After several false starts, a much needed overhaul of QPR’s youth system finally seems to be up and running.
That comes as a huge relief to youth development manager Steve Gallen after the frustration of the Flavio Briatore-led board talking a good game without actually investing in an area of the club that has been sorely neglected.
This time, Gallen believes, the regime at Loftus Road are prepared to back up their words with the action needed to create a development system fit for a Premier League club with supposedly major ambitions.
“We will be at the forefront of academies in this country if the chairman and Philip Beard get their way.”
“There’s not a day goes by that I’m not working towards it,” Gallen told West London Sport.
“I’ve had quite a few important meetings in the last few weeks and [chief executive] Philip Beard has backed me all the way. He’s said to me: ‘Go out, Steve, and get it’.
“We’ve taken on new members of staff, which enables us to improve the way we work, and things now look really good for the future.
“There’s a new training ground in the offing and if it happens – and I think it will – it’s going to be state-of-the-art and we will be at the forefront of academies in this country if the chairman and Philip Beard get their way.”
It is more than a decade since QPR reverted from FA Academy status to a centre of excellence.
Subsequently, their lack of academy-standard facilities has seriously affected the club’s ability to attract and develop players.
As it happens, a restructure means every club in the country will have soon an academy.
Youth systems will be graded from one to four – categories one and two being the equivalent of current Academy status and the bottom two grades comparable with the set-up now offered by QPR.
“As it stands right now, we would probably be category three with the facilities we have,” Gallen explains.
“But we’re moving forward. We’re aiming to have category two status in time for the start of next season.
“That will be for an interim period of one, two or maybe three years. To go from where we are now to category one – you could write a £10m cheque now and you wouldn’t get there in one year. It’s just impossible.
“So I think it’s category two for next season. After that we can go for category one – on a par with the likes of Chelsea and Man City – and that would really push this club forward.”
In the short-term, Gallen must continue striving to give his current crop of youngsters the best possible chance of progressing.
Like his brother Joe, who was also youth boss at the club, he is determined to bring through younger, technically better players than were being churned out previously.
Go back 10 years and Rangers had a ‘youth’ team full of players who were almost 20, built like they were 30, and had little chance of making an impact at the next level.
“Things have changed. I want footballers here,” Gallen says.
“I don’t care how big or small you are – it makes no difference to me. Can you control the ball? Can you pass it? Do you know how to make angles to receive the ball?
“My values are technique and intelligence over pace and strength. That’s what I want from my players.
“We play some teams – and this isn’t meant to be disrespectful – but a lot of what they do is all about long throws and set-pieces.
“I spend about five per cent of my week working on set-pieces and the rest on passing and fluent football.”