The Road to Rangers – Kemar Roofe

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Who doesn’t love a two for Tuesdays? No, not the pizza. I’m talking about when Rangers announced to great excitement the signings of Kemar Roofe and Cedric Itten on the first Tuesday of the month to bolster our attacking output. This was a serious statement of intent by the club as the board once again matched the rhetoric with the money and forked out a significant outlay to bring this quality of players to the club.

While Itten may be a newer name on fans lips, Rangers interest in Roofe has been well documented for some time, with rumours linking him to Rangers as far back as last summer before he decided to move to Vincent Kompany’s Anderlecht. With the pursuit finally baring fruit, it’s as good a time as any to sit and reflect on our new stars career so far.

Ladies and Gentlemen welcome back to The Road to Rangers, lets talk about Kemar Roofe.

West Brom: 2009-2015

Roofe began his career in the youth ranks at West Brom signing on as a 16-year-old in 2009. He began life at the club by balancing playing for the academy side while attending Joseph Leckie Academy in Walsall and became one of eleven youngsters to sign contracts with the club. Roofe wouldn’t make a competitive appearance for the Baggies despite spending six years with the club. Instead, he was subject to five separate loan spells, the first of which saw Roofe make his first move outside of England as he headed on loan to Iceland to play for Vikingur Reykjavik at the age of 18 (their proper name is Knattspyrnufelagid Reykjavik – but for the purposes of readability we’ll just stick to Vikingur). A strange move at a first glance, but West Brom and Vikingur had entered into a partnership with Roofe and fellow teammate Cameron Gayle being sent on loan as part of the partnership. Roofe made three appearances for the club while he was there, and scored his first professional goal in the Icelandic cup for the club.

Coming back to West Brom on the back of his Icelandic adventure, Roofe was rewarded with his first professional contract as he signed on with the Baggies for a further 18 months with an option to extend the deal. at the time this was seen as a bit of a coup for West Brom to get him tied down as he had caught the eye of other Premier League clubs who had the aim of pinching him off West Brom on the cheap. Speaking at the time to Sky Sports, Roofe said:

“I’m delighted to have signed. I’ve been here since I started playing football and it’s the place I know I will benefit from further. It’s a great set up and the staff are fully supportive of everyone at the club. I know I benefited a lot as well from a loan in Iceland that the club set up for me pre-season and I now need to work hard to keep progressing”.

It was always the intention for West Brom to loan Roofe out again and in September 2012 he was sent on his first spell to play in the English Football League on a one-month loan spell to Northampton Town, making his debut for the club just two days after signing in a thrilling 3-3 draw with Burton Albion.

Roofe makes his Football league debut for Northampton vs Burton Albion, 2012

However, after making six appearances in the space of a month for Northampton, they terminated the loan deal and he was sent back to West Brom. The then Northampton boss Aidy Boothroyd justified his decision by saying:

“I just feel, at this time, we need to free a loan space up in the squad for a different type of player. That is no reflection on Kemar [Roofe], who was a credit to himself and his club and he returns with out best wishes and gratitude”.

Roofe used his time back at West Brom to continue developing under a coaching system that he knew well and was rewarded with West Brom exercising a one-year extension on his contract.

The following season, Roofe was loaned out to League Two again, this time for Cheltenham Town on a deal that would see him play with the club for half a season. It was here that Roofe scored his first goal in the English Football League, scoring Cheltenham’s second In a 2-2 draw with Hartlepool with a header from close range finding the top right hand corner of the goal in what was his full home debut for the side. After his loan deal with Cheltenham was extended by a month, Roofe personally spoke to Mark Yates the Cheltenham boss and said that with his contract at the Hawthorns nearing its completion, he wanted the opportunity to go back to the club to be in with a chance of impressing the new West Brom boss Pepe Mel. However, Roofe was placed back in the reserves but had done enough to earn himself another one-year extension on his contract with the club.

An interesting anecdote from this season was a striker from who, Roofe has subsequently claimed he learned a lot from at West Brom during this time. Roofe was asked in a Q&A who the greatest player he’d played alongside was, and he chose Nicolas Anelka, who played 12 times for West Brom in the 2013/14 season.

With the 2014/15 season beginning, Roofe got on the scoresheet for West Brom as he scored the opening goal in a 3-2 friendly defeat to Port Vale. He was still without a competitive appearance for the club however as he was loaned out to League One side Colchester United for a month, with the Colchester manager citing his versatility across the attacking line as one of the primary reasons for bringing him in. He made two appearances in the months spell before returning to West Brom.

