Midfielder’s England mission epitomises QPR’s season
Brilliant Wright-Phillips steals the show against Newcastle
Throughout the summer transfer window and in the days following, Neil Warnock repeated the same objective: to sign players for QPR who each have something to prove.
Joey Barton, Anton Ferdinand, Armand Traore, Shaun Wright-Phillips – all had found themeselves, for one reason or another, either unwanted on the peripheries of their relative squads, all were snapped up by Warnock, and each arrived at Loftus Road driven by a determination to kick-start their careers.
Rarely had a Premier League game taken on such significance for so many players of a single team as QPR’s clash with Newcastle on Monday night.
Perhaps inevitably, after his drawn out feud with his former employers, the cameras were trained firmly on Barton. Yet it was his one-time Manchester City colleague Wright-Phillips who over-shadowed everyone else, and suggested he could be QPR’s best bit of business for a long, long time.
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Having made just two appearances for City last season prior to his transfer to QPR, Wright-Phillips had arguably the most of all to prove, and on the eve of this match spoke of his desire to get back into Fabio Capello’s England squad in time for next summer’s European Championship.
He could scarcely have made a more convincing start. Wright-Phillips was virtually unplayable on the right wing in the first half, sending in a series of exquisite deliveries which were wasted by Jay Bothroyd, and having one delightful lob cleared off the line by Steven Taylor.
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He departed in the second half to a rapturous reception. Already a firm favourite at Loftus Road, and Warnock believes there is much, much more to come.
“I think he can get a lot better than that personally,” predicted the Rs boss. “I said to Shaun before the game I think he can get double figures in terms of goals this year.
“Everyone’s thought he’s a wide right player and that’s where he’ll be, but I’ve looked at the players I’ve tried to sign and I think they’ve all got something to prove.
“Shaun’s seen a lot of players come over the last 18 months, he’s seen some of them come and they haven’t got as much ability as him.
“He’s going to play, to enjoy himself, he’s going to go from one side to another, down the middle, and if he enjoys it, he’s the type of player that people will pay money to watch.”
Wright-Phillips revelled in the freedom he found in QPR’s attacking 4-3-3 line-up, as did Adel Taarabt, finally displaying some defensive discipline, while Barton coped admirably with the added pressure of being handed the captaincy in his debut.
“It was a logical thing really [to make Barton captain]. I had a chat with Adel last week, and Adel was straight away bright about it,” added Warnock.
“I think Adel appreciates how far we’ve come now. But we need to drive on now and to do that we need somebody who’s our leader, and I thought he epitomised what we’re about tonight. He can just grab hold of us.”
But perhaps even more pleasing for Warnock was the performance in front of the back four of Shaun Derry and Alejandro Faurlin. Composed, disciplined and effective in possession, the pair laid the foundation for QPR’s forward three, while helping to break up Newcastle’s few genuine attacking moments.
Derry may not be a new signing, but at 33 years old he is another out to prove the doubters wrong and show that he can make it in the top flight. He is already a long way towards achieving that aim.
It is, of course, early days in what may still end up as a scrap for Premier League survival, and Rangers’ failure to score suggests they are somewhat lacking up front. But with so many players having so much to play for, motivation will be one commodity not in short supply.
“You look at the big teams coming down here, and I don’t think they’ll relish it”, added Warnock.
Unlike Wright-Phillips and his colleagues, who are already relishing every single moment.
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