Clarke-Salter becomes first arrival of the Beale era - Signing
Friday, 17th Jun 2022 19:32 by Clive Whittingham
Following his release on a free transfer from Chelsea, left-sided defender Jake Clarke-Salter is the first new signing of the Michael Beale era at QPR.
Jake Clarke-Salter is a 24-year-old, left-sided centre back, born in Armel Tchakounte’s former stomping ground of Carshalton.
He was hoarded into the Chelsea puppy farm at just eight-years-old, though did spend some junior time with Sutton United as well. He broke-through at U18 level while still only 16, and captained the academy side which won three FA Youth Cups and two UEFA Youth Leagues. He made the bench for the seniors in a 1-1 draw at Stoke in March 2016, and then a full debut from the bench in a 4-0 home win against Villa that April – though, typically for a Chelsea academy graduate, this would be one of only two appearances he ever made for their first team, the other coming in a 5-1 League Cup win at home to Forest in 2017/18.
As is also par for the course, he spent almost all of the next six years of his life and career being loaned off into neutral territory along with 30-odd others in similar situations at Stamford Bridge: nine starts and four sub appearances for Bristol Rovers during a season-long loan in League One in 2016/17 cut short by a broken arm and dislocated elbow which kept him out for four months; eight starts, three sub apps, and two red cards for Sunderland in a half-season loan during their disastrous 2018/19 Championship campaign; the obligatory year with Vitesse Arnhem where he clocked in 28 starts and a first goal in senior men’s football; two separate spells with Birmingham in 19/20 and 20/21, the first yielding 24 starts and a goal, the latter just ten starts and one sub appearance as shoulder and calf injuries hampered progress and too much time was spent on their bench; and then 29 starts and two sub apps in a very impressive Coventry side and season in 21/22 which was definitely the best campaign of his career to date.
Internationally he was part of the England U20 team which won the World Cup at that age group for the first time in 2017. He then scored on his debut for the U21s in a 2-1 win against Romania and then captained his country at that level in the subsequent European Championships.
Having been released by Chelsea at the end of a four-year contract this summer he now signs a deal of the same length at Loftus Road (three with a one year option according to West London Sport), arriving on a free transfer.
“It’s a permanent deal and it’s time for me to settle down and progress in my career. It’s totally different to a loan move because this is my home and I am fully focused on doing great things with this club. This is a big step for me and one I am totally ready for. Michael Beale was my coach from when I was 13 or 14, he knows me, he knows my family and when he called it was a no brainer. He was really detailed in his plans for me and for the club which caught me by surprise. I was blown away by what he was saying and I am hoping I can do my part on the pitch now.” -Jake Clarke-Salter
“The work behind the scenes to recruit him has been excellent from everyone involved. He is a player that was identified very quickly as one that we feel is a great fit and we are very happy he chose to sign for QPR as he was a player that had a lot of options this summer. He is a player that I really enjoyed working with, and that relationship and connection we have is a big reason for wanting him here at QPR. Jake is a left-footed defender who is comfortable playing in a back three or a back four. He is very comfortable on the ball and likes to step forward to help build the team’s attacks. I think he complements the players we have and is a very important addition to our squad.” -Michael Beale
“I never fully made my mind up about him. His first stint with us was more successful than than his last one, but he spent a lot of it injured. Shoulder and calf, I think. Left sided centre back. Probably better in a three than a two. Firstly, he’s clearly most suited to a team that is likely to play out from the back and retain possession. Blues did that under Pep Clotet for a short while, before reverting to a more direct style. Anyway, he’s definitely comfortable on the ball, neat and tidy with passes and has the ability to carry it up the field. I wouldn’t say he was a commanding or physical centre back, but he has decent anticipation and will intercept often. He’s not particularly strong, he would get out muscled and bullied occasionally and was also prone to the odd mistake. Mistakes in our defence were common though. His talent and potential looked pretty obvious at times and other times not so much. He was a bit hit and miss with us, but to be honest Blues have the ability to drain the skill and talent out of Messi. I’d hazard a guess he probably looked a bit better at Cov where they would’ve had a team that played in a style that suited him.” -Matthew Elliott, LFW’s Birmingham City guy
“I'm gutted, he added some real balance to our backline. Played left hand side of the three and was very cultured. Liked playing the ball out and could carry the it out from the back comfortably. Good in the air and read the game well but struggled against big strikers, Adebayo at Luton had a field day with him. Did pick up a few injuries with us but wouldn't say he was a liability in that regard. Was top of my list for centre backs for us to sign this summer.” -Neil Littlewood, LFW’s Coventry City guy
The parting of ways with Yoann Barbet, confirmed last week but in reality known about for a thick month, vexed many QPR fans, including myself to a certain extent.
When you’ve got an experienced, left-sided, ball-playing, really quite good Championship centre back on your books the right side of 30 it seems a strange decision to release him, especially when he’s essentially been injury free and available to play every game for the last two seasons and at one point in 2021/22 looked like half a bet for the club’s player of the year award. With Lee Wallace, Moses Odubajo and less understandably Dom Ball also cut from last year’s squad list it felt a little bit like a petty cull of Mark Warburton’s top boys. I assessed it as a straight up mistake on the LFW Twitter account.
As ever, Tweet in haste, repent at leisure. It does me no good to sit here at this keyboard so often imploring people to pay more attention to the club’s accounts, the P&S rules of the EFL, and what both mean for the budget QPR has for its squad, and then lazily sling out a contradictory “well that’s obviously a mistake” reaction when they make a decision based, at least in part, on those factors simply because I quite like the player.
