Rob Dickie has taken to the Championship like a duck to water.
The centre-back has swiftly grow to be a fan favorite at QPR because of his spectacular performances as a part of a again three since becoming a member of from Oxford in the summertime. Significantly throughout a run in 2021 that has seen them win six of their final seven video games.
Their most up-to-date clear sheet got here in opposition to Blackburn in the beginning of February, in a recreation the place Dickie, 24, was confronted with the problem of marking Adam Armstrong – a participant he considers to be the second greatest striker within the Championship. Afterwards, Rovers boss Tony Mowbray admitted he had switched Armstrong to the left facet of his assault to attempt to make the most of Dickie’s, as he put it, ‘perceived weaknesses’.
Naturally, I needed to ask. And Dickie’s reply was assured as his efficiency in QPR’s 1-0 win that day.
“A couple of folks have requested me about that and to be trustworthy with you it was no extra satisfying than successful another recreation,” he tells Sky Sports activities. “I do not assume I really stated something about it.”
He did, nonetheless, submit a considerably tongue-in-cheek photograph of himself and Armstrong from that recreation after the win on Twitter.
“I utterly perceive it from Tony Mowbray’s viewpoint, although. He has Adam Armstrong in his group and I personally assume he is the very best striker within the league – other than Charlie Austin!
“So he desires to make use of him to reveal centre-backs. And since we’re enjoying in a again three the center man within the again three is not actually going to get uncovered an excessive amount of as a result of he has our bodies round him.
“You will not put him on the suitable as a result of he is then going to be reducing in onto his left foot, the place he isn’t good at ending. So naturally he’ll play on the left, and play in opposition to me.
“So whomever Tony Mowbray is enjoying in opposition to, if they seem to be a again three the suitable facet of the again three goes to be the weakest hyperlink, as a result of their strongest hyperlink is Adam Armstrong. So I did not take it personally!
“I am formidable and I need to make the step up, and meaning enjoying in opposition to gamers like Armstrong each week. It is an ideal expertise for me, and I felt I did a great job on the day. We gained the sport and stored a clear sheet, which I am actually pleased with.”
The early components of the season have been a little bit of a wrestle for QPR. Late November and December was notably poor as they dropped down the Championship desk, and scoring targets was a little bit of an issue.
However the flip of the 12 months has reinvigorated their season. Performances have became outcomes. Sturdy defensive performances are actually bearing fruit, notably with Austin on the different finish of the pitch placing possibilities away.
There was loads of curiosity in the summertime for Dickie, however he feels QPR has proved to be the suitable transfer, with enjoying underneath Mark Warburton and his fashion of play the decisive elements for him in making the change to the west London membership.
“I got here right here for a cause,” he says. “I just like the soccer that the supervisor performs. He made it fairly clear from the outset that he wished and wanted me on the membership, and that was a giant factor for me. However it’s additionally due to how we play right here, that basically attracted me.
“We’re attacking and fairly free-flowing. Generally we get punished for it. Generally we do not. However I get pleasure from being in a facet that performs good soccer. I wish to move the ball from the again and convey it by way of the thirds. I began off as a No 10 after I was youthful and performed lots in midfield, in order that’s why I really feel technically good. However I additionally really feel like I am somebody who can combine it up and I get pleasure from defending too.
“I am actually having fun with it. I simply love enjoying soccer and it is good to be enjoying right here week in, week out in opposition to the form of strikers that know what they’re doing. They’re extra medical, their motion is best. They’re higher bodily, they’re faster.
“It has been robust, however I believe I’ve made the step up fairly properly.”
Dickie started his profession at Studying – the membership he additionally helps – however was handed only one Championship look – spending most of his time there out on loans both in non-league or League Two.
He admits even in these levels of his profession he felt he had what it takes to play for Studying, however there isn’t any resentment in any respect over his lack of alternative. Primarily as a result of it gave him the prospect to develop and develop by way of his mortgage spells, earlier than lastly making a everlasting transfer to Oxford in 2018.
“I consider in my capacity and myself so I believe I might have contributed for them on the time, however it simply wasn’t to be,” he says. “On the time there have been loads of senior centre-backs on the membership, and I simply wasn’t going to get the prospect.
“I got here by way of the academy at Studying and so my technical recreation was fairly sound, however the decrease leagues helped form different components of my recreation. I performed within the Convention South, the Nationwide League, League Two. That is the place you be taught your actual core fundamentals. Defensive headers, defending crosses, issues like that.
“There have been no dangerous emotions after I left, as a result of I did not need to go on mortgage once more. It sounds humorous, however whenever you go on mortgage you simply really feel a bit borrowed. I assume I wished to really feel a reference to a membership and be steady there, relatively than simply continually transferring to completely different golf equipment across the nation. I wished to go someplace that I used to be actually wished, to really feel a part of one thing for a few years and to construct myself.”
Dickie loved a profitable two-and-a-half 12 months spell at Oxford, however there’ll all the time be a component of frustration in his thoughts that his closing marketing campaign there did not culminate in promotion.
Oxford have been flying earlier than the curtailment of final season because of the coronavirus pandemic. With 11 video games to play they have been third within the desk off the again of a exceptional successful run, with simply two factors between themselves and Rotherham in second.
“I do know it is easy to sit down right here now and look again and say we’d have gone up, however we had gained 5 on the spin and we have been solely actually heading in a single path within the final couple of months,” he says.
“No video games are straightforward, however we had loads of video games developing in opposition to sides we ought to be beating in that division. I truthfully consider if issues had stayed the identical we’d have had a very good shout.”
Oxford finally needed to come again and attempt to win promotion by way of the League One play-offs in July. They beat Portsmouth on penalties after two legs of their semi-final, organising a Wembley closing in opposition to Wycombe.
“It was troublesome as a result of the circumstances have been so unusual,” he says. “These video games are large and there was no actual correct preparation. You’ll flip up in your automobile, practice, then head straight again dwelling afterwards. You could not go to the gymnasium, or have any actual conferences. However everybody needed to cope with that.”
Dickie describes himself as a pure chief and sees the second he led Oxford out at Wembley as captain because the proudest second of his profession to this point. However it didn’t finish the way in which he wished, as they fell to a 2-1 defeat.
“It was fairly horrendous,” he says. “At Oxford they have been my team-mates however they have been actually good associates as properly. [Karl Robinson] was top-of-the-line managers I’ve labored with and I felt the membership deserved to get that subsequent step as much as the Championship.
“These video games are a one-off. Errors can occur and sadly we have been on the fallacious finish of it. It was only a disgrace.”
Dickie did discover his strategy to the Championship himself in the summertime as he made the transfer to QPR, and has the assumption in himself that he could be the most recent in an extended line of defenders to work their approach by way of the EFL and make it to the Premier League.
You’ll be able to sense the drive in his voice when he talks about it, and also you definitely would not again in opposition to him going all the way in which.
“I am an formidable man and if I by no means performed within the Premier League I do not assume I would retire pleased if I am trustworthy with you,” he says. “I like soccer and I’ve watched the Premier League for so long as I can bear in mind, so to play in it will imply the world to me.
“Proper now although I am loving enjoying this season for QPR within the Championship. To get again to this stage is all I’ve wished for a very long time.”
Little question QPR will likely be hoping to maintain him on the membership for so long as attainable.