QPR boss Mick Beale says he has been delighted to see Lewis Baker rejuvenate his career with Stoke.
Beale, who takes on Stoke this Saturday at Loftus Road, worked with Baker in his days as an academy coach at Chelsea, where the midfielder was regarded as one of the club’s best young prospects after being signed from Luton as a nine-year-old.
Former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho infamously declared in 2014 that he would fail as a coach if Baker and fellow former youth products Dominic Solanke and Izzy Brown did not become regulars for England later in their careers.
Although Solanke is playing in the Premier League with Bournemouth, Brown is without a club following an injury-ravaged stint at Preston came to an end in the summer and Baker’s career was drifting at Chelsea before he moved to Staffordshire earlier this year.
Baker made just two appearances for the Blues and was sent on a series of loans, at MK Dons, Sheffield Wednesday, Vitesse Arnhem, Middlesbrough, Reading, Leeds, Fortuna Dusseldorf and Turkish side Trabzonspor, but was never able to break into the first team at Stamford Bridge.
The 26-year-old finally left Chelsea during the January transfer window and has been a revelation at the Bet365 Stadium, where he is now club captain and scored twice in the Potters’ 3-0 win over Hull on Tuesday.
“I am delighted for Lewis, because I worked with him when he was a kid – he was a number 10 then,” Beale said.
“He has sort of dropped a little bit deeper now and is a little bit like our captain Stefan Johansen.
“It’s good to see him playing well and showcasing and getting a lot of respect. I am really pleased for him and his family.”
Beale is also wary of the threat of Stoke to his side, with Alex Neil now in charge having left Sunderland last month to take over from Michael O’Neill.
Neil was in the Sunderland dugout for last month’s 2-2 draw with QPR at the Stadium of Light, where the visitors fought back from 2-0 down to grab a dramatic draw through goalkeeper Seny Dieng’s late equaliser.
“Alex will have a little bump from a few weeks ago when our goalie scored and we stole two points off him,” Beale said.
“I think he will be super keen at the weekend after making a big decision to go to Stoke and he has started well with a good point against Swansea and a big win at Hull.”