Les Ferdinand has a lot to thank Jim Smith for — but he won’t think twice about dropping Derby County back into relegation trouble on Saturday.
Smith handed Ferdinand his chance in professional football back in 1987.
QPR trailed Ferdinand, then a raw, powerful striker at non-league Hayes, for while before Smith, managed at Loftus Road between 1985-88, gave the nod for West London outfit to sign him.
The rest, as they say, is history. ‘Sir Les’ went on to score 90 goals in 169 appearances for QPR before his big-money move to Newcastle United in 1995.
Smith, meanwhile, went on to manage Newcastle and Portsmouth before turning Derby’s fortunes around.
Smith took Rams to eighth, ninth and 12<sup>th</sup> in the Premiership before the reality of relegation fights set in last season.
Ferdinand recalled: “Jim was the man who brought me into professional football and I have a lot of respect for him but we’ll go there to try and extend our unbeaten run away from home.
“QPR’s interest started off with scouts. I was at Hayes and one of the scouts lived around the corner, he had a look and said they should have a look at me.
“Frank Sibley and Peter Shreeves came down and finally Jim Smith as well. I had to impress a few people but eventually they came down and signed me.
“Jim’s one of the old school, a bit fiery in his younger days, he used to throw the teacups and sandwiches around the place, but he’s always been a great fella and the players have always responded to him.”
Unfortunately for Smith, the dreaded ‘r’ word has surfaced again this season but Rams’ current predicament - hovering just above the drop zone - represents a minor miracle considering a disastrous start to the season.
In fact, when we beat the Midlanders 3-1 in October, they were bottom of the Premiership, without a win and with just five points on the board.
Ferdinand said back then that Smith would drag them out of trouble and those words, for the time being, have rung true.
He added: “Jim has a lot of experience and he’s been in that predicament before.
“I remember being down there at QPR and he was always able to pull the team out.
“So I had no doubt in my mind that he would be able to turn the tide at Derby and get them playing some good football.”
Les is 6/1 to score the opener against Derby and 40/1 to grab a hat-trick - click here for details.
By Paul Miles