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End of Term Report 21/22 – Attack
Thursday, 26th May 2022 19:39 by Clive Whittingham

Part four of four in our end of term report cards ends, as always, with our disparate collection of rocks and diamonds strikers.

9 Lyndon Dykes C

Preston at home, Reading at home. I’ve posted the highlights again below. Watch the, and watch Lyndon Dykes. That’s what he can be. Powerful, persistent, crawling all over centre backs, dominating the opposition penalty box, posing a goal threat, winning headers, ball out wide and peel off into the area, hassling mistakes out of players. He’s raw, we know all about that, and his late arrival into the sport. There are so many basic fundamentals that still need work and development – first touch, passing accuracy, where to stand, where to move, when to go, when to stick. It doesn’t have to matter. It’s not Serie A circa 1994, it’s the Championship in 2022. It’s a basic bitch and you can be effective at this level with a basic skillset and tool kit at your disposal – Kenneth Zohore and Gary Madine have both moved at this level of football for more than £8m.

My problem with Lyndon isn’t any of the technical stuff that we knew all about when we brought him here. QPR struggle to buy and own their strikers in this market on their budget so they have to take chances on development projects like this – if Lyndon was younger, technically better, had fewer faults, he wouldn’t have been playing for Livingston, and we wouldn’t have been able to afford him. No, my issue is we don’t see that Preston and Reading Lyndon often enough. When he’s on, he’s really on, and his first touch does not matter. In that Reading game, not included in the highlights, he tries his hand at a half-volley from 25 yards out wide on the right and almost finds the top corner – one spectacular save away from a memorable hat trick. Against Preston he ends up forcing the winner by not only running down the defender as he chased back towards his own goal, not only bravely chucking his head towards a ball on the ground, but also then getting up and launching himself into another tackle after Charlie Austin’s initial shot had been saved. Eventually Ilias Chair banged in the killer third goal, but it was all Lyndon that got us there. I wouldn’t want to play against that guy in that mood. And then I take two days off work and pay for travel and hotel to get to Sheffield United away on a wet Tuesday night and watch him phone in an anonymous load of old slop like the performance he gave that night. As if he’d rather be anywhere else in the world. Contributing the square root of fuck all to the cause. If I was a centre back that night I’d have been annoyed I bothered to change out of my civvies.

I think it’s fair to say there’s a confidence element to this. Lyndon has been a really streaky player since he got here – nine goals in the first 22 club and country fixtures of 2020/21, followed by no goals at all in 21 games, then seven goals and plenty of assists in QPR’s last ten games of that season bleeding into nine in his first 16 games this – again, look at his bloody performance against Man Utd in the midst of that – and then just four goals in his final 27 appearances in 2021/22. Those goals against Reading were the last he scored, with a barren run now at 13 games and counting. All the strikers in this write up can justifiably point to lack of support and service, particularly as the season wore on, and especially from wide areas. Dykes can’t score goals like the two he got against Reading unless we’re crossing the ball with quality in the first place, and we didn’t do that often enough. When we did, him and Austin both showed themselves capable of scoring – Dykes’ last four goals for the club have all been headers from brilliant crosses.

There was also an injury in there by way of mitigation - initially down as a couple of weeks but eventually stretching from Valentine’s Day to the end of March. I know they don’t want to give away team news to the opposition, but I thought in the end Warburton didn’t do himself many favours being so vague so often about so many players’ injury statuses. The stock “I’m meeting the medical team after this” answer in his pre-match interview started to grate – perhaps we could start doing the interviews after that meeting? In Dykes’ case a player fans were constantly led to believe wasn’t far away and would be back next week eventually missed the best part of two months, with a problem that was never properly defined, and into that vacuum comes conspiracy and rumour. It also pissed a lot of people off when it cleared up just in time for the latest international break and another appearance for Scotland. Warburton covered for that publicly, saying injuries take time to heal and this one had healed at that time, and actually it was quite good for us that he got a game in and could come straight back to our firsts rather than do a B Team game first, but I still thought that was a bit shit on the whole and I think the manager was pissed off about it as well.

