Eberechi Eze: The Young Playmaker With the X Factor at QPR

Eberechi Eze: The Young Playmaker With the X Factor at QPR

Saturday, 17 November, 2018 - 06:30
Eberechi Eze in action for QPR. He has started all 17 league games under Steve McClaren this season. Photograph: Ian Tuttle/BPI/Rex/Shutterstock
London - Ben Fisher
At Loftus Road, there is a new No 10 in town. Eberechi Eze has a long way to go until he is mentioned in the same breath as Rodney Marsh or Stan Bowles, but there is no doubting the Queens Park Rangers playmaker’s ability to astound. A buccaneering performer, there are shades of the audacity of Adel Taarabt and the brain of Akos Buzsaky, but Eze is carving out a reputation in his own right as one of the most exciting young talents in the country.

But Eze has not had it easy. Released by Millwall in 2016 the 20-year-old struggled as a youngster, deemed too small by Arsenal before unsuccessful spells with Fulham and Reading. After convincing Chris Ramsey, the QPR technical director, Eze has not looked back since arriving at the club two years ago. He has started all 17 league games under Steve McClaren this season and has been instrumental in their recent turnaround, with QPR now two points off the play-off pack having only picked up one win from their first six Championship matches. The trio of loan signings, Tomer Hemed, Nahki Wells and Geoff Cameron have been equally influential.

Last month Eze, who was born in Greenwich but remains eligible to represent Nigeria, earned international recognition with a call-up to England Under-20s squad and could feature against Germany on Monday. It has been an extraordinary ride for a player who only made his full league debut for QPR in March, though his first real taste of first-team football came during a six-month stint on loan at Wycombe Wanderers last year.

Premier League scouts have taken a keen interest in Eze, but it was a hat-trick in a development match at Harlington, QPR’s training ground, against Hull City in August 2017 that paved the way for a move to Wycombe. Unable to attend the game, Gareth Ainsworth asked his midfielder, Marcus Bean, to report back on Eze after the manager was tipped off about him by Jack Williams, the defender who signed on loan from QPR earlier that summer. “He stood out a mile,” Bean says. “Some of the things he was doing on the football pitch I have not seen for a very long time. It reminded me of when I played with Lee Trundle. You used to just be in awe of the ability they had, some of the tricks they used to do. Ebs makes the game look easy, he goes past players at will and he scores goals as well. I went back to the manager and said: ‘Listen, we need to get him in. He’s got that X Factor.’”

Aided by the experience of forwards Craig Mackail-Smith, Nathan Tyson and Adebayo Akinfenwa – who boast almost 2,000 career games between them – it did not take long for Eze to find his feet in League Two. “His first goal in professional football [against Cambridge] was an absolute goal of the season,” says Ainsworth, the former QPR midfielder. “It was a half-volley with the outside of his right foot, bent into the top corner. And then 10 minutes later, he bends another one into the same top corner with his left foot. You know when you have got something special. But I think Ebs’s biggest strength is his awareness, he sees the picture around him before he receives the ball.

“After every Saturday game, we sat down on the Tuesday, in the afternoons, and we went through every time he touched the ball from the previous game,” Ainsworth adds. “I clipped all of his touches in the game with Wyscout. I remember in one specific clip with Ebs, I think he was goal side of his midfielder, there was a counterattack against us and at the other end of the pitch, that same midfielder ended up getting goal side of him, through towards our goal. I flagged it up to him and I said: ‘This can’t be, you have all this talent, you have to do the other side of the game as well’.

“You can say this to players until you are blue in the face, but Ebs really had that desire to improve. The difference between the better players is in the mind – they are all good tactically and physically.”

Marc Bircham, the former QPR assistant and youth team manager, compared the ease with which Eze beats his man with a teenage Raheem Sterling, while the biggest compliment the club paid him was handing him the No 10 shirt in the summer. “That shirt has had some decent names through the years but I don’t think Eberechi Eze will be doing that shirt any disrespect,” Ainsworth says. “He’s shown he’s fully ready to wear that shirt and in my opinion he will go on to bigger and better things. I’ll be more surprised if I don’t see him in the Premier League one day, than if I do. If he can keep his hunger and desire to want to learn, and his humility, I’m sure he can reach the top.”





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