Our latest interview is with former R's striker Tony Thorpe who talks us through his two years at Loftus Road.
QPRnet.com: Your move from Luton caused quite a bit of controversy, how did it come about from your point of view?
TT: Well obviously the club were in administration at the time and I just got a call saying would I be interested in going to QPR, to be honest with you I was over the moon and couldn’t wait.
I’d got off to such a good start for Luton, I’d scored sixteen goals the year before and I think had three in two already that season so I felt quite good. I got the call and the rest was history.
QPRnet.com: The Luton fans took the abuse to quite a personal level, how did that affect you?
TT: Overall I loved it at Luton to be fair, I started my career at Leicester and went there under David Pleat, they gave me my first chance and I owe them so much for that. I enjoyed my five years at the club but circumstances changed and a bigger club came in for me in QPR so I just took a gamble and went for it really. It paid off though because we got promotion that year so it certainly wasn’t the worst decision I’ve ever made!
QPRnet.com: You returned to Luton only a few games into your Rangers career, how did you deal with that day?
TT: I was sub for that one and I got so much stick every time I was warming up. I’d done my ankle at Colchester and it turned out my first game back was at Luton so Olly put me on the bench. It was a strange feeling really, when you go from being regarded as a favourite of the supporters and then they start saying bad things about you it’s difficult but I got through it. We played them at home later in the season and we drew one all, I got a bit more stick then as well, I didn’t particularly play well that game actually, I remember it quite clearly.
So mixed feelings really but I’ve still got a lot of time for Luton, people ask me now what was your best time as a player and to be fair I always say I had four great years in Bristol, five great years at Luton and two great years at QPR, none of the clubs were better than anywhere else. That said though we did have some good fun at QPR with Olly in charge, I’ll remember it to my dying day and enjoyed it all immensely.
QPRnet.com: You scored your first goals in a home game against Chesterfield bagging a brace and the fans took to you straight away.
TT: I enjoyed that day, my wife’s Mum and Dad don’t come to many games but they came that day. Personally I thought I played pretty well and scored two good goals and it got me up and running. Luckily enough whenever I’ve gone to a new club I’ve always scored early and it settles you down and that game definitely did the trick. I wouldn’t say my form was always prolific at Rangers but I don’t think the supporters were ever disappointed in me.
QPRnet.com: You scored eleven goals in your first season and seemed to settle into the side really easily, did things just click for you?
TT: Yeh, I didn’t play every game, I had a couple of niggling injuries and the competition for places was very difficult with two great players like Paul Furlong and Kevin Gallen there, both of whom I hold in very high regard.
Sometimes it was difficult to get in the side but I got my head down and me and Kevin had a good spell and there were a few times I played with Furs, it’s a squad game of course so we shared our opportunities.
QPRnet.com: What was working for Ian Holloway like?
TT: Brilliant, a lot of people always ask me about him, he was such a winner on and off the pitch, he hated losing I always remember whenever we got beat we’d know about it on Monday morning because he’d have the right hump! It was always a great incentive for the players to bounce back after a defeat because we knew how much it hurt him to lose.
QPRnet.com: Do you think he gets unfairly tagged as this kooky, made character rather than a good manager?
TT: I think he likes all that personally he likes to be the jolly fellow, he’s great fun to be with, he’s a decent manager as well. I enjoyed my time there with him, put it this way it was never dull.
QPRnet.com: You played with Paul Furlong and Kevin Gallen, how did they differ as strike partners?
TT: I loved playing with Kev personally, I think we’re both very similar as footballers, we both like to play, I wouldn’t say we’re both the quickest, far from it but we had similar attributes and we linked quite well. He’s probably one of the best partners I’ve had in my career, we just clicked and that always helps.
QPRnet.com: The 2003-04 season saw us promoted but you sat out the last three games on the season as an unused sub, was it frustrating watching from the sidelines?
TT: That was the only disappointing time for me at QPR to be honest. I felt I was worthy of a start but it’s very hard to take anything away from the other players as they all deserved their places, they’d won their games under pressure and unfortunately I wasn’t picked. That was the only downside for me really, that and my injuries in the second season, other than that it was fantastic.
QPRnet.com: The game at Hillsborough was a fantastic occasion for QPR what does it feel like as a player to be around a moment like that?
