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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

News on Lee Camp, Paul Jones & Scott Donnelly (Ben Kosky/Kilburn Times)

Air of optimism around the Camp
Ben Kosky - Kilburn Times

WHETHER promotion or survival is on the agenda, Lee Camp has already proved he can keep a cool head in a crisis.

The on-loan QPR goalkeeper was just 19 when he helped Rangers to overcome a late stumble and clinch promotion to the Championship three years ago.

And, having experienced the turbulence of a successful battle to stay in the second tier with Derby last season, Camp should be well equipped to make another telling contribution at Loftus Road.

"Fighting for promotion may be less of a strain on the heart than fighting relegation, but it's still the same principle, to get as many points on the board as soon as possible," Camp told the Times.

"I was involved in a relegation fight last year and it's not a great place to be, but I know what's at stake and I think that experience will stand me in good stead.

"I'm really happy to be back and hopefully I can play a part in keeping the club in this division."

Camp, now 22, was virtually unknown when he joined Ian Holloway's side in March 2004, with injuries to Chris Day and Nick Culkin ushering him straight into the team for a tricky match at Hartlepool.

But a series of superb saves helped Rangers to a 4-1 win and installed the youngster as a fans' favourite as the team lost just twice in the remainder of the season and secured second place.

Camp, who made his 'second' debut in Tuesday's 0-0 draw at Elland Road, is keen to rekindle that relationship, saying: "Adam Bolder spoke to me before he signed for QPR and I'd like to think I helped sell the club to him.

"I remember just before Ian Evatt signed, I bumped into him in Derby and he asked me about the club. I couldn't speak highly enough of QPR, the people there and especially the supporters.

"I can understand that when I first came here they were probably a bit sceptical because of my age and inexperience, but they made me very welcome and it was a special time.

"The open-top bus parade showed me the amount of support this club has and what a big part the fans have to play and, on the two occasions I've come back since then, they've given me a good reception.

"Obviously I know Adam and Dexter [Blackstock] as well, I've worked with the manager before at Derby and a few of the players from last time are still here as well."

If Camp can reproduce his 2004 form over the coming weeks and guide Rangers to safety, the next question supporters will be asking is whether the shot-stopper might make this stay a permanent one.

Rangers had two bids for Camp rejected when his stock was rising under George Burley but, although he remains under contract at Pride Park until the end of next season, the player has slipped down the pecking order since Billy Davies took over as Rams boss.

Camp recalled: "People had been saying they'd seen me at the stadium and I was about to sign, but George Burley told me QPR had made two offers and on both occasions he said 'you're going nowhere'. That was as far as it went.

"Derby County have been good enough to understand that I need to play football and they've allowed me the opportunity to do that.

"Whether they've done that to put me in the shop window, with a view to a transfer, or to get me match sharp, only Derby can answer.

"From my point of view, I'm here to do a job for QPR, that's my immediate future and you never know what's around the corner. Kilburn Times

Loan signing marks end of the road for Jonah
Ben Kosky/Kilburn Times

VETERAN goalkeeper Paul Jones has been told he will not be offered a new contract when his current QPR deal runs out in the summer.

Jones, who turns 40 in April, has been out of the Rangers first team since October and can leave the club on a free transfer or a loan before the end of the season.

"Paul's known the situation for a while," admitted Rangers manager John Gregory. "I've discussed it with him and we're trying to help him go down whatever avenue he wants to.

"We're not renewing his contract next year and, if he has the opportunity to go somewhere until the end of the season, we'll do what we can to make that possible.

"Paul's a great professional - he's kept himself ticking over and got on with the job. Although he had a hamstring injury a couple of months ago, he's fit and ready to play now."

The Wales international signed for QPR just over a year ago to cover for Simon Royce's groin injury and played in every game for the remainder of that season.

He retained his place at the start of the current campaign, appearing 26 times for Rangers in total, but made way for Royce after the 3-2 defeat to Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough and has not played since.

Royce must now battle for a place in the side with loan signing Lee Camp and reserve team keeper Jake Cole - who Gregory regards as a serious contender for the number one shirt.

He added: "Jake's been truly outstanding as a member of the first team squad - he's very professional and very supportive of both Simon and Paul when they've had the jersey.

"He knows he's not going to be first choice at the moment, but he's kept his chin up.

"He's definitely going to be here next year and it's up to him and the other two to stake their claim."

Meanwhile, skipper Marcus Bignot could be in line to return from injury for Rangers' game away to Ipswich a week on Saturday.

"Marcus is a quick healer, but medial ligaments don't sort themselves out overnight," said Gregory. "One thing you can rest assured of is that the moment he gets fit, he'll want to be back in the firing line. Marcus is very influential throughout the team and we've missed his presence and reliability on the pitch.

"He's running now, so the fitness side of his programme is going well and [sports scientist] Mark Barry's doing a good job in that department - he's done really well with [Gareth] Ainsworth and [Martin] Rowlands recently. Kilburn Times

Scott sets his sights on league comeback
Ben Kosky/Kilburn Times

SCOTT Donnelly is determined to prove John Gregory wrong for booting him out of QPR - despite dropping down five divisions to kick-start his career.

Donnelly, one of eight Rangers players to be axed by Gregory last month, has been turning out for Southern League strugglers Wealdstone in recent weeks.

But the midfield playmaker - once rated as the best prospect to emerge from the youth set-up at Loftus Road for several years - is confident of returning to the Football League sooner rather than later.

Referring to his exit from QPR, the 19-year-old told the Times: "I saw it coming, to be honest. I'd been training with the youth team and you pick up signs that you're not really wanted.

"No disrespect to John Gregory or Richard Hill, they'd decided on their squad and unfortunately I wasn't in it.

"It's a kick in the teeth, but I've got to be strong enough to get back in there and make them regret releasing me. Hopefully it won't be long and I'll be back, maybe playing against QPR, who knows?

"When D-Day came, I didn't want to go - not only leaving some of the lads and that, also QPR was a good club to be at. But hopefully I've taken a step back to take two steps forward and I want to achieve that soon."

Donnelly was just 16 when he made his first-team debut for Rangers at Preston and had become a regular on the substitutes' bench by the end of Ian Holloway's reign at the club.

The youngster also featured significantly under Gary Waddock - his old youth team boss - but was given just one appearance by Gregory, against Derby last October.

Offloaded in January, Donnelly had a brief trial at Leyton Orient before John O'Brien, formerly QPR's head of recruitment, recommended him to Wealdstone boss Gordon Bartlett.

"I got a phone call from Gordon about a month ago and he asked me if I wanted to come down, play a couple of games and keep myself ticking over until I found something else," said Donnelly.

"I hadn't played for quite a few weeks, so I jumped at the chance and I'm enjoying myself again. It's just around the corner, so it's easy to get to and I'm trying to get back into the swing of playing football regularly."

So far, the midfielder has played five matches in a Stones shirt and, while the hurly-burly of Southern League football often passes him by, there is little doubt that his ability on the ball exceeds any other at this level.

Wealdstone have won four of those five games and Bartlett has made it clear he intends to get as much as he can out of the youngster, describing him as 'a good player with a lovely attitude'.

Donnelly added: "I can't wait to get back into the Football League - this is a stepping stone and the manager knows what I'm here for. He's very understanding of that.

"I'm more motivated now than in the last few weeks I spent at QPR and when something does come along, I'll be fit, ready and raring to go. Kilburn Times

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