The news broke on Wednesday evening that Heidar Helguson had departed Queen’s Park Rangers to join Cardiff City for an undisclosed fee. Given the enmity existing between the two sides – following Rangers Championship win two years ago and Cardiff’s play-off final success – it would be akin to treason to wish for the Icelandic striker to score a hatful in the blue, sorry red, of the Bluebirds.
Supporters form strange attachments to certain footballers. Some are loved because they embody the spirit and passion of those dedicated fans that support them. Others are respected for their sheer ability and class. Yet more become club legends through transforming rocky beginnings and regular under-performance into consistent success. Helguson belongs to the latter grouping. Having signed on a permanent deal from Bolton Wanderers back in 2009 after impressing on a loan spell the previous season, the Icelandic international failed to find any sort of form, and incurred the chagrin of the R’s home and away support.
Labelled a “carthorse”, described as “useless” and decried for his seeming unwillingness to “try”, Helguson’s future at the club appeared uncertain to say the least. Shipped out on loan to Watford, the club at which he had made his name in England, Helguson rediscovered his goal scoring touch, but the Rangers faithful remained sceptical. They need not have done. Back at Loftus Road, in QPR’s title-winning season Helguson contributed 13 goals.
This impressive total was followed by another 9 in the Premier League. Now, if one were to write a manual of “how to become a club legend”, scoring against Chelsea would most certainly be in it for R’s players. In October 2011 Helguson did just this, netting the winning penalty in Rangers’ now infamous 1-0 triumph over the ill-disciplined Blues.
So just what are QPR losing ? In short, an extremely useful, practical and consistent footballer – a man that turned his form around dramatically under the pugnacious influence of Neil Warnock to become a leading light in the class of 2011-12. While adjectives such as “practical” may sound dismissive, even patronising, they are not intended thus. Helguson is no superstar. Unlike Adel Taarabt, the great entertainer and bearer of the famous 10 shirt, kids won’t be watching videos of the forward’s goals looking for footballing inspiration.
Rather like Paul Furlong, Helguson’s story is mildly inspirational. While in the great pantheon of all things Rangers, supporters won’t have tales recounted to them by parents and relatives of the Icelander in the same way that Stan Bowles and Rodney Marsh are still celebrated today, Helguson ought to be remembered as a QPR legend. Indeed, as with Furlong’s goal against Oldham Athletic, which can still bring a tear to one’s eye for its sheer euphoria, Helguson’s penalty against Chelsea is one few will tire of watching for quite a while, if ever.