Conor’s back on form thanks to QPR boss

Conor Washington is enjoying life as an international footballer.   Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

Conor Washington is enjoying life as an international footballer. Photo by William Cherry/Presseye

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Should Northern Ireland board the plane to Russia next year, it could transpire that Ian Holloway played a significant role.

The boss has turned around not only his QPR side’s season, but, more significantly for Northern Ireland, the form of forward Conor Washington.

Ian Holloway has had a significant impact on Conor Washington's season. Pic: Richard Sellers/PA Wire.

Ian Holloway has had a significant impact on Conor Washington's season. Pic: Richard Sellers/PA Wire.

Under former boss Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, the Northern Ireland striker was frequently utilised on his own up top, or shunted out wide. That yielded a scoring return from just two goals in 31 appearances.

Now Northern Ireland welcome into their squad a revitalised Washington who has netted four goals in his last 10 Championship games.

And he puts a lot of that down to the motivating manner of the famously eccentric Holloway, who made his out-of-sorts forward watch a highlights reel of his own goals over the past year, including his two international strikes.

Washington said: “It was one of the first things he said to me, ‘Nothing’s changed, you’ve just lost that little bit of confidence’. I totally agreed with him.

“Little things like that have really helped me. He got the video guys to put together something. It’s nice to look back and see what you’ve achieved.

“It wasn’t so much watching those goals, it was what those goals meant, especially the ones against Slovenia and Belarus - they were really important in terms of the bigger picture and getting into the squad.

“Goals like that, especially when I was on a good run at Peterborough, it meant I was going to get the move to QPR. It was really important and reminded me, okay, I am good enough to play at this level.”

It wasn’t just off the field that Holloway rung the changes - on the pitch, Washington is thriving, back in his natural position.

“On his first or second day he took me into his office and told me he would have signed me if he was the manager at the time,” he said. “It was a big boost for me after a really disappointing time under the previous manager.

“Within the year I’ve gone from the highest point to the lowest point back to where I am now. It’s so important to have that confidence and it’s mad how quickly things can change. I’ve only been a pro four/four and a half years and I’m still learning every day. Things like that, it’s strange how much of an effect it had on me.

“I’m feeling good, sharp, it’s probably the first time in a while I’m coming into an international break having played quite a bit of football.”

And all of that will be music to the ears of Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill. Under the manager’s watchful eye at Carton House, Washington is keen to prove he’s worth a start against Norway on Saturday.

“I’ve just got to go into training this week and prove I’m the sharpest and the best man for the job,” he said.

Born in Kent, 24 year-old Washington has nine caps so far for Northern Ireland.

Should he mark his 10th international appearance with his third goal on Sunday, Northern Ireland fans can direct a nod of thanks in the direction of the QPR manager.