TT: I’ve only got two promotions in my career that one and one with Colchester and there’s no comparison really. I was more involved at QPR I was there for the whole year and played a big part in it whereas Colchester, even though I got a medal, I didn’t play an awful lot. The lads deserved it that season, the pressure was there as Rangers is a club that maybe needs to do better than it has done so that promotion was well earned.
QPRnet.com: You must have been hopeful of a good season back in the Championship though but you really struggled with injuries though?
TT: It was a strange one for me because I’d never been injured in my career so to get two injuries very quickly was difficult for me to deal with. To be honest at the start of that season it was the fittest and sharpest I’ve ever felt in my career, I felt like I could take on the world actually. I was involved in the pre-season games, I was scoring goals and I really felt this could be my best year. So to break a bone in my ankle after the second game of the season just killed me mentally. I was out for nearly ten weeks then I came back and Thomas Repka did my knee and that was my season over with basically.
QPRnet.com: With Rangers doing so well in the league did it just become impossible to get back into the side?
TT: They had a good season that year, Paul Furlong was on fire of course but if I had been fully fit then I think I could have been involved. I personally feel if I’d made more of an impact in that second season I might have been able to stay there but Olly had to strengthen the squad which was his prerogative so I had to move on. It was a shame, if it hadn’t been for those injuries I might have been able to have a longer stay.
QPRnet.com: You’ve moved around a lot since you left Rangers has it been hard to settle anywhere else?
TT: It’s not been like that really, I went to Stevenage for a bit and that’s the only club I’ve not really enjoyed my time at in my whole career. I was happy at Swindon but it was a bad time and Andy King got the sack then at Grimsby last year I wasn’t really fit enough so there’s been a bit of everything. It’s not to do with anyone else and it’s no ones fault, it’s just one of those situations.
QPRnet.com: You’re at Tamworth now, what are your hopes for the season?
TT: I am and I’m really enjoying it at the moment, I’ve got the spark back in my legs! I think it might be a difficult season for me because I don’t know much about the league but I’m really looking forward to it. There’s some good old campaigners down there like Gerry Taggart and Des Lyttle, some great lads so it’s good fun at the minute. Hopefully I can keep that spark back and score some goals.
My goal record over my career is pretty good, I think I’ve got 160 goals in under 300 games which is awesome really, I doubt there’s many outside the top flight with a record like that. I just wish I could have continued it a bit more and maybe got to two hundred goals. I’m only thirty three though and stranger things have happened, I could be back in the league within five minutes. I haven’t really given it much thought though, I just want to get back playing and enjoying it.
QPRnet.com: How long do you think you’ll keep playing?
TT: I want to play as long as I can, obviously this is part time so I’ve started my own tiling business now and that’s going really well so I’m mixing the two together at the moment. I’ll carry on as long as I can and see what comes along in the future.
QPRnet.com: Would you like to move into coaching or management after you retire or do you have other plans?
TT: I’d like to move into coaching in the next couple of years, I think I’ve got a lot to offer. I’ve had twenty two managers in my career so I’ve learned a lot from all of them. It’s definitely an area that interests me, whether it’s with kids or adult players I don’t know. I’m not going to rush into it, I’m going to take my time, continue to play and take that step with I’m ready.
QPRnet.com: When you look back over your time at QPR how will you remember it?
TT: Apart from the two injuries I loved it all to be honest, I loved the tight atmosphere at Loftus Road, the supporters were always great with me and I don’t think they were too grumpy when they saw I was playing as I think they quite enjoyed watching me. I loved playing for QPR, it’s full of great memories it’s just shame the injuries I had ended it.
I hope they give John Gregory a bit of time there, when I was a youth team player at Leicester breaking through he was in charge of the reserves and I’ve got a lot of time for him, he tried to help me as a young kid so I wish him all the best because he’s got a bit of quality to offer the club. I see Mick Harford is assisting him now and what a great coach he is I couldn’t speak higher of both of them, I hope they do well.
You’ve got some good players there and I think it’ll be a good season for you, I don’t think you’ll get promotion but you never know with two coaches like that you might just nick the top six. It’s a great club, with great supporters and I’m just happy to have had my chance to have played there and got a promotion. I have fantastic memories from my time there, I wish QPR nothing but the best.