It was perhaps fitting that on the day that he made his first start for the club, on the day that he was the outstanding player on the pitch, he should score the only goal of the match to give his side a relieving victory.
Eberechi Eze is his name and he is a special talent. He is two footed and strong, he glides across the surface, his ball control is exquisite and he has that precious commodity of time, which allows him to play with his head up. He could become some player and if he continues like this, the sky is his limit.
His winning goal against a struggling Sunderland side, who did not even muster a single shot on target all match, was a smart left footed finish after he made another probing run in towards the heart of the Sunderland defence. The ball bounced somewhat kindly into his path after he had tried to play a one-two with Rangers target man, Matt Smith, but he deserved this small slice of luck and he needed no second invitation to open his Rangers account.
Rangers boss, Ian Holloway, must be praised for giving Eze his starting chance, as had been predicted and hoped for by seemingly all Rangers scribes and supporters. The young man, still only 19, most certainly took his chance, following up excellent recent substitute appearances away at Wolves and, most notably, at home to Derby last Tuesday.
It could be argued that Holloway has the Midas touch for this is the third time this season that he has selected one of the ‘young guns’ in his squad to play as a starter and on each occasion they have not only scored, but Rangers have gone on to win the match. Eze follows Aramide Oteh away at Burton and Paul Smyth at home to Cardiff onto this ‘illustrious’ list and the Rangers supporters will be hoping that they can all go on and extend their tallies as soon as possible. The future looks bright, and that list does not include Rangers other most notable youngster, Bright Osayi-Samuel, who has yet to register on the scoresheet but surely it is only a matter of time, as he again looked sharp in his brief substitute appearance yesterday.
It will be very interesting to see if Holloway persists with this youthful approach in his side’s next two fixtures, away at Aston Villa and then Fulham. These will most certainly be far sterner tests than some of the recent home matches, the home defeat by Notts Forest excepted, yet these are the games that will really test the young players. It would seem to make far more sense to blood them for their footballing experience and education, than recall the likes of Jordan Cousins, Pawel Wszolek and Conor Washington, who are far more pedestrian and ponderous and rarely make much of an impact.
Sunderland have an ageing squad and their predicament was not helped by the sending off of their goalkeeper, Jason Steele, just after half time for rather stupidly handling outside the area as he misjudged the flight of a bouncing ball. The referee had no alternative and from that moment onwards it seemed only a matter of time before Rangers would score. Sunderland rallied in the closing minutes and whilst Rangers hearts were in mouths for a few moments, Sunderland did not really threaten and did not deserve to come away with anything. They remain rooted to the bottom of the league and their plight looks perilous.
QPR are often much maligned as a club, but yesterday there were two moments that summed up both the spirit of the club and it’s place in the West London Community. The club have been rightly lauded for its work in raising money and providing support for the families and community following the Grenfell Tower tragedy and yesterday was #QPRCommunityDay when, at half time, a number of significant individuals from all walks of life were honoured as unsung heroes for all their work in the local community. It was an emotional presentation and the individuals were given rousing ovations from all in attendance including, to their credit, the Sunderland supporters.
Arguably mirroring this good spirit was the reception that the QPR supporters gave the Sunderland reserve goalkeeper as he made his way onto the pitch to take up his position in the goal in front of ‘the Loft’. Rangers supporters love their own, as indeed most clubs do, and the appearance of Lee Camp, now 33, and over 10 years since he played for the ‘hoops’ brought the second loudest cheer of the day. He only made 73 appearances for Rangers but, such was the fondness with which he was held, he was afforded something of a heroes welcome and fully deserved it was too.
Yet the day really belonged to one man. Supporters love nothing more than a home grown hero, someone they can relate to, a local boy. If that player then scores a winning goal on their full home debut, then it really is something else. Indeed it does not get much better than that, it’s the stuff of dreams. May the dream live on, Eberechi Eze.