QPR youngster Cole Kpekawa optimistic about making the grade at Loftus Road
PUBLISHED: 09:00 12 May 2016
QPR youngster Cole Kpekawa believes now is his best opportunity to date to establish himself as a first-team regular at Loftus Road.
The 19-year-old, who started and finished the last three games of the 2015-16 campaign, says he has made real strides in the last year and is quietly confident of forcing his way into Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s plans next season.
He told the Times: “It’s been a good end to the season for me. I’ve got some starts under my belt which has been really pleasing. That’s what I came back from my loan spell to do, so it’s great that I’ve been able to do that.
“I was at Leyton Orient for three months [earlier this season] and enjoyed my time there.
“The manager in charge then [Ian Hendon] rated me but things changed after he left. I came back here and things have been really good for me.
“I’ve been given a good chance [to establish myself]. I think I’ve done alright so far, but could have done a bit better at the same time.”
He continued: “I’m still young and learning each day, though. I know what a privileged position I am in and never take it for granted.
“My positional play has really come on in the last year, I’m a lot wiser, but there’s still lots of things for me to improve on.
“I’ve just got to keep working hard and impress the gaffer. It will be hard for me to force my way into the first team as there’s also Jack Robinson [at left-back], but I have confidence in my ability so I’ve just got to keep doing what I am doing.
“Personally I do prefer playing at centre back, but left-back is probably an easier position for me to break into.
“I’ve played in both positions out on loan so that’s been a real learning curve for me.”
Kpekawa, who has been at the club since he was eight years old, says the atmosphere around Harlington is very positive compared with previous years.
He added: “There’s a good vibe around the training ground, it’s definitely the best the team environment has been over the last few seasons.
“I think the gaffer will bring in the right players and it will be a good season for us regardless of the change that will be made.
“This season was more of a rebuilding campaign for us but next year the aim is definitely for us to go up, 100 per cent.”
The former Colchester United loanee reserved special praise for veteran Clint Hill, who earlier this week was told his contract would not be renewed after a successful six-year spell, where he established himself as a firm fans favourite.
“Clint Hill has been brilliant with me,” said Kpekawa. “Playing with people like him can only benefit me in the long term. All of the back four have helped me a lot, but Hilly especially.
“Having someone of his experience and quality around has been a real help to me, and I’m sure other younger defenders in the past.”