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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Gregory and Paladini and Ainsworth on QPR and Forthcoming Changes

Plus also: From Ben Kosky/Kilburn Times on Paul Jones and Damion Stewart

Ben Kosky/Kilburn Times - Carry on John

JOHN Gregory has been given the green light to strengthen his squad for next season after QPR ensured their place in the Championship.

Gregory's relegation-haunted team finally clinched survival with a 1-0 win over Cardiff last weekend and the manager immediately signed a new two-year deal to stay at Loftus Road.

Rangers chairman Gianni Paladini told the Times: "It's up to John what players he wants to bring in. He knows the budget for next season and I will back him 100 per cent.
"It's not easy to find the right replacement when you change managers after five years and we believed Gary Waddock was the right one and gave him the chance to sign the players he wanted.

"Unfortunately it didn't work out, but we asked John to come in and I'm completely confident that QPR have a bright future with him as manager.

"If you look at our form in the last two months, that's what we're capable of doing. There will be a big clearout and, if we have the right players next season, we can be much higher up the table."

Gregory has already offloaded eight players permanently and sent six others out on loan since he succeeded Waddock as Rangers boss seven months ago.

And the manager vowed to make further changes in personnel when the season ends, saying: "There's a lot of hard work to be done in terms of who's going and who's staying.

"I had too many losers at the club and it took me a while to get them off our backs. There was too much laughing after we got beaten on the coach on the way home.

"Some of them forgot the score at 6pm on a Saturday night and they're not here any more. The ones that were hurting, they're still here.

"People who were employees at the club were glad to see us losing, but they've gone and if there's anyone like that here now, they'll be gone in the summer."

But Gregory paid tribute to the efforts of the players who hauled Rangers to safety with two games remaining, especially some of those who have arrived since the turn of the year.

He declared: "The day I signed Danny Cullip was the day this club started to move forward. Adam Bolder's been great for us, so has Lee Camp and [Sami] Timoska will get better as time goes on.

"It wasn't just the players I brought in, though, some of those I inherited have worked so hard too and what they've achieved this season has been incredible.

"The players have been under pressure from the first day and they've shown an unbelievable amount of courage, effort and enthusiasm on the training ground.

"The spirit in the dressing-room has got us out of trouble. I'm delighted for everyone connected with this club, now I'd like to celebrate and have a bloody good time."

Once the celebrations have died down, Gregory's task will be to keep his squad focused on their two remaining games, beginning with play-off hopefuls Wolves at Molineux on Saturday.

Meanwhile, QPR have announced a 10 per cent reduction on season ticket prices in a bid to raise attendances at Loftus Road next season.

Rangers have averaged crowds of less than 13,000 this season, compared to close on 16,000 before steep price rises were introduced two years ago.

Chairman Gianni Paladini hopes the new pricing scheme - which keeps the cost of a season ticket for under-16s at £70 and allows under-eights in for free - will help bring back the missing supporters.

Current season ticket holders have until May 31 to renew with a further reduction and Paladini stressed: "The 10 per cent discount is across the board, so there will still be a discount on the early bird rate.

"One of the main reasons we stayed up was because the fans turned out in force. Loftus Road must be a fortress next season and I want to see an extra two or three thousand people for each game. Kilburn Times

Gareth Ainsworth - Kilburn Times Step on the Gaz
24 April 2007
A FEW weeks ago, I used the phrase 'don't panic' in this column - and it's nice to have been proved right.

Being negative can never do you any good and, when I heard a couple of players in the dressing room saying 'this isn't looking too good' a while ago, I couldn't let it pass.

I told them all they needed to do was stay focused and get on with their jobs. If you go down being negative, then in my book you deserve it.

Some of the fans came up and voiced their concern to me as well, but overall they've been very positive. In fact, I'd say the West Brom defeat was the turning point for us.

Even though we lost that day, the vibes we picked up from the fans had a massive impact. Suddenly the lads realised we had the backing of most of west London and, after that, we felt like we could beat anyone.

The gaffer asked myself, Danny Cullip and some of the squad players to be in the dressing room before and after the Cardiff game and the atmosphere was fantastic.

When the league table flashed up on the TV and we heard Jeff Stelling say 'QPR are safe', there was a big cheer and a massive sense of relief.

A few high profile pundits tipped us to go down, but we've shown everyone just how close this group of players are.

If there's one thing we can take on into next season, it's the spirit that John Gregory and Joe Dunbar have created - and we want to finish this season on a high as well.

The gaffer might want to rest one or two players - don't forget we had four games in nine days not long ago - and have a look at a few people for next season.

We certainly don't want anyone thinking we won't be giving our all against Wolves and Stoke - we're a proud bunch and whoever plays will be right up for those games.

