Paulo's the daddy

By Ben Kosky HOGAN Ephraim has labelled Paulo Sousa a father figure – and insisted the entire squad are staunchly backing the under-fire QPR coach. Sousa s position has again been called into question after he broke ranks over the controversial exit of

By Ben Kosky

HOGAN Ephraim has labelled Paulo Sousa a 'father figure' - and insisted the entire squad are staunchly backing the under-fire QPR coach.

Sousa's position has again been called into question after he broke ranks over the controversial exit of Dexter Blackstock, claiming that the board acted without his knowledge.

Rangers officials were furious at Sousa's comments which, coupled with his failure to secure a play-off spot, have increased suggestions that the Portuguese will soon follow a well-trodden path out of Loftus Road.


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But Ephraim, who credits Sousa with reigniting his career in a new central midfield role after months of stagnation under John Gregory, Luigi de Canio and Iain Dowie, emphasised the players' support for their coach.

"Since Paulo Sousa's come in my game's gone on to a new level," Ephraim told the Times. "From the moment I left West Ham until the moment he came here, I don't think I learnt one thing and that was disappointing.

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"But he's taught me so much stuff it's unreal and all my gratitude goes to him - it reminds me so much of being back at West Ham and with the England youth team.

"I'm thoroughly enjoying that role in the middle. Although at first I didn't believe I could play there, he's made me learn it and keep learning it and at the moment that's where I consider myself best.

"I know for a fact that all the players are behind him and personally there's not one thing I wouldn't do for him. He's like a father figure to me in football and I want to play under him, it's as simple as that. Hopefully that'll be the case for a long time."

The 21-year-old Londoner says it is down to the players, not Sousa, to shoulder responsibility for last Saturday's bore draw with Crystal Palace, a result which all but ended their lingering hopes of a push for the top six.

"We had more chances than Palace, but we were nowhere near the standard we set ourselves and can only blame ourselves for that," Ephraim reflected.

"We turned up expecting to put on a performance and get a win, however necessary and we didn't do that, so we're thoroughly disappointed. It just wasn't good enough, especially in the first half.

"On the back of that performance, a lot of people have got to produce next week. We have to do it for ourselves and the fans who paid money to come and watch - if you haven't got that pride as a professional footballer, you're in the wrong business."

Sousa's future was the subject of renewed speculation this week after QPR sacked his right-hand man Bruno Oliveira.

As is now standard practice when a member of staff leaves, the club gave no reason for the dismissal of Oliveira, who arrived with Sousa as assistant coach four and a half months ago.

Incredibly, he was the EIGHTH man to hold the number two coaching role at Loftus Road since Ian Holloway's assistant Tim Breacker was suspended along with the manager three years ago.

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