Youth team boss Steve Gallen says QPR were determined to avoid a repeat of the Raheem Sterling saga after agreeing terms with two more teenage prospects. Rangers eventually lost 15-year-old Sterling to Liverpool last year after the youngster had forced his way into the R’s reserve side and the England under-18 team, attracting a swathe of interest from bigger clubs. But the R’s moved quickly to tie Bruno Andrade – one of the stars of their Football League Youth Alliance Cup-winning side from last season – to a two and a half year professional contract on his 17th birthday. Tottenham and West Ham were both keen to sign the talented forward from Colindale, who played for Mill Hill Rangers in the Harrow Youth League.
However, Andrade, who celebrated his birthday by scoring a hat-trick in the under-18’s 6-2 victory over Aldershot Town, opted to stay at Loftus Road. And Rangers also agreed a pro-deal with another striker, Burundi-born Mo Sharif, who was recommended to them in the summer and has netted six goals in seven games for the under-18’s.
“I want to keep our best players here – losing players is not success to me, even if the financial settlement is a good one, as it was in Raheem’s case,” said Gallen, the club’s youth development manager. “Getting ¬£500,000 and possibly up to ¬£1m for a 15-year-old is a great deal. But I don’t want that to happen again. We’re now making a statement, saying to other clubs, ‘these are our players and, if you want them, bring your cheque book’.
“I told the manager about what happened before, so he’s fully aware of it, and he and (assistant manager) Mick Jones have been a big help to me and the youth department. We’re looking everywhere – but so are Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea, Fulham, Watford and Brentford. There’s a saturation of clubs in this area and you have to be quick. What matters to me is seeing Antonio German and Josh Parker in the first-team squad. If we can get Bruno and a few more out there playing League football, either for QPR or on loan, that’s more important.”
Meanwhile, the club’s junior ranks have been enhanced during the past week by the arrival of 14-year-old duo Shaun Fernandes and Hussain Vahandaty, the winners of the Mumbai Soccer Challenge. Fernandes and Vahandaty emerged from a five-a-side tournament involving 2,000 children in Mumbai and were then named the two best players among the final cut of 24 at a coaching camp earlier this year. The boys have been staying with host families in Kenton and will train each day alongside Rangers’ youth teams at Harlington during the next month.
It’s a fantastic experience for them, to leave school in India and be involved in this environment on a daily basis, talking to not only the under-18’s but the first team as well,” added Gallen. “They’re two nice lads and good football players. They’ve been to a couple of matches at Loftus Road and I think they were watching the crowd as much as the game, it was such a new experience.”
The scheme was set up by QPR Directors Amit Bhatia and Ishan Saksena, who both attended the Mumbai tournament along with prominent Indian politicians and national team captain Bhaichung Bhutia.
Ben Kosky – The Kilburn Times