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Sunday, January 20, 2008

De Canio Warmly Profiled...Barnsley Victory: Further Reports

The Sunday Times/Mark Palmer - Luigi De Canio puts survival before dreams of glory
Despite dreams of glory, the Italian manager’s first priority is to ensure his club can survive in the Championship

LUIGI DE CANIO is walking us through the defining moments of his managerial career. We start out at Udine, and a first taste of European action for the city’s football team. We move 800 miles south to Reggio, and an improbable escape from relegation for one of Serie A’s smallest fry. Having traversed Italy from top to toe, De Canio tugs us back to the middle with a tale that gives a glimpse of his own core.

We’re now in the Tuscan heartlands of Siena, scene of his last senior job and the following instructive vignette. “I took a walk there one Sunday,” he says. “I was with a friend, a heart surgeon. He’s a guy who spends his life saving other lives. I’m a football manager, not even a famous one. But people were asking me for autographs, not him. I found that too strange.”

The story reveals a lot of what, and who, he is - a quiet, unassuming man whose acute self-awareness takes its bearings from an upbringing in the austerity of Italy’s south. What it doesn’t explain is what he’s doing at Queens Park Rangers, new home of the rich, flaunter of ambition, where egos and expectation have combined noisily since September.

It was then that Formula One tycoons Flavio Briatore and Bernie Ecclestone combined their loose change to come up with the £14m necessary to buy a controlling stake in the club and cover its debt. A third headline act squeezed in two months later in the shape of Lakshmi Mittal, the Indian steel magnate whom Briatore persuaded to take on 20% of his shares. Mittal, valued at £19.25 billion, is the richest man in Britain and the fifth richest in the world.

Playthings are only fun when they work, of course. For Rangers, under the designs Briatore unveiled when he arrived and reiterated last week, that means reaching the Premier League by 2011 and Europe the following season. The natural assumption is that the chasm between the realities of the present and the imagined future utopia will be filled with wads of the owners’ banknotes. Collectively, after all, they are worth £22 billion.

Listen to De Canio, however, and you’ll be told that such simplistic thinking distorts what the money men are in this for. The 50-year-old talks not of flourishes but of foundations. The nine January signings he has already made he describes as a necessary exception, aimed simply at securing their Championship survival.

“Every project has its road and its time,” he says. “QPR are aiming high, but what can you do without a base? I could ask the owners for Ronaldo, Tevez, Kaka, but if there’s no plan or structure underpinning things, how does it work? It would be easy for us to get results but just as easy to fall on our faces very fast. If a structure isn’t solid it crumbles. We need to grow incrementally.”

And so the secondments agreed by De Canio and Gianni Palladini, the club’s chairman-cum-general manager, have been of the type of centre-backs Matthew Connolly and Fitz Hall. The manager believes he is practising a form of positive discrimination. “The place needs to be English, or at least to understand English football, because England is where we are and where we must succeed,” he says. “These players can help us to compete better in this division, then think about the next target. On that base we’ll be able to layer on Brazilians, Americans, who knows. But you need the base first. Until we have it, dreaming is not allowed.” His one worry is that the first step in QPR’s recovery might be his last. Rumours persist that Briatore and Co fancy a bigger, or simply louder, name.

In the meantime, he spends his spare time “doing the tourist thing” before returning to his home to devour the food and wine parcels sent over from his native Matera, where his wife and daughter have remained. “I’m not lonely,” he says. “I’m enjoying myself. I feel an important part of an important project. I want to make this club work again.” And prove he is the man for the job. The Times

