QPR turn to loan market to cover impending departures – Signing
Monday, 1st Jul 2019 21:48 by Clive Whittingham
Faced with losing both Luke Freeman and Mass Luongo this summer with limited funds for replacements, QPR have become the latest club to turn to Premier League youngsters on loan in the form of Spurs’ Luke Amos and Man City’s Matt Smith.
Luke Amos is a 22-year-old midfield player who has caps for the England U18s and also qualifies to play international football for Nigeria. He’s a deep-lying, more defensively minded player, with the capability of going box to box, much like former Spurs trainee Massimo Luongo who it looks like he’s going to be replacing in the QPR team this season.
Born in Welwyn Garden City, Amos has served an apprenticeship in the lower leagues with three appearances on loan at Southend in the second half of 2016/17 and 16 with two goals at Stevenage for the latter part of 2017/18. He signed a contract extension at White Hart Lane the day before switching temporarily to Broadhall Way.
That, and his displays for Spurs’ U23 side, looked like being enough to make a first team breakthrough last summer when he impressed in Tottenham’s pre-season games. He came off the bench on the opening day of the 2018/19 season in Spurs’ 2-1 away win at Newcastle, but he suffered an ACL tear in an U23 game against Blackburn and sat out for nine months. His season-long loan deal at Loftus Road, signed today, is the latest step on the road to recovery form that.
Matt Smith is younger, just 19, and joins from Manchester City’s academy which he joined as a 14-year-old from West Brom. The Redditch-born midfielder has been capped by Wales at U17, U18 and U21 level prior to his full international debut as a late sub against Mexico in May 2018. He’s since picked up seven full caps, including starts against Ireland in the Nations League (1-0) and Slovakia (1-0) and Croatia (2-1) in European Championship qualifying.
He’s yet to make a senior appearance for City but spent last season on loan at Steve McClaren’s former club Twente. The former Eredivisie champions found themselves in the Dutch second tier last season but won the title with Smith in midfield to return to the top flight. He made 34 starts, scored two and assisted one from a defensive midfield position. He has captained the youth sides at both club and international level and now joins Rangers on a season long loan deal.
“It has been a tough nine months but I am really excited now. I haven’t wasted a day in that whole time. I feel physically fit and the next step for me is being back in games and that’s something I am looking forward to. I feel like I was hungry to succeed before – but now I am absolutely starving! It has been such a tough journey and I want it now more than ever. I want to enjoy my football but that enjoyment comes from winning lots of games and playing lots of games, so that’s my target.” -Luke Amos
“I know the quality that Luke has and how he can impact matches. He is clever on the ball, has technical ability and a passion for the game. I have admired him from afar and with Tottenham being my local team, I have seen him many times and watched him work. He can get forward, he sees the pass, sees the opportunity, opens up play and can create in tight areas. He is a strong midfield talent who will really push hard to play week in, week out.” -Mark Warburton
“Luke was really, really unlucky to get the injury when he did. He impressed all the staff at Spurs hugely last summer and was man of the match in the pre-season friendlies with AC Milan and Barcelona. He signed a new long term deal and would have played significant minutes last season but for the injury, which came in an U23 game against Blackburn. The minutes that Oliver Skipp got last season probably would have gone to Amos had he stayed fit. He’s worked his way up the leagues with loans at Stevenage and Southend who were both impressed and wanted to extend his stay. He’s a deep-lying centre mid with the ability to go box to box. He’s an England U18 international who’s also eligible for Nigeria. I understand Mark Warburton is held in high regard at Spurs and this may not be the last Spurs youngster to join you on loan this summer. Spurs are looking to build a link with a club like they previously had with Yeovil and Swindon, loaning up to four players at a time – you may recall Swindon had Luongo, Pritchard, Byrne and Mason from us at one point. Caulker, Townsend, Mason and Obika all spent time at Yeovil.” -@Lilywhite_Rose Spurs youth account
“I spoke to the gaffer here and the connection he has with his players is something that I really got attracted to. He wants a young, hungry squad and that fitted me well so I took the chance to come here with both hands. The way he wants to play football appealed to me. Having grown up at Man City, that style is something they instil in you so I had one conversation with the gaffer here and knew this is what I wanted from my second loan move. When you go to any new club you want to be playing games. That’s why I have come here – to prove I can play at this level. I’ve got to prove it to myself and to everybody here.” -Matt Smith
“He is highly-regarded by many people within the game and this is an important loan for him now. He will have a real desire to play a large number of games and build his reputation.He spent last year on loan overseas which shows an enormous strength of character. He played 34 times in the league and impressed everyone out there, both on and off the pitch. He is a young player with a point to prove. He has the ability, he has the potential and I am delighted to have him here. Matt can play as a defensive midfielder or slightly more advanced. He is comfortable in both positions. I see him playing a key role in front of our back four. He is tenacious, he rats to get the ball, he’s very comfortable in possession, takes the ball in tight areas and has a lovely range of passing as well. There is always going to be competition for places and he knows that but I think he is really excited by the challenge ahead.” -Mark Warburton
This summer’s mission to forget all about Queens Park Pissing Rangers took me on a wine and rail tour of Andalucía thankyou very much indeed and it was while there that I happened upon a thing called a Segway. For the non-believers, this is basically two motorised wheels with a stick poking up between them which you lean on to move forwards and pull back to prevent yourself killing and maiming whatever is in front of the forwards.
