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Hoilett’s QPR deal a remarkable feat for a Canadian

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On Friday, Queen’s Park Rangers unveiled what we have been expecting for more than a week — the capture of free agent Junior Hoilett.

And thus concludes the race for a Canadian player’s signature the likes of which we have never seen before. Of any of the English Premier League players out of contract, the Brampton, Ont. native was one of the biggest prizes.

Remember, that before he signed his last contract extension with Blackburn, then-manager Sam Allardyce flew to Brampton to meet with Junior and his parents, David Sr. and Ingrid, to lobby for the young prospect’s return to Rovers. And Mark Hughes, QPR’s current manager, worked with Hoilett in the Blackburn youth ranks.

But that was still a low-key pursuit, nothing like the free agency of Junior Hoilett which we saw this summer, where he was linked to several Premiership clubs and Bundesliga sides. There was interest in a Canadian player like we haven’t seen before.

We will see how Hoilett adjusts to the role of being a young talent playing for the club with which he rose through the ranks to being the high profile signing expected to be an immediate impact player.

“The manager (Hughes) obviously played a big part in my decision to come here,” Hoilett told QPR’s official website. “He’s someone I know well here having worked with him and his backroom team at Blackburn.

“I signed my first professional contract under him and I will always remember that and be grateful to him. Working under such a great manager will help me to develop my skills and further my career.”

QPR is becoming quite the destination for Canadians, as former TFC Academy prospects Dylan Carreiro and Michael Petrasso are slated to continue their development in the club’s youth program.

Of course, Canadian soccer fans will ask, will this contract give Hoilett and his management team (which includes his dad), the confidence it needs to declare allegiance to a national side (preferably ours?) Pressure tactics and headlines demanding Hoilett make up his mind won’t do it.

Because, for a player now moving into a new income bracket, there needs to be motivation to risk injury or the wrath of his QPR manager in order to play national-team soccer. In Canada, there is very little reward. Playing for the Canadian national side doesn’t translate into nice promotional deals. Games against Central American nations don’t even bump another everyday Blue Jays game from the national TV grid.

And, it doesn’t send a fantastic message when in the hometown Toronto newspapers, the coverage of the Premiership tends to be about what the likes of Manchester City, United, Arsenal and Chelsea are doing — not about how local products are doing in the league.

Junior Hoilett hasn’t chosen to play for Canada, and he hasn’t chosen to reject Canada, either. But, the message to fans should be this, the carrot is a better option than the stick. Praising a Canadian for achieving things no other Canadian has achieved before in the Premiership will likely do more to entice Junior and co. than spewing the same old (and franky, quite boring) will-he-or-won’t-he rhetoric.

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