QPR take a chance on Ipswich’s Dozzell – Signing
Tuesday, 15th Jun 2021 16:01 by Clive Whittingham
Young Ipswich Town midfielder Andre Dozzell is the fourth quickfire signing through the door at Loftus Road as QPR fly out of the traps in the summer transfer window.
Andre Dozzell is a 22-year-old, left-footed central midfield player who enjoys cooking the recipes he sees on Saturday Kitchen, skipping through dewy meadows at first light, and reading American political biographies.
Son of Ipswich Town legend and Spurs flop Jason Dozzell, he followed in his father’s footsteps by scoring on his first senior appearance for the Tractor Boys as a 16-year-old, netting a late equaliser off the bench in a 1-1 Championship draw away at Sheffield Wednesday in 2015/16. That goal earned him his full Town debut against Fulham later that April and he was named the club’s Young Player of the Year. A further seven starts and two sub appearances followed in 2016/17 for the academy product – he’d first joined the club at the age of eight.
He ticks a number of boxes that QPR seem to have been looking for in their recent signings. The preferred style of play being the obvious one, but also the age – offering plenty of development and sell-on potential later into his 20s – and the fact that he’s suffered a serious injury which perhaps depresses the value, puts off potential suitors and moves him into QPR’s budgetary ballpark. In Dozzell’s case he blew his knee out on the opening day of 2017/18, five minutes after half time in a 1-0 win against Birmingham at Portman Road. That put him out for the whole season and he was next seen again in Town colours in October 2018 as a late substitute in a 2-0 home loss to Middlesbrough. His first start post injury at Portman Road came a fortnight later as Steve McClaren’s QPR inflicted a comfortable 2-0 defeat on relegation-bound Ipswich.
Dozzell started 12 and made nine substitute appearances in that relegation year, then made 13 starts and five sub appearances in League One as he battled in vain for trust and regular starts from under fire manager Paul Lambert. It wasn’t until the 2020/21 season just gone that he nailed down a regular starting role – making 45 starts and one sub appearance which shows exactly the sort of durability Warbs Warburton likes in his squad of small players, but doing so without contributing a single goal from midfield. Overall on the Sean Goss Scale he’s made 78 starts and 15 sub appearances split between Championship and League One, scoring three goals, by the age of 22.
Dozzell has played nearly as many times for England’s youth sides as he has for Ipswich. Forty seven caps so far at U16, U17, U18, U19 and U20 level with an U19 European Championship winners medal to show for it from 2017.
Andre only signed a new three-year contract at Portman Road in December, but it came with a release clause and with new manager Paul Cook keen to clear out a chronically underperforming squad and money tight for new signings a move now suits all parties - reported fee in the region of £1m. He has signed a three-year contract at Loftus Road, with the famous Lee Hoos option for a fourth. Some very shrewd clean up of a rather Chelsea-orientated Twitter account has taken place before today's announcement.
"I have been at Ipswich since I was eight and I will always have love for the club but I felt now was the right time to take this step in my career. This takes me out of my comfort zone and I just think it is the right time. My dad had good years at Ipswich but I’m my own player and I think it was time for me to move on. I spoke to Les and the gaffer. They sold it to me. I was aware they were tracking me for quite some time. It’s always nice to feel wanted, so it was easy for me. They told me how they saw me fitting into their plans and how they can improve me – obviously there are a lot of improvements to be made, so it is exciting to come and play here. This was the right step for me.” - Andre Dozzell
"He is a player who really fits the mould of what we are looking for – he is young with lots of potential and he has that adaptability to his game. He can play as a deep-lying midfielder or further up the park, and with how we play and adjust our formation, that is vital for us. We have already seen it last season with youngsters such as Sam Field, George Thomas and Chris Willock – working with the senior lads is so important for them. Andre comes to us on the back of a very good season with Ipswich and I am very much looking forward to working with him.” - Warbs Warburton
The really noticeable thing about QPR this year relative to previous summer windows is how quickly we’re getting business done. In the past, particularly with strikers, we’ve had to wait until the end of the transfer window to secure targets and of course in the Steve McClaren season that led to a disastrous four match losing run in which 13 goals were conceded almost derailing the campaign and his reign before it had even begun.
