QPR goalkeeping coach Gavin Ward has spoken of his pride at seeing Seny Dieng at the World Cup six years after he first walked into the the club as a trialist.
Dieng, who turned 28 on Wednesday, is in Qatar with Senegal and could be in line to start against the hosts on Friday with coach Aliou Cisse under some pressure to axe Edourd Mendy following the Chelsea keeper’s disappointing showing in the 2-0 loss to the Netherlands on Monday.
Should the Rangers number one get the call to replace Mendy it would cap off a remarkable journey that has taken in loan spells at non-League clubs Whitehawk and Hampton & Richmond followed by stints with Stevenage, Dundee and Doncaster.
Ward, who played almost 400 league games for clubs including Leicester, Bolton, Stoke and Cardiff, joined Rangers as part of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s coaching staff in early 2016 but has overseen the goalkeepers at club ever since.
“Seny’s story is a really interesting one,” Ward said.
“He was recommended to me by a friend of mine, Chris Weale, who’d been paired up with him at a pro goalkeeping training camp.
“He told me he was a player we should have a really good look at, so we got him on trial. I think he’d been working with Rochdale at the time but was a free agent.
“I could see straightaway he had a lot of ability, but technically nowhere near where we wanted him to be.
“But you could see straightaway he was very comfortable with the ball at his feet.
“Some other clubs were interested in taking him on trial but I said to him if he stayed I would do everything I could to get him a deal.
“But I had to really battle with the club over it because they were worried about whether any compensation was owed to his former club Duisburg.
“So I did some digging and found out there was no compensation and even then I really had to win them over until they finally gave him a one-year deal.”
Dieng helped Senegal win the Africa Cup of Nations earlier this year by keeping clean sheets in both of his appearances.
And Ward is delighted to see him make such big strides.
“I have been something of a father-figure to him in his time here and I am so proud of what he’s been doing. He is a genuine asset for the club,” Ward said.
“I am obviously biased but I think he is the best goalkeeper in the Championship and like everyone here at QPR, desperate to play in the Premier League.
“I am surprised no-one has come in for him and we have talked about it, but if he was to leave it would be hard to see where there is a starting place for him right now in a Premier League club and he agrees with me.
“Hopefully we can get back on track when the season restarts next month and who knows, he may hopefully be there as a QPR player.”