The QPR striker on loan from Bournemouth and returning to his roots ahead of tonight’s Championship clash at home to Sunderland.
Was Loftus Road the perfect place for you to come last month since you were in the club as a teenager?
Yes of course. I had other options but I spoke with the coach and he had that history with the club. It all made sense, the potential here. It was a no brainer. I was here very young and the first team was something very far away for me. It was about trying to get into the youth team, now it’s good to come full circle and represent the first team at a club I was at when I was 14 years old. The comforts of home are always nice.
Since he was last in West London, it’s fair to say he’s traveled across the country, playing for eight clubs in and out of the league.
I have been everywhere in the UK! It’s good to finally be a little closer to home… it’s been a long time. It’s a huge club and it’s my home club. I have grown up with QPR. I have traveled everywhere and it is good to be back. The children’s grandparents are just around the corner, it’s no longer a four hour drive for them. Everything makes sense.
Did you think you were destined for the top after breaking through as a teenager?
I made my senior League Two debut for Barnet at 17 and then I thought my life was set, that would be me for the rest of my life. I would be playing in the Premier League at the age of 18. It was the polar opposite: I was playing non-league when I was 19, got a job and jumped from club to club just sitting on the non-league bench. . I then quit my job to pursue a football career again.
What was it like having to work as a teacher and sports coach to make ends meet after getting out of the pro game?
It’s real life. Everyone needs money to survive. But he took away the hours I could have been playing soccer and that was enough to make me realize I needed to get back on track. I coached two teams and taught physical education during the day. On Wednesdays I would start teaching at 7:30 am at the breakfast club and then come home at 9:00 pm at night. I was doing too much. That was the impetus to make a change.
Do you enjoy your full-time soccer career even more the second time around?
There isn’t a day that I don’t appreciate what I’m doing. I can’t take it for granted. I’ve seen the worst of the worst fields, training grounds and stadiums, so now I’m like a kid when I go out here to train. These things will never get old for me. It will never be another day for me playing on a championship course. Returning to the league was the main thing for me.
He only appeared twice in the Premier League for Bournemouth this season before the loan move. Did you need to take action?
I prefer to just play. There’s a cliché that says ‘I’ll sit here and take what they pay me’, but that’s not for me. I don’t want to miss anymore. It won’t last forever. The most important thing is to play as much as I can because I am grateful for the opportunity to do so. It’s a short career and he could lose another two years sitting around not playing.
The Hoops lost 2-1 at home to Millwall on Saturday, but ahead of Sunderland’s visit, do you think 16th-placed QPR can make up the seven-point gap to the top six?
The two forwards have left everyone behind but the play-offs are as open as they always are in the Championship. It will be like that until the last two or three games. We have a lot of points to play for and we have seen teams time their race before. The team that does that goes into the playoffs with momentum.
Is it fair to say that you can feel like you’ve seen it all during your career?
I have experienced a variety of things, on all levels. I’ve seen the seventh level and I’ve seen the top level and all the good, bad and ugly in between. Everyone has their pros and cons. It’s a dream to play in the Premier League as that’s what every kid wants to do and I’m proud of the journey I’ve been on. It’s not finished yet!
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