Odubajo completes QPR’s summer – Signing
Friday, 30th Jul 2021 16:05 by Clive Whittingham
A seemingly textbook summer of transfer activity at Loftus Road apparently concluded today with the long awaited confirmation of a permanent deal for Moses Odubajo.
Moses Odubajo is a 28-year-old wing back, predominantly right sided but mostly two-footed, who was born in Greenwich and originally came through the system at Leyton Orient. Like Ebere Eze, he’s another talented player from that part of town to have gone on to achieve big things in the professional game having been released as a junior by Millwall, though his teenage years were marred by the death of his mother when he was 13 leaving him orphaned and looked after by his older brother.
Named Orient’s Youth Team Player of the Season for 2010/11, he debuted for the O’s senior side in 2011/12 with three appearances in League One and two in the cups. His debut, against Dagenham and Redbridge in the EFL trophy, ended in a mammoth 14-13 penalty shoot out defeat in which he scored his kick. His goal in a 2-1 league win at home to Rochdale on the final day, his first in senior football, was voted the club’s Goal of the Season. There were youth loans at St Albans, Bishop Stortford, and Sutton United in this time.
His big breakthrough really came in 2012/13 with 54 appearances, three goals, and the club’s Young Player of the Year award. In 2013/14 Russell Slade’s side won its first eight matches to top League One, and eventually landed in the play-offs where Odubajo, now being used more often as a right winger, scored in a 1-1 draw at Peterborough in the semi-final first leg, and then a brilliant 25-yarder on his left foot at Wembley against Rotherham. Sadly, after a 2-2 draw, Orient were eliminated on penalties. He finished the campaign with 12 goals from 57 appearances.
Such exploits were never going to escape the attention of Brentford’s famed recruitment team, and the Bees spent a then club record £1m to bring him across London. His first season at Championship level brought 49 appearances, three goals, and another play-off heartbreak as Middlesbrough overcame Mark Warburton’s side in the semi-finals. His performances were enough for recently relegated Hull City to shell out £3.5m for him in the summer of 2015/16 and he played another 49 times as Steve Bruce’s men won an immediate return to the Premier League, beating first Derby and then Sheffield Wednesday in the play-offs.
Sadly, Odubajo never got to play in the top flight after a horrendous run of luck which started with a dislocated knee cap and ligament damage and was followed by two fractures to the same knee cap in a separate incident in a non-contact training session. He missed the whole of 2016/17 and 2017/18 before resurfacing for 2018/19 as a free transfer signing back at Brentford. He made 27 starts and eight sub appearances in this comeback year and moved to Sheff Wed on a free the following summer.
Unfortunately, his spell at Hillsborough was not a happy one. The club was in steep decline and niggling injuries restricted him to 40 starts across two seasons. His time was pretty much up then once he’d weirdly been caught on camera ruefully smiling and sportingly high fiving Lewis Grabban after the Nottingham Forest striker scored against Wednesday at The City Ground last season. He has five caps for England at U20 level though reported interest from Nigeria has never manifested itself in a full honour.
He now reunites with Mark Warburton after a successful pre-season trial which included a spectacular goal against Man Utd in the first friendly. He has signed a one-year deal with an option for a second.
“I have got to know the lads really well and it’s a manager who I have played with before, so the move just felt right. The manager knows what I can do and he knows what I am capable of. I said to myself over the summer that this was the year that I wanted to get back out there and do the things I know I can do, week in week out. I have been given the chance here by a manager I know really well to join a good team and hopefully add some quality. It was nice to hear the manager show belief in a player who has had injuries – it is a tough road so to get the opportunity to train with the lads has been good, both mentally and physically, for me. I have moved on from those injuries now and the body is feeling the best it has ever felt. I am just looking forward to getting back to enjoying this beautiful game we call football.” Moses Odubajo
“He had to prove his fitness after a tough time with injuries but everyone saw against Manchester United the quality he possesses. Physically he has pace and power, technically he is comfortable on the football, and tactically he understands how he can use those attributes to impact on the game. He is an outstanding footballer and a very good addition for QPR.” -Warbs Warburton
Mark Warburton was Brentford manager when they paid a then-club record £1m to sign Moses Odubajo from Leyton Orient in 2014, and he was part of the Bees team that made the play-offs that season. He was linked on and off with a free transfer move to QPR when Warburton first arrived here in 2019 following the sale of Darnell Furlong. In the end they went for Todd Kane but even before Todd’s interview-gate, racism-gate and not-very-good-in-the-first-place-gate, Warbs did little in interviews to dispel the idea that he’d like to be reunited with Odubajo should the opportunity arise.