Partly that’s because a chunk of the business has been tying up permanent deals for loan signings we made in January, so the groundwork was done. Though that’s not the case with Andre Dozzell. We’ve been quite heavily reliant on the loan market in the past, and obviously clubs aren’t going to loan out players, particularly strikers, until they’ve secured their own targets, know what state their own squad is in, and all options for the sale and loan of players that are perhaps going to be out of favour are explored. The Ebere Eze sale has meant QPR are able to spend on permanents rather than wait for loans – the most recent set of accounts showed around a £7m outlay on last summer’s batch of Lyndon Dykes, Mac Bonne, Charlie Kelman, Rob Dickie, Chris Willock et al – and in Dozzell, Field and Austin we’ve already been able to move quickly and secure permanent signatures of players I don’t think we’d have been in the running for without the £20m received for Eze.
That windfall has come at a time when a number of other Championship clubs you’d usually expect to be spending and rivalling us for these signings are in financial difficulties, rapidly heading that way, dealing with fast declining parachute payments, and/or playing a more cautious game because of the prolonged Covid lockout – Derby, Sheff Wed, Bournemouth, Stoke, Preston etc. Blackburn have long watched Dozzell, and former Ipswich favourite Tony Mowbray is a big fan, but it’s common knowledge that without crowds for a year the already heavily loss-making Rovers are going to have to sell Adam Armstrong, or possibly a Joe Rothwell type, before they’re able to spend this summer and so QPR with their big sale already made have been able to nip in first. It’s long been Lee Hoos’ belief and hope that a painful five or six years of house cleaning at QPR would hopefully position the club very nicely just as chickens started coming home to roost all over the rest of the league, and so far this summer that’s proven true.
For exactly what sort of a player we’re getting, we turned it over to Phil Ham from our excellent Ipswich Town sister site TWTD who told us…
“He’s a classy midfielder. He suffered a torn cruciate ligament on the opening day of 2017/18 and missed the rest of that season. It took a little while for him to return during the following campaign and he was in and out of the side in the following seasons, but not due to the injury, more managers appearing not to trust him in the middle of midfield. Last season he played 46 times without his previous injury being mentioned, his first full season as a first-teamer.
“His passing is his key strength. He’s the type of player who can spot a through ball that no one else can. He’s not the most physical, although still managed to pick up 10 yellow cards and one very harsh red last season, largely for silly fouls. The jury has been out on him among Ipswich fans, although that’s perhaps a harsh judgement in the context of the team in recent years. He has been playing in underperforming sides for the last few seasons under very poor management. Given his father’s legend status, Andre is perhaps a victim of very big expectations having been heaped on his shoulders from a young age. Having scored on his debut as a 16-year-old - just like his dad - he was never really given an extended run in the side until this season in a thoroughly underperforming and dispirited team. A move to somewhere where there’s a bit less scrutiny of him due to that surname might well see him thrive.
“He’s a player that various coaches and former pros have said will look a better player the higher he plays. Certainly the hustle and bustle of League One doesn’t suit his classier attributes. The expectation has always been he’d probably leave for a Premier League club - Town turned down £3m from Norwich a couple of years ago - so you may well find you’ve got yourselves a bit of a bargain if he fulfils the potential which saw him start regularly for England youth teams, something fairly unusual for teams outside the Premier League these days.”
Quite where that sees him fitting into the current QPR set up, and what it means for several other players that are already here or hopefully might soon be is an interesting one. As a deeper-lying, left-footed, ball-playing midfielder with an eye for a pass that immediately places him square in the position Stefan Johansen played so adeptly for us in the second half of last season – a deal QPR fans would crawl on hands and knees over hot coals to make permanent. Does this move perhaps reflect QPR’s declining confidence they’ll get that one over the line? I’m speculating. With Dozzell and Field on board, and Johansen still pray to God to potentially follow, the decision to offer Little Tom Carroll a new deal seemed all the stranger, although given West London Sport are now reporting that he’s rejected that and will leave regardless it doesn’t sound like it was much of a deal – remember Carroll had to come here on trial last summer just to get a one-year off us after an injury hit end to his time at Swansea, and has been out again for the last six months so you would think might be grateful for any contract he can lay his hands on. QPR also, in theory, have Luke Amos to come back from his knee injury and while Warbs saw him more as a high-pressing ‘ten’ at the start of the last campaign, he’s also spoken enthusiastically of not only Ilias Chair and Chris Willock in that supporting attack role for 2021/22 but George Thomas as well. Then you’ve got to fit Charlie and Lyndon in there.
It’s a nice problem to have, but one of the conundrums for a manager who likes a tight squad with everybody involved in the first team is just how exactly this all fits together, particularly if the Johansen miracle does happen.
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