What can QPR fans expect from new signing Lee Wallace? West London Sport’s Julian Taylor, who regularly watched him in action for Glasgow Rangers, has no doubt the Scot will be a hit at Loftus Road.
In the hour or so after Rangers’ 4-0 Scottish Cup semi-final humiliation against Celtic in April 2018, Lee Wallace was at the forefront of the inquest.
The experienced left-back wasn’t even on the Hampden Park pitch because of injury but, given his resolute service to the Ibrox side across the previous seven years, his opinion carried significant weight.
Pained by what he had witnessed against a great rival, that Wallace made his voice heard as both performance levels and desire plummeted, was telling.
The fundamental truths of Rangers’ capitulation that day were aired by both Wallace and Kenny Miller – another with plenty of know-how – with an irritable commitment to standards.
Wallace, an intriguing new signing by QPR, is a loyal, strong, yet fair-minded character.
However, the then interim Rangers boss Graeme Murty took exception to a few harsh realities after that Hampden semi-final and, subsequently, Wallace (along with Miller) was suspended and fined, pending a SPFL tribunal for their alleged conduct.
The players subsequently won their case and, for its custodians, Rangers as a club felt rather slighted.
Yet the truth of the matter is that Murty was a woeful, internal shoo-in at a time when the Glasgow giants failed to attract a proper manager, in the dismal period before the arrival of Steven Gerrard.
Rangers fans have not forgotten Wallace and his years of ultra-commitment, all through the team’s chastening spells of administration and being forced to play their way back to the Premiership from the Scottish Third Division.
Wallace stayed at Ibrox for the long haul while others moved elsewhere. Contemporary professionals rarely elicit such loyalty and, ahead of a fresh campaign for QPR, such personal integrity was undoubtedly part of new manager Mark Warburton’s thinking.
Resourceful Wallace was a mainstay under Warburton as Rangers finally gained promotion to the top flight, with a brand of quick-fire football.
As things transpired, it proved to be unsustainable as Warburton struggled with the increased demands at Ibrox and the presence of dominant Celtic.
While Wallace, at 31, has probably lost a yard of pace from his superbly athletic peak, it is, nevertheless, an intriguing move for the R’s.
Wallace will be uppermost for the new boss as an individual who can effectively galvanise a dressing room. He has presence and is the type who can rally others, particularly younger players who are a little unsure of themselves.
It says much for him as an individual that, although a fringe figure within Gerrard’s maiden campaign at Ibrox, he remained very much a go-to guy for others.
“It was a huge pleasure having shared all those years with you! You’ve been a great friend, team-mate, mentor, captain and most of all a loyal servant to our club,” tweeted Rangers defender James Tavernier when news of the QPR transfer emerged.
Dealing with adversity
With Wallace putting pen to paper on a two-year deal, joining fellow Scot, keeper Liam Kelly, in west London, QPR’s ambitions for the coming campaign are largely focused on creating a culture of stability and consistency; reference points for which Warburton appears suited.
Indeed, Wallace, who won four trophies at Rangers, will have surely appealed, additionally, to the club’s director of football Les Ferdinand.
QPR have recruited a character who is no stranger to adversity elsewhere in his career. For seven years, Wallace was a key player at Hearts, where his foraging down the left attracted rave reviews.
Yet his fine form at Tynecastle was against a backdrop of ownership chaos under bizarre Lithuanian banker Vladmir Romanov.
Then came the shockwaves of Rangers’ demotion due to financial freefall. So any kind of turmoil at QPR – a club noted, of course, for chicanery behind the scenes over the years – will not faze Wallace.
It’s a clever move by Warburton to sign his former captain, who he knows, from their time together at in Glasgow, can be relied upon to carry out instructions. Injury-hit Wallace made only a couple of appearances under Gerrard last season, with the Rangers chief preferring Borna Barasic and Jon Flanagan, so this has the feeling of being the right time for a fresh start at QPR.
For a time, only the emergence of Andrew Robertson at Liverpool largely limited the number of appearances Wallace made for Scotland, who was capped 10 times in total.
All that matters is now, though. In particular, QPR fans will be interested in how the team fares going forward. And herein lies potential.
Where Jake Bidwell was generally reliable, Wallace, a more vocal, demanding type, will bring an extra, combative edge. The mid to lower echelons of the Championship will suit Wallace, who is personally excited about this new challenge in W12.
Luke Freeman, Ryan Manning and the promising Bright Osayi-Samuel should welcome linking up with the Scot as the R’s will possess stronger linear patterns on the left. Warburton is committed to attacking football – probably at a cost of central defensive basics if his
Rangers tenure is evidence to go by – so the arrival of Wallace, who enjoys both aspects of a modern full-back, is an improvement.
However, it would be folly to make rash predictions at this point, ahead of a campaign where QPR fans have already dined out on numerous false dawns in the recent past. At a club blessed with strong, principled characters in its history, such as Alan McDonald and Clint Hill, fans will identify with Wallace: a guide for fledgling players and those with a more brittle temperament as Warburton’s side face a stern Championship test.
Warburton has moved shrewdly. Moreover, as trusted lieutenants go, Wallace has come from a club famed for exacting standards which were made to measure for his own outlook on the game.
His loyalty was appreciated by fans if not always the hierarchy, at Ibrox, and, as such, QPR now have a ‘Mr Consistency’ whose shoulder will be firmly at the Loftus Road wheel.