Now the idea of the Segway I liked very much. Here it was, gliding out of Tomorrow’s World, with handsome and sweat-free trendy types aboard, whizzing past me while I trudged around in 36 degrees of heat with a gooch like a tropical rainforest trying to take in the majesty of the latest cathedral, or mosque, or that one in Cordoba that’s a cathedral and a mosque, without expiring altogether or pinching some of the altar wine. But, of course, I knew, like everybody else knows, that Segways are for Jayden, and Jordan, and Jordon, and their mates. They’re for cool people from cool places on cool holidays, who make it all look so effortless. They’re not for Clive from Grimsby, who would almost certainly plough one headlong into a throng of American tourists resulting in an enormous, fiery explosion and a diplomatic incident which ends with Donald Trump carpet-bombing North East Lincolnshire. Bad place. Bad people. Nasty.
Which brings me to Queens Park Rangers and the loan market. Because in theory the loan market is absolutely perfect for QPR in its present state. Here we are, toiling away, trying to scrape together a team on a declining budget, and there’s all the teams we’re trying to compete with, borrowing in excellent young boys they, and we, could never hope to afford to buy permanently to artificially increase the performance of their teams. See how Derby’s thunderously midtable, ageing, painfully slow squad rides Mason Mount, Harry Wilson and the excellent Fikayo Tomori all the way to the play-off final. See Aston Villa lie in wait for them and win, with a loaned Tammy Abraham up front having previously tried to solve their striker crisis with three separate, unsuccessful, £10m+ permanent buys. The year before Villa themselves had been done by a Fulham side with Mitrovic on loan up front, and serial loanee Kalas in defence covering for Dennis Odoi’s brain farts. West Brom beat QPR 7-1 with Harvey Barnes borrowed for one side and Dwight Gayle the other. They’re all fucking doing it.
But QPR, not so much. QPR with loans are like Lyle Lanley’s mule with a spinning wheel – no one knows how he got it and danged if he knows how to use it.
Our problems with loans go back at least a generation. When injury struck down Alan McDonald, Paul Parker, Danny Maddix, and then their replacement Darren Peacock, all at the same time, those titans of industry were replaced temporarily by Arsenal’s Gus Caesar, who did enough in his mercifully short period with us to still be mentioned now as one of the worst players in the history of the club. A club, less we forget, that had Brett Angell up front together for a while.
There was a marginally more successful stint from Paul Walsh but in general, QPR just haven’t got loans at all. Sometimes they’ve hit upon somebody brilliant, like Matt Jackson or Mark Kennedy, only to then not sign them when we could have done, and end up with Steve Morrow and Tony Scully playing their positions. And sometimes they’ve brought in Bob Malcolm, who fell asleep at the wheel of his car and ground to a halt the middle of the night in the middle lane of the M1, and it was still the quickest he’d moved throughout his time at the club. When we did get it right – Chelsea youngsters Michael Mancienne and Jimmy Smith and Derby veteran Inigo Idiakez lifting a desperately poor team just enough to keep it in the Championship – we subsequently got carried away and brought in Ben Sahar as well. And Ben Sahar’s mum. We loaned future England goalkeeper Tom Heaton, and made him sit on the bench for three months watching Radek Cerny. We loaned Ben Watson to play at the base of Jim Magilton’s 4-2-3-1, and then fired Jim Magilton. We loaned Scott Sinclair because he’d done well in our division for Plymouth, but did so on a short term basis to get him fit for a forthcoming League Cup game between Chelsea and Liverpool. I’m sure players have jumped higher to escape from tackles than that cowardly little ballbag, but I haven’t personally seen it.
Neil Warnock rather brilliantly and crucially supplemented an already excellent team with Kyle Walker and Wayne Routledge but then Neil Warnock did everything rather splendidly for us and was rewarded with the sack. We promptly went back to the occasional success story – Andros Townsend – mingled with a whole load of what the fucking hell are you playing at? Selling Danny Simpson and loaning in Mauricio Isla to play right wing back because ‘Arry ‘ad enjoyed watching teams play with a back three during the World Cup, only to abandon the system after a game and a half and spend the next six months bemoaning the lack of options at right back a particular piece of typical QPR arse wettery.
