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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Ainsworth on Briatore's Renault Factory Tour and Dropping Points....Hogan Ephraim on Need for Youth Development...Agyemang Settling In

Update: Photos from QPR's team visit with Flavio Briatore to the Renault Factory. - Photos

Gareth Ainsworth/Kilburn Times - Step on the Gaz
16 January 2008
TEAMWORK is the key to success in sport - and we all saw that for ourselves when Flavio invited us to tour the Renault Formula 1 factory on Tuesday.
There are 600 people who work in the factory, up near Oxford, and each one of them plays a part in getting the car on the road.
It's similar to the way you have to have every player on the football pitch, plus the coaches and backroom staff, working together as a unit.
I think most of us could see the parallels, even though a few were more interested in getting into the driver's seat. Rowly fancies himself a bit - he always wins at go-karting, so maybe Flavio will give him a shot at Formula 1.
One thing Flavio stressed was that winning the world championship was the most amazing feeling - and it'd be great if we could give him that feeling in football too.
At the moment, that looks a long way off. The result at Sheffield United has brought us down to earth after the razzmatazz of Chelsea and the gaffer was trying to keep our feet on the ground even before the game.
All the money in the world isn't an automatic ticket to the Premier League. We can still slip into the relegation places and there are some big games coming up, so we need to show mental toughness.
The gaffer's made it clear that he's worried we tend to sit back a bit after taking the lead. He wants a team that'll go looking for another goal and try to smash the other side into the ground.
It's not a fitness issue, it's a mental thing, and one that is being addressed. Overall I felt a draw might have been fair at Bramall Lane, but it wasn't to be.
From the bench, I couldn't get a clear view when Akos' shot was cleared off the line - and, to be honest, it would have been a great save from a goalkeeper!
I think maybe the linesman should have seen the hand up by the side of his head - but the lad got away with it and I'm sure he was the toast of the dressing room.
Barnsley have surprised me this season. I thought they'd be near the bottom again, but it looks as if their foreign legion has really come together for my old team-mate Simon Davey.
It'll be tough on Saturday, but we need to remember our home form over Christmas and New Year and make sure we continue that for the rest of the season. Kilburn Times

Ben Kosky/Kilburn Times - Hogan favours the Hammers formula
HOGAN Ephraim believes QPR need to follow his old club's blueprint for success by pumping money into their youth set-up.
Ephraim emerged through the ranks at West Ham, a club that prides itself on spotting talented young players and nurturing many of them into full internationals.
By contrast, Rangers' well has been dry for most of the last decade, ever since the like of Kevin Gallen, Nigel Quashie and then Richard Langley burst onto the scene.
So far, the club's new backers have ploughed funds into strengthening the first-team squad, but Ephraim stressed: "The youth system is massively important as well.
"The owners have done well to bring in young English players like Matthew Connolly and myself, but the fans will want to see their own players coming through.
"We've got Angelo Balanta, who's doing really well, and fans love nothing more than seeing one of their own players breaking into the team.
"West Ham have a great tradition for doing that and, if QPR can get on that road as well as bringing in quality players from elsewhere, it'll be a great mix."
The 20-year-old forward, who signed for Rangers in an £800,000 move as soon as the transfer window opened, was unable to make the transition to first-team football at Upton Park.
He made just a single Carling Cup appearance for the Hammers before spending a successful loan period at Colchester last season and following the Us' assistant manager Mick Harford to QPR in August.
Although other Championship clubs, including Colchester, were keen to win Ephraim's signature, Loftus Road was always the player's preferred destination after his three months on loan there earlier in the season.
He said: "It wasn't really in doubt - the club made their intentions clear quite early and the fans seemed to take to me, which was very pleasing.
"After I went back to West Ham, Alan Curbishley told me 'if you want us to accept bids, we'll accept them. If not, we'll talk about a new deal'. But I felt it was time for me to move on and play regular football.
"There were two other bids accepted and two other clubs were interested in doing something in the summer, when my contract was finished, but the ambitions of this club persuaded me.
"I want to be back in the Premier League and, when I looked at my options, I felt this was the club that would get me there as soon as possible."
Ephraim is making no rash predictions about how quickly QPR can book a seat on the Premier League train but, having been part of the squad that languished at the bottom of the Championship earlier in the season, he is convinced that the club are on an upward trend.
"I'm not really sure what it was at the start of the season," he reflected. "Whether we didn't gel or whether the tragic death of Ray [Jones] had a bigger effect than we realised, I don't know.
"I don't want to make excuses - we didn't do well enough. But we've picked up and, with the players we've got here and others coming in, it can still be a good season for us, I feel."
Ironically, Rangers could have secured Ephraim's services for virtually nothing two seasons ago - the player was offered to them on loan with a view to a £50,000 transfer, but the proposal was declined by chairman Gianni Paladini. Kilburn Times

Ben Kosky/Kilburn Times- Pat makes himself at home
IT takes most players time to settle in at a new club, but Loftus Road feels like home already for Patrick Agyemang.
Although a cluster of unfamiliar faces have been flocking into the QPR training ground in the past fortnight, it was more a case of friends reunited when Agyemang joined the club.
"I know Gaz [Ainsworth] and Mikele [Leigertwood] from Wimbledon and when I went on loan to Brentford, I played with Gavin Mahon and Martin Rowlands," Agyemang pointed out.
"I've known Fitz Hall since I was 10 years old - we played for the same district and county teams in east London. So I was lucky enough to have people I knew here and that's made it a bit easier for me.
"I'd been at Preston for three years and felt within myself maybe it was time for a change. Things weren't really happening there and the team was low on confidence.
"I knew that, if a move came up, I wanted to go back to London and I'm glad I took that opportunity."
Seizing opportunities, of course, is the name of the game for any striker and the best way of settling in is to find the net as soon as possible for your new club.
Happily for the 27-year-old Ghanaian international, he bagged his first Rangers goal on his full debut at Bramall Lane last weekend - but that achievement was, inevitably, tarnished by the team's eventual 2-1 defeat.
"It's good to score and I want to play as many games as possible and get as many goals as I can," admitted Agyemang. "But I'd rather we'd have got a result.
"It was a bad way to lose the game with two sloppy mistakes, after being ahead at half-time. I'm sure if we can get three points against Barnsley, more wins will follow."
Agyemang struggled with a hamstring problem in the second half against Sheffield United but, if he can shake that off, should be in line for his first appearance in front of the Loftus Road crowd on Saturday.
Then the £350,000 signing can get on with the business of hauling QPR up the Championship table and avoiding another battle to avoid the drop from this division.
Agyemang has more than enough experience of those - Preston have been struggling all season, while both Wimbledon and Gillingham were relegated a matter of months after his departure.
"It's different from Preston and Gillingham a few years ago, because the first day I came into training there were three other new signings. At this club, anything can happen," Agyemang insisted.
"People can say that I've swapped one relegation battle for another, but I can see that they're building something for the future at QPR and I want to be part of that. Kilburn Times

Also Ben Kosky/Kilburn Times on Routledge interest; Cook interest.. Bignot and Baidoo departures. Kosky/Kilburn Times

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