One for now? Signing
Thursday, 31st Aug 2017 10:51 by Clive Whittingham
QPR have moved early on transfer deadline day to wrap up the signing of Exeter City winger David Wheeler for an undisclosed fee believed to be in the region of £500,000.
Born in Brighton in 1990, David Wheeler is a right-sided attacking player who started his career in 2007/08 in non-league with Lewes after leaving Brighton’s academy. He made just shy of 100 appearances and scored a dozen goals for the south coast club across three seasons – one in the Conference and two in Conference South. He also got eight caps for England Schoolboys.
In 2011 Wheeler left home and went to study sports science at Brunel University. He subsequently left Lewes and signed for the more conveniently located Staines Town but is still regarded as something of a local hero at Lewes and has been known to go back and watch games there. He scored nine goals in his first season at Staines in Conference South and picked up both the club’s Player of the Year awards in May. Wheeler captained the side in his second season, scoring a career-high 14 goals and picking up both awards for the second year running.
That, and a successful trial, was enough to convince League Two Exeter City to take a punt on him in August 2013. In just his second professional appearance he played against QPR in a League Cup first round tie at St James’ Park with Rangers winning 2-0 thanks to goals from Danny Simpson and Charlie Austin’s first for the club. He scored his first professional goal in a 2-2 draw against Bury in November (his nineteenth appearance) and he finished his first season with three goals from 22 starts and 16 sub appearances.
He scored seven from 16 starts and 31 sub appearances the following season and eight from 32 starts and five sub appearances in 2015/16. But, like many of his young team mates, including recent Brentford signing Ollie Watkins, it was last season where he really hit his stride. He scored 21 times in 46 appearances from wide right, including a club-record run of scoring eight goals in seven consecutive games through January. He scored once in a mental 3-3 draw with Carlisle in the play-off semi finals and then again in the final at Wembley against Blackpool before Exeter slipped to a 2-1 defeat.
Wheeler wrote a newspaper column for the local paper in Exeter, regularly addressing political situations and debates. He lists himself as the media ambassador for Make Votes Matter, which is a cross-party campaign for proportional representation in the House of Commons - plenty for him and Jamie Mackie to discuss there I'm sure.
He has signed a three year contract with QPR
“I’m really excited. This is a big deal for me and I can’t wait to get started. Like anyone in any career path, when you take a step up it can take some time to acclimatise, but I’m confident I can have a positive impact for the team. Wherever I have been, I have been known to be a hard-working, honest player and I will give my all.” - David Wheeler
“We’re delighted to bring David in. He had a great season last year, and if you look at him, he has progressed every year. That’s what we want him to continue now he’s at QPR. He has got a fantastic work ethic, he gives us an attacking threat, and he’s got versatility as well, which is so important in the modern game. I want to give him a chance at this level. So many promising players don’t get this sort of opportunity, and I believe he’s going to take to it like a duck to water.” - Ian Holloway
“The winger’s aerial ability is one of his biggest assets. He has a brilliant leap that sees him tower above many other players on the pitch, whilst he also times his jumps well. This has given the Grecians an outlet on the wing for the past few seasons, seeing them play a lot of diagonal balls forward to Wheeler, who will often be able to beat the full-back in the air and head the ball inside to a striker. Wheeler’s ability to finish chances has really come on leaps and bounds over the past couple of years, leading him to top the Grecians’ goal-scoring charts last season. Wheeler has written a column for Devon Live for the past two seasons – yet it’s not been a standard footballer’s column. As well as talking about all things City, Wheeler has railed against Brexit, Donald Trumpy and austerity, giving his thoughts on a number of different political situations and backing a left-wing alliance in the last general election.” -Devon Live
“I have seen a lot of Wheeler in his time with Exeter, he is an excellent player at League 2 level and I have no doubt he could be useful at League 1 but I am surprised at him coming to us. I really don’t see him as a wing/full back, he is very attack minded. The comparison with Ainsworth as a player is a good one. Ollie Watkins who went to Brentford was the one to get but he cost more than three times the fee (assuming rumours are correct). Exeter have a 16 year old just breaking into the first team, Sparkes, who looks a great prospect. If we were to get anyone from Exeter though it is the guy who has been running their youth set up for the past ten years or so, I am led to believe he has been placed on gardening leave after falling out with the club.” DevonRRR
Call me a sad bastard if you like, plenty have before, but it’s signings like this that excite me these days. Not a player we’ll have heard a great deal about or seen much of, and therefore somebody somewhere at our club will have had to sit and watch this boy and think carefully about whether he can step up two levels, where he fits into our team and whether he’s worth a £500,000 gamble in our straightened times. Basics, but basics neglected at QPR for too long.
