fans, and if/when his top players leave in the summer, will be left with a distinctly below-average team. But optimistic I shall remain. The man is full of surprises and his humour often shines a light on a poor season at QPR, but humour as you probably know, can’t win you games.