Keeper Kelly becomes Warburton’s first addition – Signing
Friday, 14th Jun 2019 17:11 by Clive Whittingham
The first new signing of Mark Warburton’s reign as QPR manager has been confirmed as Livingston goalkeeper Liam Kelly on a four year deal.
Liam Kelly, 23, joins Queens Park Rangers from SPL side Livingston where he made 36 league starts and six cup appearances last season – missing just two matches across the campaign. He kept 16 clean sheets across those matches including two against Celtic (0-0 home and away) and one against Rangers (1-0 home win).
Livi finished ninth out of 12 in the SPL last season with a 10-2-7 home record offset by a 1-9-9 haul on the road for 44 points – still well clear of the three teams below them Hamilton (33), St Mirren (32) and Dundee (21). Despite the lowly finish, only the top three and Hibs conceded fewer than Livingston’s 17 goals at home, and their 44 goals conceded overall was the same as Aberdeen in fourth. Kelly did finish with four yellow cards though, which seems excessive for a keeper.
Kelly started footballing life as a ten-year-old at Glasgow Rangers and rose through the ranks at Ibrox, featuring in a Under 17s Glasgow Cup win in 2012 in which he took and scored the final penalty in the deciding shoot out. He spent the second half of 2015/16 out on loan in League Two at East Fife, contributing 16 appearances and seven clean sheets (W11 D4 L3) to their league title winning campaign.
The following season he was loaned to Livingston in Scottish League One, where he played 40 times in a season that again ended in the team winning promotion as champions. (W26 D3 L7 A32). That still didn’t enable a breakthrough at Rangers in 2016/17 however, with ‘League One Wes’ Foderingham dominating between the sticks. He subsequently moved to Livingston permanently for an undisclosed fee prior to the beginning of last season as they returned to the SPL following a second consecutive promotion.
He has been capped by Scotland at U16, 17, 18 and 21 level and was in the full squad, but not the team, for the ill-fated qualifiers with Kazakhstan and San Marino in March which brought an end to the Alex McLeish reign.
It’s widely reported that QPR have picked the keeper up for £50k, which meets his Livingston release clause, although Rangers are, as always, announcing it as undisclosed. He’s signed a four year (!!) deal at Loftus Road, which we can only assume means Lee Hoos is on holiday.
“I felt now was the right time for me to try something new and QPR gave me that opportunity,” he said. Knowing the manager and how his teams play, it was something I couldn’t say no to. How the gaffer conducts himself is brilliant and that was a really attractive part of the move.” -Liam Kelly
“Liam is outstanding with his feet, he has great distribution and he is a very good shot stopper. Joe Lumley did exceptionally well for QPR last season so Liam’s job is to come here and compete. That’s what you want, you want competition all over the park. You have 24 or 25 competitive animals who are all keen to do well. You have to have that respectful competition for places. Liam will want that No.1 shirt, and Joe’s job will be to keep it and show what he can do.” -Mark Warburton
If you look at a Queens Park Rangers squad heavy on goalkeepers and little boys who want to play ‘ten’ and light on literally everything else, it does seem odd that the first move the latest new manager through the door has made is to add another keeper to his ranks. Of course you could say that if a promising young player you’ve worked with before and liked is available for just £50k then even if you don’t really need him and you are strapped for cash you do the deal anyway just because it’s too good to turn down.
Much of the opinion on this one has understandably focused on what it means for the existing goalkeepers at the club. Partly because none of us will have seen much of Kelly playing live – even I draw the line at spending my Friday nights watching Scottish football – but also because that is clearly the big talking point here.
Kelly is a first team goalkeeper, that Mark Warburton knows from Rangers, who is strong in the distribution and ball at his feet areas that the new manager will need if he’s to stick with his previously favoured style of play. He made all the right noises in his first interview today, talking about competition for places and challenging Joe Lumley for the number one spot, all in that beautiful Glasgow accent that carries the latent threat that while everything is absolutely fine now they could turn very nasty and violent almost instantaneously. But, let’s be honest here, he’s coming to play. Lumley has a fight on his hands.
As I said in the End of Term Report for the goalkeepers I don’t think Lumley’s distribution is nearly as bad as people make out, quite the opposite in fact. His propensity to find touch so often is born purely out of QPR’s best two players in the air last season were Darnell Furlong and Pawel Wszolek who both play wide right. When we play it short, we get caught, and when we go long down the middle, it comes straight back, so we went wide hoping for Furs and Pav to pile over the top of smaller full backs. When you do that, however sound your keeper’s kicking is, the ball’s going to go out of play a few times. That said, there have been a few notable disasters kicking wise, at Derby last season and Leeds the season before.
As things stand, that’s the battle for number one next season, and I’d expect Kelly to win out. I just don’t see that Warburton would spend what little budget he has on a player he obviously likes to park him on the bench.
There is a chance that those stories circulating at the end of last season about interest in Lumley from, among others, Bristol City may not have been the agent-planted bollocks we’re still 99% certain they were. But if not, the arrival of Kelly almost certainly spells the end of Loftus Road life for Matt Ingram.
Now it’s usually at this point that I go off on one about how utterly ridiculous it is for QPR to spend money on a League Two goalkeeper with the intention of training him to be their number one in the medium term, parking him on the bench with next to no first team football whatsoever for the best part of three years, and then writing him off as rubbish and dumping him after just 19 first team appearances (ten in the league). Ingram has reasonable cause to feel he hasn’t been given a fair crack because goalkeepers, in particular, suffer from prolonged spells on the bench, losing form, angles and sharpness in a different way to outfield players. Remember when we did the same to Alex Smithies initially, parking him behind Rob Green for six months, how nervous and wild he looked in his first matches against Forest and Blackburn at Loftus Road, before growing into a superb keeper for us.
And when it was finally Ingram’s turn for a go as number one, he was rather hung out to dry by being asked to play not only behind a shaky defence shorn of both first choice centre halves, but also in a style of play that suited none of the players involved – least of all him. When QPR should have been making it as easy as possible for him to replace a popular and talented predecessor, they made it harder still, and although the style was swiftly ditched, Ingram had been so dire he didn’t live to see the end of the first month of the season.
But, all that said, he’s been so shaky on his rare outings, and he’s been here so long now without breaking through, that it’s probably best for all concerned if he starts again elsewhere. QPR are offering him to clubs and while you can’t help feel for him that this move has worked out in the way it has, I’m not sure my nerves could take him being given another go in our first team given how the previous ones went.
There’s also Seny Dieng to consider. Not a baby by any means at 24, offered a new contract after an impressive spell with the SPL whipping boys Dundee last season, but apparently now attracting interest from Rangers. Quite where he fits in all of this, if at all, isn’t clear.
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