In our weekly Scout feature, Daniel Roberts takes a detailed look at a new emerging talent from world football. This week, QPR’s new signing Conor Washington is profiled.
Amid the continuing exploits of former non-league forward Jamie Vardy, English clubs up and down the country have been searching for their very own dream story.
After losing their talisman Charlie Austin in the January transfer window, Queens Park Rangers will be hoping their replacement will be another future Premier League success story, as former postman Conor Washington hopes to take up the goal scoring reigns at Loftus Road after his switch from Peterborough last month.
A professional for only four and a half years, the 23-year-old has enjoyed a rapid rise since leaving non-league side St Ives Town in 2012. After progressing from the youth squad at the Cambridgeshire side, he went on to break scoring records at the club, with a remarkable tally of 52 goals in 50 games in his final season firing St Ives to third in the United Counties League Premier Division and into the quarter-finals of the FA Vase.
His form saw him move to Conference side Newport County, and in his first season at the club he played a part in the Exiles’ return to the Football League, going up via the play-offs, defeating Wrexham in the final.
In his first campaign in the Football League, he scored seven times in 32 appearances and earned a January move to Peterborough United in a money-plus-player deal. In the remainder of the season for the Posh, he scored another five times, including one in the play-off semi-final against Leyton Orient.
In his first full season in League One he scored 13 goals, and carried that form into this season, netting a career-high tally of 15 in 31 appearances – including a run of 13 goals in 14 games. What’s more impressive about the striker’s rise is that while he has progressed through the Football League pyramid, his goals-to-game ratio has also improved significantly. Starting at just one in 16 in his first campaign, he saw it increase to one in four in his second, almost one in three in his third, and nearly a goal in every other game in his fourth season.
This January, Washington once again switched clubs, joining QPR in a £2.8million deal as a replacement for Southampton-bound Austin.
Rs boss Jimmy Floyd Hasslebaink said of the signing: “He’s quick and he’s versatile, which is important.
“He can play on his own up there; in a two; or on the shoulder of another striker. He’s got great pace to get in behind and that’s something we need when you look at our current attacking options.”
What The Experts Say
Peterborough Director of Football Barry Fry: “Conor’s improvement has been so great and so rapid it has taken many people at the club, as well as fans, by surprise, with the exception of our chairman who has always rated Conor very highly.”
Peterborough manager Graham Westley: “Conor is the best striker in this league (League One) – I don’t think there is any doubt about that.
“Whatever a player tries to do against him, he always has an answer. He has pace to burn, a lot of strength and is showing increasing ability in front of goal.
QPR manager Jimmy Floyd Hasslebaink: “I’ve seen first-hand what he’s capable of and his all-round game has always impressed me. Of course he’s still got a lot to learn – he’s by no means the finished article – but I am convinced he has what it takes to succeed at a higher level with us.”
Where Does The Future Lie?
Washington’s initial aim will be to find his feet in the second tier of English football and provide the goals to help move QPR into play-off contention, with the side currently 11 points behind sixth-placed Sheffield Wednesday.
With his move to Loftus Road, he has also linked up with one of the Premier League’s finest ever strikers in Hasslebaink. Washington cited the opportunity to work under the Dutchman as contributing factor to his decision to join the club, hoping his experience will improve his game for the better.
“Having someone like Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink here as manager was a massive pull for me,” he said. “He’s been there, seen it and done it at the very highest level and that can only benefit me as a player”.
Under his new manager’s tutorship, Washington also aims to replicate the success of Vardy in the coming years.
“The Jamie Vardy example is perfect. I’ve just got to keep working hard and improving. I think there’s a Premier League player there.”