EXCLUSIVE BY YANN TEAR
Marc Pugh admits he is finding it tough playing only a bit-part in QPR’s season so far – but says he is hell-bent on regular starts.
The former Bournemouth midfielder – a free summer signing for Rangers – made only his second Championship start of the season in the 1-1 draw at Derby County at the weekend.
The home game against Wigan was the only other time he has been there at kick-off time and he has been used as a sub 10 times.
He has yet to complete 90 minutes in any one match.
But if the perception is of an experienced player of 32 who Mark Warburton has to use sparingly, Pugh is anxious to kick that image into touch.
“I never expect to sit on the sidelines,” Pugh told The London Weekly News.
“As a player, you are always frustrated not to play.
“I absolutely loved it on Saturday. There’s nothing like starting. When you come on, it’s sometimes difficult to get into a game and you get that extra buzz if you start.
“I’ve been played a bit out of position in central midfield as opposed to left wing or at number 10, which is more natural for me, so I’ve had to adapt. But I just keep my head down and I am so glad to play a part.
“I remember three of four seasons ago at Bournemouth, I didn’t get a game until mid-November, but once I did, it went well.
“I don’t think my age is held against me. That’s just a number. My running stats at the training ground are right at the top of the leader board and I’m going into games feeling really great.
“It’s difficult to get a starting role because we’ve got a lot of good young talent – a great young squad.
But I’m champing at the bit and will be trying to do everything I can to get regular starts. It’s frustrating but you’ve got to be ready.”
Speaking about his relationship with Warburton, Pugh, who has the distinction of having scored in each of the top five divisions of the football pyramid, said: “We’ve had chats. But I know it must be the most difficult job ever, for a manager to keep 20-25 players happy who are all hoping to start.
“I have a one-year contract so I maybe have an extra incentive to want to get out and play. But whether you have a contract for two, three or four years, you have to prove you are worthy of a new deal every day, and I pride myself on my application.”
Rangers’ draw at Pride Park – thanks to Ebe Eze’s equaliser from the spot – was a good response to the previous week’s 4-0 home mauling at the hands of Nottingham Forest.
Pugh believes it is a sign the current winless run – now seven games – does not tell the whole story.
“We look at that as a really good point,” he said. “Derby is always a tough place to go and we had to show a bit of character after the Forest game. On another day we could have got even more because we played some really good stuff.
“We are going through a sticky period, but every club has a a dodgy spell and there’s lots of games coming up where it can quickly change.
“We are still only six points off the play-off places and if we beat Preston on Saturday, that could come down to four or five.
“It’s about being more ruthless in front of goal. We were in the game until very late against Forest and we really should have got something from the game at Fulham. It’s small margins and we’ve got to be positive.
“We know what to expect against Preston. They are a hard working side and it will be about winning our individual battles and defending our goal with a passion, because we know we can back our quality.”
The Hoops have been drawn at home to Swansea City in next month’s FA Cup third round. The Swans won 3-1 at the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium in August but Pugh is hopeful it will be better this time.
“We will look forward to that,” he said. “At Bournemouth, we were a bit like QPR have been in recent seasons, in that we always seemed to fall in the third or fourth round, although we reached one quarter-final a few seasons ago.
“Wins breed confidence and it’s a great carrot if you get through the third round and test yourself against one of the bigger clubs.”
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