Vital QPR pays tribute to former defender Damion Stewart
Queens Park Rangers announced the capture of Jamaican international Damion Stewart of May 4, 2006 – pipping his former club Bradford City to his signature from native side Harbour View.
Speaking on his arrival to Loftus Road the international defender said: ‘I enjoyed my time at Bradford, but when the chance came to play in the Championship for a big club like QPR, it was an easy decision.’
Many QPR supporters had their first glimpse of the defender as the Reggae Boyz faced England prior to the 2006 Fifa World Cup – where Peter Crouch’s robot dance shot to fame in a 6-0 win.
He pulled on a Rangers shirt for the first time as Gary Waddock’s men strolled to a 4-1 win over then non-league side Stevenage Borough, as they built up to the season’s opener against Burnley.
Initially Stewart featured alongside Matthew Rose before the signing of Zesh Rehman from Fulham as Waddock looked to sure up the defensive options – a poor start to the season saw the demise of the former R’s midfielder as he departed following a defeat at Port Vale.
It somewhat tained Stewart’s first QPR goal, but nevertheless he started to thrive under the guidance of John Gregory – eventually he found a partner in Danny Cullip as well with QPR saving themselves from relegation.
His impact was immediate in the 2007-08 season as his last gasp equaliser against Bristol City saw the R’s to a deserved point at Ashton Gate, while following a big money take-over by Flavio Briatore John Gregory paid for a run of poor results with his job.
Luigi de Canio was next up at Loftus Road and while defensively Rangers were lacking, the overall calibre of entertainment improved as Stewart and Fitz Hall forged a partnership in the second half of the year.
He was sent off twice under the guidance of de Canio, bagging more goals against Crystal Palace, Burnley, Watford and Leicester City. He would be ruled out of the early stages of the 2008-09 season after being sent off in the penultimate game against Norwich City.
After de Canio cited personal reasons for his departure from Loftus Road, Iain Dowie took on the mission in W12 and Stewart was left to vie with Hall, Matt Connolly and Kaspars Gorkss for a place in the back four.
Eventually he and Hall emerged as the key competitors and the highlight of his QPR career came to the fore at Villa Park. Queens Park Rangers dumping Aston Villa out of the Carling Cup with a thunderous header from the international defender.
It wasn’t long before more managerial change occurred and Stewart found himself in favour once more under Paulo Sousa, with Gorkss the chosen partner for the Jamaican. It paid dividends in terms of defensive work but Rangers were struggling going forward.
Four more goals for the season saw Stewart emerge as a key player and finally looking every bit that replacement for Danny Shittu – the strong leader at the heart of defence that would simply snuff out every attack.
Managerial change once more as Jim Magilton took the helm at QPR and defensively the R’s were suffering, but Stewart continued to perform admirably in the rearguard. Squad discontent saw off Magilton and then Paul Hart as Rangers were struggling immensely.
Stewart was a first choice along with Gorkss for the majority of the season however as new and current boss Neil Warnock put faith in the Jamaican whose season came to an end in horrific fashion – fracturing his skull in a clash of heads with Crystal Palace’s Calvin Andrew.
Finest Hour: Winning Carling Cup goal against Aston Villa
Many thanks Damion and farewell
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