Camp fire has warm glow
PUBLISHED: 12:26 19 March 2008 | UPDATED: 13:14 24 August 2010
By Ben Kosky IF everyone who has pulled on a QPR shirt this season was attending the club s Player of the Year dinner, the Novotel Hammersmith might not be a big enough venue. Strictly speaking, Rangers supporters have never had a wider range of candidate
By Ben Kosky
IF everyone who has pulled on a QPR shirt this season was attending the club's Player of the Year dinner, the Novotel Hammersmith might not be a big enough venue.
Strictly speaking, Rangers supporters have never had a wider range of candidates from which to choose their Player of the Year - but in reality, there are only two genuine options.
Most of the current first team haven't been with the club long enough to justify that accolade, even though the likes of Akos Buzsaky and Rowan Vine made a strong case for consideration during their loan spells.
But fans need to cast their minds back to the start of the season and applaud the players who held things together as John Gregory's team drifted towards the foot of the table.
So often during his QPR career, injury has denied Martin Rowlands the chance to show what he can do - in a variety of positions - on a regular basis.
This year, Rowlands has proved what Rangers fans have always believed - that he can pass, tackle, create goals and score them as well as any midfield player at this level.
Maybe even at a higher level. Rowlands certainly didn't look out of place when the Rs locked horns with Chelsea - and his importance to the team was recognised by Luigi de Canio, who immediately appointed him skipper.
Rowlands won the award after his first season at Loftus Road in 2004 and would be a worthy winner again - but so would another player who first made an impression in that promotion year.
Paul Jones and Simon Royce were more than adequate goalkeepers in the Championship, yet Lee Camp has surpassed them since his permanent move from Derby.
Camp's saves rescued Rangers from even heavier beatings than the ones they suffered at the start of the season, and more often than not he has been their star turn, especially away from home.
Remember his performances at Preston, Barnsley at Coventry? Not the most memorable of games, but grinding out 0-0 draws away from home is a knack Rangers will need to utilise if they are to push for promotion next season.
It's hard to separate Rowlands and Camp, but the keeper edges it for me on the basis that he has maintained his standards despite playing behind what was, until recently, a constantly changing defence.
As to the Young Player of the Year award, I am convinced it would have gone to Simon Walton but for the broken leg in pre-season that may have effectively ended his QPR career before it had a chance to begin.
Matthew Connolly is maturing into a solid defender and Angelo Balanta shows plenty of promise, but Hogan Ephraim - who has spent all but two months of the season at Rangers - should get the verdict.
Ephraim has skill, pace and confidence - and if he can learn to curb the impetuous streak that earned him a red card at Sheffield Wednesday - will surely play a key role in the club's future.
The Player of the Year dinner and dance, including a three-course meal and disco, takes place at the Novotel from 7pm on Sunday May 4 (the last day of the season). Call 08444 777 007 for details.
You can vote for both awards by emailing email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org respectively.