I find it very difficult to shake the idea Dykes is a lot happier and livelier playing for Scotland than he is for us. Watching him, for instance, in either of the Peterborough away games this season, and then comparing it to his Scotland output, is intensely annoying. It’s kind of beginning to feel like it might be beneficial for one of the Old Firm to give us some moderately silly money for him but, as I say, it doesn’t take a lot for a striker at this level to fetch you £8m+ (Jordan Hugill went for that for goodness sake) and that would already have happened if he could have stuck a couple of two-yarders away for Scotland at the Euros last summer. We basically need him to start moderately well next season, go to the World Cup, head a couple of goals in from a couple of corners, and then we can fill our boots in January.

Until then, I want to see Preston and Reading Lyndon, and Scotland Lyndon for that matter, a lot more often in our colours than we currently do.

In numbers…
30 starts, 7 sub appearances, W14 D9 L14, 37.84% win percentage
9 goals scored (Hull A, Boro A, Coventry H, Preston H, Fulham A, Forest H, Rotherham H, Reading H, Reading H) (1 goal every 301 minutes), 3 assists (Birmingham H, Preston H, Derby H) (Goal contribution every 226 minutes)
1 yellow card (Bristol City A foul)
2 LFW MOTM awards (Preston H, Sunderland H), 1 supporter MOTM award (Preston H)
LFW Ratings – 5, 5, 6, 6, 8, 5, 5, 6, 6, 8, 6, 7, 5, 7, 6, 6, 5, 5, 6, 5, 6, 6, 5, 5, 8, 5, 7, 4, 3, 5, 5, 5, 6, 6, 4, 5, 6 = 5.64
Interactive Ratings – 5.61

10 Ilias Chair B

Much like the Sam Field write-up in the midfielder section, I do have to check myself slightly with Ilias because I love him, I’m in love with him, and I’m trying to negate that bias by pushing the marks – both in this report and on a match by match basis – down lower than I truly believe to be the case.

LFW basically exists to run the same dozen lazy tropes on a loop, to give both regular readers (there’s one now look) something to read on the train to our defeat at Preston (and another). You can guarantee we’ll have a good ‘open letter’ rant about Sky buggering about with the kick-off times once a year. You can set your watch to our “why don’t we take the cups seriously?” lament which will include the gratuitous mention of Steve McClaren making ten changes to a team for a winnable cup tie at Blackpool, losing, and then going down 3-0 to Swansea with the rested team at the weekend regardless. I like to do the finger puppet routine about the budget and the accounts, because I spend too much time doom scrolling on Twitter and get infuriated by the ‘sign a fucking striker’ brigade and their wilful ignorance of the club’s financial situation and the rules of the league, even though they’re about as likely to sit through 4,000 words on LFW as they are fly to the moon and my actual target demographic (hello to both) know all about it anyway and agree.

One of the other things I talk about a lot is the difference you see in players going past 50, 100 and 150 appearances in their careers. There are points of rapid progress where you can think you’ve found the next superstar, and plateauing where you wonder whether they’re going to make it at all, but for me you see real, palpable, concerted differences in players once they pass those career milestones, and you’ll have a very sound idea of exactly what level they’re going to be at in their career once they’ve got those 150 games under their belt. We saw this progression here previously with Richard Langley, and Ebere Eze, and with Ilias Chair just passing the 150 mark right at the end of the season I’m expecting a really big season from him in 2022/23 that will have a lot of visiting scouts flocking – which is exactly what the club needs. I think you saw, in the dog days of a busted season, in the manner of his performances, and the influence on the games, in tough circumstances at Huddersfield, and then at Swansea on the final day, what he could be capable of and we will see a lot more of next year. I’m really excited. I think he’s superb already, and there’s more to come.

There are plenty of critics that don’t agree. He was very poor, and cost us a goal that infuriated his manager, in the early season defeat at West Brom. He copped a bit for that, but rebounded stylishly with two goals and the star man prize in the next game at home to Birmingham. His African Cup of Nations was miserable – one start, and a hapless performance, hooked after half an hour in Morocco’s 2-2 with Gabon. Maybe I overrate him, it’s entirely possible, don’t make me tap the first paragraph again. That game meant Chair actually didn’t win a game for club or country between December 5 and February 23 – eight matches. Having missed QPR’s unbeaten January he actually only won four of his final 22 matches this season, and people quickly put two and two together and wondered whether the February slump was because of his return – that despite a goalscoring return against Middlesbrough. Needless to say, I don’t agree, but Mark Warburton is right when he says Chair needs to cope better when things are going against him and his team.