There was a quote from Tony Fernandes on the Julio Cesar signing that resurfaced online recently. Let’s just say it hasn’t aged well. I suspect if you dig through the LFW archive for the pieces we were putting out around that time there’d be some absolute humdingers as well. While I wish QPR would make fewer signings and not be so wedded to the idea that a new player is always the answer, it is nevertheless always quite exciting when a transfer is made – that’s natural for football fans, to assume this one is the one.
While I think we were all concerned about the spending, how we could afford it, what it was doing to the long term prospects of the club, I don’t think anybody envisaged that 2012 summer going quite as disastrously wrong as it did. There were concerns about Ji Sung-Park’s age and legs, Jose Bosingwa and Julio Cesar’s motivation, Esteban Granero fitting into English football, but overall these felt like tremendous signings. I think I used terms like ‘no brainer’ a lot, and wondered aloud how the Brazilian World Cup goalkeeper could possibly fail at Queens Park Rangers. That summer was the last time I was genuinely optimistic about QPR. Not to the levels of the message board poster who aggressively argued we were in with a shout of the fourth Champions League spot, but still…
It was the Junior Hoilett signing that did it for me. Great player, on top of his game at Blackburn, wanted by Spurs and others, young, relatively cheap, four-year contract. That felt like a real statement signing. He’s flown under the radar a little bit in terms of abuse and criticism from QPR fans. While ire has justifiably been directed at the likes of Bosingwa, Hoilett stayed far longer, on massive money, phoning it in, and there were still those desperate for him to stay when his time mercifully did come to an end. Coming across to the QPR fans at the weekend and giving it the “shhhhhhhh” routine was an absolute piss take – he got off very lightly with us for his contribution over four years.
It is impossible to predict whether signings will work out or not. Particularly when you factor in the inherent optimism of a fan – we’re always inclined to think it’s a good one, except with Alex Baptiste. And especially when they’re stepping up levels – two divisions in David Wheeler’s case, and he was at Lewes and Staines Town before that. But a pretty simple quality control check that would have helped us write better articles for you over the years is this: is the player somebody the club will have had to scout to know about, or is it somebody who’s clearly been recommended by an agent, or has such a big name in the game we’re just assuming they might be good?
Wheeler is very much the former so now we just cross out fingers and hope he moves into the Championship in the manner Scowen and Luongo did, rather than Nasser El Khayati and Ben Gladwin.
It’ll be interesting to see if this necessitates somebody moving out before tonight’s deadline – I’m thinking, particularly, of Yeni Ngbakoto who plays a similar position and has interest back in France. Through a mixture of injury, personal tragedy, inconsistency, confusion over his best position and role in the team, and a sort of relaxed Gallic failure to grab games by the scruff of the neck and really effect them, it hasn’t really worked for Ngbakoto so far.
While I’d throw out the usual stuff about giving foreign signings 18 months, giving players a prolonged run in the team in a settled position before judging and so on and so forth, the fact is QPR’s squad remains far too big. There are far too many inactive or semi-active players kicking around the club on first team money at a time when we’re supposed to be cutting our cloth more sensibly. We’ve signed Wheeler and Paul Smyth this week, both wide attackers (for a team that doesn’t play with wingers) and Holloway hasn’t seemed overly thrilled with Ngbakoto anyway. I suspect if he can bring Wheeler in for £500,000 and sell Ngbakoto back to France for what we bought him for he’ll consider that a win on both the team and balance sheets.
The Twitter @loftforwords
Pictures – Action Images
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