Barton: We’re stronger now

first_img Barton spent the campaign on loan at Marseille as Rangers finished 15 points adrift of safety in 2013 and paid the price for a lack of cohesion on and off the field. Harry Redknapp was unable to rescue the west Londoners after taking over in November that season but his side have made a positive start to their return to the top flight. Rangers’ impressive form at home is in stark contrast to their results on the road where they have lost to Tottenham, Manchester United, Southampton, West Ham, Chelsea, Newcastle and Swansea this season. Redknapp’s side are the only team in England’s top four divisions yet to register a single point away from home and Barton admits it’s a problem that needs addressing. “We have lost seven out of seven on the road but without making excuses, we haven’t been to the easiest places,” Barton said. “We haven’t played teams in and around us. That will be the test for us. We’ve been to some of the tougher places in the league. “I think everyone we’ve played away has been in the top 10 at the time we’ve played them. “We’re very mindful that we’ve got to improve our away form.” Rangers’ awaydays do not get any easier as they travel to Everton and Arsenal before the end of the year either side of home games against West Brom and Crystal Palace. The bottom half of the table remains congested ahead of the busy Christmas calendar with only five points separating QPR in 17th and Aston Villa in 11th. “If you string back-to-back wins together in this league you can propel yourself up the table,” Barton said. “That’s how tight it is. That’s why people tune in. The Premier League is so competitive. “Chelsea’s “Invincibles” all of a sudden go to Newcastle, Newcastle with their eighth-choice goalkeeper or whatever – and all of a sudden he comes on and they go on and beat Chelsea. “There’s not many other leagues where that happens. I’ve just seen on the TV, Real Madrid (have recorded an) 18th straight win. “Arsenal went unbeaten for a year but I can’t see anyone banging 18 wins out on the spin, not in this league, not with how competitive it is. “There’s a different element here, which is why people tune in from all over the globe.” Second-half goals from Leroy Fer and Charlie Austin ensured Rangers took maximum points against Burnley but there was disappointment too as Austin was sent off and will subsequently miss next Monday’s match at Everton. “He’s our top scorer, he’s been the difference for us at various times this season,” Barton added. “To be without him is going to be a massive loss.” QPR midfielder Joey Barton believes this current Rangers side is “poles apart” from the one that finished bottom of the Barclays Premier League two years ago. A 2-0 victory over Burnley on Saturday – their third win in four games at home – saw Rangers climb out of the bottom three for the first time since September. “The performances we have put in at Loftus Road have been exceptional, even in defeat sometimes,” Barton said. “The team spirit and togetherness of the football club is poles apart from that side which went out of the league with a whimper. “We came up and we want to give a good account of ourselves. Slowly but surely we are doing that.” Barton continued: “To look at the table and see yourselves not in the bottom three is always heart-warming. “Hopefully at the end of May that’s the case because that will be job done and goal achieved. There’s a long way to go. This is the 15th game. “After the defeat at Swansea the other day I asked our analyst to pull the table up from the year that QPR went down, the year I was in France. “After 14 games we only had five points and I think it took them 16 games to win a game. So comparatively we’re light years ahead.” Press Associationlast_img read more

What Joe couldn’t do, maybe Dillon can

first_imgThe comparison began the minute running back Joe McKnight committed to play football for USC rather than homestate Louisiana State University in 2007.He was going to be the next Reggie Bush.Bush, who declared for the NFL draft in 2006, left a legacy at USC after winning the Heisman Trophy in 2005 and cementing his place as one of the best running backs the Trojans have ever seen grace the Coliseum.His 2005 rushing numbers: 1,740 yards, 16 touchdowns and an average of 8.7 yards per carry.His 2005 receiving numbers: 37 receptions for 478 yards, two touchdowns and an average of 12.9 yards per reception.And after returning one punt for a touchdown early in the season, Bush simply didn’t receive many more punts to return. Opposing teams opted to kick the ball out of bounds rather than deal with the superstar who had skills that made five-star recruits look like they were playing the wrong sport.Bush’s final line was staggering, and he rightfully took home the Heisman Trophy following his junior campaign.Then, like many expected, he turned pro.USC was left without the flair and excitement that Bush provided when the Trojans played the 2006 season, but 2007 was to be different.Joe McKnight was to be the new man.The new Bush.But he never was.McKnight showed glimpses of greatness at times, but he battled injury problems throughout his stay in the Cardinal and Gold, and he never did seem to grasp the concept of holding onto the ball all that well.Only after declaring for the NFL draft after the 2009 season did McKnight state that the lofty expectations placed on him to be the next Reggie Bush negatively affected his play on the field.“I could have been better,” he said.“That’s what my biggest problem was, trying to be so much like [Bush], instead of just being Joe McKnight and playing Joe McKnight football,” he added.McKnight’s most recent season, his best at USC, ended with 1,014 rushing yards, eight rushing touchdowns and an average of 6.2 yards per carry. He also caught 22 passes for 146 yards, but didn’t score a single receiving touchdown.Those stats are very un-Bushian.So now, the question still remains.Who is the “next Reggie Bush?”That may be impossible to answer. Maybe, just like the NBA question of who is the next Michael Jordan, there is no one that can fill Bush’s cleats.Maybe Trojan football will never see another star juke, jump and, yes, even push like Bush did during his time at USC.Or maybe, just maybe, the next Bush has arrived.Lane Kiffin seems to believe in the latter.The new USC head coach has compared new freshman running back Dillon Baxter to none other than No. 5 himself.And unlike McKnight, Baxter, who graduated early from high school so he could enroll at USC in January and participate in spring practice, likes the comparison.“It’s an honor to be compared to Reggie Bush,” the 19-year-old said.Just like Bush, Baxter hails from San Diego and possesses the quick, make-you-miss moves that Bush had in college.Nothing can be proven until the season begins and Baxter shows what he can contribute as a Trojan, but early in spring practice Baxter is being used at a number of different positions, similar to Bush. Baxter has seen time at running back, receiver and even quarterback on the field.“Hopefully, I’ll get all these positions down,” Baxter said. “I’m not sure where I’ll be playing. They’re going to move me around once I get all the running back plays down.”At Mission Bay High School, Baxter impressed recruits by not only rushing for 2,974 yards but also throwing for 1,922 yards as quarterback.Those are skills even Bush didn’t bring with him to the college level.Baxter has all the potential to make the big plays with his arm and legs.Maybe it’s time to dust off No. 5’s old cleats. We might have a perfect fit.“Soft Hands” runs on Tuesdays. To comment on this article, visit dailytrojan.com or e-mail Jon at jhaber@usc.edu.last_img read more