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The long road from Austin to Washington – Signing
Wednesday, 20th Jan 2016 20:30 by Clive Whittingham

QPR have moved quickly, apparently beating several other Championship clubs in the process, to snap up Peterborough's in-form striker Conor Washington for £2.5m.

Facts

Conor Washington, 23, has joined Queens Park Rangers for £2.5m, almost two years to the day since he signed for Peterborough United from Newport County.

He was a late bloomer in the game, working as a postman (puns at the ready) while playing non-league for St Ives Town. He scored 24 goals in 30 appearances in 2011/12 as St Ives finished third in the United Counties League Premier Division – the ninth tier of English football.

By the time Conference promotion chasers Newport, then managed by Justin Edinburgh, picked him up in October 2012 for a nominal fee he'd bagged 52 in 50 outings for the club.

Initially – and this will become a running theme – he was a slow burner. He scored just once in 16 outings over the second half of the season as County progressed past Grimsby and Wrexham to win the Conference play-offs.

Now a Football League player, he quickly scored two in his first three games of the 2013/14 season against Northampton in the league and Brighton in the League Cup and by mid-November had added five more.

That, and his all round game, was enough to persuade League One Peterborough to part with a fee reportedly in the region of £500,000 for his services. The Posh are renowned for their scouting of non-league and lower divisions for rough diamonds to be polished up, and it was hoped that Washington would be the latest of them.

Again, though, he took time to settle in. Just one goal in his first 15 games at London Road before a sudden burst of three in the final two matches and one in a play-off defeat to Leyton Orient which suggested his best was still to come. He scored 13 times last season, again coming on strong with four in the final four games, but it was the arrival of Graham Westley as Posh boss this season that really sparked him off as a prolific goalscorer.

He has 15 goals to his name already this season, including his first professional hat trick in a 4-0 win at Scunthorpe, and arrives on a run of 14 goals in his last 19 appearances.

He has singed a three and a half year deal at Loftus Road and will take the number nine shirt vacated by Charlie Austin at the weekend.

Reaction

“As a striker, having someone like Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink here as manager was a massive pull for me. He's been there, seen it and done it at the very highest level and that can only benefit me as a player. I feel I've improved as a player over the last 18 months. My mentality has changed and I'm a better player for it. But I also feel there's a lot more to come from me and I believe I can properly go on to fulfil my potential at QPR. I know I've still got a long way to go in my development but I'm relishing the chance to prove my worth. I've proved I can do it at every level I've played at so far, so I don't see any reason why I can't do it here with QPR." - Conor Washington

“Conor is a player I’ve admired for a while now, so I’m delighted he’s agreed to join us. I’ve seen first-hand what he’s capable of and his all round game has always impressed me. Of course he’s still got a lot to learn – he’s by no means the finished article – but I am convinced he has what it takes to succeed at a higher level with us. He’s raw, he’s hungry, he’s determined. He’s quick and he’s versatile, which is important. He can play on his own up there; in a two; or on the shoulder of another striker. He’s got great pace to get in behind and that’s something we need when you look at our current attacking options. Importantly, he’s got the right mentality to be a QPR player. He is relishing the opportunity to play for this club and he wants to wear the shirt with pride.” - Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink

Opinion

QPR's director of football Les Ferdinand has copped for some stick this season, almost all of it unjustified.

First and foremost, almost all of the changes he was brought in to enact, with the scouting, the youth development, the way we sign players and the type of players we sign, the structure and cost of the squad and so on, are things that take many years to complete and many months for the effects to be felt. Ferdinand is yet to clock up a year in the job.

The accusation that he only hires people from Tottenham, or people the same colour as him, can be shown to be utter, vile, bollocks simply by looking down the list of people he's hired. That well known black, ex-Spurs employee Gary Karsa (white, from Aston Villa) for example.

And even if there was any 'jobs for the boys/Ferdinand's mates' activity going on here it would hardly be unique to Ferdinand, or QPR, in the world of football would it? Managers and directors of football take the same people around with them, it's how it works. When you sack a manager, all his coaching staff tends to go with him. Harry Redknapp brings Joe Jordan along to coach and Kevin Bondy Bond along to drive him around and perform piano recitals. Mark Hughes had his 'Taffia' with him at Blackburn, Man City, Fulham, QPR and now at Stoke. Gerry Francis follows Tony Pulis around, and when he was a manager in his own right he was renowned for returning to players he'd worked with before – there was a mini-Bristol Rovers invasion in W12 during his first spell when the likes of Ian Holloway, Steve Yates, Devon White and Gary Penrice all arrived.

