This time, it could be Stew

By Ben Kosky CHOOSING your club s Player of the Year tends to be more straightforward when team selection has followed some kind of logic throughout the season. But there has been little common sense or consistency about which players pull on the hooped s

By Ben Kosky

CHOOSING your club's Player of the Year tends to be more straightforward when team selection has followed some kind of logic throughout the season.

But there has been little common sense or consistency about which players pull on the hooped shirt at QPR for some time, largely due to persistent changes in personnel and interference from the boardroom.

The ongoing questions such as: Mahon or Leigertwood?... which pairing out of the four centre-backs?... wingers or a narrow midfield three?... one up front or two?... mean that few have been undisputed regulars in the side.


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Four players have appeared more than 40 times this season - Radek Cerny, Damion Stewart, Damien Delaney and Mikele Leigertwood - and the first two of those appear to be the front-runners for the main award.

Cerny's record in terms of clean sheets is impressive, but I would argue that is more due to the efforts of players in front of him rather than any heroics on the goalkeeper's part.

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The Czech shone in several away games earlier in the season, notably at Swansea and during the Carling Cup run, but has won nowhere near as many points single-handedly as Lee Camp did the previous season.

Cerny has clearly reduced his reliance on the punch since the start of his QPR career, but still makes the odd costly clanger - Coventry and Norwich spring to mind.

Stewart seemed to step his game up a notch during Iain Dowie's brief reign, commanding in the air and strong in the tackle, as well as chipping in with some vital goals.

As he proved on Saturday at Wolves, the Jamaican centre-back can still be error-prone, but he also possesses the pace to get himself out of trouble more often than not.

During his three years at QPR, Stewart has always looked better alongside a better defensive partner - and Kaspars Gorkss has made that role his own in the second half of the campaign.

Perhaps Matthew Connolly has been the real star of Rangers' defence, equally mature and composed on the ball in the centre or on either side - but his age makes him a certainty to take the Young Player of the Year award.

Injuries have, of course, played a part by ruling out Martin Rowlands and Akos Buzsaky, but it should be a concern that no-one in midfield has really done enough to force himself into the reckoning.

Hogan Ephraim was frozen out by Dowie but flourished under Paulo Sousa, Lee Cook was always going to take time to regain his best form after injury and, while both Gavin Mahon and Leigertwood have turned in some good performances, neither have done so consistently.

Up front, you couldn't make a case for anyone except Dexter Blackstock and, amusing though it would be to see the board's discomfiture should the player they carelessly cast off to Nottingham Forest win the supporters' votes, it won't happen.

So Stewart it is and, with all due respect to the defender, the fact that he is the only realistic candidate for the club's senior award shows what a shambles the last nine months have been.

After all, there aren't too many clubs who have a Manager of the Year award as well...

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