Oxford United: 2015 – 2016

Oxford was the 5th, final and most successful of Roofe’s loan moves while he was still at West Brom. Oxford boss Michael Appleton knew Roofe from previously coaching him as a younger plyer whilst they were both at West Brom. Joining on 13th February 2015, he made his debut on Valentine’s day, playing just under half an hour in a 2-0 defeat to Burton Albion. After impressing enough to have his loan spell extended by Oxford until the end of the season, Roofe told the club website:

“I have really enjoyed my time here. I have been made to feel very welcome, there is a positive outlook throughout the club and I am enjoying my football”.

Roofe repaid the faith with goals. He had to wait for them to come but goals are like buses as his first goals in an Oxford shirt came as a brace in a 3-2 win over Wycombe in April, whilst also providing the assist for the other goal. He followed this up by scoring three-in-three against Tranmere, Cambridge and Newport to finish off the season.

It was this form that encouraged Oxford to make the deal for Roofe permanent as he penned a three-year deal with the club. Speaking about the deal, Oxford CEO Mark Ashton said:

“Kemar made it very clear he wanted to play for us and Michael Appleton. We are trying to move the club forward in all areas, but we are very aware it all hinges on what happens on the pith and Kemar has a big part to play in that”.

The 2015/16 season was to prove to be Roofe’s coming out season, as well as particularly successful season for Oxford as a whole. Roofe scored an astonishing 40-yard screamer against Brentford in the League Cup, with the ball falling to him just inside the Brentford half and his half volley catching the goalkeeper way off his line. Roofe was involved in another massive cup upset this season as in January as he scored a brace to help Oxford dump Premier League side Swansea out of the FA Cup with a 3-2 win despite being 54 places below them in the league pyramid. His second was particularly special, as Roofe started a counterattack by clearing a Swansea corner and raced up the pitch to finish the move that he started with a goal.

Roofe scores his second against Swansea in the FA Cup, 2016

His first professional hattrick came in that season as the goals kept on coming as he scored 3 goals in a 4-0 battering of Dagenham and Redbridge in March. His goals were instrumental in helping Oxford reach the final of the Football League Trophy final at Wembley, which they eventually lost 3-2 to Barnsley. Roofe finished the season with 26 goals in 49 appearances (just over a goal every two games) that helped fire Oxford to automatic promotion to League One. On the back of his sparkling season, Roofe was named League Two’s player of the year. When he received the award, Roofe said:

“I am happy to be acknowledged, but I have to put it down to Oxford United for helping me achieve this”.

Leeds: 2016 – 2019

In July 2016, Roofe signed for Leeds on the back of his amazing season for Oxford for a fee believed to be in the region of £3m.

Roofe made his Leeds debut in the opening game of the season as they went down 3-0 away to QPR. Incredible bouts of bad luck saw Roofe struggle to find his first goal for Leeds, with an initial effort that was credited to him against Wolves being retrospectively awarded as an own goal and an effort at Anfield come off the inside of the post and unluckily for Roofe didn’t end up in the back of the net. It was after this match that Roofe started the #Pray4Roofe which I pray we’ll never see again while he’s at Ibrox.

He managed to break his duck swiftly after the game at Anfield as he scored Leed’s first goal in a 2-0 over Aston Villa in December, with his movement in the box allowing him to beat the Villa goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini to the ball and head home. He followed this up with a goal and two assists on Boxing Day helping Leeds to secure a 4-1 win over Preston.

Roofe celebrates his first Leeds goal against Aston Villa, 2017

While the 2016/17 season was a slow burner for Roofe, the 2017/18 season was to prove to be anything but, with a hat-trick against Newport in the League Cup in August meaning Roofe had already equalled his goals tally from the previous season less than a month into the new one.

Roofe was moved more central in the Leeds attack with Chris Wood moving to Burnley, a tactical switch by the Leeds boss Thomas Christiansen which paid dividends as Roofe repaid him by scoring his first goal of the season against Nottingham Forrest in a 2-0 just four days after his hat-trick against Newport. Roofe again backed up his claim that his best position is as a striker as he bagged yet another hat-trick, this time against QPR in December. Despite a calf injury ruling him out for a significant chunk of the season post-Christmas, Roofe ended the season as the clubs’ top scorer with 14 goals and was nominated for the clubs Player of the Year award. However, his form couldn’t help a struggling Leeds side move up the table and fight for promotion as they stuttered to a 13th place finish in the Championship.

