One To Watch - Jon Stead
Ipswich forward Jon Stead has been outlined by Vital QPR as the One to Watch ahead of the clash in W12 tomorrow.
Stead came up through the ranks of his home town club Huddersfield Town and made his debut at the age of 19 in a 2-0 defeat at home to Brentford. He bagged his first goals in his 14th appearance for the Terriers - a brace in a 3-0 home win against Notts County.
Further goals against Colchester United and Swindon Town saw him impress in his first full season in Division 2. He first met QPR in March 2003 and the R`s took all three points courtesy of Dan Shittu and a Paul Furlong brace.
Later that season Stead bagged another brace in a 4-0 win over Chesterfield, but it wasn`t enough as the Terriers were relegated.
Stead started his Division 3 campaign in good form, scoring four goals in three games to get Huddersfield off to a flyer. This included the opening goal as Town went on to beat Derby County 2-1 in the League Cup.
His goals put Huddersfield in a commanding position in the fourth tier of English football as the 6'3 forward had hit 18 goals in 31 games. This aroused the interest of several Premier League clubs including Blackburn Rovers who eventually captured his signature for £1.25m late on in the January transfer window.
He announced his arrival in the top flight in rapid fashion scoring the winning goal for Rovers against Middlesbrough. He followed this up with a late equaliser against Newcastle United - with further goals coming against Aston Villa, Fulham and Everton.
Undoubtedly his highest point that campaign came when he scored the late winner for Rovers at Ewood Park against Manchester United, which really marked his transformation from Division 3 marksmen to Premier League goalscorer.
Stead was also present at the Millennium Stadium as Huddersfield Town were promoted back to the Second Division via a penalty shootout. Liam Lawrence`s missed penalty handing the Terriers promotion.
In 2004/05 Stead struggled to make any impact on the Premier League in stark contrast to what was seen in the previous season. Only scoring two goals in 34 appearances for Rovers coming against Everton and Birmingham City.
Stead was promptly shipped out of Blackburn and made the move north-east to Sunderland for the princely sum of £1.8m. Quite how his fee appreciated by £550k during his baron spell with Blackburn only manager Mick McCarthy will know.
The striker had another season to forget bagging only one goal in 34 games as Sunderland plummeted back to the Championship with 15 points. There were problems at the start of the following season as Sunderland started to struggle in the Championship.
Stead`s goal against Southend came as welcome relief for the striker, but nevertheless he was moved out on loan to Derby County. He came on as a substitute as County beat QPR 2-1 at Loftus Road, looking dangerous as he struck the post late on in the second period.
Three goals in 17 appearances for the Rams was hardly the kind of goalscoring form they required but nevertheless his overall play was proving successful as Premier League Sheffield United snapped the forward up for £750k.
Goals against Fulham, West Ham United, Charlton Athletic and Wigan Athletic were added to with a goal against former club Blackburn Rovers - but it wasn`t good enough to Stead and United who were relegated back to the Coca Cola Championship - with former clubs Derby County and Sunderland moving in the other direction.
Stead struggled again in the Championship in 2007/08 with only three league goals helping Sheffield United to ninth place. He managed to match this with a further three goals in cup competition, most notably the second in the win against Manchester City.
He also played in United's 1-1 draw with Rangers at Loftus Road - Chris Morgan cancelling out Angelo Balanta's first ever senior goal. It wasn`t enough for Stead with Sheffield United seeing fit to loan him out to Ipswich before the end of the summer transfer window.
Last season he showed his prowess at Jim Magilton's Ipswich beat Rangers at Portman Road. Gareth Ainsworth's men were brushed aside by a brace from Stead.
Barely a year later and the same player was at it again, following Magilton's departure, this time from QPR. Paul Hart continued his poor run as Rangers boss as Stead popped up twice again for an excellently taken brace.
He has dropped down the pecking order a tad with the arrival of Darryl Murphy and David Healy on loan, but he will undoubtedly play some part in the clash given his outstanding recent record against QPR.
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