QPR take a chance on Leicester's Thomas - Signing
Monday, 27th Jul 2020 15:18 by Clive Whittingham
Out of contract Leicester City forward George Thomas is QPR's first new signing for the 2020/21 season.
George Thomas is a 23-year-old, five-foot-eight-inch, attacking midfielder or forward from Leicester.
He came through the youth ranks at Coventry City, making his debut just shy of his seventeenth birthday with a 45-minute outing at Leyton Orient in League One in January 2014. He made a further seven appearances for the Sky Blues in 2014/15 and nine in 2015/16 as well as five outings in League Two while on loan at Yeovil Town.
His breakout year came in 2016/17 as a 19-year-old. He played 36 times that year, opening his professional goalscoring account in a 4-2 win at Wycombe in November and going on to bag nine goals across the season. He became something of a hero of Cov’s successful run to the final of the JP Trophy, scoring twice against Wycombe (once in the semi-final) and once against Brighton’s U23s on the way to Wembley then bagging the winning goal against Oxford under the arch with an immaculate touch and volleyed finish from 20 yards.
While at Coventry Thomas once scored a first half hat trick for their U18 side in a 5-0 win against QPR and he’d obviously stuck in our mind because along with Burnley and Leeds the R’s were one of several clubs keen to sign him in the summer of 2017. Perhaps not surprisingly, he chose to return to his hometown club, Premier League Leicester City on a three-year-contract for an undisclosed fee.
It's been a frustrating time since. Thomas’ appearances in Leicester colours have been limited entirely to six outings in the Football league Trophy. In his first, against Scunthorpe, he scored in a 2-1 win which might have had something to do with a season long loan deal at Glanford Park in 2018/19. He scored three times in 31 starts and nine sub appearances for the Iron, but was part of a poor team that finished in the relegation zone that year. He’d made three appearances for Den Haag in Holland prior to the Coronavirus lockdown, having been taken there on loan by Alan Pardew in January.
Thomas has played for Wales at U17, U19 and U20 level, playing in the Toulon tournament in the summer of 2017 and scoring both goals in a 2-2 group stage draw with Ivory Coast. He’s since won three full caps, making his debut as a second half substitute in a 0-0 friendly draw against Mexico in May 2018. That probably means he’s already played in front of the biggest crowd he’ll ever see in his career as the game was played at The Rose Bowl, scene of the 94 World Cup Final, and the official attendance was 83,345 which included the thick end of 70,000 screaming Mexicans.
He has signed a three year deal at Loftus Road with Sky reporting one of our famous 'options on the club's side' for a fourth if it goes well.
“I want to play as many games as I can. Seeing the young boys coming through here, getting games and improving, definitely had an impact on my decision. Hopefully I can follow them. I won’t stop running, I will always work hard for the badge – and hopefully I will score a few goals along the way. I think work ethic should be the foundation of any footballer. It’s definitely something I strive for.” - George Thomas
“I am looking forward to working with George. He is a very talented young player who I know is very-highly thought of by the Welsh staff. He has flexibility in his position on the pitch and a real hunger about how he plays the game. He has shown his quality during loan spells and is more than ready to make this step up in his career. I have no doubt he will positively impact the club. Every club is facing a very different footballing landscape and what we have to do is move as astutely as possible and as swiftly as possible. There are a lot of clubs fishing in the same pond but we have to make sure when we do bring players in that they add a different dimension and a different quality to what we currently possess.”- Mark Warburton
On the face of it, rather a strange signing. Thomas was unable to even break into Leicester’s cup teams off the bench during three years there, and didn’t pull up any trees during a loan spell at Scunthorpe which ended in relegation from League One. He was released at the end of his Leicester contract this summer and had been attracting interest only from League One outfits Bristol Rovers and Northampton. A Championship move, a level he’s never played at, is a bit of a touch for the player, and perhaps an odd one for QPR, who are not short of players who play in his position, albeit with Bright Osayi-Samuel about to leave.
However… not being able to breakthrough at Leicester, as a teenage forward with one full season of League One football under your belt, doesn’t make him a bad player. The Foxes had been Premier League champions the year before he arrived and have been selecting Jamie Vardy, Harvey Barnes, James Maddison, Demarai Gray, Ayoze Perez and others in his positions. The mediocre loan at Scunthorpe doesn’t bode particularly well but the lads at the Iron Bru podcast told us over the weekend: “He didn’t set League One alight but was in a shocking team and never really got a run in the side. He’s a good player as a number ten.”
There are a couple of things I like about this transfer though. The first is that he’s been on QPR’s radar for a very long time, potentially as far back as 2014 when he scored a hat trick against our U18s, and certainly as far back as 2017 when we tried to sign him from Coventry but got beaten out by bigger boys. Had we snared him then, after his breakout year in League One, with Leicester, Burnley and Leeds all interested, it would have been hailed as something of a coup, now here we are getting him for free and he’s still the same young player who had that potential three years ago.
Cov fan Dominic Jerams told us: “George Thomas is a player I really liked at Cov. His technical ability was really solid and once he started scoring he didn’t look like stopping. Admittedly I haven’t seen him since he left us, but I wonder whether the Championship is a league top high for him right now. He seems a confidence player and I worry he might not get to build it at that level even though I think he has the potential to be decent eventually. The big thing too is working out what his best position is. He’s somewhere between a striker, attacking midfielder or a winger. His best form for us came on the right of a 4-2-3-1. He’s more of a technical kind of forward than a speed or skill merchant - I can’t remember him beating too many defenders - it’s his movement and use of the ball that are his best qualities. He can also take set-pieces.”
He did enough to impress Joe Cole when he randomly pitched up playing for the Sky Blues and told the Coventry Observer: “It’s an ideal working environment to learn the game and James Maddison is one player who has benefited and come on bundles. It would be unfair of me to single out lots of them but if you ask me for one I really like George Thomas. I thought he was excellent against Sheffield United. He’s got an old head on young shoulders and I think he can go on and score 10-15 goals next season. But so many of them have impressed me and I’ve enjoyed working with them. They’re all a great bunch of lads and real hard workers.”
It's a bit like the Conor Masterson signing this. As the evil EPPP regulations continue to allow Premier League clubs to hoover up any half decent looking teenager they like, and they respond by just racking and stacking youngsters they know they’ve almost certainly got no use for just to stop other clubs having them and accidentally discovering something they may then have to pay £30m for, picking up the boys that fall out of that system in their late teens or early 20s is quite a clever thing to do if you’re a club without a category one academy. It’s certainly worked for us with Masterson, and with others it won’t work quite so well, but if we’ve been watching and liking Thomas for years and he’s now kicking around on a free then why not?
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