Roofe however picked up where he left off as he made a flying start to the 2018/19 season under new manager Marcelo Bielsa, scoring a brace in a 4-1 demolition of Derby County to inflict the first defeat of Frank Lampard’s reign as manager at Pride Park.

Roofe battles for the ball against Derby’s Richard Keogh, 2018

He followed that up by netting again a week later in a 2-0 win over Rotherham, which contributed to four goals and two assists in the month of August which saw him named Championship Player of the Month. Speaking about winning the award to Leeds Live, Roofe said:

“I’ve obviously won this so I must have improved a bit because I feel like I can express myself more. I’m playing in a position where I can show what I can actually do and also the team plays to my strengths as well”.

Roofe with his Player of the Month award, August 2018

His dazzling form was cut short however as Roofe pulled up with another calf injury which left Leeds without a recognised striker as Patrick Bamford was also ruled out through Injury. Roofe didn’t take long to be back amongst the goals and the headlines on his return though, as he scored the equaliser in a 1-1 draw with Nottingham Forrest at Elland Road. Its not unfair to say this goal was somewhat controversial, as Roofe clearly handled Mateusz Klich’s cross into the net sparking fury from the Forrest players. Roofe did admit the infringement after the match saying:

“I just saw the ball flash across the goal and the ball hit my hand. Call it ball to hand, it’s a gaol. Its up to the ref to give it and he gave it”.

He continued his form into December where he scored five goals (three in injury time) and was once again nominated for Player of the Month. His season was once again frustratingly curtailed in February as he suffered damaged knee ligaments in Leeds 2-1 win over Swansea and in the process lost his place in the side to Patrick Bamford. That was until the famous play-off semi-final against Derby County, where Roofe was picked to lead the Leeds line at pride Park. He scored the only goal of the game but once again was hampered by injury and was replaced by Bamford in the second half. In a body-blow for Leeds, Roofe was ruled out for the now infamous return leg at Elland Road where Frank Lampard’s Derby County managed a 4-3 win to take them to the play-off final at Leeds expense.

Roofe celebrates his goal against Derby in the play-off, 2019

Anderlecht: 2019 – 2020

With Vincent Kompany taking over as player manager at Anderlecht after coming of the back of a fee of title winning campaign with Manchester City, Roofe was identified as the top target for the club. With just two days remaining in the English transfer window, Leeds sold Roofe to Anderlecht on 6th August for a €7m fee. He took the Jupiler League by storm, scoring five goals in his first seven games. However, Anderlecht as a whole were stuttering as they fell to 10th in the league.

Roofe celebrates with his teammates after scoring for Anderlecht, 2019

Once again in this spell Roofe was good for pretty much a goal every two games, scoring seven goals in 16 games for Anderlecht in all competitions. Despite his goals being crucial in gaining points for Anderlecht, (with five goals in the final months of 2019 directly leading to Anderlecht gaining points) they could kick on sufficiently enough to secure a European place as they finished 8th in the league, six points behind Standard Liege in the final European qualification spot.

Rangers: 2020

Roofe signs for Rangers, 2020

Roofe completed his Road to Rangers on the 4th August, signing from Anderlecht for an undisclosed fee. The excitement from the fans was palpable as a photo emerged on social media of Roofe posing with a Rangers top in the training centre with Rangers announcing the deal shortly afterwards. Speaking as the club announced Roofe, Steven Gerrard said:

“Kemar is recognised throughout Europe as an intelligent striker with an eye for goal. He has experienced the pressure and expectation at Leeds United and has played on the continent which will stand him in good stead for his time at Ibrox”.

Roofe added how thrilled he was to be joining Rangers by saying:

“I am delighted to join Rangers and look forward to meeting up with my new teammates. Rangers are a huge club with ambition and I know this is thee right fit for me to progress my career. I am looking forward to experiencing Ibrox and I am excited to play in Europe”.

Roofe unveiled at Rangers, 2020

On paper this seems like a tremendous bit of business from the club that shows the real intent we have on signing quality players who can be the difference in our squad this season. With his debut for the club imminent, I’m sure you are all as excited as I am to see the impact Roofe can make to the side and hopefully helping us to secure 55.

Once again thank you all for your support on The Road to Rangers series, it really is greatly appreciated.  

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