Jim Frayling, who would know better than most of us, and Dave McIntyre, who’s always right when I’m wrong, put the nuanced situation into far better context. Signed at 25/26, on a free transfer, from a local rival, in pre-Covid times, Barbet will have commanded a certain wage in that market. Now 29, in the post-pandemic landscape, it’s likely said market has moved away from that figure considerably, and whether he wanted two-years or, more likely, three, every bit of money committed to that contract renewal would effectively have been dead because you’re not going to sell him now are you? QPR need to develop players to sell, regularly, if they are to escape this hellscape and whether you or I like it or not Barbet didn’t fit into that. It would have been very similar to what Bristol City did with Nahki Wells – committing money to a player moving into his 30s with no re-sale value.
Contract renewals are something the club has struggled to get right, but it’s not easy. Give Barbet a new one now, probably a popular move, but then if he starts badly in a back four, or gets injured, then it looks daft. We lambasted them for waiting and seeing on Bright and Manning, and for giving four years to Kakay and Hamalainen. We’ve got some big contracts coming up in the not too distant future that absolutely need renewing – Willock with one year and a one year option the main amber warning light - so if they’ve got to clear budget to do that then this is a fact of life. It’s the sort of tough decision well-run clubs make all the time, and something QPR actually need to get better at and do more of. As I said in Stefan Johansen’s end of term report: “A salutary lesson that no matter how many times we get taught it, none of us ever learn. It doesn’t matter that he played well here on loan, it doesn’t matter that all the fans on social media are baying for it and telling you to show ambition and DMing Amit to get his hand in his pocket, it doesn’t matter that it will be popular, it doesn’t matter if idiot know-all bloggers like me are describing it as a “no brainer” and the final piece in the promotion puzzle. Ignore all of it and all of us. However unpopular it makes you, however much stick you get – if the contract is expensive, if he’s 30 or over, and if there’s no re-sale value, don’t do it. Don’t do it.”
I finished Barbet’s report by saying: “If they think that on our budget we’re going to be able to find a better bet than this – 29-years-old, perennially fit and available, left-sided, ball-playing, 200-Championship-game centre back, available on a free transfer this summer - then I cannot wait to meet the new guy.” And here is the new guy, Jake Clarke-Salter. Rather ironic that I said we’d be delighted if we were picking up Barbet on a free from Coventry this summer, and now here we are picking up their left-sided centre back from last season on a free only he’s five years younger. Swines. I do a perfectly good job of making myself look stupid without the club doing that for me.
A strange signing in certain regards because another argument in favour of cutting his French predecessor was that he’s far less comfortable in a back four than a three, and Michael Beale has preferred a four at his previous clubs. Salter, too, it seems, is better on the left side of a three. It’s not a position we’re short in, and there must now be serious question marks over the future of Jordy De Wijs who spent the second half of last season out on loan at Dusseldorf, unless they think that big money sale we’re increasingly desperate to make is going to be Jimmy Dunne or, more likely, Rob Dickie in fairly short order. The lingering theory that Dion Sanderson may have been a permanent possibility for us from Wolves probably lingers no longer. And in a summer when I suspect the budget is going to be tight as a mouse’s waistcoat after a certain amount of pushing the boat out last year, more centre backs don’t feel like the priority in a squad that currently has no recognised senior full backs on either side and is currently relying on Lyndon Dykes and Macauley Bonne for its goals. That, however, is probably just the way the order of things has worked out, this was the first one they got across the line – QPR will make signings, QPR love making signings, it’s only June 17, there will be full backs, there will be strikers, fear not.
I’m also always a bit suspicious of these players who are happy to sit in the Chelsea puppy farm for years on end, collecting their big money, loaned off into neutral territory each season, no chance whatsoever of ever making the first team at Stamford Bridge, until suddenly they’re a mid-20s free transfer – cough, Todd Kane. Clarke-Salter at 24 has only just gone past the 100 senior appearances mark, 69 of them at Championship level. His injury record to this point is fairly intimidating - shoulder and calf injuries have restricted his availability in that time (24 appearances in 2019/20 for Brum, just 11 for them in 20/21 although he only joined in October, and then 29 starts and two sub apps for Cov last term). That Coventry season the first time he’s played 30+ times for anybody anywhere in his career, which isn’t ideal when you look at next season’s World Cup-riddled Championship schedule, and when you’re trying to operate on a small squad. But QPR haven’t shied away from this in recent times, with Sam Field, de Wijs and others all arriving with chequered injury histories as a way of getting quality, younger players we wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford. Some have worked out, some haven’t, and it’s that old adage of there must be something a bit wrong with them or they wouldn’t be signing for QPR. Still, one of Barbet’s biggest attributes was his durability and availability.
Spending the last three seasons in the Championship is good experience to have at his age, and I do like this model of us picking up players a they fall out of the Premier league meat factories – it’s worked well with the likes of Dunne and Willock. I think we’ve more chance of success there than trying to drag kids all the way through a category two academy of our own, surrounded by category ones that have all the evil EPPP rules in their favour. His last season at Coventry was definitely his best which shows progress and bodes well for how he might figure for us. Coventry liked him a lot, and were desperate for him back, which is always a positive sign. It could be as shallow as him just being better than Barbet, and I'm looking too deeply into it all - the analytics community are very taken with him and the more signings we make down that route the better.
Michael Beale has worked with him before in the Chelsea academy so knows exactly what he’s getting. QPR have been able to beat off competition from other clubs, several of whom offered better deals, thanks to Beale’s persuasive powers when he talked to the player about the potential move. The new manager isn’t even in the building yet and he’s apparently already impressing potential signings with his famed attention to detail, presentation skills, enthusiasm and knowledge.
Better still, at 24-years-old, and on a four-year contract, he offers the development and re-sale value potential that is fast becoming the on-base percentage for QPR in this Moneyball world. Check your notes or I’m going to point at Pete again.
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