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Played for both: Middlesbrough

FOLLOWING last weekend’s opening-day defeat to Blackburn Rovers, Mick Beale’s side finally return to Loftus Road tomorrow (Saturday) as we welcome Middlesbrough to W12.

Ahead of the clash with Chris Wilder’s side, we look at five familiar figures who pulled on the shirt of both sides throughout their careers:

Don Masson

QPR 1974-77, Middlesbrough 1964-68

Kicking things off this week is midfielder Don Masson - having begun his career with Middlesbrough in 1964, the Scottish international spent four years at Ayresome Park where he scored six goals in 53 appearances for Boro before completing a switch to Notts County in 1968.

A six-year spell at Meadow Lane would follow before he made the move to the capital to join First Division side QPR in 1974.

Masson would go on to make 116 appearances, scoring 18 times for the R’s during a period of success for the Super Hoops.

A key figure in our memorable team of 1975/76, which narrowly missed out on the First Division title in agonising circumstances, Masson eventually departed Loftus Road in 1977 when he enjoyed spells with Derby County, Minnesota Kicks, Bulova and Kettering Town before retiring in 1984.

Masson was later inducted into the Forever R’s Club in 2016, QPR’s former players, managers and coaches’ association as we recognised his spell in west London.

Emmanuel Ledesma

QPR 2008-09, Middlesbrough 2012-15

Emmanuel Ledesma arrived at Loftus Road in the summer of 2008 on loan from Italian side Genoa, as the R’s beat off stiff competition from many Serie A sides for the signing of the Argentinian.

Featuring regularly under boss Iain Dowie, he scored his first R’s goal against Doncaster Rovers in August 2008, before sealing a memorable hat-trick against Carlisle United a few days later. But a change in management saw the youngster eventually departing W12 in February 2009 having made 23 appearances in all competitions, scoring four goals.

Ledesma went on to enjoy spells back in Italy, Argentina, America, Finland and most recently Chile. The now-34-year-old also spent time back in England with stints at no less than six different EFL sides, including Middlesbrough.

The attacking midfielder shone at the Riverside, making 37 appearances and scoring nine goals over a three-year spell between 2012 and 2015. Ledesma eventually completed a permanent switch to Rotherham United to end his spell on Teesside.

John O’Rourke

QPR 1971-74, Middlesbrough 1966-68

Striker John O’Rouke began his career with Arsenal and Chelsea, before dropping down to the Fourth Division to join Luton Town, where an impressive goals tally at Kenilworth Road caught the eye of many. Middlesbrough was eventually his destination in 1966.

A memorable campaign would quickly follow at Ayersome Park, where a wonderful 30 goals throughout the 1966/67 season helped Middlesbrough seal a return to the Third Division.

He later joined Ipswich Town and Coventry City having scored 38 times from 64 appearances for Boro, before eventually moving to Loftus Road in 1971.

A helpful 12 goals from 34 league appearances in west London followed, but the arrival of Stan Bowles in 1972 somewhat hindered his playing time.

O’Rouke eventually departed in 1974 when moved to the South Coast, finishing his Football League career with Bournemouth.

John sadly passed away in July 2016, at the age of 71.

Grant Hall

QPR 2015-20, Middlesbrough 2020-22

Defender Grant Hall enjoyed a five-year spell with QPR, where he made 119 appearances, scoring six goals for the R’s.

Having begun his career with Brighton & Hove Albion and Lewes, Hall eventually joined Tottenham Hotspur in 2012, with loan spells at Swindon Town, Birmingham City and Blackpool eventually catching the eye of Rangers in 2015.

An impressive first season in W12 earned him the player of the year award, but he was quickly hindered by a troublesome knee injury as he missed large parts of the 2017/18 and 2018/19 campaigns.

The arrival of former boss Mark Warburton ahead of the 2019/20 season brought a new lease of life for Hall, as he went on to score five goals from 30 appearances in the blue and white hoops - form which saw him become a key part of the R’s backline once again.

However, he departed for Middlesbrough in the summer of 2020 and has made 27 appearances, scoring twice.

Despite remaining on the books at Boro, Hall will spend this season on loan at newly-promoted Rotherham United.

Billy Birrell

QPR 1935-39, Middlesbrough 1921-27

Scottish forward Billy Birrell enjoyed an impressive playing career north of the border, with spells at Inverkeithing United and Raith Rovers, but it was at Middlesbrough that many will remember goalscoring exploits.

A fine 59 goals from 225 appearances for Boro during a six-year spell at Ayersome Park ensured that he will forever remain a familiar name on Teesside - as captain he led his side to the Second Division championship in 1927.

After hanging up his boots in 1930, Birrell took his first steps into management where he worked at Raith Rovers and Bournemouth & Boscombe Athletic before moving to the capital in 1935.

An impressive four-year spell in the hot seat in W12 saw him become our most-successful manager since James Howie, which dated back over 25 years, before he joined west London rivals Chelsea in 1939.

He went on to guide the Blues to two cup finals and two FA Cup semi-finals before retiring in 1952.

Birrell sadly passed away in November 1968, at the age of 71.

A big thank you to club historian Chris Guy for his contribution to this piece.