Chair already, at times, holds onto the ball too long, tries to do too much, transparently keeps looking for that little shift inside and shot that got him a winner against Blackburn but too often makes him easy to read and deprives frustrated strikers of the early service into the box they crave. A big part of the lack of decent service from wide for people like Charlie Austin this season was Chair and co taking too long, faffing about, trying to craft their own shots, rather than getting it wide and getting it over. You can hear the frustration in Andy Sinton’s commentary when he does this, and actually as we saw against Hull at the Loft End he might benefit himself in the form of some more close range goals for his total if he moves it wide earlier and then journeys into the box as a late arriver himself. All of these problems are magnified when the game starts slipping away and he starts getting frustrated – he was trying way too hard to make things happen all by himself in the second half at Sheff Utd, and left the field in tears at the end. Against Barnsley at home, trailing 2-1 to a crap side, he was lucky not to be sent off straight after a goal for a horrible tackle. Likewise, 1-0 down at half time at Luton, the home side chummed the water and he chomped on a huge and obvious bit of bait – another referee would also have red carded for that.

But, overall, I think we’ve got a gem here. I’m expecting and looking forward to big things from a little Illy.

In numbers…
41 starts, 2 sub appearances, W15 D9 L19, 34.88% win percentage
9 goals scored (Barnsley H, Birmingham H, Birmingham H, Preston H, Blackburn H, Peterborough A, Boro H, Hull H, Huddersfield A) (1 goal every 384 minutes), 8 assists (Hull A, Oxford H, Everton H, Preston H, Blackpool A, Luton H, Forest A, Swansea A) (Goal contribution every 203 minutes)
6 yellow cards (Barnsley H foul, Oxford H kicking ball away, Huddersfield H foul, Hull H foul, Blackburn A foul, Luton A fighting)
5 LFW MOTM awards (Birmingham H, Peterborough A, Huddersfield A, Derby H, Swansea A), 3 supporter MOTM award (Birmingham H, Huddersfield A, Swansea A)
LFW Ratings – 7, 6, 7, 7, 6, 6, 6, 6, 8, 5, 8, 8, 5, 7, 7, 6, 6, 6, 7, 7, 7, 6, 6, 5, 6, 7, 5, 4, 6, 7, 4, 5, 5, 6, 4, 6, 6, 6, 8, 7, 5, 6, 8 = 6.18
Interactive Ratings – 6.18

11 Charlie Austin D

To say bad things about Charlie Austin is to take your internet life into your own hands at QPR so I’ll tread as carefully as I can here, but you can’t say anything other than it’s been a poor season for him.

His 2021/22 campaign was exactly what I feared when we brought him back here in the first place. The people who run the club day to day wanted Glenn Murray as the experienced old loaned head to bolster the flagging Dykes-Bonne attack, but then at the eleventh hour Tony Fernandes swooped in with a populist chance to bring back a great name from the club’s past and they went for it. Austin had scored 11 times for West Brom at this level the season before, but that was a very attacking side that went on to win promotion and four of those goals were penalties. You only had to watch him there to see he wasn’t, physically, what he had been before. Did we risk ruining the legacy of his brilliant first spell here, when his goals fired QPR to promotion and he then bagged 18 in the Premier League in a relegated side which is still a vastly underrated achievement which doesn’t get talked about enough, by bringing him in here to save our skin when he wasn’t physically capable of doing it? Was this really the man you needed for a crisis? In the end he was superb in the second half of last season, scoring on debut at Luton, finishing up with eight from 19 starts, galvanising the team, helping the younger players, dressing room presence – absolutely everything we could ever have wanted from him and more. His wife’s involvement in the club’s charitable and community efforts, bringing the other wives into events and fundraisers in a way I can never recall before at this club, was first class. We’ve missed that sort of connection with our players, and I hope it continues without her here. That all brought me around to the idea of signing him permanently, which we did, at which point he dropped off the side of a cliff. Maybe it’s me, maybe I’m cursed.

