QPR Report Twitter Feed

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Chelsea's Ben Sahar Talks about His QPR Experience

Haaretz/Moshe Harush - re Ben Sahar - A dream deferred, but not yet over
"I lived up to my own expectations," Chelsea striker Ben Sahar said, summing up his loan period at Queen's Park Rangers. "Obviously I wanted to play more. I am not indifferent about my career, but I don't think it is fair to write it off in seconds. I went through a complicated period and I hope that things will be better down the road."
Sahar's statistics this season are certainly not what he dreamed of before it began: Six appearances for QPR, no goals and many matches for Chelsea's reserve squad. Only a year and a half after he was hailed as Israel's greatest soccer talent, the 18-year-old is trying to calm everyone.
"Ben Sahar is not going to disappear and no one should worry his career will be wasted. I know what I am worth and have no doubt it is on the way. I already showed results and will bring more in the future."
Last summer, Sahar came to the conclusion, together with the Chelsea management, that it would be a good idea to put him on loan with another club so that he gained experience. QPR coach John Gregory wanted him and promised the striker and Chelsea that he intended to give him a central position.
"I knew exactly what QPR's situation was like," Sahar recalls. "Gregory really wanted me and promised me a central position. I knew the team was improving and was in momentum."
But QPR suffered a series of defeats, remained at the bottom of the table and performed badly. Gregory was sacked and was replaced by Mick Harford, who in turn lasted only five matches until Italian coach Luigi De Canio was appointed. Bad times lay ahead for Sahar.
Benched at QPR
"I went through a rough period," he recollects. "The team played badly, continued to lose ground and nothing worked. It was hard for me to be effective because there were no midfielders who knew how to pass to a striker. They just lobbed long balls, which is difficult if you're not a tall player. Then I underwent an operation on my appendix that sidelined me for a month and a half.
"They replaced the coach and then another coach who did not know me and what I am worth. Because of my young age they preferred more experienced players with long-term contracts over those on short loans. I was very disappointed and felt very bad. I wanted to play so bad and knew I deserved to because in training I was excellent - much better than the rest of the players.
"Quite a few of the others told me I am better, but for some reason I was shunned and that hurt my confidence, especially because the team continued to play badly without giving me a shot. It's disappointing when you play well in training and, strangely, you are not put in the lineup."
Sahar asked for an urgent talk with the club heads, asking them what their purpose for having taken him out on loan was. "I started by asking why I wasn't being played. It's not that I was not playing badly. I just was not allowed to play at all. I had good ties with the coaches, but they simply had another idea of how to run things. I tried to figure out whether it was worth staying or not and they told be I needed to have patience."
But Sahar's patience ran thin when he still was not put in the lineup and he realized the QPR heads' promises were meaningless.
"I had to put an end to it," he said. "I told them I wanted to go back to Chelsea as soon as possible because I felt they did not have faith in me or let me play. I also notified Chelsea of my decision. I thought QPR would be good for me, but I was wrong."
Two months ago, the striker returned to Chelsea. If he was not going to be in the starting lineup then he might as well be at the senior club, he thought.
Just before the transfer deadline, he was offered an opportunity to be loaned out to Portsmouth, but declined. He feared he would not get a chance to play for the senior squad there either. "They had a lot of strikers," Sahar explained.
On his decision to stay at Chelsea and play for the reserves, Sahar said that it would be good to build up his confidence again.
"While I don't know whether I'll get much time on the pitch, I do know I am good enough to play at the top levels and in any Premier League team."
The Israel connection
Meanwhile, Israeli coach Avraham Grant has managed to solidify his own position at Chelsea. "We speak the same language," Sahar said, stating the obvious.
"I have no complaints against him. One has to understand that Chelsea has an outstanding set of players and that each tries very hard to get into the starting lineup. If I see that in the next few weeks I am not participating in the games, then I'll ask to move to another team in the First Division.
"I believe I can settle in at Chelsea, but if that does not happen then I will leave and this time I will carefully pick the club I move to, its goals and players. I drew some conclusion from my time at QPR."
Teenage star
To understand just what Sahar is going through, one must go back to the summer of 2006, when the then 16-year-old boy from Holon landed in London amid a media frenzy.
He did not know then how to deal with the national hysteria that made him the great white hope of Israeli soccer.
He became a megastar and a whole nation followed his every move. And that was even before the Knesset passed an eponymous law allowing Sahar to play abroad without having to serve in the Israel Defense Forces.
"It was crazy," he said. "The mental strain on me was incredible and I just couldn't deal with it at such a young age. Youths my age have to deal with matriculation tests while I had to think how to deal with the hubbub. There were tremendous and frightening pressures that I tried to block and ignore. I tried to cut myself off from what went on around me and think positive, but it was not easy.
"I was in the limelight and expectations were sky high," Sahar said candidly. "It's tough on a 17-year-old. At times the media crossed the lines and turned me into a star in seconds. That pressure rubs off on you. I went to a psychologist to help me a number of times. I sought guidance and tools to deal with what I was experiencing. Not that I was a crybaby, not at all.
"On the other hand, this process matured me and strengthened me. I know many players would give up everything to swap with me. And I have given everything. I have given up on many things for my career, but I don't regret for a single moment having come to England." Haaretz

Blog Archive