Rob Dickie took the championship like a duck in the water.
The center-back has quickly become a fan favorite at QPR thanks to his impressive performances as part of a three-way since arriving from Oxford this summer. Especially in a race in 2021 that saw them win six of their last seven games.
Their last clean sheet came against Blackburn in early February, in a game where 24-year-old Dickie was faced with the challenge of scoring Adam Armstrong – a player he considers the championship’s second-best forward. Subsequently, Rovers boss Tony Mowbray admitted he tipped Armstrong to the left side of his offense to try and take advantage of Dickie, as he put it, “ for perceived weaknesses. ”
Of course, I had to ask. And Dickie’s response was assured as his performance in QPR’s 1-0 win that day.
“A few people have asked me about it and to be honest with you it was no more satisfying than winning any other game,” he said. Sky Sports. “I don’t think I really said anything about it.”
He did, however, post a somewhat ironic photo of himself and Armstrong from that game after the win on Twitter.
“I totally understand that from Tony Mowbray’s point of view, though. He has Adam Armstrong on his squad and I personally think he’s the best forward in the league – aside from Charlie Austin!
“So he wants to use it to expose the center-backs. And because we’re playing in a three-back, the middle man in the three-backs won’t really be too exposed because he has bodies around him.”
“You won’t put him on the right because he’ll then cut off his left foot, where it’s not good to finish. So naturally he’ll play on the left, and play against me.
“So whatever Tony Mowbray is playing against, if they’re three fullbacks, the right side of the three fullbacks will be the weakest link, because their strongest link is Adam Armstrong. So I don’t have it. taken personally! “
“I’m ambitious and I want to take the plunge, and that means playing against players like Armstrong every week. It’s a great experience for me, and I felt I did a good job that day. We won the game and kept a clean sheet, which I’m really happy with. “
The first parts of the season were a bit difficult for QPR. The end of November and December were particularly poor as they fell in the league standings and scoring goals was a bit of a problem.
But the turn of the year reinvigorated their season. Performance has become results. Strong defensive performances are now paying off, especially with Austin on the other end of the field reducing the odds.
There was a lot of interest this summer in Dickie, but he believes QPR turned out to be the right decision, playing under Mark Warburton and his style of play being the deciding factors for him in his move to the West club. from London.
“I came here for a reason,” he says. “I love the football the manager plays. He made it very clear from the start that he wanted and needed me at the club, and that was a big thing for me. But that’s also because of the way we play here, which really attracted me.
“We attack and we’re pretty fluid. Sometimes we get punished for it. Sometimes we don’t. But I like being on a team that plays good football. I like passing the ball from the back and the back. ‘bring it through I started as No 10 when I was younger and played a lot in midfield, which is why I feel good technically. But I also feel like being someone who can mix things up and i also love to defend.
“I really like it. I love playing football and it’s nice to play here week after week against the kind of forwards who know what they’re doing. They’re more clinical, their movement is better. They.” re better physically, they are faster.
“It was tough, but I think I took the plunge pretty well.”
Dickie started his career at Reading – the club he also backs – but has only had one league appearance – spending most of his time there on loans outside the league or in League Two .
He admits that even at these stages of his career he felt he had what it took to play for Reading, but there is no resentment about his lack of opportunities. Mainly because it gave him the chance to grow and develop through his loan periods, before finally moving to Oxford for good in 2018.
“I believe in my abilities and in myself, so I think I could have contributed to it then, but I just didn’t,” he says. “At the time there were a lot of senior center-backs at the club, and I just wasn’t going to get the chance.
“I came to the academy from Reading and so my technical game was pretty solid, but the lower leagues helped shape other parts of my game. I played in the Southern Conference, the National League, the League Two. This is where you learn your real heart. Defensive headers, defensive crosses, things like that.
“There weren’t any bad feelings when I left, because I didn’t want to be loaned anymore. It sounds funny, but when you go on loan, you just feel a little bit borrowed. I guess I wanted to feel a bond with a club. and be stable there, rather than just constantly moving to different clubs across the country. I wanted to go somewhere I really wanted to, feel part of something for a few years and build myself up. “
Dickie enjoyed a successful two and a half year stint at Oxford, but there will always be an element of frustration in his mind that his last campaign did not result in a promotion.
Oxford was flying before last season’s cutback due to the coronavirus pandemic. With 11 games to go, they finished third in the table after a remarkable victory, with just two points between them and Rotherham in second.
“I know it’s easy to sit here now and look back and say we would have gone up, but we had won five on the spin and we had only really taken a direction for the last two months. “he said.
“No game is easy, but we’ve had a lot of games against teams we should beat in this division. I honestly believe if things had stayed the same we would have had a really good shout.”
Oxford eventually had to come back and try to win promotion in the Ligue 1 play-offs in July. They beat Portsmouth on penalties after two rounds of their semi-final, preparing for a final at Wembley against Wycombe.
“It was difficult because the circumstances were so strange,” he says. “Those games are huge and there wasn’t really any proper preparation. You would get in your car, practice, and then go straight home afterwards. You couldn’t go to the gym or have real meetings. But everyone. world had to deal with that. “
Dickie describes himself as a natural leader and sees the moment he led Oxford to Wembley as captain as the proudest moment of his career so far. But it didn’t end the way he wanted, as they came across a 2-1 loss.
“It was pretty awful,” he says. “At Oxford they were my teammates, but they were also great friends. [Karl Robinson] was one of the best managers I have worked with and felt the club deserved to take the next league step.
“These games are one-off. Mistakes can happen and unfortunately we were on the wrong side. It was just a shame.”
Dickie found his way to the Championship himself this summer by switching to QPR, and believes he may be the last in a long line of defenders to make his way through the EFL and surrender in the Premier League.
You can feel the impulse in his voice when he talks about it, and you certainly wouldn’t mind going through with it.
“I’m an ambitious guy and if I’ve never played in the Premier League I don’t think I would retire happy if I’m honest with you,” he said. “I love football and have watched the Premier League for as long as I can remember, so playing it would mean the world to me.
“Right now, I love playing this season for QPR in the championship. Getting back to that level is all I’ve wanted for a long time.”
No doubt QPR hopes to keep him at the club as long as possible.