There was a lot of romance about his permanent return here. He spoke about needing to feel loved, and enjoy his football again, having seemingly drifted more towards horses and radio work during a stodgy but lucrative spell on a big contract at The Hawthorns. He does clearly feel a connection to this club and the fans, and the adulation of him from the stands is entirely genuine. We all love Charlie. But, perhaps being cynical here, he came because QPR were able to get to a wage that, while nowhere near what he was on before, was certainly far more than we had been paying players, and more than I thought we could, and we were offering a two-year deal when nobody else was. If Forest were doing two-years on more money then he’d have gone there, because it’s football and that’s how football works – short career, got to look after yourself. With him, and Johansen, we have to be much better at asking ourselves in the future why that is. Why are you the only ones offering them this?

Sadly, his impact this season was nowhere near where it was last. He looked heavy-legged, and immobile. I’m sorry, it’s true, I don’t want it to be, but it is. The goal he scored at Stoke last season, confidently striding onto a Lyndon Dykes assist and burying it from 20 yards like shelling peas, was replaced with this weird snatching at chances that you just don’t associate with a man who’s been pure goals his whole career. He’d missed several great chances in the 2-2 comeback at Barnsley before equalising in stoppage time, and he had a good go at butchering that sitter as well. His performance in the 2-1 loss at Peterborough was a shambles really, removed after 67 minutes, blowing, and for the first time a QPR crowd started to turn a little bit on their talisman.

Later that week he scored a perfectly legitimate goal that would have taken us to a League Cup quarter final at Arsenal, and the unfairness and injustice of that being disallowed against Sunderland seemed to buy him some credit. His grandmother sadly passed away around this time, he’d been spending a lot of time doing hospital ferrying, and hadn’t been training as much as he otherwise would – maybe with that sad episode now passed he would come good for us again. Anybody who’s played that role in a family unit, trying to hold it altogether, keeping the kids lives and schooling normal, focusing on work, while doing runs to hospitals and hospices that you know aren’t going to have a happy end, will know that the absolute last thing on your mind that you care about is whether QPR are playing well enough at fucking Fulham. There was then a goal against Luton, and a great assist for Chris Willock’s technically magnificent leveller at Derby, which made you think maybe we were getting somewhere. Then we got a penalty to equalise at home to Stoke and he hit an effort so pathetically tame I’d have saved the bloody thing myself. Again, just not the Charlie we’d come to know and love. Credit to him, though, for going from the spot again, successfully, away at Bristol City when a lesser man’s confidence would have been shaken.

As I put in the Lyndon Dykes section, all three strikers can point to poor service and support. Even in this physical condition, Austin showed that if you cross the ball with any degree of accuracy his movement, nose for space, and finishing ability will get you a goal. Two headed goals against Everton as good as you’ll see in that genre. The late winner against West Brom a magical moment, albeit from an offside position. The goal in his final home game for the club against Sheff Utd a real what-could-have-been – because the cross from Adomah was so perfect, and Charlie and the rest of us had seen that sort of wide service so seldom. But then there was also Rotherham at home in the cup, where he contributed nothing for an hour against a League One side and then went and sat in the Ellerslie Road stand with the hump because he’d been subbed – I was amazed Warburton, Mr Respect, didn’t snap over that. It was piss poor behaviour.

The mood and vibe around Austin’s return was very much that of a player in that Glenn Murray mould – old warhorse, Indian summer, knocking on the door of 40, one last big job before retirement, coming to help the club where he made his name. That was certainly what he looked and played like. But Austin’s only 32. He’ll get a free pass from the majority of QPR fans, and he deserves that for all he’s done here, but he should have been able to contribute far more than he did at this relatively young age. Perhaps it’s injuries, but it’s difficult to conclude he hasn’t looked after himself as well as he might, and having him Tweet out late at night looking for curry house recommendations was, like Rotherham, a lousy look.

