(Picture: Action Images via Reuters)
By Rob Guest
WITH Fulham pushing for a return to the Premier League, Matt Smith could have taken the easy option and remained at Craven Cottage.
Instead, the striker made the three-mile move to Loftus Road at a time when QPR were nervously looking over their shoulder.
Many players in his position might have remained in SW6, but Smith’s decision is vindicated after playing a starring role in the Rs’ upturn in form.
The 27-year-old netted in Fulham’s first two Championship games this season but failed to find the net again as opportunities became few and far between.
But Smith scored three in his first eight QPR games and is happy with a change of scenery, even if he moved just down the road.
“It was a case of finding a move that would tick all the boxes and it did with QPR,” he said. “It’s done that and more.
“Fulham’s a big club, but at the same time I wanted to be playing football regularly.
“The opportunity to come to another big club on my doorstep, under a manager (Ian Holloway) who values me, wants to play me and, more importantly, gets the best out of me was too good an opportunity to turn down.
“I’d had a really frustrating 12 months. I’d not featured much at all, so the meeting I had with the boss on my first day was a real breath of fresh air.
“To come into an environment like QPR and to hear those words was what I needed. For those words to then be put into practice and come to fruition is testament to what a good manager he is.”
Holloway played a key role in enticing Smith to QPR, and the addition of midfielder Luke Freeman a day earlier was also a plus.
The pair enjoyed a successful period together at Bristol City two years ago as the Robins won League One and the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.
“As a player, you always look at who you’re joining and I’m a player who is especially reliant on his supply line,” said Smith.
“It’s the players around me that are going to make me look good.
“When I saw Luke heavily linked, it was a real eye-opener. We had a good time at Bristol City and he set up a lot of my goals.
“There is a lot of creativity in the team here so I know I am going to get the chances.
“It’s up to me to put them away.”
Ahead of this weekend, Smith had already hit the goal trail with strikes against Birmingham, Wigan and Rotherham.
His new Rangers fans have already taken to him and he is looking to emulate former striker-turned- director of football Les Ferdinand, whose goalscoring exploits in the 80s and 90s led to him becoming a cult hero at Loftus Road.
“Les was a top goalscorer throughout his career and a great header of the ball – what I like to do as well,” said the 27-year-old.
“It’s good to learn off him and get his bits of advice on and off the training ground. It’s only going to be beneficial for me. If I can have half of his career, I’ll be very happy.”
*This article originally featured in The FLP on Sunday April 2.