It hasn’t been easy for the Northern Ireland international since he left London Road…
It had happened before. Connor Washington’s half-season form for Peterborough United was enough to earn him a multi-million pound move just like fellow striker Dwight Gayle two-and-a-half years earlier.
The latter would join newly-promoted Premier League side Crystal Palace for a fee believed to be worth north of £4.5 million, while Washington joined QPR in the Championship for around £2.8 million in January 2016.
The 21-year-old registered a single goal in his first 15 games for the Posh and scored just 12 in 51 appearances across his time at Newport County and Peterborough in the entirety of the 2013/14 campaign.
A last-gasp 90th-minute goal at Leyton Orient wasn’t enough to help Posh into the play-off final, losing 3-2 on aggregate. But despite netting just 13 times in the 2014/15 season, his four goals in the last four games offered some hope.
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It was a bittersweet moment for Posh, as his 31 appearances come mid-January in 2015/16 produced 15 goals and subsequently an attractive bid from QPR to take him into the Championship.
At 23, it was too good an offer for Washington to turn down and an opportune moment for Peterborough to cash in – despite still chasing their ambition of reaching the Championship themselves.
However, while Championship football was where the young striker’s main focus lay, it was arguably on the international stage where he’d enjoy fonder memories.
Little did Washington know that, despite yet to feature for Northern Ireland, he’d score first on the international stage before doing so for the Rs.
He failed to register a single goal in any of his 15 appearances for the west London club for the remainder of the 2015/16 season but scored on his second appearance for Northern Ireland in March.
His first-half goal in a friendly against Slovenia would prove to be decisive, having made his international debut against Wales just days earlier.
But while his club form was stuttering he’d score again in his next international appearance, with a 3-0 win against Belarus in preparation for Euro 2016.
In what had been a weird few months for the striker, since leaving London Road, he’d managed to adjust better to international football than the Championship.
Washington would fail to score at the European Championships – albeit facing the likes of Germany, Poland and Ukraine in the group stages and Wales in the Round of 16 – but lived arguably the biggest highlight of his career.
And that experience had potentially inspired Washington to break his duck for QPR, taking just shy of 10 months to register his first league goal for the club in a 2-1 win at local rivals Fulham in October.
However, a pattern was beginning to emerge as he produced just seven league goals in 40 appearances during his first full season, with another coming in a World Cup qualifier for Northern Ireland against Norway in March 2017.
Despite featuring heavily the following season, QPR and Washington mutually agreed to terminate his contract a year early, in the summer of 2018, after netting just six goals all season.
He would subsequently go on to join eventual promotion winners Sheffield United, failing to score in 15 league appearances, but, once again, scoring for Northern Ireland in a 2-1 win away to Estonia in June 2019.
And the 27-year-old now finds himself in the Scottish Premiership with Hearts, following Sheffield United’s promotion to the Premier League last season.
The free agent signed a two-year deal with the club and admitted he was seeking more game time at club level.
“It’s been a tough few years for me personally,” Washington admitted, per BBC Sport.
“I think last year I played about a combined 600 minutes of football at club level, which is just not enough for the player that I am.”
Luck was against Washington early into the campaign, with a major hamstring injury ruling him out for three months until the end of 2019, but has so far scored four goals in 22 appearances.
One of those was registered in a 3-1 defeat at Celtic, while he’d bagged two in his last three games for Hearts, prior to football’s suspension due to the Coronavirus outbreak.
Once football does get back underway Washington will be hopeful he can continue where he left off, where goals are concerned, and make a name for himself in Scottish football.
Given his success on the international stage and against Scottish giants Celtic, the former Posh man clearly has an eye for the big occasions. Hearts, however, will simply be content with him scoring on a regular basis, regardless of the opposition.
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