Amid all the discourse surrounding Jack Grealish in recent weeks the progress of another Irish underage international appears to have gone relatively unnoticed. Under-19 international Reece Grego-Cox made four Premier League appearances for QPR, including a first start in their final game of the season.
At just 18 years of age Grego-Cox has made rapid progress since he signed his first professional contract in December 2014. The London-born striker was included in QPR’s matchday squad for the first time in their FA Cup tie against Sheffield United in January. He made his first team debut against Tottenham Hotspur in March when he came on as a late substitute and has remained in and around the first team since then. This meteoric rise is notable because there are very few examples of young Irish players breaking into Premier League teams in recent seasons.
U-19 European Championships
Grego-Cox qualifies to play for Ireland through his grandparents and began representing the Boys in Green at Under-17 level. He made his debut in the Under-17’s qualifying campaign for the 2013 European Championships against Austria when he scored the only goal of the game. In November 2014 he made his debut for the Under-19s as they hosted their qualifying group for the 2015 European Championship. He scored against both Gibraltar and Switzerland as Ireland advanced to the elite round of qualifying. The young striker was recently invited to join Noel King’s Ireland Under-21 squad for their end-of-season friendlies against an England selection. Unfortunately he was forced to decline the invitation due to scheduled dental surgery.
The main attributes of Grego-Cox are his pace and instinctive finishing in front of goal. In an interview last October, QPR’s Under-21 manager, Steve Gallen compared him to Charlie Austin:
Given that he grew up as a QPR fan, the disappointment of the club’s relegation from the top flight is likely to be felt more acutely by Grego-Cox than some of his more illustrious teammates. However, the club’s drop to the Championship may well prove to be a blessing in disguise. With most of the older players and higher wage earners being moved on he is already being identified as a key player for next season. There also appears to be some recognition at the club that their financial model of big-money signings is unsustainable and has not served the club well in recent seasons. In a recent interview, QPR’s Director of Football, Les Ferdinand stated as follows:
QPR Turning Green
Ferdinand’s comments bode well for Grego-Cox and his likely first team opportunities next season. Indeed, a stint in the Championship may well benefit a host of young Irish players that are coming through the ranks at QPR. Former Galway United youngster Ryan Manning is highly regarded and may well see some first team action next season. Under-21 internationals, Michael Harriman and Frankie Sutherland spent last season on loan at Luton Town and AFC Wimbledon respectively and next season is likely to be make-or-break in terms of their futures at Loftus Road. In addition, fellow Irish underage internationals, Jake Mulraney, Nathan Corkery and Olamide Shodipo have all signed professional contracts with the West London club.
It will certainly be worth keeping an eye on QPR’s progress next season to chart the career trajectory of Reece Grego-Cox and his fellow Irish hopefuls.
- Author: Alan Hannify