by Rollercoaster Ranger

So finally the heir apparent has succeeded to the number 10 shirt. It is about time too. Whoever decided that Jay Bothroyd should have the iconic shirt last season clearly had no understanding of Q.P.R. and our traditions. The shirt so cavalierly worn by Rodney Marsh, Stan Bowles, Simon Stainrod, Johnny Byrne, Roy Wegerle and, before his career sapping injuries, Akos Buzsaky should only be worn by a flamboyant player, a player with style and swagger. It should be a perfect fit for Adel Taarabt.

However I think this is a double edged sword. Many comparisons have already been made between our Moroccan magician and those previous heroes but there will be many, many more made this season. There is no doubt that he has the talent. In our promotion winning season he destroyed Championship defenders for fun, twisting and turning them until they were thoroughly disorientated, bewitching them with his dazzling footwork, wrong footing them with a drop of his shoulder, nutmegging them at will. His impressive tally of 19 goals and 16 assists highlight his mastery of the defenders, I’ve not seen a statistic showing how many times he was fouled but this would show their desperation in facing him.

But yes, that was in the Championship, whereas in the Premier League last season it was a different matter. He took some frightful punishment early in the season with very little protection from the referees, it was as if the Premier League establishment wanted to keep the new upstart firmly in his place. Taarabt slipped back into his shell and Q.P.R. struggled. The Africa Cup of Nations gave him the opportunity to escape and to start to rediscover himself. On his return from Gabon a few glimpses of the old Taarabt materialised. A few nice touches to create himself some space and a few incisive passes helped to start rebuild his confidence. In no time he started to look to be Q.P.R.’s most creative player and finally the long awaited moment came with his first Premier League goal. To the unadulterated delight of the Loftus Road crowd, he slipped the ball past Vermaelen, left the Arsenal defender trailing in his wake and then curled an inch perfect shot into the corner of Szczesny’s goal. The flood gates did not open but his confidence continued to grow, boasted further by his goal from a direct free kick against Spurs. While he wasn’t tearing the league apart he was finally starting to look like he belonged in the Premier League.

With a new contract extension under his belt hopefully removing any transfer rumour distractions and with some new team mates adding more quality and competition to the playing squad this is going to be a very important season for Taarabt. This season he has to deliver. I have said many times that he is the player I am looking forward to watching more than any other as I’m making my way to Loftus Road, the one I really hope plays well. More than any of the other players he is the personification of the Q.P.R. tradition. He has the skill, style and flamboyance demanded of a number 10. Personally I don’t care if he throws the occasional tantrum, to me that is just the flip side of his genius, but whether I am prepared to accept that is not really here or there, it is whether Mark Hughes is that matters. With the squad that Hughes is assembling Taarabt is no longer the fulcrum of the team, therefore it is more important than ever that he rises to the challenge and makes it impossible for Hughes to leave him out. Taarabt is going to have to live up to the weight of expectation that comes with the number 10 shirt, if he doesn’t I fear for him and feel that rather than him being on the lookout for a bigger club it will be the club looking on his behalf.

I think this season will be make or break for Taarabt at Q.P.R. In my mind it is now or never.