He’s one of a clutch of players upset and angry with how their contract situation was handled – released over Zoom with somebody from the club asking if he would just retire. He follows club stalwarts Clint Hill, Ale Faurlin and Nedum Onuoha onto the list who are unhappy with how their time here was brought to an end by this regime. His appearance on the QPR Podcast at the end of the year, where he and his wife were both in tears at one point, was very sad. But let’s just remember that he previously thought nothing of running a contract down here so he could get the move, and contract, he wanted at Southampton, depriving QPR of the sort of transfer fee they might have expected for somebody who’d just scored 18 goals in a maiden Premier League season. It suits him to blame the under fire Les Ferdinand and make out like he’d have stayed and played for free next season - as I said in the Yoann Barbet review I don’t like the way they go about this stuff at QPR - but let’s be frank, if he’d scored the goals and performed at the level he was brought here to do he’d have had his second year in the bag. It’s never as black and white as the narrative may make it seem. In my opinion, the second year of his contract turning out to merely be an option, and the club keeping him on the bench through the closing weeks to stop him reaching the number of starts to trigger it, is actually a touch for both QPR and for him.

Another year, on this money, at that performance level, and I think it could have started to turn a bit nasty, which would have been soul destroying for all concerned. As it is, QPR get rid of the wage, and Charlie leaves not only as the guy who once fired us to the Premier League and did a damn fine job of trying to keep us there, but then came back on vastly reduced money in our hour of need to rescue us from what was starting to look like a relegation to League One. Head held high, loved by the people here, to be fondly remembered forever. Not quite the ending we all wanted, but not too shabby.

In numbers…
18 starts, 20 sub appearances, W15 D10 L12, 40.54% win percentage
7 goals scored (Barnsley H, Everton H, Everton H, Luton H, Bristol City A, West Brom H, Sheff U H) (1 goal every 268 minutes), 2 assists (Coventry H, Derby A) (Goal contribution every 208 minutes)
1 yellow card (Huddersfield A foul)
0 LFW MOTM awards, 0 supporter MOTM awards
LFW Ratings – 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 8, 6, 7, 5, 6, 4, 6, 6, 5, 6, 6, 7, 5, 6, -, 5, 7, 6, 5, 6, 4, 4, 4, 4, 6, 3, 5, 5, -, 6, 5, 6 = 5.388
Interactive Ratings – 5.47

19 Andre Gray B/C

Incredibly difficult one to grade. Rocks and diamonds.

Andre Gray’s bare, headline stats for last season are fairly brilliant. He scored 10 goals having started just 15 matches. He got a goal for every 137-odd minutes he spent on the field, which is the best ratio in the division outside Fulham’s 43 in 44 miracle Aleksander Mitrovic and his very occasional deputy Rodrigo Muniz. We gave Stefan Johansen a D in yesterday’s write up when, perhaps, taking the first half of the season into account, that’s a little harsh. It’s based predominantly on the expectation we had of him in August, and if you’d said back than that Andre Gray would score you ten goals in 15 starts, given we expected him to come here merely as cover for Charlie and Lyndon, you’d have taken that to the bank immediately. He was capable of greatness, as he showed in the club’s Goal of the Season at Derby. Contrary to his image as a bit of a problem child, who’d said some deplorable things earlier in his life, and swans around the world’s hot spots with one of the Pick 'n Mix, his interview after that game was exemplary – exactly the sort of stuff you wanted a senior head in the dressing room to be saying. When the going got really tough at Luton he stood up with a man of the match display, winning and converting the penalty that started hauling QPR back from the dead and moved them back up to fourth in the table at that point mid-March. He subsequently bagged at Forest that week as well, but was let down by poor defending and finishing elsewhere – that game could, and should, have been 2-0 at half time, and certainly shouldn’t have been lost the way it was. When he got off the bench to score again at Swansea on the last day there was a lot of people asking why he’d played so few games, why our best striker had spent so much time on the bench, why we’d even been playing the terminally scoreless George Thomas ahead of him. And when you look at the numbers, these are fair questions. Difficult not to conclude that given the same game time Lyndon Dykes got, he’d have done far more with it – though, again, we’re not meant to be picking Premier League loans ahead of players we need to develop to sell.