Speaking on the LFW Patreon earlier this month Warbs said: “Moses is a player we signed at Brentford for seven figures and he was outstanding. He got a Premier League move which was ruined by a fractured knee cap. Last year he started at Sheff Wed but got a really nasty hamstring injury, a tendon off the bone thing, so we have to make sure he’s fit and he has to prove his fitness which he’s doing now every day. He’s an athlete, he’ll be the fastest player at the club, he’s rapid, so if he’s fit then for me he provides a perfect option down the right.”
It only needed one afternoon watching him rampage up and down the right side against Manchester United to see why the manager is such a fan. A quick, athletic attacking threat who seems equally adept with both feet, typified by his goal which came from three touches and a 25-yard banger all with his left foot coming in off the right side. Good luck with that Championship defenders, if he can replicate it.
Challenge one for Odubajo and Rangers is, obviously, whether he can stay fit. He’s had dire luck over the bast few years, a Premier League promotion wrecked by a series of knee explosions and two years out of the game, and then one of those nasty hamstring away from the bone injuries at Sheff Wed. We checked in with our regular Hillsborough correspondent Lovely Jon Hore who told us: “He never got going with us because of his injuries and a new manager every five minutes. He was in and out of the side and when he was in he’d look ok and then do something daft – he gave away five penalties one season. Concentration issues mainly. Had a good giggle and high fived Grabban when he scored against us. To be honest, it never worked out here, but it’s not really his fault. He’s got good pedigree and he’ll be good playing wing back in your system.”
As discussed previously, QPR are not shying away from signing players with known or historic medical issues – in fact, as a way of finding value in the market, they actively seem to be embracing it. George Thomas, Sam Field, Jordy De Wijs, Lee Wallace and now Odebajo have all been signed recently despite suffering very serious, or a series of niggling, injuries in recent years. “I think, without being rude to any other club, we’ve got a very good medical team here. They work together with the coaches and the sports science and players benefit from the care they receive here. It’s an individualistic approach rather than a generic one,” says Warbs. It means QPR are picking up talented players at a good age on their budget, but they’ve already seen with De Wijs last season and Field this, that it can backfire.
There is a second challenge, however. Obviously we try not to read too much into pre-season friendlies, and Manchester United was the first of those. By the time the final third of the game rolled round legs had become tired, multiple substitutions had been made on both sides, and Odubajo had been replaced by the even more attack-orientated Albert Adomah. But it was nevertheless the case that the back three QPR want to play with this season was exposed with the wing backs attacking quite as much as they did, and young keeper Joe Walsh making several brave one on one saves was the only reason the game didn’t finish the 4-4 scoreline it probably should have done.
QPR’s attack is very lopsided to the left, where Ilias Chair and Chris Willock like to combine with the advanced Lee Wallace, and down the right that meant United’s left back Brandon Williams plus A N Other were frequently allowed to double up and exploit a big splodge of space in front of Odubajo, or acres behind him, depending on how far advanced he was. The key to all of this is the more defensive of the midfield players, which Sam Field showed he was perfect for last season and stopped that happening but is now injured. If Warburton is going to try and play Austin AND Dykes where possible, as he’s intimated he wants to, and try to accommodate Johansen, Chair and Willock in there as well, than that’s a hell of a lot of defensive importance to place on the shoulders of either Andre Dozzell, who’s more of a technician in any case, or the game but limited Dom Ball.
Wallace one side, Odubajo the other, Willock, Chair, Johansen, maybe both strikers at once. You thought you’d seen Warbsball before? You ain’t seen nothing yet.
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