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Friday, December 05, 2008

Mancienne On His Return to Loftus Road Talks About QPR

Wolves Express and Star - Apprentice returns to prove he’s master

From a full England call-up in Germany to the bottom of the Championship, Michael Mancienne continues to develop his game.

But it’s questionable whether the 20-year-old defender’s learning curve was ever sharper than his two seasons on loan at Wolves’ opponents tomorrow tea-time, QPR.

For it was at Loftus Road that the classy Chelsea stopper had his first taste of senior football – and life at the wrong end of the Championship during 58 games over two spells.

“We were fighting towards the bottom in the first season I was there,” said Mancienne.

“That was my first real taste of first team football so to come in at the deep end was difficult.

“I was mainly playing at right-back for a season. Half of one spell I was playing at centre-half and the other half at right-back.

“It was such a ‘dog’ battle and we didn’t have any cover at right-back so I had to play there.

“Every game was like a war, but it helped me mature as a player and grow.

“Jason Koumas was one of my hardest opponents – he was so skilful, and Nicolas Bendtner when he was at Birmingham. He was good.”

Mancienne hails from Feltham, near Hounslow, just a short drive from QPR’s training ground.

And the young defender admits his time at Rangers became something of a home from home.

“I’m from Feltham, which is just down the road from QPR – it was a case of ‘easy life’!” he said.

“I was still living at home and I just used to drive to training – it was only 10 minutes away.”

Two seasons at Loftus Road means Mancienne is familiar with most of QPR’s players.

And tomorrow night, he will be marking one of his best mates – Rangers’ top scorer Dexter Blackstock.

“I still speak to quite a few of them because I got along with them really well having been there two years,” he said.

“I speak to Dexter Blackstock so I might be marking my mate.

“I spoke to him last week and we said we were both looking forward to the game.

“He’s a handful and he can finish so we’ll have to watch him carefully.”

Having kept in regular contact with his ex-team-mates, Mancienne can also vouch for Rangers’ new Portuguese boss, Paulo Sousa, who has won one, drawn one and lost one of his three games in charge.

“I’ve heard he’s a top man – their lads are buzzing over him,” he said.

“Apparently he’s good with the boys and the training has been decent. He had a good reputation as a player with Portugal and players tend to look up to that.

“The players may feel they have a point to prove, especially with the new manager, so they will definitely be up for it.

“But if we play how we’ve been playing, I’m sure we’ll handle that.”

Since Mancienne’s time at QPR, the west London club have become allegedly the second richest club in British football after being bought by a consortium including Formula One bosses Bernie Eccleston and Flavio Briatore.

But Mancienne feels Rangers need to beware splashing the cash too much to avoid stifling homegrown talent – something his parent club Chelsea have been accused of.

“You would rather your homegrown players come through and do it because you feel more proud and you have a relationship with the fans,” he said.

“It’s easy to have money and buy all the best players. There could be jealousy there.

“I’ve been at Chelsea since I was eight and it (buying) makes it difficult for people at the club already because when they can just buy players, they might not give younger players an opportunity.”

As for that England experience – Mancienne’s verdict was like an excited schoolboy: “It was wicked!” he said.

“I relish the pressure - it didn’t affect me,” he said.

“I loved every minute of it. I didn’t feel as though I struggled technically because it was similar to training with Chelsea, so I’m pretty used to the standard.

“The tempo of the training was really high – it just made me want to have a taste of it and actually play.

“Maybe if it was a bit more comfortable against Germany, he could have thrown a couple of us on, but it was a big game and it was quite tight.”

And more advice was at hand – from Chelsea and England captain John Terry.

“I always had JT looking out for me, so it was very handy having the England captain looking out for me! He took me under his wing,” he said. Express and Star

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