But then there’s also what I’ve termed the eye/smell test through these reports, where the numbers often don’t quite tally with what those who go to every game saw on the pitch each week. Gray, frequently, looked completely disinterested in what he was doing. The infamous 12-touch debacle away at Barnsley, a team that had lost six on the spin, hadn’t won for 15, and ended up conceding 73 goals across the season, was a shame. Quite literally, a shame. It wasn’t an isolated incident – compare his performance at Luton away, where he was playing a former club with a Watford connection and clearly very interested in making a fat point to the home naysayers, with his input at Bramall Lane, where I contributed more to the team from the back of the away end. Like Lyndon, I wanted to see angry, aggressive, interested, in-the-mood Andre Gray a lot more than I did. He scored, and gave QPR the lead, in the two home games against Cardiff and Peterborough that really exploded the whole season. But in both those matches he then missed much, much simpler chances to make it 2-0 – running through on goal and missing at the Loft End against Cardiff at the start of the second half, heading against the inside of the post from a yard out against Posh – which against crap sides would have killed the games stone dead. Even in a dire team performance at Blackburn, a game QPR could have climbed to second by winning, he had two great chances for a goal put on a plate by Stefan Johansen in the final ten minutes and butchered them both horribly. All the strikers can criticise the standard of service they received this season, but it was difficult not to be thoroughly irritated by Gray’s constant, extravagant, arrogant arm waving protests at the lack of good early ball in behind when Chris Willock put a chance like that on a plate against a team like Cardiff in a game of that importance and he just completely spaffed the thing wide off his toe-end. Maybe it’s not all everybody else’s fault after all Andre, eh?

His status, we hear, was a source of contention between Warbs/the coaches and Les/the execs around Christmas time. I’m sorry I’ve had to be a bit mealy-mouthed when mentioning this recently, for fear of betraying confidences and sources, and, frankly, legals, and I’m probably going to disappoint you again here. At Bristol City away in December, QPR took a tiny travelling party and named just five subs. Andre Gray was not among them. At that point he’d featured in just 13 of QPR’s first 28 fixtures, eight of those as a substitute, and scored four goals. There was a feeling above the manager that this was not enough input for the contribution we were making to his astronomical Watford wage and we should cut ties in January. Bristol City, as they’ve been trying to do every since they vastly overpaid to steal him from us in the first place, were desperate to offload Nahki Wells in a cut-price deal at the time. Warburton stood by his man, wanting him kept, and turning down Wells for fear of upsetting him. Ferdinand went along with it, there were frank words between QPR’s former number nine and Gray, and he subsequently put in a real shift in a 2-1 win at Birmingham, and scored in another victory at Coventry. But then there was Barnsley. And Blackburn. And Cardiff. And Peterborough.

That reliability and consistency was the problem, and also the reason he was here in the first place.

In numbers…
15 starts, 15 sub appearances, W9 D4 L15, 32.14% win percentage
10 goals scored (Reading A, West Brom A, Cardiff A, Derby A, Coventry A, Cardiff H, Luton A, Forest A, Preston A, Swansea A) (1 goal every 137.5 minutes), 3 assists (Preston H, Luton A, Peterborough H) (Goal contribution every 106 minutes)
2 yellow cards (Bristol City H foul, Derby A over celebrating)
1 LFW MOTM award (Luton A), 0 supporter MOTM awards
LFW Ratings – 7, 6, 6, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 6, 8, 6, 6, 5, 4, 6, 6, 6, 3, -, 4, 5, 7, 7, 5, 5, 5, -, 5 7 = 5.53
Interactive Ratings – 5.44

21 Chris Willock A

There are moments when young players do something so extraordinary that it moves them in your thinking from potentially a good prospect into being the real deal. For Bright Osayi-Samuel, who Willock was brought here to replace and is now doing very nicely in the Fenerbahce team, it was the blistering annihilation of Birmingham’s Maxime Colin over 60 yards and finish into the roof of the net at St Andrew’s. From there on, Bright knew no bounds, and the one-man demolition of Cardiff in a 6-1 win wasn’t far away. You could very fairly argue that Chris Willock’s was the same goal, in the same net, at the same end of the same ground in the same fixture. In a bitty, niggly, tight, tense game against a typical Birmingham, typical Lee Bowyer, side over Christmas he picked the ball up on the left and used pace, skill and close control to trick his way miles and miles until there was nothing left to do but dispatch the ball into the roof of the net for 2-0 and game over. Actually, for me, the wide-eyed, sit-up-and-take-note moment for Willock wasn’t a goal at all, and it wasn’t in a competitive game – it was at home to Leicester in the pre-season friendly when he drew a boot back from the far corner of the penalty area and launched a technically perfect, bending rocket through a crowded penalty area, past the goalkeeper, and back into play off the inside of the far post. Serious shit right there.

