When Hogan Ephraim was signed by Toronto FC, questions surrounding the length of his tenure immediately followed. On loan from Queens Park Rangers, Ephraim is a player who brought with him the praise of his teammate, Ryan Nelsen, and during his short time with the club, Ephraim certainly held his own. Enough, it seems, to earn a nod from QPR, who have recalled the 25-year-old attacking midfielder. Ephraim announced, via Twitter:
Been told that QPR want me to end the loan now so I can be refreshed for pre season. I just want to say a massive thank you to everybody...— Hogan Ephraim (@HoganEphraim) June 2, 2013
At Toronto FC for making it a great stay for me - they are the eat bunch of guys I've had the pleasure of playing alongside. The fans and...— Hogan Ephraim (@HoganEphraim) June 2, 2013
Management team have been great to me and all the support staff at the club. I wish the club the best of luck and believe the results will..— Hogan Ephraim (@HoganEphraim) June 2, 2013
Change real soon!! I will miss this place, but now my intentions are to show QPR how much I wanna be at QPR and how well I wanna do for them— Hogan Ephraim (@HoganEphraim) June 2, 2013
So, a handful of tweets from the man himself, and, like John Bostock before him, Ephraim heads back to England after dedicating about half a season of service for Toronto FC. His time with the club could have been better, of course, and a lack of goals and assists prevented him from cementing a spot in the starting line up, but for a few months, Ephraim linked up with Luis Silva and Bostock in a midfield that needed a touch of experience to survive.
Thus ends Hogan Ephraim's time at Toronto FC...and yet, the loan recall is a strange decision, considering that QPR manager Harry Redknapp said "Hogan's gone to Toronto to play and I think he needs to move on and have a go somewhere else now." Rather odd, that just a few weeks ago, Redknapp believed Ephraim's time at QPR to be over and now he's been called back.
Perhaps QPR's relegation from the English Premier League had something to do with the decision. Typically, clubs that find themselves relegated also lose key players who wish to play in the Premier League and this may have opened the doors for Ephraim's return to England. The flip side could have been that Toronto FC negotiated for QPR to take him back in order to open an international roster spot, for another potential signing.
Whatever the circumstances of his departure, Ephraim, who has been on a series of loans for the last five years, did enjoy his time in Toronto. Having had the chance to speak to him a few times, it was clear that Ephraim had a lot of respect for Major League Soccer and for Toronto FC.
"I think in the UK we’re quiet naïve in the fact that we look at our league and think we have the best in everything, and we tend to dismiss other countries and other leagues," Ephraim told me, for an interview on Football.co.uk. "Coming out here has proven that’s not true at all, the standard’s very good, there’s some fantastic players and the atmosphere in the stadiums are great too."
Still, it's a little disappointing to see Ephraim leave Toronto FC, having never reached his full potential. His movement on the wing often resulted in a cross into the box, or a key pass to an onrushing midfielder, and on more than one occasion, Ephraim partnered Robert Earnshaw up top and opened up space for the Welsh striker to run into. His ability to take on opposition fullbacks made him exciting to watch, but, like the club he plays for, that final, killer ball was never there.
In the end of the day, Ephraim was ever humble, a good example on the field, and a player who Toronto's youngsters could learn from. His time in Toronto was short but he'll be remembered by supporters as a player who had the potential to be great and didn't really have a chance to show for it. It's a shame, really - it would have been interesting to see what Ephraim could have done in a full season with Toronto FC.
Ephraim finished his Twitter farewell by thanking his teammates.
Now for some food with some of these boys...gonna miss my teammates the most, what a set of guys!!!— Hogan Ephraim (@HoganEphraim) June 2, 2013
Best of luck to Hogan Ephraim at Queens Park Rangers!