My gut feeling is that Wolves will just miss out and we can certainly contribute to that by going to Molineux and getting a result.

If I'd known Biggy was on the mike after the final whistle on Saturday, I'd have probably tried to grab it off him because my singing's a lot better than his!

But seriously, he deserves a lot of credit because he's done a captain's job without ever saying 'I'm the captain'.

He's led by example, gets everyone involved, it's been a pleasure to play under him and I hope he's turned heads enough to earn a contract for next season. Kilburn Times

Answer is under R noses - Ben Kosky/Kilburn Times
By Ben Kosky

HE'S already on the books at QPR, eyeing a move towards coaching and has 50 international caps to his name.

With goalkeeping coach Tony Roberts suspended and unlikely to return to Loftus Road, Paul Jones appears the obvious candidate to step into his shoes next season.

Surprisingly, Rangers seem to have overlooked that possibility, even though Jones has been leading training sessions for the club's keepers ever since Roberts' abrupt departure in February

The ex-Southampton, Liverpool and Wolves keeper, who turned 40 last week, was told some time ago that he would not be offered a new playing deal for next season.

But he told the Times: "I'm trying to get my coaching badges anyway in June and if I was asked the question by QPR, I'd listen to what was said and I'd have to think about it.

"Nothing's been mentioned so far and I'm open to all offers, to be honest. Coaching could be the next step for me, maybe as a player-coach, maybe coaching a first team or working with kids.

"But if I can get a playing contract, I'd love to carry on next season. I enjoy playing and I've kept fit, that's the main thing - it's a question of whether someone wants me.

"Managers don't know at the moment what league they're going to be in next season, what budgets they've got to spend, or even whether they'll have a job. Hopefully by June or July I can sort something out."

Jones was originally brought to QPR by Gary Waddock in February 2006 to replace the injured Simon Royce and cemented his place in the side with a string of outstanding performances.

The Welsh international was virtually an ever-present until Waddock was axed in September - and a month later new manager John Gregory dropped him following his 26th appearance for the club, a 3-2 defeat against Sheffield Wednesday.

Royce suffered a similar fate after the Rs' 5-0 drubbing at Southend two months ago and even his departure on an emergency loan to Gillingham last week will make no difference to Jones' future.

There are no hard feelings on the veteran's part, though, and he observed: "A new manager comes in and things change - that's how it goes in this game. John's looking to the future now and I understand that.

"I've certainly enjoyed my time at QPR. I hadn't been playing regularly before I came here and having a run of 14 games at the end of last season was thoroughly pleasing.

"Obviously the Sheffield United away game was a highlight, including the penalty save, and so was the home game against Wolves - to keep a clean sheet against your old club is always good."

Royce, who made his Gills debut in their 3-2 victory against Port Vale last Saturday, is also expected to leave Loftus Road when his contract expires in the summer. Kilburn Times

Stew Peas could be Cook's side dish
Ben Kosky/Kilburn Times
Lee Cook is the overwhelming favourite to win Player of the Year
By Ben Kosky

THERE'S still a week to go before the ballot boxes are sealed, but the outcome of the Player of the Year poll has looked a foregone conclusion for some time.

It will be an immense surprise if Lee Cook does not win the accolade after a season that has seen him graduate into one of the Championship's most potent match-winners.

At times, Cook has single-handedly carried QPR's hopes of avoiding the drop, with his skilful ball control and pinpoint crossing usually providing their best chance of snatching a victory.

Likewise, Dexter Blackstock, with 13 goals in a struggling side since his arrival from Southampton in August, looks an absolute shoe-in for Rangers' Young Player of the Year award.

The real issue may be who finishes runner-up to Cook - and it must be said there are few outstanding candidates.

Adam Bolder and Danny Cullip would certainly be in contention if they had been at the club more than a few months, as would Martin Rowlands but for the injury problems that have restricted him to spells of no more than six successive appearances.

Apart from Blackstock, no forward has found anything like the required consistency, while John Gregory's loss of faith in first Paul Jones and then Simon Royce would make it difficult to cast a vote for a goalkeeper.

Almost unnoticed, though, one player has missed just a single match for Rangers this season - due to suspension - and has grown in stature during that time.

In his first season at this level, Damion Stewart has had a few shockers but, alongside the experienced Cullip, he has also produced some determined and classy performances in the Rs' rearguard.

The Jamaican centre-back would be my second choice behind Cook - he has shown that, in the right company and with the right guidance, he can develop into a quality player at this level.

It would be nice to think that Michael Mancienne - surely Blackstock's main rival for the junior award - might also continue to mature as part of the QPR defence.

Unfortunately, like so much else these days, that remains in Chelsea's hands. Kilburn Times

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