SUNDAY MIRROR/John Gubba - Football: Luigi wants more from happy Hoops
Luigi De Canio has been given four years to get Rangers into the Champions League - which may be wishful thinking - but his Italian revolution is gathering momentum.
The confident boss is certainly up for the challenge, insisting it is not mission impossible to satisfy his mega-rich employers' lofty ambitions.
"First it's important we instil a winning mentality at the club," explained De Canio, who admits promotion this season may be too much to ask.
"In the past some players have been satisfied with staying up. If we want to achieve great things we need a winning mentality. But it won't happen overnight.
"When my team are leading 2-0 I want them to be striving to score three of four. Then we will be a winning team.
"Considering the recent changes I'm moderately happy - but I'm not satisfied with this result."
With new signings arriving almost daily, the club that was heading for relegation and bankruptcy until Formula 1 bosses Bernie Ecclestone and Flavio Briatore took charge are now moving in the right direction.
Patrick Agyemang was the pick of the new men who made Barnsley suffer for failing to make the most of their first-half possession.
Just five minutes were on the clock when the frontman showed his poise and strength, playing a one-two with Dexter Blackstock and hooking the ball over keeper Heinz Muller before forcing home the opener.
Barnsley promised to make it a contest until they were swatted aside with ease when Rangers stepped up a gear.
At times in the first half Rangers looked like a team of strangers, which - with four of their starting line-up making home debuts - was hardly surprising.
But when they started to click just before the break, De Canio's men looked a class act.
Rowan Vine, one of nine new signings this month, applied the finish to the best move of the match when he made it 2-0 seconds before the break.
Vine, playing wide right to accommodate Agyemang, exchanged neat passes with the Ghanaian star before walking the ball into the empty goal.
Akos Buzsaky had stepped up the pace a few seconds earlier with a dazzling run that ended with a shot well saved by Muller.
But it was Agyemang who caught the eye.
QPR Camp 6, Connolly 6, Stewart 6 (Lee 5), Hall 6 (Mancienne 5), Delaney 7, Vine 7, Rowlands 7, Leigertwood 6, Buzsaky 7, AGYEMANG 8, Blackstock 6 (Ephraim 5). Manager De Canio 7
BARNSLEY Muller 7, Van Homoet 6, Foster 6, Souza 5, Tininho 6, Hassell 6, Campbell-Ryce 6, Leon 7 (Ferenczi 5), Howard 7, Devaney 6 (Ricketts 5), Coulson 5 (Odejayi 5). Manager Davey 6
Referee R Beeby 6
MAN OF THE MATCH PATRICK AGYEMANG Started with a goal and just got better. Sunday Mirror

SUNDAY PEOPLE/Dave Lewis Agyemang adds bite to Rangers
Flush with cash and reinvigorated with a fresh cutting edge, Rangers sank befuddled Barnsley thanks to goals from new signings Patrick Agyemang and Rowan Vine.
Five players had home debuts after the club made nine captures this month - but Luigi De Canio's team of strangers had an instant rapport.
Agyemang made it two goals in successive games since his arrival from Preston with the opener after five minutes.
The quality of the goal showed why De Canio wanted him.
The striker of Ghanaian heritage played a one-two with Dexter Blackstock, flicked the ball over keeper Heinz Muller and buried a header under pressure from Dennis Souza.
Multi-millionaire co-owner Flavio Briatore reckons Rangers will be playing in the Champions League within four years - and the optimism around Loftus Road is growing.
Vine, whose loan from Birmingham has been made into a permanent move, side-footed the second on half-time after a neat exchange of passes with Agyemang to leave the Tykes dishevelled and downcast.
It should have been three after 52 minutes when Martin Rowlands weaved past two defenders and keeper Muller but his shot was then cleared off the line.
Qpr: Camp 7 - Connolly 7, Hall 7 (Mancienne, 79mins), Stewart 6 (Lee, 85mins), Delaney 6 - Rowlands 7, Leigertwood 7, Buzsaky 7, Vine 7 - Blackstock 6 (Ephraim, 88mins),*AGYEMANG 8.
Barnsley: Muller 6 - Van Homoet 5, Foster 5, Souza 6, Tininho 6 - *CAMPBELL-RYCE 8, Hassel 7, Howard 6, Devaney 6 (Ricketts, 70mins) - Leon 5 (Ferenczi, 54mins), Coulson 6 (Odejayi, 56mins). Ref: R Beeby 6. People

Also: Previous Reports and Comments on QPR's Win over Barnsley

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