By quickly moving Grant Hall into midfield, Ian Holloway has continued a recurring theme of his managerial career – one that was prevalent during his first spell as QPR boss.
Hall is composed at centre-back and looks useful when stepping into midfield. Therefore he now plays in midfield. It’s a very simple way of thinking, but is it likely to benefit the player? The fortunes of former Rangers players suggest Hall will need to buck the trend if he is to vindicate Holloway’s decision.
Wardley scored 14 goals from midfield the season before Holloway took over as QPR manager. Guy can score goals, stick him up front, right? But arriving in the box is different to playing mostly in and around the box. Wardley never cut it up front and never reached anything like the heights of his maiden QPR season again.
Like Wardley, Darlington arrived from non-League and impressed before Holloway’s arrival, in this case as a wing-back or full-back. He was particularly effective going forward so Holloway duly played him as a winger. But some wide-players are effective when coming on to the ball in the attacking third and less so when it’s their starting position, and Darlington was one of them. The change didn’t help him.
Even at the peak of his youth-goalscoring exploits and comparisons with Rush, Greaves and just about any famous goal poacher you care to mention, many good judges in the game expected Gallen to actually develop into a very useful off-the-front forward. And so it proved to be the case. He enjoyed some of his best years dropping off the front, linking play and showing he could pull onto either flank to create openings.
As a result, he was often deployed in midfield or the wing, where he did a decent enough job but was never as effective. Dropping into midfield and actually playing in midfield are very different.
Santos, a centre-back or tough-tackling midfielder, scored twice for Sheffield United in Holloway’s first match as R’s boss. After moving to Loftus Road he chipped in with the odd goal, including a fine strike in a 3-0 win against Norwich. In the end, Santos found himself up front. That strike against Norwich turned out to be his final Rangers goal. Hardly a crowd favourite to begin with, it’s fair to say his performances as a striker didn’t boost his popularity. Or Holloway’s for that matter.