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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Kaspars Gorkss Speaks

UEFA/Mihail Korolev - Gorkšs progress bodes well for Latvia
With Marians Pahars and Imants Bleidelis no longer in the Latvia reckoning and Maris Verpakovskis considered too old, defender Kaspars Gorkšs is leading the country's next generation.
-- 'Difficult periods'
These are good times for Gorkšs. Three years ago the towering centre-back was on the fringe of the national team, struggling to make the step up from the Under-21s while turning out for Swedish top-flight strugglers Assyriska Föreningen. Now at Queen's Park Rangers FC, pushing for a place in the English top flight, he is one of the first names on Latvia coach Aleksandrs Starkovs' team sheet. "If somebody had told me three years ago I would be playing in England and be a starter for the national team, I wouldn't have believed them," said Gorkšs. "There have been difficult periods in my career, so I couldn't have envisaged such a scenario."
-- Ventspils spell
Gorkšs' career looked to have faltered before it had really begun when a three-year spell in Sweden with Östers IF and Assyriska Föreningen ended with his return to Latvia – and a move to FK Ventspils – in 2006. Instead, it proved the catalyst for greater things. He made an immediate impression, playing a key role as Ventspils won the Latvian title and earning a dream transfer to England. "I remember the Ventspils boys and still have a good relationship with them, calling them from time to time," said the 26-year-old. "I would never have made it to QPR without Ventspils."
-- Step up
His first port of call in England was Blackpool FC. The Riga-born defender arrived during the 2006/07 campaign and made 50 appearances for the one-time FA Cup winners. Although he settled in Lancashire, Gorkšs did not think twice when London-based QPR came calling this summer. "This is a step forward as Queen's Park Rangers have more ambitions than Blackpool," he said. "QPR want to be in the Premier League – that says it all. If we don't make the play-offs, it is a failure. I'm dreaming about promotion, because playing in the top flight would be comparable only with getting to a European Championship or World Cup with Latvia."
-- Advice
It is perhaps more likely. Latvia sit fourth in FIFA World Cup qualifying Group 2 after losing two of their first three matches. Gorkšs has played every minute, and if selected to face Israel in Riga on Wednesday he will win his 21st cap. "It's a big honour and I'm delighted to play for my country," he said, before giving advice to any budding Latvian player. "It's possible to play in England but you have to work hard – I'm living proof of that. I still don't have Premier League experience, but I hope I'm not far from it. You have to be ambitious and believe in yourself, take it step by step." UEFA

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