Being a QPR fan in South Yorkshire I rarely get the chance to go down to Loftus Road, so an away day is much more common. On Tuesday night I made the short journey to Bramall Lane to watch Sheffield United beat QPR 2-1.
It was the first fixture I’d attended this season, and after lamenting Ian Holloway and his team for pretty much the whole season, I was expecting very little from the Hoops. But in fairness, it was one of the better performances I’ve seen the team make in recent seasons.
Despite the loss, QPR remained vigilant and battled to the end. Luke Freeman was immense throughout as he has been all season, and got one back for QPR with a tidy finish from 20 yards out. Joel Lynch, who got his first QPR goal last weekend against Bolton and made his 50th appearance for the club on Tuesday, had the commanding authority and desire which we’d lacked since the departure of the legendary Clint Hill. Whilst youngster Paul Smyth came off the bench to cause the United back-line problems for the last half hour.
I was pleasantly surprised. Not only had there been impressive individual performances but as a team, we troubled the Blades and were unlucky not to take away at least a point. A talking point from this game though was the youthfulness of the bench for QPR. Smyth was introduced into the game and so to was Bright Osayi-Samuel and Eberchi Eze late on, both of whom have risen through the development squad at QPR.
After the game, manager Ian Holloway told BBC Radio London:
“We have got to stop making mistakes. We started well and caused them problems but unfortunately we are not seeing it through… It is tough at the minute but the young lads have got to learn about being away from home and what is all about.”
Since the days of the ‘old’ QPR, there has been a push towards promoting talent into the first team rather than buying it in. Darnell Furlong is our promising young right back who has featured 9 times this season, midfielder Ryan Manning made a name for himself at the back end of last season and Josh Bowler – the man who never played for QPR – was snapped up by Everton in the summer.
Earlier in the season, former manager and now technical director at the club Chris Ramsey spoke of Holloway’s back-room staff and how they are ‘built’ for developing youth. Assistant March Bircham and Coach Curtis Fleming have both been involved in developmental roles at the club prior to their promotion to Holloway’s staff, and both have spoken positively of the QPR academy ‘linking up’ with the first team.
QPR are still shaking off their former reputation of being a spending club, and not exactly a good one. Everyone remembers the signings of players like Shaun Wright-Philips and Benoit Assou-Ekotto, high-wage players who ultimately contributed very little to the club. But long are those days gone. Those who follow QPR will be aware of our inactivity in the transfer market and our focus on promoting youth either from our own development squads or others – Paul Smyth arrived from Linfield in the Northern Irish Football League last season, aged 19.
Although Holloway didn’t speak completely positively of his youth substitutions on Tuesday, but nevertheless, he is playing them. It’s come as a breath of fresh air to the club who have transformed a battle to stay in the league, to one where a mid-table finish is likely.
The club has long been preparing for a ‘fresh start’ and I think next season that will come. We haven’t spent a penny this year, and (in my opinion) we didn’t appoint a long-term manager. So who knows? Are we lining up a summer appointment? Will there be extra funds available in the summer? And will the next eventual promotion be our last? Probably not. Probably not. And definitely not.