More recently we’ve gone from describing loan signings as “not part of our strategy” and “dead money” to trying to borrow half a team to bail Steve McClaren out of the shit. Having abandoned the original summer transfer plans in favour of pursuing his old favourites like Richard Keogh, George Thorne and Chris Martin only to find that Keogh wasn’t coming, Thorne passed away in 2016 and Chris Martin is too fat to fit down the tunnel at Loftus Road, McClaren was faced with a squad woefully short in key areas and losing its first four games by a collective cricket score. The solution was senior players on loan, “a team of men” as the manager proudly branded them. One lost form alarmingly, one took the winter off and gave less of a fuck than possibly even Sinclair upon his return, one unsurprisingly broke down having been asked to switch from a 20-game-a-season sub to a 46-game Championship mainstay at age 34. One left to sell clothes, one lives down by the coast, one has two kids but lives alone etc etc.
Even if QPR were any good at this, and they’re palpably not, loans raise serious question marks for a club like ours. First and foremost, you don’t know how committed they’re going to be, particularly in the crunch period of March and April when points may be desperately needed at one end of the table or another but they’re already half thinking about a return to their parent club and where they’re going to be next season. For the serial loanee, an injury at that point of the season is a dire outcome, and, well, prosecution presents Wells and Hemed’s March/April. Secondly, if you’re bringing in kids, then they’re here to learn, and learning means making mistakes on somebody else’s (our) time. Can we afford to be running a creche in the Championship? We are, allegedly, meant to be developing our own players to sell, not borrowing other people’s to play in front of our own. And it's dead money. Loans do not come for free, certainly from the Premier League, and while it’s unlikely that Amos and Smith will come with the eye-watering sums that Villa and Birmingham paid for Abraham and Sam Gallagher, they will be costing something and in a year’s time they’ll be gone, as will that money, and we’ll have all the problems they came to solve all over again. A loan without a view to a permanent deal is just kicking a can down the road.
That’s without getting into the deep and meaningful discussion about club and league identity. QPR were beating Spurs at Loftus Road in a league game barely seven years ago, now here we are babysitting their kids. Being talked about as a potential farm system for Mauricio Pochettino to loan a clutch of prospects to, as Spurs have previously done with the might of Swindon Town and Yeovil. Lucky us. B Teams by stealth. Is this what we want for our club? For this division?
And so, it’s with some trepidation that we greet this latest attempt by our beleaguered, beloved football club to cure its ills with temporary loan signings. But like so much of what’s going on at Rangers at the moment, we just don’t have a choice. That QPR team that played Spurs in the league as recently as 2015 had a wage bill of £80m, on attendances of 18,000 and 11,000 season ticket holders. The wage bill was down to £30m in the last set of accounts and will need to have come down again for last season, and then significantly again for this coming one. Halving your wage bill, then halving it again, while maintaining league status on the pitch, is one of the hardest things to do in football, and QPR have, to this point, just about managed it.
We’re now, sans-parachute payment, in a situation where players have to be sold for significant sums each summer, but as clubs know our situation and as we haven’t been able to rectify that with serious transfer incomings so far we’re not getting the prices for the likes of Alex Smithies and Luke Freeman that we believe we should, that Brentford and Bristol City get for theirs. We’re also in a spot where players we signed even three years ago, supposedly in an age of austerity, are on contracts we cannot afford to renew. Having just lost Jake Bidwell for nothing in that circumstance, we’re now wary of the same happening to Mass Luongo and are actively courting buyers.
Given all of that, trying to then replace Freeman and Luongo in the current market, in our current situation, with permanent buys is a tall order. Freeman scored eight and had a hand in 16 others last season in 48 games. The year before it was five and 18 from 47 apps. There are bargains out there to be scouted and had – Freeman himself only cost £300,000 from Bristol City of course – but if you think we’re going to find somebody like him, and somebody like Mass, for a fraction of the annoyingly low transfer fees we’ll receive for both, on less than half the wages they’re both earning, then that’s quite the unicorn hunt you’re going on there Elmer Fudd. Mind you, some seem to genuinely think Charlie Austin is a viable option.
In that situation, Premier League youngsters on loan are a reasonable idea. The two boys we’ve signed today have it all to prove at the start of their careers, rather than winding down to retirement like last year’s. Amos, in particular, seems an exciting addition, destined for the role in Spurs’ first team eventually taken last season by Oliver Skipp prior to his knee injury. The lack of experience doesn’t bother me as much as some because, well, we had experienced players last year and we were shit. The fact Premier League clubs are trusting us with proper young prospects, rather than cast offs, has to be a good thing, and is a feather in Mark Warburton’s cap.
You never know with signings, particularly loan signings, particularly loan signings at QPR. But given where we’re at, I’m not sure how many other options we have than to just try and borrow the best kind of boy that we can from the hoarded masses upstairs. For a first attempt, on paper, these two look like a decent stab at that.
The Twitter/Instagram @loftforwords, @Lilywhite_Rose
Pictures – Action Images
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