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    nearly there



    nearly there

    Post by Guest on Fri Mar 04 2011, 03:47

    QPR's swashbuckling Adel Taarabt leads ranks of second division Caesars
    Neil Warnock has built his Championship title-chasing team around a mercurial No7 and is reaping reward for the decision

    Adel Taarabt may wear Queens Park Rangers' No7 shirt but he follows a long line of sublimely-skilled old-fashioned No10s who have graced Loftus Road over the past 45 years. Call them playmakers, fantasistas, attacking midfielders or inside-forwards, but I doubt any supporters have been so blessed as those of the west London club whose glorious memories of Rodney Marsh, Stanley Bowles, Gerry Francis, Tony Currie, an ageing but still inspirational Trevor Francis and Roy Wegerle, have been burnished by the outrageously gifted Moroccan's performances this season.
    When signed by Tottenham Hotspur as a 17-year-old four years ago, the Spurs manager, Martin Jol, called him "a wizard", saying, "on the ball I don't think there's another talent like him in England". If that sounds hyperbolic, it was positively downbeat compared to the praise of his agent, Rudy Raba, who set the bar ludicrously high. Raba, of course, earns his money by fluffing his players' egos and talking up their capabilities but even so his assessment that "in France he is considered the new Zidane" took flattery to an absurd extreme.
    During Taarabt's brief cameos for Spurs he didn't even look like a team player never mind the second coming of Zidane. He had good control and an array of ball-juggling skills that marked him out as the sort of footballer Ron Atkinson used to call "amusement arcades", all tricks and deft flicks but very little game intelligence or positional awareness. He seemed destined for a career of peripheral self-indulgence, a YouTube showboater and gimmicky solo act who could not integrate his astonishing artistry into a team.

    The fans loved him, as they always love those whose skills are unattainable. You could look at Jermaine Jenas, say, and delude yourself into thinking "I could do that". With Taarabt you could never fool yourself that what he can do with the ball is within your reach. But Jenas came much closer to fitting Harry Redknapp's requirements and the overwhelming majority of managers with that option would have made the same judgment.
    Last season he was loaned to QPR and signed a long-term deal in the summer. There he has transformed himself from a player whose career seemed to be all about personal glory to one at the heart of the team. He has even been handed the captaincy. He remains mercurial and full of barefaced cheek, but he now lays the ball off at the right time more frequently, takes up clever positions and is cool as you like in front of goal.
    And credit here must go to Neil Warnock, who has lightened up considerably since moving to London with Crystal Palace. There was no room for "show ponies" in his earlier gameplans, let alone building a team around a player who can still be inclined to sulk.
    Other ball marvels who have had to knuckle down, such as Joe Cole, have appeared sedated, as if curbing instincts has robbed them of their special quality. But Taarabt continues with his dragbacks, Cruyff turns, sidesteps and even unveiled a "rainbow flick" against Reading, where he knocked the ball from his right instep on to his left heel and arced it over his head. When added to his imperious dribbling, crossing, shooting, greater discipline and awareness, his 15 Championship goals and 13 assists, make him the division's outstanding player.
    Alec Stock signed Marsh in 1966 from Fulham and faced the same scepticism that Warnock endured at the start of the season, when he persuaded Taarabt to leave Spurs. In his autobiography, A Little Thing Called Pride, Stock remembered the derision his decision brought but there are echoes of the Moroccan's attributes for a team in Stock's explanation of his recruitment policy. "Immediately he [Marsh] had signed there were people in the game who took great delight in telling me what was wrong with our new player," he wrote. "'He's a clown', they said. 'He doesn't like hard work and he isn't consistent.' I wasn't particularly looking for consistency. I wanted style and imagination."
    Taarabt brings style and imagination in abundance to Rangers and joins a list of other great Caesars who thrived at second division level, such as Blackpool's Tony Green and Alan Suddick, Port Vale's Ray Walker and Manchester United's Gerry Daly. Green and Daly were equally effective in the First Division, the former's career-ending injury when playing for Newcastle United continues to be lamented at St James' Park, where older fans still talk about his mesmerising dribbling.
    The cynics may say wait until Taarabt plays consistently in the Premier League before passing judgment and there are callow, petulant edges to his character that his on-field maturity has not yet eradicated. But the signs are encouraging and QPR supporters know a good thing when they see one. After all they have had the good fortune to witness so many in the past.


    Re: nearly there

    Post by Guest on Fri Mar 04 2011, 03:47

    He's tearing up the champo much more than Carroll or Adams ever did, half a good season in the Prem and it's not inconceivable.

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