Kelman adds to striking options - Signing
Wednesday, 14th Oct 2020 16:17 by Clive Whittingham
Having struggled to sign strikers on a permanent deal for several years, QPR have now made it three in one transfer window with the arrival of Southend teenager Charlie Kelman.
Charlie Kelman (actually Lee-Kelman apparently but nobody seems arsed) is an 18-year-old striker from Basildon in Essex who enjoys Nandos, sleeve tattoos, and secretly listening to Mellow Magic when he’s alone in the evening.
He has American parentage and split his youth development between FC Dallas and Southend United, as you do. He has one cap and one goal for the US at U18 level, and now 19 caps and seven goals at U20 level. After scoring 61 times for Southend’s youth side in 2017/18 he was granted a first team debut, first in the EFL Trophy farce against Southampton’s kids, then in the league against Plymouth where he famously scored from inside his own half in stoppage time in a 3-2 defeat having come on as a sub after 71.
He made two starts and nine sub apps for the first team that year, scoring that one goal. Southend won just three of their final 20 games in League One that year after his debut and finished nineteenth, level on 50 points with fourth bottom Plymouth but saved from relegation on goal difference after winning two of the final three games. It’s worth pointing out, as we’ll hear from a couple of Shrimper fans in a moment, that Kelman’s record not only needs to be set against his age, but also the ongoing struggles of the club he’s been playing for who have won only ten of their last 69 matches across two years.
They were relegated in twenty-second place last year, saved from the bottom of the table only by Bury’s demise and Bolton’s points deduction across a truncated 35-game season. They lost 24 of their 35 League One games played. Despite that, Kelman, still just 17 when the season began, played 13 times from the start, six from the bench, and scored seven goals. This included a double at Stevenage in a rare win in the League Cup, and further goals away at MK Dons, Wimbledon, Accrington and at home to Bristol Rovers and Lincoln.
West Ham, Spurs, Brighton and Swansea have all been lazily press linked at one time or another but he now joins QPR for an undisclosed six-figure sum on a three-year contract with another option on the club’s side. He’ll initially predominantly be used in the club’s U23 set up ahead of first team opportunities, or a potential January loan move, further down the line.
“We’ve tracked Charlie’s progress and we feel we can bring him to where he needs to be. He is a goalscorer and, at just 18, has scored goals in league football already, which alerted us. We’ve got two good strikers at the club in Lyndon Dykes and Macauley Bonne already. Initially, Charlie will be with the Under-23s but we want him to push those two. He’s tasted a lot of men’s football already, so he understands the game - we just need to polish him up. Hopefully he can make the grade sooner rather than later. In terms of what we’re doing with developing players, I think we’ve become attractive in the sense that some players see themselves as being able to come to QPR and be given an opportunity to play in the first team. Everyone has seen what has happened with Ebere Eze, and there is lots of excitement around Bright Osayi-Samuel and Ilias Chair now, too. Bringing players through is the model we have to follow in order to be sustainable. Charlie is another player who we hope we can have the same impact on." -Les Ferdinand
"Charlie is an exciting, young player who has already sampled first-team football. With the coaching staff we have at QPR, we believe that we can get him ready for the Championship and make him fulfil his potential. He’s got an eye for goal, which is obviously something that is difficult to teach, and he can be a target man. Obviously, he needs to develop his skills. Our development programme will definitely give him what he needs – we’ve heard good things about his attitude and willingness to work. It’s up to both parties now in terms of him getting the opportunity to play first-team football and making sure he develops in the right way." -Chris Ramsey
“I’ve got a lot still to prove, but I’m excited to do that – coming in and playing with and against better players will only help me. I want to enjoy it – I love playing football and I love scoring goals. Hopefully I can now make the step up. The way the club are developing players was a big attraction for me. You look at Ebere Eze and he's now in the Premier League playing for Crystal Palace. The club now have a track record of bringing players through and hopefully I’m the next one on that list." -Charlie Kelman
“CK is a very talented young player with a great work ethic and attitude. On his debut as a 17-year-old he saw the keeper off his line and lobbed him from the halfway line. He's a natural finisher. He'll be an absolute bargain for you. He's not the tallest and not the quickest but his football brain is great for someone so young and he scored seven goals in one of the worst teams ever to play football in this country last year.” - All At Sea, Southend fanzine, @allatseafanzine
As we’ve discussed so often on here over the past few years, QPR have struggled to own strikers rather than loan them since the market for forwards went one way just as our finances were going the other. After two seasons of relying exclusively on loans, this close season they’ve been able to add Macauley Bonne, Lyndon Dykes and now Charlie Kelman permanently through a happy combination of getting big money for Ebere Eze at exactly the same time as other clubs were falling on desperately hard Covid-19 times. Having blown a previous opportunity with Conor Washington, Rangers really need at least a couple of these signings to go well for them as they’re unlikely to sell a player for Eze money again any time soon, nor remain immune to the problems of a prolonged supporter lockouts themselves.
