De Wijs first through the door - Signing
Thursday, 13th May 2021 18:08 by Clive Whittingham
Jordy de Wijs' form during his loan spell at Loftus Road has been enough for QPR to take a chance on an undisclosed fee and three-year contract for the Dutch centre half despite his fitness concerns.
Jordy de Wijs is a 26-year-old Dutch centre back who enjoys kite flying, roller-blading, and buying antique furniture so he can have a discussion about where to place it in a room.
He was capped by the Netherlands at U17, U18, U20 and U21 level as he progressed through PSV’s youth set up before making his debut for their B Team in the Dutch second tier. He made two appearances for the senior side, one in 2015/16 and one in 2017/18, but completed 35 starts for fellow Eredivisie side Excelsior across the 2016/17 and 2017/18 seasons.
That was enough for Hull City, recently relegated to the Championship, to pay an undisclosed fee for his services ahead of the 2018/19 season. In total he started 74 games for the Tigers and made another two appearances off the bench, one of which was against QPR in a 3-2 win at Loftus Road in December 2018, and scored three goals across two and a bit seasons. He was part of the Tigers team that was relegated with the division’s worst defensive record in 2019/20, including an 8-0 defeat at Wigan, and after featuring in nine games at the lower level at the start of 2020/21 he then came out of the side and moved to QPR on loan in January.
The move raised some eyebrows, and injury prevented de Wijs from debuting until March 6 when Rangers won 2-0 at Bristol City. He has played nine times for QPR since, winning five, drawing two and losing two, although the defeats came against champions Norwich and at Rotherham when he was withdrawn at half time with a badly broken nose with the score at 0-0. His LFW match ratings across those games were 7, 7, 6, 7, 6, 6, 5, 7, 7 for an average of 6.44 and he scored his first goal for the club against Millwall, heading home a corner to complete a comeback from 2-0 down to win 3-2.
On May 13, 2021, he signed a three-year deal at Loftus Road and signed for an undisclosed fee.
“I’m really pleased the club have the confidence in me to make the deal permanent. I can’t wait to play more games for QPR now. Hopefully the fans can come back next year and we can make something happen together. During the second half of the season we were excellent and overcame many top teams. I think we have shown why we should be fighting at the right end of the table next year.”-Jordy De Wijs
“He came in with a niggling injury that carried on for longer than we’d all hoped, and he was very frustrated by that, but he’s worked extremely hard and has shown his quality since coming into the side. Every time he plays he’s Ronseal because he does exactly what it says on the tine – he heads it, he kicks it, and he can play. He’s a physical presence who enjoys defending. But he’s also a very good, technical player as well. He drives into midfield, is comfortable on the ball and there is pace and purpose to what he does. His quality in both boxes is evident.” - Warbs Warburton
A three-year-deal for a player who arrived injured, started just nine of the 23 games QPR played during his loan spell, and finished only three of those, looks a fair old risk, but such has Jordy de Wijs’ impact been when he has played that this is being treated as something of a ‘no brainer’ across the QPR internet this afternoon. Rangers won six and drew one of those nine games, losing only to runaway league leaders Norwich, and at Rotherham in a game that was 0-0 when a nasty clash of heads forced de Wijs off at half time. Five clean sheets were kept in games he was involved in and Rangers conceded only six goals while he was on the field – again, two of those to Norwich. When we have got him on the field, he's been pretty immense.
QPR’s medical record in a challenging, truncated season was admirable. Only Lyndon Dykes missed action (one match) through Covid protocols and bar long term, contact injuries for Luke Amos, Tom Carroll and Charlie Owens only really de Wijs (who, like I say, arrived injured from Hull in January) and George Thomas (also struggling previously) have been plagued by the cliched ‘niggles’. That doesn’t mean they’re shy of signing players with chequered fitness records – Sam Field and Thomas have both been injured before they came here and De Wijs’ appearance record since he came to England (30(2) in 2018/19, 35(0) in 2019/20, 18(0) in 2020/21) suggests he’s going to be sitting out 10-15 games in an average campaign, which is a fair chunk for a centre back. Could it be that in this brave new world of QPR being smart recruiters, that actually they think they can find value in the market signing players others would pass on for this reason if our medical team is confident they can get them right?
