Rangers stalwart Wallace heads for Loftus Road - Signing
Friday, 14th Jun 2019 18:31 by Clive Whittingham
Veteran Glasgow Rangers left back Lee Wallace is the second player heading south of the border to join QPR today, signing a two-year-contract to rejoin his former boss Mark Warburton.
Lee Wallace is a 410-game veteran of Scottish football, with 160 of those appearances coming for Hearts and the rest during an eight-year stint with Rangers during which he played in all four divisions.
Born in Edinburgh, he made his Hearts debut as a 17-year-old against Kilmarnock in the Scottish Cup – scoring his first professional goal in the game’s replay. He signed a five-year contract in the summer of 2006 and rose to be club vice-captain by the start of the 2010/11 season. He was ever present in the Scotland U19 side that reached the finals of the 2006 European Championships before losing 2-1 to Spain and although he made his full international debut in October 2009 he suffered a bad cruciate knee ligament injury in a Euro 2012 qualifying game with Liechtenstein. He returned midway through the 2010/11 season but continued to struggle with injuries through to the summer.
That didn’t deter Rangers embarking on a protracted transfer pursuit of him that summer, eventually picking him up for £1.5m under Ally McCoist. Initially things were great, with a debut in the Champions League against Malmo, and a winning goal in a 3-2 Old Firm win against Celtic. But when long standing financial mismanagement caught up with the Ibrox club it was liquidated and relegated down to Scottish League Two.
Wallace was one of the players who elected to go with them. Appointed vice-captain prior to the start of the 2012/13 season and given a new five year contract with the club. He was linked with moves to England on and off, with Wolves said to be sniffing when Rangers picked him up from Hearts, and then West Ham and Bristol City among those linked after the club went bust, but he remained and captained the team back to the SPL under Mark Warburton in 2016. He also led the team out for the Scottish Cup final defeat to Hibs after beating Celtic in the semi-finals as a First Division team.
Having notched up 69 consecutive competitive appearances for the Gers at one stage, injuries sadly reared their heads again in 2017/18 with a double hernia ending his campaign in September. Towards the end of that season, after a 4-0 loss to Celtic in the Scottish Cup semi-final, an altercation between manager Graeme Murty, striker Kenny Miller and Wallace, resulted in the two players being suspended by the club. Wallace was subsequently fined four weeks wages.
Although Murty was replaced last summer by Steven Gerrard, the £2.2m signing of Borna Barisic as well as Wallace winning a legal appeal against his previous punishment and seeking to get back the money he’d been fined, meant he was restricted to just three appearances from the bench last season.
During the course of his time with the club he won the second, third and fourth tiers of Scottish football as well as the Scottish Challenge Cup. He was named the club’s player of the year in 2013/14 and 2015/16, and players player of the year in 2013/14 and 2014/15.He was named the League Two, League One and Championship player of the year in Rangers’ title winning seasons at those levels.
He remains fiercely popular among the Rangers supporters but has decided to leave the club at the end of his contract this summer and has signed for QPR today on a free transfer with a two-year contract.
“The main thing that stands out about the manager here is the man he is, the quality of person. The impact he has made on me, both on and off the pitch, has been terrific and that made the decision to come here a lot easier. I know I am coming to a great club to work with a top man and a top manager. I have had 15 seasons in Scotland and now is time for a fresh challenge and a very exciting challenge at that.” - Lee Wallace
“Lee is a top-class professional and a lot of clubs were after him so I’m delighted to get him on board. He is a natural leader and did a fantastic job for me while I was up there. He governed the dressing room and set the standards in the right way. He loves his football and is very much into the coaching and tactical side of the game. He has a point to prove. The last 18 months at Glasgow Rangers were difficult for him. I have no doubt he will come down here absolutely determined to prove many people wrong.” - Mark Warburton
When Neil Warnock signed Clint Hill on a free transfer from Crystal Palace in the summer of 2010, I wrote a piece on the signing so far off the mark it’s up there with my assertion that “even QPR” couldn’t mess up the acquisition of Casino bar enthusiast Steven Caulker. I decried the addition of a left sided defender I’d always considered a bit mediocre even before he turned 30 and got all injury prone as a typical bit of Warnock “jobs for the boys” bullshit, and couldn’t believe we’d gone for crusty old Clint over Dusko Tosic, who’d been reasonably good at left back at the end of the previous season on loan from Portsmouth.
While Lee Wallace will do well to ascend to the legendary status Hill now enjoys around Loftus Road, the signing does bear a lot of the same hallmarks. It’s an experienced player, who the manager has worked with before, who has been known as a dressing room enforcer and policer at his previous club where he once captained the side. QPR have shed a full starting 11’s worth of senior players in the last two summers, and among those departure have been big dressing room presences like Nedum Onuoha, James Perch, Jamie Mackie, Jake Bidwell and Pawel Wszolek. A wise-old-head, who the manager has worked with before, available on a free transfer, in a position for which we have literally nobody else, is no bad thing.
Warburton also cannot afford to be going for substandard players just because they’re his mates. Not only because the budget at QPR for next season, sans-parachute payments, is now as tight as a mouse’s waistcoat, but also because his own career can ill-afford another misstep. At Brentford he won promotion and then in his first Championship season made the play-offs, something that - for all of the talk about how wonderful the Bees are, how innovative their system is, what a brilliant job Dean Smith did there, what superb players they’ve scouted and brought through - they haven’t come close to matching since. I also thought he did a sound job at Rangers but the manner of his departure from there and a perceived failure at Nottingham Forest (albeit at a club where nobody does much good and he had actually improved on the season before) has seen his stock fall to the point where he’s had to take the QPR job on, which is not an attractive one in its current state. He needs this to go well.
In 2006 Wallace was charged with a firearms offence, and later fined for possession of an airgun. In 2009 he was arrested and charged with breaching the peace for threatening to shoot a doorman outside an Edinburgh nightclub. Jake Bidwell never had a gun did he? Did he? Eh. Marginal gains all round.
All of that said, whether this is a signing that will help address either the chronic lack of pace in our defence, or us being the only club left in modern football that point blankly refuses to attack from the full back positions, is doubtful. And that Warburton has immediately been allowed to sign two players he’s worked with before suggests we are, once again, going with short term options the manager wants to help him stay in employment, rather than longer term, more strategic choices from a director of football or head of recruitment. Why, exactly, have Gary Penrice at all if we’re going to make signings like this one, or the disastrous summer Steve McClaren oversaw a year ago? What-manager-wants-manager-gets does not work at a club like QPR, with our turnover of bosses and our owners. Long summer to go though, so I’m reserving judgement on that aspect of it all for now.
Sadly, if we were looking at other clubs in the Championship and assessing who might do what, then one that won three of its last 23 games last season and responded by releasing half a dozen first team players for the second summer in a row amidst massive budget cuts, replacing them with a goalkeeper from Livingston and a 30+ year old SPL stalwart from Rangers, we’d be marking them down as relegation candidates. We just would. But then, I said the same about Clint Hill and Shaun Derry and, well, when are we getting on with erecting their statues in Batman Close?
Let’s hope history repeats itself.
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