There have certainly been mistakes, and the current situation around Steve Gallen certainly smacks of one of those. Whether Ferdinand was simply peddling the message from above when he changed his tune in October and suddenly said this season was all about promotion, or he genuinely believed that, it didn't help the manager at the time or the players. His decision, fairly late in the summer, to go out and add experienced pros like Gabrielle Angella, Paul Konchesky and James Perch to the back four hasn't worked. His "pathways to the first team" line about the youth players hasn't materialised and has been brought up against him as the likes of Darnell Furlong, Michael Doughty, Reece Grego-Cox and others have drifted further away from the team. Whether they're not being given a chance unfairly, or they're simply not quite up to the standard, it was still Ferdinand writing a cheque he couldn't cash.

It may turn out that Ferdinand fails in this role - though it's certainly years too early to be assessing that yet and to do so completely ignores the obvious fact that all the problems the club currently has were in place long before he came anywhere near to returning.

But some of the players QPR have signed on his watch should be bringing him more praise than he's getting. Alex Smithies, Massimo Luongo, Ben Gladwin, Grant Hall, Tjarron Chery, Seb Polter and now Conor Washington are all exactly the sort of players this club should be signing. Rangers may have overpaid for some of them, may have been overly generous with some of the contracts, and would find it a lot cheaper if they went out and found them themselves initially rather than letting Swindon and Peterborough nip in as a middle man.

But it's certainly moving in the right direction.

The key is what happens after the players sign. Grant Hall is obviously the poster boy for how this should work – bought for next to nothing, on a slim contract, with almost zero hype and publicity, eased into the team then subsequently rewarded for superb performances with a prompt contract extension if it goes well.

But some of these signings will fail. Even Peterborough, from whom Rangers have signed Washington, buy their fair share of duds among the many success stories such as George Boyd and Craig Mackail-Smith they've hoisted up from lower and non-league and turned into successful league players and big profits. Southampton, another club operating this model higher up the chain, still sign a Dani Osvaldo every now and again. You're not going to get every one right.

Some of these players will take time to settle. Washington himself was a slow starter when he moved to Newport, and again at Peterborough where he's only really hit his stride in the last few months under manager Graham Westley. Seb Polter looks a different striker now to the lump who lumbered around on his rare appearances in August. It may be that players will benefit from being loaned out – I personally think Ben Gladwin should have played far more for us this season, particularly given our midfield toils, but the club feels he would benefit more from half a season more in League One and now half a season in the Championship with Bristol City. That shouldn't, necessarily, be a stick to beat the club with.

QPR have, for a long time now, used the transfer market to try and provide themselves with quick fixes and instant gratification. Go out, spend loads of money on a big name, whack him straight into the team and everything is ok again. It hasn't worked for them, mainly because a club our size trying to do that attracts the wrong sort of person. In fact, the failure rate of those big-name signings is far higher than the ones Ferdinand added last summer – Smithies, Luongo, Polter and Hall all now look set for a prolonged run in the team.

What it's important not to do, especially with a striker like Washington who has climbed quite so high quite so quickly, is expect those instant results from this new sort of signing. Washington may have taken Charlie Austin's number, but to view him as any kind of replacement just yet is setting the boy up for a fall. The club have a role to play in this themselves – keen to seize good news amidst the sea of negativity that often washes over Loftus Road on a weekly basis, they can be guilty of overhyping things. Again, Grant Hall is a decent model to follow.

I don't really understand, given the club's safe midtable position, why they'd want to spend a hefty loan fee bringing in Patrick Bamford for the rest of the season, which seems likely if the Piano Man can't find another Premier League loan after a failed spell at Crystal Palace. But then again, I kind of do, because if Washington doesn't score frequently straight away, and the crowd get on at him, or his confidence takes a knock, or he picks up a niggling injury, it could effect him for a long time to come. Having Bamford, or a player like that here, allows Washington to settle in and learn his trade at a new club and higher level, rather than being slung in and have that weight of expectation on him that he's the goal getter now heaped on him from the get go. Little run of games here, spell on the bench there, all eyes on Bamford the big name while he finds his feet. As long as such temporary fixes don't completely impede the path to the first team.

