Jake Clarke-Salter has admitted that he had been looking to cut ties permanently with Chelsea for a few seasons before signing a four-year deal with QPR over the summer.
After joining Chelsea at the age of eight, the now 25-year-old defender cut ties with the Blues over the summer after a 16-year spell at Stamford Bridge.
Clarke-Salter made just two appearances for the Blues and was sent on six separate loan deals during his time at the club.
He was released in the summer, despite the two-time Champions League winners having the option to extend his deal for a further 12 months, and joined QPR to become Michael Beale’s first singing at Loftus Road.
“It was something that I had wanted to do for a few seasons,” Clarke-Salter told the South London Press when asked about his permanent departure from Chelsea.
“It was about timing. I had to pick my next team really carefully. I’m here now [at QPR] so hopefully, I can kick on, and as a collective, we can do something special.
“Previously [my moves] have been loans, so I always knew that at the end of any loan, I would head back to Chelsea and start fresh.
“But here, it was going to be my home where me and my family would settle down.
“QPR is a London-based club, and I’m from London, so that played a factor as well. The manager at the time was a big factor too, so I want to thank him for bringing me to the club.
“We have got very, very good players in this club. It’s a young squad, but we all hopefully have our best years ahead of us.”
Clarke-Salter experienced a variety of loans as he looked to try and break into Chelsea’s first team.
He was sent out to spend time with clubs around the English football pyramid – Bristol Rovers, Sunderland, Birmingham City and Coventry – but he also experienced a season in the Dutch league with Vitesse Arnhem.
“Mentality, I had to grow up quite quickly,” admits Clarke-Salter of the number of loans he had.
“I was thrown in the deep end. I have had a vast amount of experiences at a young age and playing in different leagues with different managers and different systems.
“It toughened me up a lot as a young player. Now I see myself as a man – I don’t see myself as a young player anymore.
“I was 19 in Sunderland and then 20 by the time I was in Holland. You’re away from your family, but I wanted to be a footballer, so you have to make these sacrifices.
“I wouldn’t have changed anything – it’s helped turn me into the player I am today.”
Former England U21 international Clarke-Salter made just two appearances for Chelsea but trained with John Terry, Gary Cahill and César Azpilicueta throughout his time spent positioned in and around the first team.
Following the 4-0 win over Aston Villa in 2016, where Clarke-Salter made his Chelsea debut, Terry publicly spoke of his hope for the then 18-year-old to replace him in the future.
“Just the standards,” said Clarke-Salter of what he learnt from training alongside ex-England pair Cahill and Terry and current Chelsea captain Azpilicueta.
“Every day in training, you have to treat it like your last. It helped me because I saw how these top pros trained every day.
“It’s no conscience they were at the top.”
Beale left QPR over the winter break, departing Loftus Road to join Scottish Premiership side Rangers. Beale replaced Giovanni van Bronckhorst and returned to the side where he was assistant to Steven Gerrard.
“The first couple of days [after Beale left], we weren’t sure what was happening,” said Clarke-Salter.
“Now that it’s happened, we need to move past it. All the focus needs to be on ourselves because our season doesn’t stop.
“We need to play for each other and see where it can take us this season.
“It happens in football – teams can come in for any one of our players or the manager at any time.
“We have to deal with it and keep strong-minded as a collective.”
The versatile defender has only made 10 appearances for QPR since joining, with a hamstring injury at the start of the season ruling him out for nine of the first 10 fixtures.
“It’s been a bit up and down,” said Clarke-Salter of his start to life with the west Londoners.
“When I have been on the pitch, I have done reasonably well, but I have had some setbacks with injuries.
“I’m back now and fully fit.”
The Hoops, who did not record a win in five before the break for the Qatar 2022 World Cup, resume their Championship campaign this weekend at home to table-toppers Burnely.
U21 manager Paul Hall is looking after the side while sporting director Les Ferdinand searches for Beale’s replacement.
“He [Vicente Kompany] has got Burnley playing some nice stuff,” explained Clarke-Salter, with QPR sitting sixth in the Championship table.
“Credit to Burnley, they have had a very impressive start to the season, but we need to focus on ourselves and get together as a squad.
“They’re coming to our back yard and we need to get the three points.”
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MAIN PHOTO: ROB AVIS