And that’s exactly what Willock is. Again, it’s a product of the recruitment and analytics model led by Andy Belk, not down to Neil Banfield as is often assumed because of their Arsenal connection, and most of our better signings come through this channel now. He’s quickly grown not only into the best and most important player in our team, but also one of the biggest talents in the Championship as a whole – he made many people’s teams of the season at the end of the campaign despite our collapse, and ranked seventh in FourFourTwo’s influential 100 Best EFL Players list. At Middlesbrough in round three he was electric. Absolutely electric. It was a privilege to be there to see him win the game like that. His performance, and combination with Ilias Chair, in the 2-2 League Cup tie with Everton cannot fail to have impressed Premier League scouts. His goal at Blackpool, in impossible conditions and immediately after a family bereavement, was not one players at this level are usually capable of scoring. The lobbed finish against Luton in the next game was beautiful, but assisted by Simon Sluga who always played like a QPR season ticket holder against us. No mitigation or drawback from his next goal, away at Derby, calmly sidefooted into the top corner, first time, from two foot off the deck – technically masterful, a goal of real, genuine stardust. Hook that to my veins. The high press, high rush, high intensity poacher’s effort in the Boro home game humiliated Joe Lumley on his Loftus Road return, and was again an example of that front-foot Mark Warburton QPR that we came to love and sadly saw precious little of over the closing weeks.

The manager was keen to point to Willock’s horrible injury at Nottingham Forest as a key moment in the downfall. In truth, the decline had set in several weeks and games prior. But anybody would concede the team missed Willock terribly. He didn’t start any of the three Peterborough debacles, nor the 1-0 hurricane of piss at Barnsley. QPR with Willock and QPR without him are an entirely different beast, and whoever the new manager is needs this nasty muscle-off-bone injury to heal well, heal quickly, and the star man to be fit and firing for the earlier-then-usual start to 2022/23. When we talk about QPR needing some more Eze-sized money coming in for a player and reasonably quick order, this looks like being the next cab off the rank.

Absolutely outstanding. A beautiful footballer to watch. The player of the season. Highest average LFW mark, and interactive marks from you guys. And the only full A on our report card.

In numbers…
36 starts, 2 sub appearances, W17 D10 L10, 45.95% win percentage
7 goals scored (Hull A, Boro A, Blackpool A, Luton H, Derby A, Birmingham A, Boro H) (1 goal every 432 minutes), 10 assists (Boro A, Fulham A, Huddersfield H, West Brom H, Coventry A, Coventry A, Reading H, Reading H, Boro H, Luton A) (Goal contribution every 178 minutes)
1 yellow card (Bournemouth A retaliation)
10 LFW MOTM awards (Boro A, Bristol City H, Everton H, Fulham A, Blackpool A, Luton H, Derby A, Birmingham A, Coventry A, Reading H) 6 supporter MOTM awards (Boro A, Everton H, Luton H, Derby A, Birmingham A, Reading H)
LFW Ratings – 6, 7, 8, 7, 7, 7, 7, 7, 7, 8, 5, 7, 6, 6, 6, -, 6, 6, 7, 8, 7, 8, 7, 5, 5, 8, 7, 8, 7, 8, 7, 5, 6, 6, 5, 6, 7, 7 = 6.67
Interactive Ratings – 6.60

Others

The rest is really rather a sorry tale of failed loans. QPR had a choice between AFC Wimbledon and Gillingham for Charlie Kelman last summer and chose wrong, entrusting him to the greasy fingers of Steve Evans, who gave him five league starts to January in between slabs of cold pizza and litres of full fat Coke. He then went back to Gillingham for the second half of the season, played a good deal more for Neil Harris, but scored only twice and ended the season sent off in a bizarre incident against Fleetwood where the challenges by both players at the same time were deemed so horrendous they were both red carded. Nineteen starts, seven sub appearances, two goals, relegated. Inauspicious.

Macauley Bonne started like an absolute runaway train at his hometown club Ipswich. Eleven goals in 16 appearances, braces against MK Dons and Doncaster, and with Lyndon and Charlie struggling back at base there was genuine debate about whether he would be called back to play here in the second half of the campaign. Instead, he stayed at Portman Road, and scored one goal in his final 30 appearances. By the end, most of those were coming from the bench – just four of his last 15 outings from the start. Teeth suck.