These players are exactly the sort of players we should be signing. Selling a striker to a higher league for £4m and buying one from the division below for half that, and repeating the process over and over again is the only route to sustainable success for a club of our size. It brings in affordable players keen to play well and improve, which benefits the team – Southampton have shown, you can be a stepping stone and compete at the highest level.

Les Ferdinand is the only person who has, outwardly at least, made any kind of attempt to get us back to that model during the Tony Fernandes era.

But the key to nurturing and growing the talent is patience, and low expectations rather than hype and added pressure. Welcome Conor, take your time lad.

The Twitter @loftforwords

Pictures – Action Images

Photo: Action Images



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Tomo_5 added 21:35 - Jan 20
Clive, thanks again for the entertaining read. I feel like adding my two pennies' worth by conveying my lack of confidence in Tony and Les at the moment. Tony can't even write properly, his tweets are embarrassing and his days at Air Asia seem awkward. He seems like an 'armless' ringmaster who is trying to tame the lions with a whip in his mouth....not a good look and doesn't inspire me to believe he is the right man to lead QPR on a realistic and achievable 4 year plan. Actually what does a 4 year plan look like anyway?
If players are on 3 or 4 year contracts what is the point of having a 4 year plan? What are we building for?

What history does Sir Les have in management? Is it enough to lead in his current role, especially at a club as fragile as QPR?

None of the signings brought in by Les and co have inspired me this season. I'm still annoyed Karl Henry gets so much time on the pitch when I'm not convinced he is the right player this year to build off. But then again I was a great believer in Ali Faurlin and Esteban Granero being our best central midfielders so what do I know?

Anyway I hope Sir Les and Tony have the last laugh, and they build a club that we can be proud of again one day. And I don't mean a club that has to be in the top flight either, I just mean a club that has a heart, plays attractive and honest football, a club that the fans enjoy and are happy to spend their hard earned money warming the seats on, a club that when another football fans asks me who I support - I don't need to pre-empt QPR with "I support a once decent club" whilst quietly whispering the sentence with a stutter of an alcoholic being quizzed by a copper.................................
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BrianMcCarthy added 23:05 - Jan 20
Perfect. Agree with every word.
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daveB added 23:25 - Jan 20
Tomo when you say not one of Ferdinands signings has inspired this season are you really saying that Grant Hall hasn't done well? Or Luongo or Chery. None of them have been perfect but they have all done well.

For the first time since we sold Darren Peacock the club have sold a player high and brought in a replacement low, the old QPR way which Ferdinand should be praised for rather than hounded out for
4

derbyhoop added 23:32 - Jan 20
The calls for patience and the warning that not every signing works ought to be taken up by the whole fan base. But we know it won't be.
From the clips I've seen, Washington looks a decent prospect. He's not massive, but he's strong, quick and gets his shots away quickly. Let's hope we can ease him in gently, like his previous clubs did. Having 2 ex-strikers of the calibre of JFH and Les to mentor him should help his development.
3

Match82 added 23:59 - Jan 20
*Golf clap for headline*
0

timcocking added 00:43 - Jan 21
Don't know the fella, really hope it goes well. Although Charlie came from non league, he'd scored a lot of goals consistently. The fact Conor has started with figures like 1 in 15, 1 in 16 sounds a little worrying. I'm hoping he hasn't just had a lucky half year.

Hopefully, JFH and Les should be able to spot a decent striker between them, we'll soon see. I'm still haunted by the time Patrick Agyemang scored 8 in his first 6 or whatever and it turned out he had two left feet.
0

isawqpratwcity added 04:48 - Jan 21
Great article, Clive. I agree that we shouldn't expect instant results, which is why I wouldn't have given him Austin's #9 shirt, at least not this season. That's a heavy expectation to put on a kid's shoulders and a gift weapon for the boo-boys awaiting their chance.
1

londonscottish added 08:35 - Jan 21
JFH; "He’s raw, he’s hungry, he’s determined".

