Players who come through the ranks at Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal are, more often than not, going to have first-rate technique, and Queens Park Rangers’ Matthew Connolly is no exception. Last month, with the R’s chasing an equaliser away at Blackpool, the 22-year-old volleyed home a 25-yard strike that would grace any league in the world. It was certainly not a goal you would expect to be in a centre-half’s locker.
The defender played youth football for the Gunners before making his breakthrough in the reserves in 2006, with it taking the 22-year-old little time to secure the captain’s armband for the North London club’s second string. He made his full debut for Wenger’s men in a third round League Cup match against West Bromwich Albion on October 24 2006 but the Barnet-born star was soon sent on loan to Bournemouth. He made seven appearances on the south coast before returning to the Emirates.
The 2007-08 season saw Connolly loaned to Colchester United, who were in the Championship at the time. His stay was meant to last for the entire season but Arsenal recalled their player from Essex in January as QPR had made a bid for his services. The former England under-21 player signed for the West London outfit on January 2 2008 for an undisclosed fee. At the time Connolly said on QPR’s official website:
“It’s very difficult to make the breakthrough at a Club like Arsenal, so when QPR made an offer I knew it was the right time to move on.
“Arsenal provided me with a great launch pad, but I need to be playing first team football at my age and this is a fantastic Club for me to pursue my career at.
“I know what the Championship is all about after my spell at Colchester United and I’m delighted to be part of what appears to be a very bright future at this Football Club.”
Connolly has gone on to be a very important player for QPR under various managers during his time at Loftus Road and last season saw him secure the young-player-of-the-year award. His current campaign was under threat back in October when he was struggling with Glandular Fever but he managed to shake it off and resume his playing duties. His confidence on the ball has even seen him picked in midfield at times and he has performed admirably during a frustrating season for the R’s. He continues to show form that marks him out as a potential Premier League star in the making.