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The Lockdown Diaries #6

QPR fan Sam Taylor shares his views on this season from the terraces.

Reflecting on this season so far, there have been some very obvious differences from previous campaign which have propelled us to arguably a much greater level of play.

Not only has one of those differences been the introduction of a new philosophy from a new manager, which I’ll talk about in next week’s column, but there has been a new youthful energy injected into this year’s squad which has boosted our play to the level we know it can be.

I thought this week I would take a moment to give a word on the younger players in this year’s squad who have been so important to us.

First up, Ilias Chair.

The young Moroccan has been outstanding this year. Whether he’s starting the game or coming off the bench, Ilias brings with him a determined energy that seems to go missing from a lot of young players these days.

He can strike a ball, he goes in for the tough challenges (even when he may get squished by someone four times his height) and his interplay has been lovely.

The main thing I amongst other R’s fans have picked up on this season is the outstanding link up play that Ilias has found himself a key part of.

So many young players are desperate to take the ball and do a thousand skills, try and beat a hundred players, then shoot from fifty yards out. But, with Ilias especially he has an innate composure about the way he plays football. Something that can go underappreciated is the skill level required to be calm on the ball, make that pass and make the right pass, and for me, Ilias Chair is a player who very much has a top footballing brain.

His work in link-up plays with Bright and Ebere is just beautiful, the way they play it around, one, two, three, is just remarkable. Ilias is a top player and hopefully we will be seeing him in the Hoops for years to come. He has definitely lived up to those Moroccan expectations.

Next, everyone’s favourite pile-driver of a winger, Bright Osayi-Samuel.

Now, Bright was awarded young player of the season last year, if I remember correctly, so that would put a reasonable amount of pressure on a youngster to step up their game further the following season.

And step up he has. Bright’s upper body strength is honestly ridiculous, if the ball goes out to him there seems to be no defender who can get it off him. As well as being a physically imposing threat, his pace and control of the ball down the right flank is just beautiful.

How many times has Bright left his opposition for dead running down that wing this season? He gets that ball, head down, straight forward, run, run run. One thing Bright himself was wary of and has spoken of recently has been his specific improvement in adding an end product to his play.

It’s one thing to be able to outpace your opponents, or to outmuscle them, or to position yourself well. But, as a winger, it is also incredibly important that when called upon you can find the back of the net, and it seems, Bright has had absolutely no problem in that area.

If you’d like to see a brief summary of Bright Osayi-Samuel as a footballer, take a look at that Birmingham goal again. The strength, the pace and the astounding finish prove what a remarkable talent he is and I pray that despite obvious interest from the Premier League, Bright will stick around for a while and progress that pace, strength and ability in the blue and white Hoops.

Not that I need to remind you about this next one but Ebere Eze is rather good at football.

We’ve seen glimmers of Eze’s ability in recent seasons but this year Ebere has truly shown how good he is, and how good he will be.

He glides past players as if on ice, he controls the ball as if it’s magnetic, his ability to draw fouls and keep possession is truly astonishing and his finishing is a sight to behold. Highlight reels of Eze’s play this year will be on repeat for many to come I’m sure.

I cannot express the amount of times I’ve watched his runs against Hull earlier this season. The way he glides past half the team, not once but twice, and draws in those fouls and wins those penalties is wonderful. This was a big season for Ebere as he had the chance to become the main man after players such as Luke Freeman departed the squad, and he did not waste any time introducing himself to the side by completely obliterating the Stoke City defence to cap off what I still think is probably our goal of the season.

That GIF of Eze gliding past the Stoke defence and passing the ball into the net has probably taken up at least a couple of weeks’ worth of entertainment whilst in quarantine.

All credit to Ebere for not letting the plaudits go to his head and staying focused and determined throughout the year to keep up the consistently incredible form he’s been in.

As mentioned before, special mentions also must go to Ryan Manning.

He’s not necessarily headline grabbing like the other three, but a young player being thrown into a new position, and learning a new style of play, is incredibly difficult, and Ryan has been outstanding.

Not only his defensive ethic, but he has a wand of a left foot and the assists to show for it. In today’s game, having defenders capable of starting and contributing to attacking play is intrinsic in succeeding.

He is a young player who is most definitely going places and will equally be in high demand come the summer.

Anther mention must go to Luke Amos, on loan from Spurs.

Luke has a hungriness about the way he plays. Despite being positioned in defensive midfield, Luke seems to make his way across most of the pitch throughout the duration of the match. He throws himself around, never backs out of a challenge and links up beautifully by distributing the ball out wide and forward into the attacking lines.

My last mention goes to young Conor Masterson.

Conor was an interesting prospect held in high regard when we bought him in the summer and it was going to be interesting to see how he stepped up on the bigger stage.

His first appearances actually came due to some injuries amongst the more regular players, but he did not miss his opportunity to shine. He shares that inherent maturity of the other players I’ve spoken about which is so hard to come across in young players these days.

He seems to be really comfortable at what he does, and has a very good understanding of the game for a player of his age. I have been really impressed by his performances for QPR this season and has been the most pleasant of surprises to see an up and coming defender prove himself.

The team has been phenomenal this year and credit must be given to the coaching and managerial staff who have clearly raised and encouraged the young players so well.

They all have incredibly exciting futures and I look forward to watching Bright Osayi-Samuel skin Trent Alexander-Arnold down the wing as we beat Liverpool on the last day of next season, to secure our first Premier League title.

I’ve had a lot of spare time, my imagination’s gone a bit off.

Anyway, they’re all really good players and it has been brilliant watching them develop this season and hopefully we will get to watch them flourish further in years to come.