That'll do me.
1

pedrosqpr added 08:39 - Jan 21
Opinions are like 'a 'holes everyone has bla bla. I actually think all the signings have been decent under Les , though some might not work out (like all walks of life relationships work etc) they have been scouted and to fulfill a role. BTW first comment I'm a lousy speller but I consider myself fairly sucessful and educated.
Conor Washington is a perfect fit for QPR give him time boo boys he might not hit the ground running , Charlie took a few matches at both levels he played for us to start scoring . Even missed a penalty against Hull and I remember people saying not good enough.
Well written piece Clyde ( I know its Clive bad speller) best this year .
0

simmo added 08:59 - Jan 21
"Alex Smithies, Massimo Luongo, Ben Gladwin, Grant Hall, Tjarron Chery, Seb Polter and now Conor Washington are all exactly the sort of players this club should be signing"

"But the key to nurturing and growing the talent is patience, and low expectations rather than hype and added pressure"

These 2 statements are exactly right, EXACTLY RIGHT. If we get these thoughts to permeate through the fanbase and the board and get us away from the spoilt entitlement that the Premiership has brought, we could really recapture what QPR is all about, with relateable players that we can all be proud of.

The club especially need to stop chasing 'easy wins', using signings as positive PR spin to cover their deficiencies elsewhere. If they display new players as the answer to our problems just so people don't get too curious about where the fckin training ground is, then it breeds the notion that we're only another player (or manager) away from getting things right. The Hall / Luongo / Polter and hopefully, Washington signings should be the way we go from here on in and we need to all play our part to make it work.
1

jamois added 09:00 - Jan 21
Anybody else here confused on the fee? The club keep quoting 2.5m. Yet then I hear Newport are receiving about 1m, from multiple sources. Did Newport really have a 40% sell-on clause on this lad??! On a BBC article pointed out by QPR85, it says the sell-on clause is 20%, which would put the fee at nearer 5m. Anybody got any insight on this?
1

QPunkR added 09:37 - Jan 21
jamois, exactly what I've been thinking. Something doesn't add up somewhere.

On a lighter note, it's encouraging to know that Kevin 'Bondy' Bond has an Australian cousin called Kevin 'Bondi' Bond.
1

adhoc_qpr added 09:57 - Jan 21
I've not seen the guy play, but nice to hear some positive assessments about Washington from various people.

I do think we've overpaid, but then again there was clearly serious interest and bids from other clubs, so it;s good we've gone out and got our man.
0

GetMeRangers added 11:39 - Jan 21
Another great article and glad you made the questions over Les a major part of it. There are still some who have the patience and hope that all that has happened, in the last six months or so, will lead to a healthier and more traditional club that Rangers once were
0

Ashdown_Ranger added 11:44 - Jan 21
To quote from the article...

"Initially – and this will become a running theme – he was a slow burner."

Is that why...

"He has *singed* a three and a half year deal at Loftus Road"?

;)

0

LambournR added 12:05 - Jan 21
Re: the fee and Newport's take - I believe the £1 million figure comes from the following:
The original £500k transfer fee Peterborough paid + 20% of £2.5million - a total of £1million.
Hope the lad works out. Almost feels like the old days when we did buy cheap and sold on well.
0

PinnerPaul added 14:00 - Jan 21
Jamois - The club haven't quoted any figure for the fee, it was "undisclosed"
0

RonisRs added 18:04 - Jan 21
I think Clive's report is spot on. Les has done a decent job to date, and no one is perfect. as for Mr T, at least the guy is passionate about the club, so long may it last.
0

062259 added 22:10 - Jan 21
......and he's rich.
0

TacticalR added 22:41 - Jan 21
Thanks for the background on Washington.

I don't really know anything about him, but hopefully JFH knows all about him from his League One experience.

I suspect the road from Austin to Washington will indeed be long and winding, and I am not sure everyone has the patience to wait for rough diamonds to get polished, as that is so different to what we have done for the last five years. I really hope fans will give Washington some slack.
0

dixiedean added 23:06 - Jan 21
It's crucial that we give the guy time to bed in, which is what the 'we're f@ckinshit ' brigade won't do because they want instant gratification and that won' t help him any. I also hope he succeeds if only to shut up those who point the finger at Les. The accusations of colour bias are very cheap shots.we all hope this is step towards going back to Old Rangers of buy low sell high. First example I can remember was none other than Rodney. Hoping we've seen the end of the Bosingwas and Bartons to name but 2
0

snanker added 05:03 - Jan 23
This lad looks a natural finisher like Charlie altho''not as prolific with his scon which Charlie was deceptively so for his size. Obviously LF and JFH as strikers like what they see in Washington and we have to trust their instinct and judgement on this one. As ever time will tell but hoping the natives as already well documented above give him sufficient leeway ?
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