The QPR Monday Verdict: Why DJ Campbell’s return could be perfect timing
Striker makes his comeback at Liverpool - and could be be in line to start against Manchester United
DJ Campbell’s surprise at playing the final 24 minutes of QPR’s defeat at Liverpool was accompanied by relief, a feeling which will be shared by many who witnessed his team-mates’ display at Anfield.
The fractured metatarsal that Campbell suffered in October not only continued his frustrating start to his career at Loftus Road, it denied Neil Warnock the services of an attacker whose pace and versatility make him a valuable alternative to Heidar Helguson and Jay Bothroyd.
Campbell is hopeful of featuring against champions Manchester United on Sunday, and his presence is an option to which Warnock will need to give careful consideration.
“It was a surprise being involved because I haven’t had a reserve game yet, but I was delighted to play a part and disappointed not to get a better result,” Campbell said.
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“There’s a friendly on Tuesday which I’ll be involved in, and then we’ll take it from there. Hopefully by next Saturday I’ll have a week’s training under my belt and can be involved with the first team.
“It has been a frustrating start for me, but that’s football. Last year I didn’t have any injuries, it was a clean season for me. This year has been completely different, but I’m still focussed on my job and when I do get called upon hopefully I can perform.”
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Campbell’s availability for selection could not come at a better time for Warnock, whose options up front have for much of the season been limited to Helguson and Bothroyd.
Helguson has been something of a revelation, and it is unlikely that Bothroyd would have started against the Reds had the Iceland international not suffered an injury in the build-up to the game.
But the fact remains that Bothroyd and Helguson are similar players who render QPR’s attack too one-dimensional with little genuine pace.
At Anfield, Rangers’ problems were two-fold. Their midfield was ponderous and hesitant, frequently gifting the ball back to their hosts and inviting pressure time and again.
On the occasions when the ball was played long to Bothroyd, the lone striker found himself far too isolated and rarely held the ball up for long enough to bring his team-mates into play.
After producing flickers of his true ability with goals against Tottenham and Manchester City, Bothroyd has reverted to his early-season form, and was ineffective once more.
It would be unfair to criticise Bothroyd for his efforts in fulfilling what was an admittedly difficult role, but it is clear that Warnock urgently needs to spice up his attack with an injection of pace and unpredictability.
In that respect, this could be the perfect moment for Campbell to make his mark.
In the continued absence of Adel Taarabt Rangers are missing the link between midfield and attack. Shaun Wright-Phillips was ear-marked for that role at the start of the season but appears devoid of ideas when not playing in his preferred position of right midfield.
Campbell’s versatility could make him the perfect answer; the 30-year-old is equally comfortable playing up front alongside another striker – the position from which he scored 13 goals for Blackpool last season – or floating ‘in the hole’. Away from home in paricular, Campbell’s pace makes him a dangerous weapon capable of stretching opposition defences in a way niether of his fellow strikers can.
Warnock is relieved to have Campbell back in the side, likening his return to the arrival of a new signing. It would be no surprise to see him start against Sir Alex Ferguson’s side, and as the games mount up over the Christmas it could be just the boost Warnock needs.
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