Which of QPR’s players will step up?

Posted by on Feb 5, 2011 in Uncategorized | 18 Comments
A favourite sport of fans of Champions-elect teams is to speculate on which players will carve the mustard after ascension to more lofty climes. Back in 2006, as Reading were waltzing to the Championship title, it became a daily activity, but once that first Premier League began, our expectations were often roundly disproved. Yes, Kevin Doyle was always going to make it but Graeme Murty, Brynjar Gunnarsson and James Harper? Never, we thought – how wrong we were…for a season at least.

Now, Queen’s Park Rangers devotees will be asking themselves the same questions. Given the rumoured existence of a pot of money as rich and deep as a goblet of Zabaglione, all the current Bush Ranger playing and coaching staff will be looking over their shoulders, but progress is never ensured by wholesale changes. Based on last night’s 1-0 win over the Royals, here is my player by player assessment of who might be ready and who might not:

Goalkeeper: Paddy Kenny

It takes true guts to substitute a good goalkeeper with a great one but just as Joe Hart replaced Shay Given, Neil Warnock carried out perhaps his most striking managerial masterstroke by swapping in Kenny for Radek Černý, himself a custodian of no little ability. The burly keeper with the endangered eyebrows exudes confidence in those ahead of him. I can think of half a dozen Premier League keepers at least who are inferior to him in ability.
Verdict: Ready

Right Back: Bradley Orr

Bristol City will have been spitting bricks that Orr was let go, in spite of his familiarity with the nightclubs of that city (given the aforementioned keeper’s own difficulties in these matters, this is becoming something of a theme). Last night, he coped admirably with the threat of Jobi McAnuff, showing tenacity and mobility in equal measure.
Verdict: Ready

Left Back: Clint Hill

A man who can fill in at centre back as well as on the left, Hill’s “reputation goes before him” as Neil Warnock himself suggested after he was sent off against Swansea. So did Ivan the Terrible’s of course, but Hill, while never letting anyone down, does seem to pick up yellow cards like souvenirs. Last night was no exception as he left a marker early – but he showed restraint thereafter. A canny acquisition for this season, it’s hard to see Rangers not trying to improve upon him next year out.
Verdict: To be replaced

Centre Back: Matthew Connolly

With a goals against tally of 18, QPR are not top for nothing and the central defensive set up has been as important to this as anything. Connolly joined the R’s from Arsenal back in 2008 and has been consistent ever since. Last night was no exception; down to ten men, he got his head on the ball on countless occasions as Reading huffed and puffed – Shane Long is a master of the flick on and it’s to Connolly’s credit that he often trumped the Irishman.
Verdict: Ready

Centre Back: Kaspars Gorkšs

The Latvian gets better each year and although he’ll be envious that he left Blackpool for reasons of ambition only to see his former team mates rise before him, the encouragement provided by Tangerine success will spur him on. At 29, he’s as conventional a centre half as you’ll see and if he was impeccable last night, his similarity to Connolly is the only question mark raiser – for Rangers might need a more subtle palate of defensive talents to survive in the Premier League. I’d expect a “ball playing” man to be brought in.
Verdict: To be replaced

Centre Midfield: Shaun Derry

You get sapphire and steel with Derry and if The Royal described him as “notoriously tough-tackling”, that overlooks the craft he brings to a game. The ex-Notts County man was quiet and unobtrusive on this occasion but was doubtless successful in those things we casual fans rarely notice – marking, tracking etc. The same age as Jesus now, he’ll be enjoying these salad days after last year’s Palatial traumas and Championship clubs with an eye on promotion will be strong suitors this Summer.
Verdict: To be replaced

Centre Midfield: Alejandro Faurlin

The man who Neil Warnock often overlooks when expounding on the cut price nature of his squad (£3.5 million is more than Reading have ever paid for a player, even when they were in the Premier League), was the pick of the Superhoops last night – his unhurried composure was a delight as he stationed himself at the epicentre of events – belying the fact that on previous occasions, I have sometimes seen the helter skelter nature of a game pass him by. Fully acclimatized now, he could be a lynchpin in 2011-12.
Verdict: Ready

Centre Midfield: Hogan Ephraim

The man who sounds like an extra from the Beverly Hillbillies lunged in on Jimmy Kébé immediately before half time and was promptly dismissed from the fray. Playing a roving midfield role with a licence to attack, he was busy – but is perhaps benefitting from Jamie Mackie’s absence. A versatile back up player, he hasn’t always been first choice this year so it would be optimistic that he will be next – but then I also said that about Stephen Hunt.
Verdict: To be replaced

Right Midfield: Wayne Routledge

Excellent at the Mad Stad, he raced clear of Matt Mills and slotted the game’s winner past Adam Federici. Particularly impressive were his rapid fire lay offs, clever moves to make space that saw him spin and hare away from defenders. Along with Faurlin, he was the most impressive Ranger on the night but can he step up? Based on the evidence of his previous top flight spells, the answer is a round “no” I’m afraid – as our friends at Black & White & Read All Over put it, he has instantly proved himself to be a devastating force in the Championship. He is still only on loan of course.
Verdict: To be replaced

