Queens Park Rangers come to Carrow Road with a side packed full of talented young players who are improving under the guidance of manager Mark Warburton. We chatted to Chris Charles before Rangers’ game against Swansea on Boxing Day. He is the co-founder of QPRpod, a podcast that covers all the action at Loftus Road.
Canaries.co.uk: QPR have had a tough start to December, only picking up three draws from their first six games of the month. What has that dip in form been down to in your opinion?
CC: We’ve been a bit stop-start all season but now the goals have started to dry up, we are converting wins into draws and draws into losses. The miserable run of results doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story. We outplayed Bristol City for large parts of the 2-1 home defeat at the beginning of the month, but after taking the lead, failed to convert a plethora of chances to put the game to bed. They equalised against the run of play, before nicking a cruel late winner. Poor finishing was also a telling factor in the defeat to Reading and the 1-1 draw at Millwall, but there were no excuses for the 2-0 reverse at Huddersfield, where we simply looked devoid of ideas. We have scored just two goals from our first five games this month – stats don’t lie.
Canaries.co.uk: QPR finished last season in mid-table. What were the expectations going into this campaign?
CC: Unless you’re a deluded member of the ‘QPR have a divine right to be in the Premier League’ club, I think generally any improvement on last season would have been seen as a result. Yes, we made a few signings in the summer, but we lost 40-plus goals out of the team, following Eberechi Eze’s inevitable move to the Premier League, coupled with the loss of loan strikers Nakhi Wells and your own Jordan Hugill, any chance of loaning him back please? We were a joy to watch last season, scoring goals for fun and more likely to be involved in a five-goal thriller than a 0-0, but the ‘we’re gonna score one more than you’ philosophy will only take you so far and at some point, you need to stop leaking goals. With the exception of a couple of games, that hasn’t happened this season. The problem is this time we’re not scoring the goals to bail us out of trouble. Right now, if you handed me a 21st-place finish, I’d snap your arm off.
Canaries.co.uk: QPR have a good recent record of bringing through young players, with Eze, who was recently sold to Palace, being a good example. It is a relatively young squad at the moment too. Who are the youngsters in the side who we should watch out for and have good potential?
CC: Firstly, let me begin by saying Eze is a once-in-a-generation player and the smartest bit of business in the Palace deal was securing the 20 per cent sell-on clause, because he will end up going for a lot of money in the not too distant future. The good news is he has a younger brother, Chimaechi, currently playing for the under-18s, who is supposedly even better. But let's keep that between ourselves. In the current set-up, our star men are probably Bright Osayi Samuel and Ilias Chair. The former, an exciting winger with pace to burn and an eye for goal, is out of contract this summer and all attempts to agree a new deal have hit the buffers – so the smart money is on him leaving in a cut-price deal next month. Chair should be here a little longer but if he continues in the form of his past few games, the vultures may well be circling come the summer. The 23-year-old Moroccan, signed from Antwerp in 2017, might only be 5ft 2in but at times he can be a giant on the pitch and is beginning to pull the strings in midfield after stepping out of Eze’s shadow.
Canaries.co.uk: QPR normally line-up in a similar 4-2-3-1 formation to Norwich. How different is their style of play to Norwich though? Do they like to play out from the back and keep possession or are they quite direct?
CC: Mark Warburton’s philosophy is to treat the ball like a family heirloom and hold on to it for as long as you can. Last season was truly exciting because we were playing football from the gods and the goals were flying in from everywhere. Sadly, this term the goals have dried up and you’re left with lots of pretty passing but little or no end product. Before he moved to the club there was a lot made of Warburton’s lack of a plan B from fans of other clubs he’d managed and there’s definitely evidence of that this season. Everyone likes to watch attractive football but sometimes you need to chuck it in the box and hope one goes in off the proverbial backside.
Canaries.co.uk: There have been a lot of games so far this season, and in December especially, are there any injury worries going into the busy Christmas schedule or any players that could come back into the side by December 29?
CC: We lost Luke Amos early on with a ruptured knee ligament, a horrible injury which ruled him out for the season and has left a gaping hole in our midfield. It’s true that you sometimes only notice a player’s true worth when they’re not playing, and his loss has been a big blow.
Canaries.co.uk: Rob Dickie joined in the summer. He is a defender that has looked impressive, especially at Oxford United last season. How has he settled into life at QPR?
CC: Dickie has settled in well and was one of the better bits of business we did in the summer – although it’s a bit of a hospital pass for anyone joining a QPR defence in its current state. He has probably been the pick of the bunch from our defence (which isn’t saying much, granted). He’s only 24 and looks to be a good investment – hopefully one we can sell on at a healthy profit in a couple of years, which is where we are at as a club these days. Dickie’s achilles heel is his pace, or rather lack of. It has cost us on more than one occasion, most noticeably against Barnsley where he was sent off and gave away a penalty after tugging back his man. He’s already a decent reader of the game, but with experience he will get even better to help compensate for his lack of speed.
Canaries.co.uk: Lyndon Dykes is another new recruit. How crucial is he to the way QPR want to play and what has his form been like so far this campaign?
Dykes has become a household name in Scotland since we signed him from Livingston in the summer. The big Aussie-born striker played a large part in getting the Tartan Army to qualify for their first major tournament this century. Unfortunately for us, he has looked a much better player in the dark blue of Scotland than our own blue and white hoops, which might be more to do with us than him. He has scored only one goal from open play this season, with the other four all coming from the penalty spot, so we’d be extremely grateful for any handballs in the box today please.