Sinclair Armstrong subsequently replaced Bonne as this season’s “why doesn’t he get a run?” figure of fun. He certainly looks a fantastic prospect – big, powerful, quick, lethal in front of goal, and at just 18-years-old capable of going into a physical league like the Conference and making an impact with Torquay (six starts, two sub appearances, two goals, one sadly disallowed bicycle kick away to Barnet) and Aldershot (two goals in two starts, including the club’s goal of the season at home to Notts County). Given the manner and reasons for Mark Warburton’s departure, it’s reasonable to assume whoever replaces him will have a remit to involve players like this a lot more next season. Warburton would say, entirely correctly, that Armstrong is only 18, did well on a loan at Torquay but didn’t exactly burn the barn down, has much to learn, and has to be better than the senior strikers ahead of him. The club, a lot of the fans, and to be fair I, would say that when you’re going to Bristol City and naming five subs, what’s the harm in having him there? Like Aaron Drewe and Stephen Duke McKenna I felt he could have had more involvement, while not for one minute thinking he’s ready for this level, or capable of starting 20 games yet, or anything remotely like that. Looking forward to seeing more, though wary that there’s clearly a very busy agent beavering away eyeing a payday here, hence all the ludicrous clickbait about him going to Celtic and Real Madrid and the planet Mars. Probably best not to get too attached.

The opposite can be said of Mide Shodipo, who will shortly be 25, has played one League Cup game for QPR in two years, managed just ten starts and 11 sub appearances with one goal in an unimpressive and injury hit (again) loan spell at Sheff Wed, and has been rewarded with another new contract. Must have the same agent as Nico Hamailenen. It surely has to be make or break next season doesn’t it? We’re in danger of having the oldest ever youth graduate with potential here – I can see us musing over whether he was good at Oxford, or just selfishly hogged the ball and took all the shots himself to boost his own figures, when he’s 32 at this rate. I’ll allow one more, but if next season goes like this, again, and we renew his contract, again, then I’ll have questions.

Marco Ramkilde was a promising player in his youth, and statistical porn on all the Wyscout metrics, if only he could get through a season without a bad injury. He hadn’t been able to do that in the three years before we took a punt on him, nor the three years he’s been here. Quite sad really. Excellent QPR pub quiz question in waiting.

Links >>> Keepers >>> Defence >>> Midfield >>> Attack

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royinaus added 03:40 - May 27
Watched both sets of highlights and asked myself, mitigation not withstanding, how did we get from there to here....
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Loft1979 added 04:13 - May 29
Thanks
Awesome writing.
IMO-1. I think Lyndon is gone. If not Newcastle, then Burnley or Watford. Or Bournemouth. Somewhere amongst the promoted or Relegated with 10k to spend on a target man. I am betting his international showing to raise his tag. I am extremely sorry Les did not let him go in Jan.
I look forward to Armstrong Sinclair. Probably could have At least as well as Dykes from Feb on.
IMO2. Ilias Chair. Sell high. I see a skill player who will excel in Europe, away from from the Brutes of the Championship. Aka Dinitri Payet. Again an opinion.
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Royboy48 added 13:37 - May 29
Always love your insightful and comprehensive reviews of all the playing staff. Your total and relentless commitment to QPR journalism over the season is at turns, exemplary and at the same time almost baffling beyond belief. We all suffer the pain of supporting QPR, both emotional and financial: Expending emotional energy and substantial dosh is one thing but your dedication to the cause seems to come close to both a death wish and bankruptcy. Don't know how you keep it up, but it deserves some kind of QPR medal for mental fortitude above and beyond the call of duty.

Other teams' season end reviews seem amateur by comparison; you are undoubtedly in a class of your own

Whilst writing, (so old-school, 'whilst')
Whilst writing are you planning to review the season's performance of either or both of
a) the Manager and senior coaching staff
b) the Executive and the Board?

Nah, unfair, shouldn't have asked..
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Northernr added 17:38 - May 30
Thanks for the kind words Roy. I tend to do the assessment of the manager when they leave (that used to be once a season anyway :-D) so here's the Warbs bit...

https://www.fansnetwork.co.uk/football/queensparkrangers/news/57765/not-in-a-dis
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