Left Midfield: Adel Taarabt

Ian Rands of A United View on Football recently added his signature to the long list of pundits, myself included, who regard Taarabt as the player of year by a country mile in this year’s Football League. That pass with the outside of the foot that let in Routledge in the recent televised encounter against Coventry was an entry money justifier alone. Ever dangerous, he fully occupied the Reading right side last night, with Jem Karacan often forced to pull wide to assist the embattled Andy Griffin. But leaving jealousy to one side and while acknowledging the Moroccan’s tender years, his failure to impose himself at Spurs was a mark in the debit column and in the modern age where the very best combine skill with self-discipline, EPL defences might just be too clever for him: a controversial assessment I know.
Verdict: To be replaced

Striker: Rob Hulse

Marcus Bent, Richard Cresswell, Alan Lee, James Scowcroft, Iwan Roberts, Imre Varadi, James Beattie, Mamady Sidibe, Rory Fallon, Keith Edwards, Clinton Morrison, Sam Parkin, Robert Taylor, Leo Fortune-West, Ian Baird….you get the message. Journeymen centre forwards who enjoyed occasional purple patches in the lower leagues but are about as ready for regular top flight soccer as I am (and it’s my forty second birthday today). Add Hulse to the list.
Verdict: To be replaced

Of those who came off the bench and were absent at the Madejski, Ishmael Miller was bustling but is a West Bromwich Albion employee, while Pascal Chimbonda and Danny Shittu wait in the defensive wings. Of course the most distressing absentee was Jamie Mackie even if his embarrassingly one eyed assessment of proceedings on Sky raised my heckles. Mackie was the revelation of the season’s first half and will certainly deserve his Premier League opportunity. Otherwise, it’s hard to see any of Tommy Smith, current Reading loanee Mikele Leigertwood, Heiðar Helguson and Fitz Hall remaining at Loftus Road beyond June.

Which leaves the main guy himself – the boss whom Premier League fans have never fallen foul of regard naively as a “breath of fresh air”. I’m not a Neil Warnock fan as a man (that disgraceful six man incident at Bramall Lane all those years ago saw me form this opinion) although his punditry can be engaging. He was as histrionic as ever here, but as a manager, he’s an undeniable master – arguably as experienced as we have – and he has unfinished business in the Premier League after West Ham’s appalling let off. I’d fully expect him to already be thinking about August and the decisions that will be made are bound to be good ones.

Rob Langham
Rob Langham (pen name: Lanterne Rouge) is co-founder of the defiantly non-partisan football league blog, The Two Unfortunates, a website that occasionally strays into covering issues of wider importance. He's 47 and lives in Oxford while retaining his boyhood support of Reading FC. He tweets as @twounfortunates and has written for a number of websites and publications including The Football Attic, The Inside Left, When Saturday Comes, In Bed with Maradona, Futbolgrad and The Blizzard as well as being nominated for the Football Supporters' Federation Blogger of the Year Award in 2013.

10 Comments

  1. QPR Fan
    February 5, 2011

    Very refreshing to see an opposition fan talk with so much sense about an opposing side. I think you are pretty much spot on with your assessment of our squad, and I think most fans would agree.

    I think Taarabt could cut it in the Prem: he is obviously stil quite raw, but improving every game, and I think you would agree his defensive discipline in the second half was excellent. Whether or not his tricks will pay off at a higher level will have to be seen, but I do think he will be in the Premiership next year, whether with rangers or not

    Reply
  2. Lanterne Rouge
    February 5, 2011

    Cheers for the comments folks. I was perhaps being harsh on Taarabt – he's still 21 after all – and with the right manager (like Warnock), he can certainly flourish at a higher level – would love to see it because we need entertainers like him. @QPR Fan – you are right – he did a lot of harrying in the second half.

    and @anonymous – you make some good points too – I think Routledge wasn't given that much of a chance overall at Newcastle so he could also shine.

    I have my suspicions that it is sometimes easier for less talented players to do well a division up – Graham Dorrans has struggled this term after a sublime 2009-10 whereas the more prosaic Charlie Adam (good passer that he is) has done well with his more pragmatic style, not to mention Andy Carroll who when all is said and done is just an old fashioned centre forward. Also, who would anyone have had Luke Varney down as a top flight striker?

