Our latest interview sees us look back ten years to Jamie Cureton’s QPR career. Jamie discusses arriving from Korea to become part of the fab four at Loftus Road. He talks frankly about his disappointments and has some wise words for the Rangers of today.
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QPRnet: When QPR first started showing an interest you were playing for Korean side Busan Icons. How did you end up in Asia in the first place?
JC: I was out of contract at Reading and whilst I had an offer on the table it wasnt quite what I was looking for. I hadn't played as much as I would have liked to that season, they were playing a new formation and Alan Pardew was looking at different options so I thought I’d have a look around.
I had a few offers in England and Ian Holloway wanted to take me to QPR even then so I could have actually joined that summer but I also had an offer in from America and this one from South Korea. I was going through a relationship break up at the time so I thought I’d go and see what they were about as it seemed an ideal time to get away.
I went to both countries and got offered a deal from DC United in Washington and from Busan. I’d spent five days in South Korea and it seemed like the best option, but my head was a bit messed up and I just wanted to get away, so I did.
QPRnet: It was ten years ago that you joined QPR, talk us through the move to Loftus Road?
JC: The Korean football dates were different so I was joining half way through a campaign, I did the first six months to the end of that season and still had another year left on my deal. I was having a bit of a bad time out there on my own though, I was away from my kids and when I came back that Christmas I decided enough was enough and I needed to come home.
It was pretty difficult to get out of my contract and I had to pay back some of the signing on fee. Ollie was still keen on taking me but Peterborough also wanted me to join them. I got quite close to moving there actually but I always wanted to go to Rangers with Ollie over anything else.
For a while it looked like it wouldn’t happen, The Korean’s were playing a bit of hardball with me and although Ollie was trying to pull all the strings he could it got to the stage where I thought I’d have to go back over to Asia. Then, at the last minute it all came together and a big part of that was the QPR fans getting all that money together so I’ll always be very grateful to them for that.
QPRnet: Was Ian Holloway a big factor in your decision to move to Loftus Road?
JC: Yeah he was a big factor. I’d obviously known him for a long time but it was also massively about the club as a whole. I knew from growing up what a great club QPR was and it was something I really wanted to be a part of.
QPRnet: Was there any issues getting back into the English games pace or physicality having spent that time in Korea? Did it hamper you at all?
JC: Yes it really took me a while, I came into Rangers in the middle of the season and I was trying to get over a bad ankle injury. It was a case of getting fit both physically and mentally and it took me a while to get to grips with it all. The back of that season wasn’t great to be honest, I didn’t play too much and I still don't think you saw the best of me even into the start of the next season.
QPRnet: You came into a squad that had Kevin Gallen, Paul Furlong and Tony Thorpe competing with you for places. How did you find being a part of that four and who did you like playing with the best?
JC: I would say Furs, he was the kind of target man I was used to playing with and Furs was very good at it. Thorpey was similar to me and probably needed to play with Furs too but Kev I could play with. He was very good with his back to goal, he held up the ball well and I could make runs off that.
Between the four of us we all had something different but I knew coming in that I was going to be at the back of the queue because the team was doing well and the forwards were scoring. I just wanted to get as much game time as possible and to do well when the chance came.
I did little bits here and there but nowhere near as well as I thought I could. Obviously I had a bit of a reputation in England for scoring goals but it’s funny how that short period abroad threw me completely off and I probably didn't look the same player for a good year and a half.
QPRnet: You must remember your first, and indeed second, QPR goals that you scored against Port Vale?
JC: Yeah I came on a sub, scored the two and we won the game 3-2 so I suppose I played a part in the successes of that season as it was a game we needed to win.
I don't remember the actual goals too well but the night I do and it was great because it was the first time I’d had a real impact since I arrived. To go on after that and get promotion was brilliant and it was nice to play some sort small part in that and to be around that moment.
I’ve got nearly all of my goals on file for me to look back on but I’m actually missing my QPR ones from my collection. I’d love to see them again.
QPRnet: Getting on at Hillsborough for the last ten minutes as we secured that promotion must have been a memorable day?
JC: It was great to get some time on the pitch, by then we knew we were going to beat them so to get on and enjoy those few minutes with all those QPR fans behind the goal was fantastic.
It was nice to be a part of that whole thing. The club was on a high all season,we were flying and that occasion at the end was just brilliant. I don't think there’s anything better than a promotion. To be around everyone when the whistle goes and see it all come together after you’ve worked so hard all season is an indescribable feeling.
It was a great occasion for the club and for me personally it was a big opportunity to be in The Championship and kick on.
QPRnet: You did play more the next season and you got more goals, would it be fair to say the highlight was the hatrick against Coventry?
JC: Without a doubt and the volley in that was one of my favourite goals I’ve ever scored. Ollie gave me a lot of praise too, comparing my goal to Van Basten. He always did like to go over the top though!
That’s the sad thing though, performances like that showed I still had it in me and I should have built on it. It was a great night for me though, really special and you never forget hatricks. I always remember that Wayne Rooney scored his first hatrick for Manchester United that same night too.
QPRnet: And what’s he ever done since?
JC: Exactly. he struggled on too!
