QPR FanZoner Chris King praises Saturday’s matchwinner Tom Hitchcock and says the club’s youngsters may hold the key to their promotion hopes.
When debutant Hitchcock, almost unknown by the Queens Park Rangers supporters praying for a late winner, came on with seven minutes remaining the crowd was not expecting a miracle.
After all, the son of Rangers goalkeeping coach Kevin had only made a handful of senior appearances prior to replacing striker Bobby Zamora, and scored three times on loan at Bristol Rovers last season.
However, the 20-year-old was in the right place at the right time to tap into an empty net after Charlie Austin saw his effort saved by Scott Loach, to scenes of surprise, jubilation and no small amount of pride.
It has been some time since QPR have shown faith in anything other than expensive foreign imports and fallen Premier League stars, and while this tactic will not work every time, it must still be repeated.
Blooding youth players should not be a tactic borne out of desperation: moreover, it ought to be the guiding principle for a club that has wilfully neglected its eager and untested prospects for far too long.
Unfortunately though, it appears that the introduction of Hitchcock, who admittedly was not a product of the Rangers academy, having joined the club after Mark Hughes arrived as manager, could be a one off.
For Michael Harriman, a Republic of Ireland Under-21 international who made his debut for the R’s away to Liverpool in May, has been shipped out to Gillingham on an initial 28-day loan.
Rangers manager Harry Redknapp, who has previously been criticised for failing to furnish youth players with the sort of first-team opportunities they need to develop, seems to be carrying on in this vein.
While it is true that the Superhoops do not have many so-called “hot prospects”, the last of these, Raheem Sterling, having been sold to Liverpool, the recruitment policy appears to stifle their future emergence.
For instance, midfielder Michael Doughty, yet to make his QPR debut, has been sent out to League One Stevenage United on loan while wages are squandered on back up players such as Jermaine Jenas.
To claim that throwing inexperienced youngsters into what could be a Championship promotion battle is the answer would be foolish, but that does not mean that more cannot be done.
Redknapp, whatever his motives for remaining at the helm, should be looking to make the best of the club’s resources rather than targeting individuals that are simply out of Rangers’ league.
As Hitchcock showed, the time-honoured cliche that “if you’re good enough, you’re old enough” still stands, and you can bet the lad from Hemel Hempstead will be a better footballer for his moment of glory.
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Originally published on TEAMtalk on Monday August 19 2013.