QPR should have given Under-21 young guns a chance to shine in the past, believes Marc Bircham
PUBLISHED: 15:30 24 November 2016 | UPDATED: 12:51 25 November 2016
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Newly-appointed first-team coach Marc Bircham believes it will be a long time before the club produce a better Under-21 group than the one he worked with during his last spell at Loftus Road.
Bircham, a boyhood QPR fan who made 167 appearances for the Rs during his playing days, spent a period managing the Under-21s before joining Millwall as first-team coach in January 2014 – and he feels it is a travesty many of those youngsters were never given a proper opportunity in the first team.
He told the Times: “I said to the chairman (Tony Fernandes) recently that the biggest shame of all was that we had the best group of Under-21s when I was last here – we brought them through on a shoestring. They’ve gone on to have professional careers.
“Michael Harriman, Max Ehmer, Frankie Sutherland was unlucky. Tom Hitchcock – he scored a 90th- minute winner for QPR with his only touch and never played again.
“That group of players was probably the best group of players we will have for a long time.
“A lot of them should have made 50 appearances for the team. If it was a normal Championship team they would have done. If you take a Barnsley for instance, with that group of players, they’ll have that opportunity.
“I believe in youth. I was in a Millwall team that was given a chance. I’ve told Ollie (manager Ian Holloway) all about Darnell Furlong and Michael Doughty and told him I think they’re good enough to play in the first team.”
Nineteen-year-old winger Olamide Shodipo has at least been a regular fixture in the Rs’ first team this season, which has not surprised Bircham.
“I’ve not been surprised with Mide at all. He’s got a lot of talent, it’s just about harnessing that potential now,” said the 38-year-old.
“Michael Petrasso should have played more games as well, but he’s been unlucky with injuries. It was great to see him sign a new contract. recently. There are other youngsters we can give a chance to as well. That’s a longer-term goal though. In the short term we’ve got to get a team the fans are proud of.”
Bircham, who says he did not think twice about returning to Rangers and being reunited with Holloway, feels one of the club’s immediate prorities must be to get Loftus Road rocking again – something which has been an issue for a number of years.
He added: “I’ve come back – it’s been a dead atmosphere prior to then though. It was similar to before I joined. I used to come and watch QPR midweek if we didn’t have a game. It was like the year we came out of administration.
“The fans had seemingly given up. There was no singing, no passion for the team. They were coming here because they had bought season tickets. I know through friends of family; 50 per cent had stopped coming because of the last couple of years as they had no identity.
“That’s no disrespect to Jimmy [Floyd Hasselbaink] as I know him well. That’s the atmosphere of the club. Hopefully we can turn that around. But all we can promise is we put a team out there to play with pride and passion and with attacking flair to win the game.
“We’re not here to put a couple of thousand on the gate – we’re here to do a job.
“I don’t want to tarnish our names. I think we can do a really good job there. We’ve got people who care about the club.
“We’re not doing it for us. We’re doing it for the club and will do the job to the best of our ability.”
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