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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

De Canio to Prune the QPR Squad...Previewing Player of the Year Awards

Ben Kosky/Kilburn Times - Boss will prune squad to 22

QPR boss Luigi de Canio has revealed he wants to begin next season with a squad of 22.
Rangers have been represented by a total of 36 players during the current campaign - not including substitute goalkeepers - and De Canio wants to rely on a much smaller pool of options next year.

The Rs boss has rightly dismissed foolish suggestions that his side might yet nail a play-off place this season - and admits he is not greatly concerned about their final league placing.

"Recently in mid-season a lot of faces changed and so the most important thing is to gel a team and get everyone thinking with the same mentality," De Canio told the Times.

"The objective is to do as well as possible. The final position doesn't have huge importance, but obviously the higher we place ourselves, the more faith we'll have in our own ability.

"Faith in their ability and skills is the most important quality that I want this team to have. Even when they were 1-0 down to Scunthorpe they didn't lose faith.

"I think in this Championship, 22 players with a very well-spread ability in every position is the ideal if you want to succeed. That is what I want next season.

"Most, if not all of the players who are here now have a few more years on their contracts, but for anyone in their last year we'll decide what happens towards the end of the season."

Club captain Gareth Ainsworth has already signed a new one-year deal, but his predecessor Adam Bolder - currently in his second month on loan at Sheffield Wednesday - is unlikely to be offered another contract.

On-loan striker Danny Nardiello should make a permanent switch back to Barnsley, while De Canio will also have to make decisions on goalkeepers Jake Cole and Matt Pickens.

The Rangers boss also plans to supplement his squad by bringing through more graduates from the youth set-up to follow in the footsteps of forward Angelo Balanta.

Balanta has made six appearances for the Rs under De Canio and the manager stressed: "I am working hard with the board and the owners to have an ever-improving structure so that we can bring young players through the system and maybe breaking into the squad.

"I believe this is very important. We'll do whatever is necessary and do it gradually, one step at a time, not a revolution. Kilburn Times

Ben Kosky/Kilburn Times - Camp fire has warm glow

IF everyone who has pulled on a QPR shirt this season was attending the club's Player of the Year dinner, the Novotel Hammersmith might not be a big enough venue.

Strictly speaking, Rangers supporters have never had a wider range of candidates from which to choose their Player of the Year - but in reality, there are only two genuine options.

Most of the current first team haven't been with the club long enough to justify that accolade, even though the likes of Akos Buzsaky and Rowan Vine made a strong case for consideration during their loan spells.

But fans need to cast their minds back to the start of the season and applaud the players who held things together as John Gregory's team drifted towards the foot of the table.

So often during his QPR career, injury has denied Martin Rowlands the chance to show what he can do - in a variety of positions - on a regular basis.

This year, Rowlands has proved what Rangers fans have always believed - that he can pass, tackle, create goals and score them as well as any midfield player at this level.

Maybe even at a higher level. Rowlands certainly didn't look out of place when the Rs locked horns with Chelsea - and his importance to the team was recognised by Luigi de Canio, who immediately appointed him skipper.

Rowlands won the award after his first season at Loftus Road in 2004 and would be a worthy winner again - but so would another player who first made an impression in that promotion year.

Paul Jones and Simon Royce were more than adequate goalkeepers in the Championship, yet Lee Camp has surpassed them since his permanent move from Derby.

Camp's saves rescued Rangers from even heavier beatings than the ones they suffered at the start of the season, and more often than not he has been their star turn, especially away from home.

Remember his performances at Preston, Barnsley at Coventry? Not the most memorable of games, but grinding out 0-0 draws away from home is a knack Rangers will need to utilise if they are to push for promotion next season.

It's hard to separate Rowlands and Camp, but the keeper edges it for me on the basis that he has maintained his standards despite playing behind what was, until recently, a constantly changing defence.

As to the Young Player of the Year award, I am convinced it would have gone to Simon Walton but for the broken leg in pre-season that may have effectively ended his QPR career before it had a chance to begin.

Matthew Connolly is maturing into a solid defender and Angelo Balanta shows plenty of promise, but Hogan Ephraim - who has spent all but two months of the season at Rangers - should get the verdict.

Ephraim has skill, pace and confidence - and if he can learn to curb the impetuous streak that earned him a red card at Sheffield Wednesday - will surely play a key role in the club's future.

The Player of the Year dinner and dance, including a three-course meal and disco, takes place at the Novotel from 7pm on Sunday May 4 (the last day of the season). Call 08444 777 007 for details.

You can vote for both awards by emailing player@qpr.co.uk or youngplayer@qpr.co.uk respectively. Kilburn Times

Also: Player of the Year Voting Options and Player of the Year Banquet Details

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