QPR manager Mark Warburton believes Luke Amos’ winning goal against Huddersfield can be the first step towards fulfilling the rich promise he first noticed in the midfielder when he was a teenager.
Amos came off the bench on Wednesday to nod home in the 1-0 victory in what was a visibly emotional moment for the 24-year-old, who has battled his way back from the career-threatening knee injury he sustained at Bournemouth last year.
The former England Under-18 international joined Rangers on a permanent deal in the summer of 2020 having spent a season on loan from Tottenham in Warburton’s first campaign as manager.
He had looked set for a big future at Spurs when he made his debut at Newcastle in the opening Premier League match of the 2018/19 season having impressed in pre-season games against AC Milan, Roma and Barcelona.
But only days after coming on at St James’ Park, Amos suffered a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee during training, ending his season before it began.
In his absence he found himself being leapfrogged in the Tottenham pecking order by the likes of Oliver Skipp, Josh Onomah and Harry Winks, prompting Amos to swap N17 for W12 in search of regular first-team football on loan at QPR in 2019 before joining on a permanent basis 12 months later.
However, his world came crashing down around him in September last year when he pulled up sharply near the touchline at the Vitality Stadium clutching his right knee deep in the second half of a 0-0 draw in which he’d produced his best performance in a Rangers shirt.
Scans the next day showed an even more serious problem than the one he’d sustained in 2018 and such was the severity of the issue there was no guarantee he would even play again.
With the country in the middle of a lockdown at the time of the injury, Amos’ recovery was even more taxing given the social distancing protocols in place around the training ground which meant many hours spent alone at Harlington working to get back to fitness.
“It was not only his ACL he did but there was also distal ligament injury and that required far more complex surgery, so you can imagine where his head was at,” Warburton said.
“I can’t talk highly enough about his character. He worked so hard to get back to playing again, spending hour after hour working in the gym.
“I have watched him do his rope work on his arms, the cycling work, then he goes to the pool straight afterwards and keeping his bodyweight down.
“He is an incredible athlete and deserves so much credit along with Adam Harris the physio. It’s not easy to come back again and watch your teammates go past you while you are not able to play.
“We had a good end to last season and he was there shouting us on, but you saw the boys wearing No.8 Luke Amos T-shirts because they knew he was going through such a torturous time.
“The other night for him to get his goal was outstanding. It was one of those great moments in football.
“It doesn’t make up at all for all he’s been through but it goes a long way to understanding all that hard work.”
Amos has started just two matches since his return to action in the EFL Cup match against Everton and is yet to complete a full 90 minutes.
Warburton admitted it is still early days and insisted it would be irresponsible for him not to gradually blood Amos back into the side, but maintains QPR will see the best of him this season at some stage.
“We had Kenny Miller down as a guest at a game recently and he reminded me of when we were at (Glasgow) Rangers and preparing for a cup final and needed a game but couldn’t get an opponent, so we went down to Spurs who very kindly played a B team against us,” he said.
“In that team was a 16 or 17 year-old Luke Amos and he ran the show. He was outstanding.
“The players to a man were saying afterwards ‘Who is this young player?’
“But it will take time. He’s come back and done well but there will be a dip.
“It’s natural and I think it’s fair to say he’s struggled with his touch in some of the games he’s played because it is going to take time to come back to him.”
In addition to his footballing ability, Warburton said it’s Amos’ mental strength and professionalism that’s impressed him most on his comeback trail.
“I joke with him about what he’s cooking tonight,” Warburton said.
“Lukey likes a hot spice, he will talk about the fish he’s had the chicken he’s had or the salad he is preparing – everything he does is right.
“His body fat is the lowest in the club and to come back from that injury and maintain that level of professionalism in everything he does speaks volumes about him.
“He is where he is now, and sees that competition for places from the other midfielders we have at the club and is thriving on that.”