Former QPR striker has some tips for Troy

CHOOSE your friends carefully and be prepared to work extra hard – that’s the advice to new QPR striker Troy Hewitt from someone who once trod a similar path.

The protracted signing of Harrow Borough hotshot Hewitt represented a rare foray into non-league football for Rangers, but there was a time when the club regularly cast their net wider and deeper.

Almost a decade ago, that net swept up journeyman Leroy Griffiths in a �40,000 move from Hampton, at a time when QPR were reeling from their descent into the third tier of English football – and administration.

Within weeks, Griffiths had begun to put a smile back on the fans’ faces with a stunning goal in the Rs’ pre-season victory over a strong Chelsea side, and the striker, now 36, recalls how quickly he had to adjust to the step up.

“My advice would be: stay away from people you know are a bad influence on you,” Griffiths told the Times. “Everyone has them but, when you’re in the Football League, you’ve got to avoid them.

“You’ve got to stay level-headed and not forget how you made it, that’s the key that opened your door. Respect the managers and coaches that have been there for you up to then – they’ll still be looking out for you.

“It’s all about attitude and discipline. Think before you speak because, unless you’re someone who’s already made a name for himself, you can’t shout and backchat.

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“When you’re in non-league it’s just about you – most teams have one or two players who are better than the rest. But suddenly it’s about the team and you’ve got to work to earn selection.

“You need more dedication, especially to your fitness, and you have to work twice as hard. And if you don’t do well, you’ll be coming in on Sunday – that’s something else you have to get used to.

“I was playing Sunday League when I heard QPR were watching me and I got my hopes up. Nothing happened for a while, but then I got told to go along for a trial – and suddenly I was playing for QPR in a pre-season game.

“Chelsea was my mum’s team and I’d told her I was going to score against them. What a great feeling – you’re used to having 150 people at your games, then there are thousands screaming and shouting your name.”

Unsurprisingly, a goal against Chelsea made Griffiths an immediate hit with the Loftus Road crowd and he remained a popular figure throughout the 2001-02 campaign, scoring three goals as Rangers gradually began their recovery.

However, his opportunities were limited after the return of Kevin Gallen and the signing of Paul Furlong the following summer and, after a loan spell with Farnborough, Griffiths joined them on a permanent basis in 2003.

Since then, apart from a brief return to the full-time game with Gillingham in 2007, the striker has flitted around the upper reaches of non-league football and is currently turning out for Ryman League leaders Sutton United.

Griffiths played against Hewitt, who he described as ‘decent’, earlier in the season, and wishes the youngster well in his career at QPR, a club he still views with fondness.

“Unfortunately I got injured and that meant I dropped back in the pecking order because the manager had to bring other people in,” added Griffiths. “If they do well, he’s got to stick with them, and that’s what happened.

“I never had a problem with Ian Holloway – I love the guy because he’s helped so many players and given them an opportunity. The biggest thing for me was the way the staff and the fans took to me.

“It was a very fan-oriented club. Even now, when I bump into QPR people, it’s very touching to know that you made an impact when the club were struggling and they still remember it.”