Long six weeks for QPR

FORMER Colchester United defender Chris Barker admits that the last six weeks have felt like a “very long time” at struggling QPR.Barker returns to Layer Road tonight, hoping to frustrate his old club and earn a first win of the season for basement club Rangers, although he does face a late fitness test on a hernia problem,Since he moved to Loftus Road over the summer, following a season-long loan at Colchester from Cardiff last term, Barker has had to cope with a number of setbacks.

By Carl Marston

FORMER Colchester United defender Chris Barker admits that the last six weeks have felt like a “very long time” at struggling QPR.

Barker returns to Layer Road tonight, hoping to frustrate his old club and earn a first win of the season for basement club Rangers, although he does face a late fitness test on a hernia problem,

Since he moved to Loftus Road over the summer, following a season-long loan at Colchester from Cardiff last term, Barker has had to cope with a number of setbacks.


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The most serious of these was the tragic death of team-mate Ray Jones, who died in a car accident on the eve of QPR's scheduled trip to Burnley on August 25.

The Londoners have failed to win any of their last four games since Jones' unfortunate death, and this string of poor results culminated in manager John Gregory being dismissed on Monday.

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Barker confessed: “It's been a very difficult season already, but we have got to stick together.

“Ray (Jones) dying obviously affected everyone at the club. We just couldn't have foreseen that happening. Although he was only 18, he was always involved in the first-team set-up.

“We always saw him, day-in, day-out, and some of the Academy lads had known him since the age of 12 or 13. He was a big prospect, and Colchester tried to sign him over the summer (the U's had two offers turned down).

“It has seemed a very long last six weeks, but we have got to move on. Obviously the gaffer going (Gregory) has also had an effect. I feel a bit guilty, and feel like I've let him down, because it was him who brought me to the club over the summer.

“You don't seem to get much time as a manager these days. We've only played seven league games and already he's gone.

“It was a bit surprising him leaving. I know that we haven't been winning, but with the exception of Sunday's 5-1 defeat at West Brom, we had been playing a lot better in recent weeks.

“That was true against Watford (1-1 draw). We played them off the park,” added Barker.

Left-back Barker played 39 games on loan with the U's last season. The 27-year-old was very consistent for Geraint Williams' men, although his copybook was blotted by a couple of red cards - he was the only U's player to be sent off last term.

Barker continued: “I missed the first three games of this season, because of my sending-off at Stoke at the end of last season, but I've been a regular since then.

“I do need a hernia operation, and that has been planned for next week. Hopefully, I can play at Colchester and then against Norwich on Monday before having the operation.

“It will be strange to return to Layer Road, but I'm looking forward to the occasion. I enjoyed my eight months there, and I'm hoping that the fans will give me a good reception, so that I can applaud them back,” concluded Barker.

George Elokobi has fitted in well at left-back since Barker's summer departure. The Cameroon-born defender has started each of the U's first nine league and cup games.

While QPR are still searching for their first win, United have only managed one victory themselves, away at Preston.

They will again be without the influential presence of Teddy Sheringham, who has missed the last three games with a hamstring injury. Midfielder Kevin Watson remains on the sidelines with a calf strain, which is a secondary injury following a sore Achilles tendon.

“This match will come too soon for Teddy (Sheringham), and Kevin (McLeod) is also struggling with flu,” revealed manager Williams last night, who has added Hungarian international defender Bela Balogh and teenage winger Medy Elito to his squad.

Squads

COLCHESTER UNITED: Gerken, Virgo, Baldwin, Connolly, Elokobi, Yeates, Izzet, Jackson, Duguid, Platt, Lisbie, Guy, Connolly, Guttridge, Granville, Balogh, Elito, White, McLeod and Cousins.

QPR: Camp, Curtis, Cullip, Stewart, Barker, Ainsworth, Bolder, Rowlands, Moore, Blackstock, Vine, Sahar, Jarrett, Ephraim, Bignot, Rehman, Cole, Timoska, Leigertwood and Nardiello.

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