It has been a strong start to the season for Queens Park Rangers, who find themselves sitting pretty in the Championship play-off positions. Following victories over Leeds United, Cardiff City and recently promoted Wigan Athletic, the London outfit have nine points from a possible 15 in the league, as well as back-to-back victories in the English Football League trophy.
At the centre of all things good at Loftus Road, has been Dutch midfielder Tjaronn Chery – QPR’s number ’10’. With three goals in five domestic league appearances for the former Premier League side, the 28-year-old has successfully continued the momentum in which he ended the previous campaign.
Signed from Dutch side Groningen for a £2.23 million fee last summer, Chery arrived with a reputation for being a prolific creative midfielder. With 25 league goals across two seasons for the Eredivisie outfit, big things were expected of the then-27-year-old. His favoured position, as he has proven throughout his time in England, sees him stationed deep in the opposition final third.
“My favourite position is the ‘number ten’ role, just behind the striker”, he told The Boot Room, in an exclusive interview. “In the last couple of games of the season, this was then I scored my goals.”
And score goals, he has continued to do. In fact, he netted 15 goals, as well as the Players’ Player of the Year accolade in his first season for QPR and looks set to enjoy a similarly prolific campaign this time round as Jimmy Floyd Hasslebaink’s side look to reinstate themselves as an English top flight side.
Chery’s arrival at Loftus Road last summer represented a considerable coup for the then-just-relegated club, having fought of stiff competition from the likes of Aston Villa, who were of course preparing for the Premier League, at the time. He told us:
“I spoke with Aston Villa, but I also had a good meeting with the Chairman and (then-manager) Chris Ramsey. What they wanted to see in the games and the style of play was good. That is why I chose Queens Park Rangers.”
His fellow countryman, Leroy Fer – who found himself playing for the London-outfit at the time – is also said to have been instrumental in convincing Chery to move to Loftus Road. In quotes published by the Daily Mail, following his arrival last summer, the Dutchman explained what the current Swansea midfielder had to say:
‘Leroy said that QPR is a big and beautiful club and that it would be a good step for me. He also told me QPR remain an ambitious club despite relegation and that the intention is that they immediately return to the Premier League.”
Chery grew up watching the Premier League, and although he did not have much of an affinity with the Championship, the transition to the English game will have brought few surprises. In discussion, he was quick to note the distinct disparities to the football played here and his home country:
“I watched a lot of English football, but more the Premier League. When I came here I didn’t know much about the Championship, but it is still nice. I am still watching both (the Premier League and the Championship).”
There are, of course, a number of variations between domestic football in the Netherlands and England, and the 28-year-old would have been quick to note these following his arrival. Although, the tempo at which the game is played is perhaps the most notable of these differences.
“In England the game is played at a really high tempo,” Chery explained. “I think also, the physical side of the game is much greater here, than in Holland. In the Netherland’s it is more tactical – they want to play every time from the defence).”
Having experienced his tutelage through the ranks of the Dutch youth system, Chery has experienced a very unique football upbringing compared to the majority of his peers. As he told us, even in the early stages, “there was a focus on building from the back and a focus on how you position yourself tactically against the opposition.”
A fellow Dutchman, and another who came through the ranks of the youth system in Holland, Chery holds fond memories of his now-manager, Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink from his days as a professional. Despite being in the early stages of his career as a head coach, the QPR boss enjoyed a playing career that spanned 28 years, during which he featured for no less than 10 separate clubs.
Speaking of the former Chelsea and Atletico striker, who scored over 200 goals in his career, Chery said: “He is still a big name in Holland. He played a lot of games for the national team and everybody knows where he played in England. He is a big name everywhere. He has still got it and he loves to get involved with shooting in training. He can play still.”
Hasslebaink’s arrival at the club came as somewhat of a surprise for those outside Queens Park Rangers. With his former club flying high at the top of the table in League One, chasing back-to-back promotions, the 44-year-old jumped ship in December 2015, before making his management debut in the Championship against Burnley – a game which ended as a goalless draw.
Taking over from Chris Ramsey, who left the squad lacking confidence and in poor form, Hasslebaink quickly set about improving team moral, as well as performances on the pitch. Despite taking eight games to secure his first win for the club, and finishing the season with a somewhat disappointing 12th place finish, 10 months on, the general feeling around Loftus Road is finally one of optimism.
Chery explained the secret to his compatriot’s success as QPR boss: “He is a good manager. He will tell you exactly what he wants from you as a player and exactly how you are going to play. It is good to know, so everybody knows how we are going to work as a team. Everybody has to work hard so we can improve ourselves.”
One would assume promotion is the target for the Loftus Road outfit this term, particularly considering their strong start to the campaign, but first and foremost, Chery wishes to see his side improve on last season’s 12th place finish: “The target is to improve on last year, but for myself and for my teammates, we want to be in the top seven – chasing promotion,” he said, “We have to finish as high as possible. That is what we want.”
This may be the case, or the Dutchman may just be reluctant to overstate his side’s chances of returning to the Premier League this term, but Queens Park Rangers look as likely as ever to achieve just that come May. Hasslebaink looks to have finally unlocked a winning formula at Loftus Road, and it surely will not be long before we see Chery gracing the top flight with the London club.