He’s also part of another recruitment trend of footballers signed through analytics, statistics, technology and computer programmes rather than old gimmers chancing on prospects while sitting at the back of the stand at reserve games for the cost of the petrol there and back. De Wijs is one of several signings recently which the head of recruitment Andy Belk had a big hand in as he recently explained to West London Sport: “In terms of what we were wanting from a centre-back, and in terms of what you’ve seen when he’s played, you can hazard a guess at what data we were looking at because he’s done exactly what the data said he was going to do. We needed a centre-back who was going to come in and be dominant and I think everyone can agree that when he’s played he’s done that for us. Perhaps people saw he wasn’t playing for a League One team. But players don’t always fit at clubs for whatever reason and they go somewhere else and do really well.”
This trend has been accelerated through Covid-19, as there are strict protocols on who can come to matches and scouting has largely been restricted to getting a look at a future opponent for the couple of games before you play them, but football has been heading this way for a while. De Wijs wouldn’t necessarily have passed the old fashioned smell test – he hadn’t particularly stood out in the couple of Hull games he’d played against Rangers over the previous two seasons, and he’d been part of the league’s worst defence in 2019/20, conceding 87 goals including eight at Wigan, ending in a relegation to League One where he was then only a bit part player.
He certainly made a big impression once he finally did make his QPR debut – it took the R’s six matches to lose with him in the team, and he scored a late winner in the 3-2 comeback against Millwall at Loftus Road as well as playing a big part in clean sheets against Bristol City and Wycombe. Mark Warburton inherited a defence that had conceded 70+ in its previous two seasons, and went on to let in 76 in his first term in charge, but has shaved 21 goals off that this year and more than doubled the number of clean sheets kept. De Wijs was a big part of that.
Through that period there have been criticisms about the defence being too soft and too quiet at one point when the likes of Grant Hall, Jack Robinson and Nedum Onuoha were in the middle of it, and then too slow, cumbersome and accident prone when Toni Leistner and Joel Lynch were the main middle men. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Ian Holloway and Steve McClaren all quickly stationed at least one and often two very defensive midfielders right in front of it just to stop those centre halves being exposed – Holloway famously went on the best run of his second spell with Grant Hall pressed into action in midfield while McClaren responded to the disastrous start to 2018/19 by adding Geoff Cameron in that role. His prior attempt to play out from Joe Lumley, through Leistner and Lynch, into Josh Scowen, not a conspicuous success and quickly abandoned.
Rangers have long cried out for not only a big, angry bastard back there, to head things, kick things, and make us difficult to play against, but also somebody who isn’t so far that way that he cannot contribute to the way Warbs wants the team to play – which was the problem with Leistner. But then, who wouldn’t like a player who can write the theme tune and sing the theme tune? On our budget these days they’re hard to find in our price range. If we’re sitting here in a year’s time and de Wijs has only been fit for half the games, and the defence has struggled in the other half without him, preventing significant progress up the league, then we’ll no doubt be saying we should have listened to what his record told us in the try-before-you-buy phase and a three-year contract was madness – looks like a duck, quacks like a duck etc. But then if de Wijs could head it, kick it, tackle it; and pass it, carry it, create with it; and he was fit for 46 games a season, then he’d be significantly more expensive than we could afford and in much higher demand. We have to take risks and chances as we search for value in the market, not only hampered by our declining budget and now the prolonged Covid lockout, but also by Brexit and the restrictions it has placed on us heading off into Europe to find exactly the sort of bargain buy De Wijs was for Hull in the first place.
The manager, recruitment department and medical staff have surely shown enough in 20/21 to have their judgement trusted, and De Wijs showed more than enough in the games he played to justify some faith in him.
One down, three to go.
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