QPR boss Mark Warburton has claimed that attacking midfielder George Thomas is a “vital member of the squad” and part of his plans moving forward amid links with a January move to Blackpool and Portsmouth.
With Ilias Chair away with Morocco at the Africa Cup of Nations and Chris Willock out with a knock, Thomas started in the R’s third round FA Cup tie against Rotherham United this afternoon and helped them progress via a penalty shoot-out.
The 24-year-old has found opportunities hard to come by in the first half of the season and reports have suggested that he could leave the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium this month – with both Blackpool and Pompey both said to be keen.
But speaking after his side qualified for the fourth round of the FA Cup, Warburton confirmed that Thomas remains part of his plans moving forward.
He added: “Of course (he remains part of the plans). We’ve got a tight squad, 22 players. Young Aaron Drewe stepped up from the academy today with the situation we had. Chrissy going injured, players going away, so you’ve got to bring the boys up.
“George is a vital member of the squad but he wants to play more football, simple as that.”
Much of the R’s attacking play went through Thomas in the first half but his influence on the game waned after the break and he was replaced by Andre Dozzell after 71 minutes.
Pressed on whether the attacking midfielder had shown him enough against the Millers, Warburton said: “George is a great lad. Great character. He’s a good athlete, he wants to play as all players want to play.
“The nature of first-team football is Ilias (Chair) and Chris (Willock) have been outstanding so far this year.”
He continued: “His challenge is that he plays the same position as Chris and Ilias. It’s a tough one for him but he’s been patient. He works hard every day.
“You saw him tire toward the 70/75 minute mark but he did really well. Like all players, they want to play football week in, week out but it’s a tough business.”
Willock picked up a knock in training ahead of the Rotherham game but is expected to be back involved next week and available for the Championship clash against West Bromwich Albion on the weekend.
Can you name which club QPR signed these 28 midfielders from?
There’s been a lot of speculation surrounding Thomas in the first week or so of the January window but Warburton has made his stance clear on the 24-year-old.
He remains part of the plans moving forward, particularly with Chair absent and a fairly small squad available to the R’s boss.
Whether that would change were a new attacking midfielder to be signed by the Championship outfit remains to be seen but until that happens, it seems Pompey and Blackpool will find it tough to prize him away.
Chair’s absence is a blow for the R’s but a massive opportunity for Thomas to stake his claim, having spent the majority of the season playing second fiddle to the Moroccan and Willock.