QPR striker’s fitness fear
Queens Park Rangers may have to fight through an injury crisis on Saturday – with their main man also a doubt for the trip to Carrow Road.
Last season’s Championship winners go into their clash with the side that finished just behind them, Norwich City, in decent form after an excellent 3-2 win at Stoke on Saturday and beating Chelsea on home soil late last month.
However, their match-winner on both occasions may have to sit out this weekend.
Heidar Helguson has poached five goals in as many games, including a Britannia brace – but could well join a lengthy injury list even a club with the financial backing of Air Asia and Team Lotus boss Tony Fernandes can do little to avoid.
“Unfortunately Heidar has not joined in yet this week and there’s a doubt over him for Saturday’s game at Norwich,” said QPR manager Neil Warnock of his 34-year-old leading scorer, who needed lengthy treatment early on against Stoke after taking a hefty blow from Robert Huth’s knee.
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A raft of problems at Stoke meant Warnock could only name five of a possible seven substitutes – the legacy of which will see reserve goalkeeper Brian Murphy join ex-Blackpool front man DJ Campbell, Matt Connolly and Kieron Dyer on the sidelines.
Joey Barton will be suspended for picking up his fifth booking, while the likes of Helguson, Luke Young, Jay Bothroyd, Danny Gabbidon and Armand Traore are also possible absentees.
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Experienced ex-Watford striker Tommy Smith will be on standby to line-up alongside Scotland international Jamie Mackie on Saturday should Helguson not make it – it was Smith’s solitary strike that earned Rangers a 1-0 win at Everton on week two of the new season.
But rest assured Warnock and Helguson will do all they can to make kick-off at Carrow Road – with Rangers first team coach Keith Curle explaining exactly why.
“Not only as a player but as a person, Hiedar has got a level of consistency about his lifestyle,” said Curle.
“You don’t hear a lot from him through the week. He knows his job, he knows his role in the team and I think he is enjoying himself. He has benefited from playing Premier League football when it’s one game a week.
“In the Championship it can be Saturday, Tuesday. He is only about 5ft 11 but he jumps about 6ft 8. He enjoys a tussle and he doesn’t mind the physical contact. He is old school, like a modern day Ronnie Jepson.”
Helguson, who was able to complete the 90 minutes at Stoke, added: “It wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be – at the time I thought I had broken my cheekbone. It is going well for me. I am just really, really pleased to be playing at this level at my age, and getting regular games.”
And while Norwich fans revel in their side’s confident return to life in the Premier League, QPR – who are back in the top flight after their own 15-year absence and soon will face Liverpool and Manchester United – feel likewise.
“We’re very realistic and we keep our feet on the ground at this football club but we do go into every game thinking we can get points and that is the mentality not just of the players, but of the management and the staff,” added Curle. “We set ourselves up and we will compete in every game.
“We got something out of Stoke and we could have got something against Manchester City in the previous game even though they were an exceptional side, so we feel we can match sides.”
Tyne & Wear referee Mark Clattenburg has been appointed as the match official for Saturday’s game at Carrow Road.