QPRnet: And I guess the lowlight was the red card against your old club Reading a few weeks later?
JC: Oh for sure, that was my first one ever. I got a bit carried away in the moment, it was my first time back there, it was a big game and I just wanted to do so well. Stupid rush of blood to the head!
I got a three game ban, Ollie was fuming and I fell out of the team afterwards. It was silly and a big setback for me because I was in the side and doing OK and then all of sudden I’m struggling to get back in.
QPRnet: Overall the club finished in a decent 11th spot. For the first season back at that level that was job done really wasn’t it?
JC: Yeah I think so, I don't think anyone expects too much when you go up. We finished mid-table, beat a lot of teams and had some good runs and everyone felt we could build on that. We kept a good squad together and we competed, perhaps we could have done a little bit more but any club that comes into The Championship and finishes mid-table would be pleased with that.
It was a building process though and that was when Ollie decided to change it that summer. The players that hadn’t done enough had to go and I was one of them unfortunately.
QPRnet: When did Ollie let you know he wouldn't keep you on and what was his reasoning?
JC: It wasn’t until late but you have inklings because you’re not playing enough and you know in yourself that you are not performing. You always keep hoping though especially for me having played under him before so I knew that he knew what I could do. I thought I was still at a good age and that there was a small chance he might have thought about keeping me another year but it wasn’t to be.
He told me near the end of the season that he wasn't going to keep me on. It wasn’t a major shock but I was gutted, as you always are when someone tells you that you are not wanted. It was sad because I got on great with everybody at the club, Olly had put together a really good group so it was a real pity when it all came to an end as I hoped to have a good few years at Loftus Road.
It was a shame, I loved being at the club and I wanted to have a good career there but I just hadn’t done enough. I was gutted to leave because you don't ever want to play for a club and not let them see the best of you. I was really sad about that but all I could do was try to pick my career up and get going again.
QPRnet: You’re still playing today at 38, what’s kept you going this long?
JC: The love of the game, I still love it passionately. I love getting up and going to training and whether we are home or away I still get a massive buzz playing in front of fans and just being a professional footballer.
I think I treat it more seriously now then when I was a kid because I know there is not long left. I’ve spoken to a lot of friends who have retired younger than me and they don't understand how I can still do it. They question me, ‘don't you get bored of all the travelling and hotels’ and I don’t, I really dont. I love everything about it and that’s probably keeps me pushing myself on.
It’s the greatest job ever and whilst you can still do it why would you not want to?
QPRnet: How long do you think you’ll play on for and what’s next for you when you do hang up the boots?
JC: I said I’d like to still be in league football when I’m 40, I’m 39 in August so if that happens I’d love to do it. That would be a real big thing for me to still be playing at that age and I’d be a happy man if I can make that happen. I’ve played all this season and I feel good so it just comes down to people still wanting you.
I think there’s more acceptance of players going on for longer, I believe I’m the fourth oldest with Ryan Giggs, Kevin Phillips and Ian Goodison ahead of me. I’m playing and scoring at the moment, I train every day and I can still do a job. However I have to keep proving myself, if I go on a bad run and don’t score then people are less likely to keep faith with me like they would a younger lad so there’s a lot of pressure on me even at this age.
QPRnet: Do you still stay in touch from anyone from your time at Loftus Road?
JC: I still speak to Birchy now and again, I wished him luck when he went off to join Ollie at Millwall a while back and we bump into each other from time to time. I speak to Cookie now and again, we linked up again at Leyton Orient and he was my roommate there. He’s out in Greece now but we keep in touch.
We had a good group at QPR, we had a great team spirit and whenever I bump into any of the old lads it’s like old times, even if we haven’t seen each other for a few years.
QPRnet: What’s your thoughts on QPR’s situation at the moment, it’s obviously a very different club to the one you were at ten years ago?
JC: Yeah I wouldn't mind being there now, they certainly pay a bit more!
Seriously though it’s a shame because you can see they want to do so well but it all went so wrong. The Chairman obviously wants to get the club on the map but looking from the outside it seems they spent a lot of money on, not what I would call good players. I think maybe the Chairman came in to The Premier League, listened to certain people and all of a sudden they are throwing money around. It cost them badly and they ended up coming down.
You hear quotes of what people were earning and you can't help but think that QPR don’t need to spending that sort of money, especially on the calibre of players they were spending it on. You had people earning huge amounts of money and not really caring about the club, just happy to go home in their cars, laughing after losses, not wanting to sit on the bench. If you’ve got a dressing room like that you’re going to be in trouble.
Now you just hope Harry Redknapp can get it right, he has had to get rid of a lot of players and change things around and you just hope he can get QPR back up and that things might be done a bit differently next time.
They’ve got a Chairman who will put his hand in his pocket so if they can get it right they could push on but they need to get out of this division first and that’s tough. It could take a couple of years to turn it around but if you can get quality players in with the right attitude then you’re half way to building a proper team again. If they get up and maybe go at it a bit slower this time then I think they could do well.
QPR are a great club and they should be in the top league so I hope they can get back there, build sensibly and stay there for the long term.
We would like to thank Jamie for his time and wish well in achieving his ambition of playing past 40.