Dexter Blackstock - A Tribute
Vital QPR takes a look at Dexter Blackstock`s time at Queens Park Rangers, a club markedly transformed during his time at Loftus Road.
A young striker with great promise arrived at Loftus Road just after the beginning of the 2006-07 season. Dexter Blackstock arrived from Southampton in a time of renewed promise at cash-strapped Queens Park Rangers.
It seems the turbulent times were behind QPR as manager and Loft legend Gary Waddock led the R`s into a new campaign - signing Blackstock and Zesh Rehman for the combined total of £700,000 which was considered quite brash spending in prudent times.
Rangers had lost their opening game of the season away at Burnley before Shabazz Baidoo`s last minute equaliser against Leeds United had prevented them getting back to back defeats. Now both Rehman and Blackstock would make their debuts against Southend United - Dexter made an immediate impression by getting booked in the opening exchanges.
He didn`t have to wait long for his first QPR goal as the R`s took the lead away at Ian Holloway`s Plymouth Argyle at Home Park. Before long Waddock`s reign was over owing to poor results and performances, he was demoted to coach and another former player, John Gregory, took the helm.
Dexter sparked scenes of jubilation at Loftus Road on Gregory`s managerial debut as he doubled the R`s advantage against Hull City following Ray Jones` opener. His towering header at the Loftus Road end would become his trademark for years to come.
Soon followed a goal against former club Southampton at St Marys for which he did not celebrate despite joyous scenes in the away end. A brace at Hillsborough adding to his growing reputation as Dexter`s head was proving a valuable asset in John Gregory`s line-up.
Soon after the QPR striker scored a goal that sparked a foul mouth sexist tirade by Luton boss Mike Newell, as assistant referee Amy Rainer was criticised for her decision to hand the R`s a corner which led to Dexter`s goal.
His next strike was also against Luton in an FA Cup draw at Loftus Road. It was the opener on a sodden Loftus Road turf with the R`s going on to draw 2-2 - Shabazz Baidoo equalising late on with his hand after Rowan Vine had put the visitors in front.
Another goal came in what was a vital relegation scrap against Hull City with Dexter poking home in front of a depleted travelling army. Two offside goals from Stuart Elliott and a sending off for Lee Cook ensured Hull took the points on the day.
It was undoubtedly Dexter`s home goals that saved Rangers that season as he set Loftus Road on fire with goals against Burnley in a 3-1 win accompanied with an incredible volley to beat Preston 1-0 in a cauldron of atmosphere.
He had equalised against promotion chasing West Bromwich Albion just two minutes after his introduction in a slender 2-1 defeat. Dexter effectively secured Rangers` safety in the Coca Cola Championship with a brace in a 3-2 win over relegated Luton Town along with a headed goal in a 1-0 victory against Cardiff City.
After finishing the season on the crest of a wave expectation was high as QPR kicked off the 2007-08 campaign at Ashton Gate and newly crowned number nine Dexter Blackstock was straight off the mark - latching on to a clever through ball by Adam Bolder to clip delightfully over the onrushing Adriano Basso.
Disaster then struck Loftus Road as Blackstock`s strike partner and friend Ray Jones was tragically killed in a car crash in London in the early hours of Saturday 25th August 2007 before the R`s trip to Burnley. The match was postponed and Blackstock`s subsequent performances were visibly affected by the loss.
Excitement grew in W12 as F1 magnates Flavio Briatore and Bernie Ecclestone took over the club and before long they axed their first boss as poor results cost John Gregory his job. Mick Harford took over in a caretaker capacity before the club appointed Italian boss Luigi De Canio to the post.
Blackstock wasn`t a first team regular under De Canio instead coming from the bench the majority of the time. He was given his marching orders against Stoke City for a lunging challenge early in the second period at the Britannia Stadium.
He bagged only his second goal of the campaign on New Years Day against Ian Holloway`s Leicester City - welcome relief for Blackstock who was clearly finding the going tough. Another long wait ensued as his next goal came in late March - a penalty against Wolverhampton Wanderers in a 3-3 draw at Molineux.
A confidence player, Blackstock then went on a run of three goals in three games to belie his poor goalscoring form. His goal against Preston marked a remarkable comeback at Loftus Road with Rangers 2-0 down going into the final minute.
His controversial goal at the KC Stadium nearly scuppered Hull City`s promotion prospects as the ball never crossed the line but was granted by the assistant referee. Michael Turner`s last minute equaliser typified Luigi De Canio`s main frailty, last minute goals.
