The fact he was at QPR before is almost irrelevant. I’ve never been a huge fan of his, disagreed with the decision to sign him first time around, and thought the club were right to sell him. But by pure coincidence, the one player Rangers could really do with at this point in time happens to be Wayne Routledge.
It’s a loan signing (beyond that, I’d think twice) that works for so many reasons.
As a winger, Routledge is exciting but limited – as his unsuccessful forays into the Premier League have shown.
Part of that is because football’s changed. Fifteen years ago, Routledge would probably have played for England. But the days of a winger sprinting down the flank and slinging in crosses are gone. Defenders at almost every level are wise to it.
But Routledge is a perfect fit for Rangers because he is much more effective in the right-of-centre position he can play in at QPR. That role is made for him.
Coming in from the right wing rather than being glued to it, he can be devastating in the Championship and could yet make an impact at the next level in the future.
I’ve long thought that Routledge is a much greater threat when facing a centre-back rather than a full-back. And he’s dangerous when getting into space between the two, as well.
Jim Magilton felt this too, and moved him in from the wing. It didn’t work particularly well, but I reckon it will this time. Rangers are a different team now.
Routledge is also the perfect counter-balance on one side of a front three to what Tommy Smith offers on the other. Smith is a very clever player, while Routledge offers not only trickery but some much-needed pace, which is something Rangers have been lacking. Ishmael Miller offers this too and, if he can get fit, is capable of frightening the life out of defences.
And while Smith and Routledge are very different types of player, where they are similar is that they are equally capable both of pulling out wide and delivering a cross, and of offering a threat through the middle. That’ll be tough for teams to defend against.
Another reason – maybe the biggest – that getting Routledge makes sense is that his pace is now sure to affect the starting position of opposing defenders, who up until now have faced a side that are a bit one-paced. It’s likely to move defences back a few yards, and that will create more space for you-know-who behind the front three.
The signing also gives Rangers an attacking spark should Taarabt miss games, especially while Buzsaky attempts to get fit. And it simply sends out a message to the rest of the division, starting with Coventry, who already faced a tough task on Sunday and will now see the name of Wayne Routledge on the QPR team sheet.
Routledge is the right man at the right time. If I were in Neil Warnock’s shoes, especially since the injury to Jamie Mackie, I’d have been saying to the board: “Get me Wayne Routledge. Never mind what I said about him before.”
Whether it works in the longer term is harder to call, but for the coming months it’s the perfect arrival for Rangers, and the same can be said of Pascal Chimbonda.
He isn’t universally liked for reasons that have been well documented, but people who know Chimbonda well have told me there are few better players to have on board when he has something to aim for.
Chimbonda has never played outside the top division in this country, which speaks for itself. Ability-wise he’s an excellent player, and given Rangers’ position at this crucial time he’s an excellent signing as he can play anywhere across the back four.
There might be some concern that these signings could change the atmosphere in the dressing room. I don’t think that’ll happen. Players arriving at this stage generally enter a dressing room where the atmosphere is already set in stone, and they have little choice but to go with the flow.
That should especially be the case at QPR, who are top of the league and on course to achieve their objective, and have good senior pros in the likes of Derry, Kenny and Hill.
I’m not used to praising QPR for their signings. It doesn’t happen very often. But 10 out of 10 for these, no question.