From the highs of the European Championship finals with Northern Ireland to the lows of playing under Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink at Queens Park Rangers, the past 12 months have been a rollercoaster of emotions for Conor Washington.
It is a year ago tomorrow that Washington made his debut for Northern Ireland against Wales and three months later he was playing against the same opposition in the last 16 of the Euros, the culmination of an extraordinary journey from non-league football obscurity to one of the showpieces of the international calendar.
But the former postman’s bubble was burst soon after the fairytale in France as his confidence and form nosedived under Hasselbaink at QPR, a manager he admits he ended up holding in contempt.
But Hasselbaink’s sacking and the arrival of Ian Holloway at Loftus Road triggered a dramatic turnaround in fortunes and the striker goes into Northern Ireland’s crucial World Cup qualifying tie against Norway at Windsor Park on Sunday with a spring back in his step and dreams of Russia 2018 firmly in mind.
“Within the year I’ve gone from the highest point to the lowest point back to where I am now,” Washington said. “It’s so important to have that confidence and it’s mad how quickly things can change.
“It was a really tough time. Going from playing and scoring and being the main man at Peterborough to coming to QPR and having a few disagreements with the manager [Hasselbaink] and not really understanding how he wanted me to play, his style of play. It was an even bigger comedown coming off the summer.
“It was just about the style of play and how he wanted me to play. Not so much disagreements as miscommunication, maybe, probably on both sides. I didn’t really understand the job he wanted me to do within the team and I’ve always found playing up top on my own in the system we were playing doesn’t really suit me particularly well. There was a lot of contempt from my part in that.
“I’m honestly not sure [if I would still be at QPR if Hasselbaink had stayed]. I probably wouldn’t have been in the form I have and feeling like I do now.”
He has Holloway to thank for that. “He put his arm around me as soon as I came through the door,” said Washington, who has scored four goals in his past 10 games as QPR have climbed up the Championship table. “His first or second day he took me into his office and told me he would have signed me if he was the manager at the time. It was a big boost for me after a really disappointing time.
“He got the video guys to put clips together of every goal I’ve scored in the past 15 months – it wasn’t that long! It was about 10 minutes of video, but that included the celebrations as well! It was nice to look back and see what I’d done. It was really important and reminded me, ‘OK, I am good enough to play at this level.”