When speaking to LFW earlier in the transfer window Warbs Warburton said that a big attraction of Lyndon Dykes was that he was performing and scoring in the SPL while playing for one of the division’s lesser lights – beating up the Old Firm rather than being part of their flat track bully squads.
“Respectfully, he was scoring goals at one of the smaller clubs, with the smallest budget, against the likes of Celtic and Rangers. When you watched him against the Old Firm he caused them a lot of trouble, he caused some very good players a lot of problems. For me that’s all sorts of bells going off in my head, that’s a real positive.” - Warbs Warburton
That applies in spades with Kelman who has not only been able to score eight goals in 17 starts and 17 sub appearances in senior football before his 18th birthday – to go with a prodigious record at youth level – but has done it in a team suffering the worst results of any in the country during that period. Southend have won just ten of their last 69 matches over almost two years. They were relegated from League One last year and have started the League Two campaign with six defeats and two draws from eight games. They have lost 15 and won just two of their last 19 fixtures. The All At Sea fanzine told us “He's not the tallest and not the quickest but his football brain is great for someone so young and he scored seven goals in one of the worst teams ever to play football in this country last year.”
Another Southend fan we spoke to earlier this week said: “I can’t say I've seen him a lot live but for an 18-year-old in frankly the worst team in the 92 in the last 24-months he's done well so far. I think he's getting a bad rep from the Southend fans over the transfer and his general attitude since a few teams showed interest in him but to be honest he's played for about five managers in the last 18 months, in a crap team at a club that is a shambles (not being paid on time etc... that was the norm pre-COVID). I'd want out as well. Not sure he's quite Championship standard yet but he's definitely better than Oteh and I'd imagine he will be the striker option from the bench for QPR.”
We’ve often said that QPR is hard club to play for, this is a kid still well shy of his twentieth birthday who is already used to running those hard yards.
Since the Eze sale, QPR are rather beating to death a famed ability for developing players in their statements and media output. They pretty blatantly fattened Eze for market over the last two years and having achieved the big money they sought for him are now using that as a selling point for both the work Les Ferdinand and Chris Ramsey are doing, and to other players that this could be a destination for you to consider to further your career prospects.
Where the arrival of Kelman leaves the career prospects of one or two others already within the system remains to be seen.
Aramide Oteh’s name was conspicuous by its absence from today’s press release when Ferdinand spoke about strikers at the club, and his failure not only to transfer his prolific U23 form into the first team but also to look anywhere close to Championship standards during recent loan spells or the lockdown games, looks like it might have done for him at QPR. A last chance in the loan saloon prior to Friday maybe now Kelman is here?
Charley Kendall has also scored prolifically for the youth sides at Rangers either side of a bad injury but is already a year older than Kelman (keep up) and when he went on the loan block recently he only landed as high up as his hometown club Eastbourne Borough, where he scored the winning penalty in an FA Cup shoot out with Dorking last weekend.
Still, from relying on Premier League cast offs to come in on loan and care enough about what they were doing to keep us in the Championship, QPR now have this weird thing called ‘options’ when they look down their attack. In a time of pandemic, and with rumours of another centre back signing prior to Friday’s final, final, final transfer deadline, we’ve already done far more in the market with that Eze fee than I thought we would.
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