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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Assessing QPR's Season & Future Prospects - Ben Kosky and Adam Miller

Ben Kosky/Kilburn Times - May 15, 2007
Job done... now can Gregory go further?

'NO margin for error' is a common mantra in football - but, at Loftus Road, it doesn't always seem to apply to everyone.
Two poor performances cost a manager his job and one was enough for a goalkeeper to be shown the exit door, while others were allowed to drift along in a wave of mediocrity for much of the season.
That might sound unduly negative after the relief of the late surge that saw QPR avoid relegation to League One and build some momentum for next August.
After all, John Gregory completed the mission entrusted to him when he strode into Loftus Road in September and now deserves the opportunity to try and achieve new goals.
But, let's not forget, saving Rangers from relegation was far from being a tall order and the light at the end of the tunnel was barely visible as late as March.
Gary Waddock was much maligned for the quality of his signings - with the exception of Dexter Blackstock - but his real mistake was to ditch so many senior players in one fell swoop.
Marcus Bignot, Marc Bircham and Steve Lomas all returned to the side after Waddock's departure - not only as players, but captains too - and reiterated their worth during the course of the season.
Even so, Rangers gleaned useful points from some tricky early fixtures and, aside from their losses to Ipswich and Colchester, were hardly adrift when Gregory took over.
The initial upturn was dramatic, not least because the Rs suddenly could not stop scoring goals, especially effervescent midfielder Jimmy Smith, on loan from Chelsea.
Ironically, Rangers' 1-0 victory at Cardiff prompted a severe slump for both teams and it was here that Gregory's selections became difficult to understand.
His refusal to contemplate picking the experienced Matthew Rose meant an extended run in the side for the floundering Zesh Rehman, while Damion Stewart was still adjusting to Championship football.
Later in the season, with Bignot injured and Mauro Milanese frozen out, it was Sami Timoska's turn to struggle, playing in an unfamiliar role at left-back.
It was no coincidence that Stewart became one of QPR's most consistent players in the second half of the season, particularly once he was paired with Danny Cullip.
Unlike Waddock, Gregory's signings were inspired, with Cullip and Adam Bolder - quickly becoming the midfield dynamo that everyone had once hoped Tommy Doherty might be - filling key roles.
His use of the loan system also made an enormous difference. Michael Mancienne maintained his high standards throughout where Smith did not and Lee Camp proved a stabilising influence in goal.
Equally, it was hard not to feel sorry for Simon Royce - dropped for his role in the 5-0 thrashing at Southend - or Paul Jones, who seemed to pay the penalty for a nightmare game on his 50th appearance for Wales.
The brief arrival of Inigo Idiakez made it a little harder for teams to mark Lee Cook, who had carried Rangers' creative portfolio single-handed for most of the season.
The key to Rangers' survival, though, was a run of goals for Blackstock, who deservedly picked up the club's Young Player of the Year award after vital winners against Preston and Cardiff.
But he looks more at ease as a second striker than leading the line and, with Marc Nygaard's injury record less than encouraging, Gregory will have to find another forward option this summer.
If he can persuade Camp to abandon Derby, sign another full-back and a creative midfielder, perhaps Gregory's new goals will not be too far away. Kilburn Times

Kilburn Times/Ben Kosky - Miller backs Rs for Wembley trip

FORMER QPR player Adam Miller believes his old club can mount a play-off challenge next season - as long as they hang on to Lee Cook.

Miller was a member of the first team to win a cup final at the new Wembley Stadium on Saturday, helping Stevenage Borough capture the FA Trophy.

And Miller, a Rangers fan as a youngster, told the Times: "I'd love to see them reach the play-offs next year and if they get to Wembley I'll be back here to watch them.

"Some people might say that's too much to expect, but John Gregory's a proven manager. In my mind QPR are a massive club and I don't see any reason why he can't take them further.

"Cookie's a major part of the club, he's got so much going for him. He's a match-winner who can create and score goals and he's a lovely geezer as well.

"If the club can keep hold of him and maybe shore up the defence a bit, they won't go far wrong.

"I speak to Marcus Bignot occasionally and hopefully I'll sneak down to a few games next year, but to see QPR at Wembley would be unbelievable."

Rangers signed Miller from Aldershot Town in November 2004 and he went on to make 16 first-team appearances, but fell out of favour with Ian Holloway and left shortly before the manager himself.

Peterborough and Oxford were two of the Football League clubs to show an interest in Miller, but the 25-year-old midfielder raised some eyebrows by opting to return to the Conference with Stevenage.

He admitted: "It hurt to leave QPR - I loved every minute of it there and I appreciate Ian Holloway buying me. In a way, I'm still disappointed that I didn't stay in the League.

"Your confidence is low, you don't know what to do and it's tempting to take the first offer that's there, but I'm glad to have come to Stevenage and the gaffer [Mark Stimson] has been fantastic.

"He's going to go a long way - I don't think anyone would be surprised to see him further up the league in years to come. The team spirit is great, the boys are brilliant and I'd love to win promotion with the club."

A place in League Two would probably be the only way for Boro to top their FA Trophy success, after overturning a 2-0 half-time deficit to beat Kidderminster Harriers 3-2.

Miller added: "In front of 53,000 at the new national stadium, live on Sky, we showed great character.

"It's an incredible stadium and experience. My debut for QPR was unbelievable but actually winning a trophy is an amazing feeling. Kilburn Times

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