His final goal of the campaign came at Loftus Road as he shrugged off Charlton`s Paddy McCarthy before rolling the ball home with consummate ease. A difficult season for Blackstock but the promise of a new campaign with the money-men at the helm had R`s fans waiting with baited breath all summer.
Weeks after the season had finished Luigi De Canio left Queens Park Rangers with Iain Dowie installed as his replacement in a surprise appointment from the Rangers hierarchy. Despite the R`s style of football being poor at best they got themselves off to a decent start with Blackstock scoring in home wins against Doncaster Rovers before bagging a brace against former club Southampton.
Radek Cerny kept QPR in the game at Ashton Gate as Emmanuel Ledesma saw red after Dexter Blackstock had opened the scoring in Bristol before his free-scoring start culminated in an equaliser against Blackpool at Loftus Road with just over ten minutes remaining.
Despite not featuring against Aston Villa in QPR`s cup heroics, the Rangers number nine started at Old Trafford as QPR went down to a narrow defeat courtesy of a penalty from Carlos Tévéz. In between those two cup ties the board in their wisdom decided to sack Iain Dowie - no reason.
A instinctive poke towards goal from Dexter handed QPR the lead against Burnley, but the Clarets dogged spirit was typified by their comeback and the signs were their that they had the determination necessary to challenge the upper echelons of the division.
Gareth Ainsworth had been in caretaker charge of Rangers but now he stepped aside as one of the golden generation of Portuguese football, Paulo Sousa, took the helm at Loftus Road with fans believing he would bring that same class into the playing staff in W12.
His first game inspired Blackstock as Rangers beat off strugglers Charlton Athletic with the striker bagging a brace either side of a Therry Racon equaliser. Familiar trends continue to appear as for the third season in succession Dexter bagged an important goal against Preston North End - and for the second year running it was in the last minute, glancing home from an expert cross.
Charlton came calling again on Boxing Day as Blackstock broke through in the second period to put Rangers 2-1 up coolly slotting past young goalkeeper Rob Elliott to roll the ball into the far corner.
Undoubtedly though he was beginning to struggle in front of the target as only one further goal for QPR came after the turn of the year as he was brave to head past an onrushing Keiren Westwood against ten man Coventry City.
QPR`s number nine was then used sparingly owing to his and his fellow strikers` sporadic form infront of goal. Chance after chance went missing as in stark contrast to the previous campaign Dexter`s season began to peter out and he was sent out on loan to relegation strugglers Nottingham Forest.
This is where controversy ensued as Paulo Sousa claimed he had no knowledge of the deal, and in speaking out to a supporter concerning this issue and more he was relieved of his duties for 'divulging confidential information`.
Dexter played a key role in Forest`s battle for safety, taking his shirt off and throwing himself into the fans following his last minute winner against Bristol City before bagging the opener against Blackpool at Bloomfield Road in a 1-1 draw.
* Dexter Blackstock made 116 appearances for QPR in all competitions scoring 32 goals - this gave him an average 0.28 goals per game.
* He had seven managers in his time at Loftus Road including caretaker bosses: Gary Waddock, John Gregory, Mick Harford, Luigi De Canio, Iain Dowie, Gareth Ainsworth and Paulo Sousa.
Gary Waddock on signing Dexter Blackstock - 09-08-06
'He was at the top of my list when I first took over as Caretaker Manager, so I'm ecstatic.
'I've been monitoring his progress since he was a kid, so it's magnificent that we've finally got him on board.
'He's quick, intelligent and is a natural goalscorer."
Dexter Blackstock on signing for QPR - 09-08-06
'It's great to be here,'
'It had all gone a bit stale for me at Southampton and the chance to move to London was just too good to turn down. It's a fresh challenge for me and I couldn't be any happier.
'I had a nice chat with Gary Waddock, who told me about the hunger and desire of the Rangers squad, so there was never any doubt I'd sign.
'I've always enjoyed playing at Loftus Road in the past, so I'm really excited about making my debut here.'
Gianni Paladini on signing Blackstock - 09-08-06
'It's a huge signing for us - we've been after him for the last four months or so.
'He's the type of player Gary has been looking for and I'm delighted we've beat a number of top Club's to his signature.
'He's a young player, with superb potential and I'm confident he can achieve big things here.
'It's a sign of our intent that we've signed a player of his calibre and I'm sure the fans will join me in wishing him a successful stay at Loftus Road.''
A video documenting all of Blackstock`s goals in the 2006-07 season
Thank you Dexter Blackstock and farewell
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