    Reply
  3. Paul Finney
    February 5, 2011

    I think that maybe based on maybe just seeing us in the tv?
    I think Derry can do a job Hill is a better defender than Orr the two center halves i think need looking at.
    As for Adel the premier league will give him the time and media coverage he craves and i think he will more than do a job.
    Forwards we need to bring in and also.
    One thing is for sure Faurlin could be the one to really make it when we go up.
    Paul

    Reply
  4. Daryl
    February 5, 2011

    QPR Fan
    Players that would make the Prem Team Squad
    Kenny
    Hill
    Derry
    Faurlin
    Buzsarky
    Taarabt
    Gorkss
    Mackie
    Warnock

    Reply
  5. Ben
    February 6, 2011

    As LR mentions, we at Newcastle find Routledge something of an enigma. We were well aware he'd struggled in previous top-flight spells with Spurs, Palace, Fulham and Villa but I genuinely thought he might crack it this time, given his sparkling performances for us in the second half of the season. I saw him as a signing who would give us a good outlet for relieving pressure and kickstarting counter-attacks, particularly away from home, but was very pleasantly surprised when he actually contributed some important assists and goals. However, while it's probably fair to say he hasn't been given too many opportunities this season (partly because Barton has been in such good form, and his crossing from the right has been key to our success), he certainly hasn't made the most of them when they've come – once again looking lightweight and peripheral to the action. The way he was immediately back to form with QPR suggests a player who's a perfect fit for the club and the division.

    Not much else to add except that Orr was never going to be good enough for us so I doubt his ability to make it in the Premier League, and Hulse, like Routledge, is an excellent player at this level but no higher. Taarabt is a conundrum – he could go on to be a superstar, and does at least have time on his side, but I get the impression he's revelling in being a big fish in a small pond and could easily suffer if effectively marked and eclipsed by others in the Premier League. There's no denying he's been outrageously good this season, though.

    Reply
  6. David
    February 6, 2011

    Love this, Rob. Great idea for a bit of debate.

    Personally I think Kenny, Orr, Connolly, Faurlin, Taarabt, Routledge and possibly Derry could hack it at the top level and ensure QPR do well (if they go up).

    Reply
  7. Rob Hartnett
    February 7, 2011

    Great article and putting it up to Hoops fans to look ahead. That said we are still only 32 points (effectively 33 with the goal difference) clear of Sheffield Utd in the drop zone. :-)

    Totally agree with Faurlin and Kenny on those you think to be ready.

    Orr and Connolly I am not so sure about. Saw on Twitter that Bradley was not crazy about his own performance on Friday and while Connolly did have Shane Long under control, discipline in the tackle might catch hime next year against faster more agile forwards.

    Of those you think will need replacing, I would give Shaun Derry a shot. He may not have more than a year but in the crunch games he is central to our ability to control opponents. His reading of the game is very good and I'd say he gives great confidence through the team.

    Kaspar Gorkss never makes me feel confident and while I like Clint Hill I think we will need to upgrade. Rob Hulse, back to Derby. Hogan Ephraim may yet come back from his injuries and has talent but maybe trying too hard at the moment.

    On then to Taarabt and Routledge. Adel's defensive duties were more in evidence last night. Not normally a factor at all. He will keep improving and I'd see him playing as the 1 in a 4-3-1-2. My big worry is his size. Am I the only one to think that he could perhaps struggle with the faster pace of the top flight?

    Routledge has surprised me with his performances since coming back but you are right about his 'twilight' record of being too good for the second tier and falling short at the top.

    Next how about who we might add from those players who might be changing places with us.

    I'd have Peter Odemwingie to replace Routledge if West Broms slide continues, Kevin Doyle to lead the line in place of Rob Hulse or Heidar.

    At the back perhaps Antolin Alcaraz from Wigan and Michael Mancienne if Chelsea continue to ignore him. Then again that Gareth Bale could do a job at left back as well.

    Now back to the Superbowl.

    Reply
  8. Lanterne Rouge
    February 7, 2011

    Some really great comments folks – really intrigued by Rob's suggestion for replacements and you might be right about Derry – certainly a superb player but he's 33 so it will be touch and go for him.

    Watching Taarabt from the East Stand on Friday, I was certainly entranced but I feel Ronaldo comparisons are premature at best. He's perhaps his equal for skill but people forget Ronaldo's height, upper body strength and ability in the air. I would be delighted to be proved wrong though – three of last year's Championship players are performing brilliantly in the Premier League after all: Andy Carroll, Charlie Adam and Joey Barton.

    Reply
  9. Lanterne Rouge
    February 8, 2011

    I apologise for not imediately addressing the first anonymous commenter's question about Mikele leigertwood. The Antiguan has actually been very good for Reading – Ian Rands, our recent guest contributor and blogger for A United View on Football described him as “legs of wood” in a recent tweet but I have seen little evidence of this. Indeed, Reading badly missed him in the QPR match after the curiosity of a three match ban incurred despite not being sent off at Cardiff. I guess he's the quintessential holding player and Rangers are alreday well served in that position.

    Reply
  10. Redknapp and Fernandes Should join Hughes in Taking the Blame at QPR | The Two Unfortunates
    April 30, 2013

    […] of course and if he can occasionally turn it on, on the balance of his two Premier league years, my unpopular prediction of the winter of 2011 has now been proved right. Simply appalling on the day, his tendency to go to ground exacerbated his utter ineffectiveness […]

    Reply

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