Willock’s progress a positive sign for QPR – Warburton

Mark Warburton believes the emergence of Chris Willock as one of QPR’s key players is proof of the club’s vastly-improved recruitment system.

Twelve months ago Rangers were making vain efforts to keep Bright Osayi-Samuel at the club before he finally left in the January transfer window when he joined Turkish side Fenerbahce, opening the door for Willock.

The former Arsenal academy product, who had signed late in the 2020 transfer window from Benfica for £750,000, took time to establish himself in the Rangers side having looked obviously talented but somewhat lightweight in his early appearances.

But following Samuel’s departure he has steadily developed into one of the Championship’s most exciting talents as demonstrated with two superb finishes in Rangers’ past two matches, against Blackpool and Luton.

Since being relegated from the Premier League in 2015, QPR have splashed out lavishly on under-achieving talents such as Sean Goss, Conor Washington, Yeni Ngbakoto and Jordan Cousins, who failed to fully live up to their expensive price tags.

But Warburton feels the shrewd acquisitions of players such as Willock, Jimmy Dunne, Jordy de Wijs, Lyndon Dykes, Rob Dickie, Andre Dozzell and Sam Field shows the club’s made big strides when it comes to recruiting value for money.

“I like to think we are,” Warburton said.

“You look at the pedigree of a player and how they can improve our squad and firstly they have to be better than what we have already got.

“When it comes to recruitment, you live and die by it and it’s crucial you get it right.

“When we lost Bright we lost that outlet of pace and assists, not so much in terms of goals, but Chris has come in and done a great job.

“It is a case of getting the blend of character right. That is so important and not easy.

“If you get your recruitment right seven times out of 10 you are on the right track, but with Chris it has certainly worked out.”

Warburton said intense gym and boxing work in the off-season helped Willock to better withstand the rigours of the Championship and said an improved understanding of the 23-year-old’s in-game awareness has been key to him taking the next step this season.

“There will be guys in all industries who are limited in terms of talent but will maximise what they do to the best of their ability,” he said.

“For Chrissy it is about recognising he has an astounding talent and if he keeps pushing himself he will play at the very highest level of the game, hopefully here at QPR.

“He has become a lot better at defending from the front. He is learning that, recognising that and understanding why those small details are vital.

“That is often the different from a player going from a good player to a great player.”