IN the next edition of our ‘U23s in profile’ series, where we get to know the career paths to-date of our young players, we speak to defender Joe Gubbins.
The Oxford-born centre-back is from, in his own words, a ‘football-mad’ family and his love of the game really started to grow when he joined his local team Radley FC at the age of six.
Two years later, he was scouted by Southampton and he would develop and rise through the ranks at the south-coast club until he joined the R’s in 2017.
Favourite position: Centre-back
Best quality: Split passing
Sum yourself up in five words: Calm, composed, cool, loud, determined
Idol: Rio Ferdinand
Favourite type of music: Hip-Hop/ R’n’B
Favourite football boots: Adidas Predators
January 1st 2020 is a date that young QPR defender Joe Gubbins will never forget.
His senior debut; a 5-1 victory at Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium; his parents watching on from the stands. It doesn’t get much better.
The 18-year-old gets a regular reminder of it too because his framed, match-worn shirt hangs proudly on the wall of his parents’ kitchen.
“I trained with the first team the day before the game and afterwards Chris Ramsey said to me ‘are you going to be ready to come on if we need you tomorrow?’.
“I saw there was only 18 in the squad for the game, so I knew I was at least on the bench. The manager told me to warm up and on 88 minutes Eusty [John Eustace] called me back and told me that I was going on.
“The rest of the lads were brilliant giving me ‘good lucks’ and that goes a long way coming from senior players. I was so excited when the ball went out of play and I got on.”
Gubbins’ senior bow rewarded more than 10 years of dedication and hard work. From the age of eight, he and his parents would travel from Oxford to Southampton for his weekly training sessions.
By the age of 12, he was granted day release from school and would spend one night per week in digs in Southampton and by age 15 he would be away from home four days per week.
“It was a bit weird, being away from home at such a young age.
“At the time, it impacted my family more than me. My mum especially. As a young kid, it’s kind of cool to be away from home and miss school but as you get a bit older it starts to hit you a little more.
“I was juggling football and school – having to take my books down to Southampton with me – and at times it was tough but it has got me to where I am today.”
Family is where football all began for Gubbins. Growing up, he was a season ticket holder at Oxford United with his grandfather, where he’d watch the U’s, managed by Chris Wilder, chase a return to the EFL.
In May 2010 they achieved that as they beat York City in the play-off final at Wembley Stadium.
Gubbins said: “That was a big family day out. Mum, dad, brother, granddad, nan and cousins all came. Matt Green, James Constable and Alfie Potter scored the goals and we won 3-1. It was a great day.
“When I was younger, I used to get to watch them a lot because my academy games were on Sundays. I’m a big supporter of Oxford – they’re the team I grew up watching with my dad and granddad. When I can, I’ll still go and watch them with my family now.”
Family proved important when it came to leaving Southampton in 2017. Gubbins had spent eight years with the Saints but the club made the decision not to offer him a scholarship.
As well as family, a then-Southampton striker – who will be very familiar to R’s fans – also played his part in helping the youngster to put the disappointment behind him.
“My dad is friends with someone who is close with Charlie Austin, so he rang him at the time to tell him that I was being released. When he called, his mate coincidentally happened to be in the car with Charlie!
“He [Austin] was at Southampton at the time and he said that he’d call Chris Ramsey at QPR for me. Two days later, I went for a trial and then I signed. It was a bit mental!”
The quick turnaround provided the youngster with the perfect pick-me-up.
“At the time of being released, I thought it was the end of the world. I’d been at Southampton for so long and that was all I had known. It’s turned out to be a blessing in disguise, though. It’s been brilliant at QPR and I’ve had opportunities here that I never thought I would have got.”
Why has Gubbins been able to thrive at his new home?
“QPR play a lot into my game, which is playing out from the back; possession football. To have made my debut three years into joining is just incredible. I never thought that would’ve happened.
“The club definitely have the right people in charge. The amount of work they do with you 1v1 on the pitch, with analysis and in the gym is more than anyone would expect. The staff are all so approachable and it makes it the ideal environment to learn quickly in. It’s helped me so much.”