Our latest interview is with Rangers former left back Gino Padula. Gino talks us through his time at QPR, the play offs, promotion at Hillsborough, Ramon Diaz and his departure from QPR.
QPRnet.com: You were out of the game for a year before you signed for Rangers, why was that?
GP: I had a personal situation and in my mind I couldn’t think of football at the time. In my head I needed one year away from football before I was ready to return.
QPRnet.com: How did your move to QPR come about?
GP: I knew Olly from Bristol Rovers because when I came to England for the first time I went there on trial. I was training with them but I didn’t agree terms. After my year out I received a call saying that Ian Holloway was interested in me so I agreed because I wanted to come back to England and I was very thankful for the chance.
QPRnet.com: You’d done well in England before with Walsall and Wigan, was coming back to the country a big attraction for you?
GP: Of course, I enjoyed my football in England, I loved my time at Walsall so I was very happy to come back.
QPRnet.com: Once you joined you played really well in the reserves for several months but were overlooked for the first team for a while, did you think you would never get a chance?
GP: When you haven’t played for one year you have to get your fitness up, for me it was good to play in the reserves but after a while I got a little bit sad because everyone wants to play in the first team.
I played my first game against Port Vale, I remember that game I only played forty minutes because our goalkeeper was sent off. That was my first game for QPR and after that I was waiting for two or three months more before I played again. That was in a game against Barnsley at home and it changed my situation at the club.
QPRnet.com: You pretty much became an instant fan favourite during that game didn’t you?
GP: Yes it was very good for me because I didn’t play for QPR much before and after one game the fans were chanting my name. That was very important to me and it changed my life.
QPRnet.com: Unfortunately you came into the side as we were starting to struggle a little bit then we came up against Vauxhall Motors …
GP: Yes I remember it well!
QPRnet.com: What went wrong on the day did we just take them too lightly?
GP: Maybe, maybe we did. For me, I played every game the same and tried to win but we lost on penalties. This year a third division team beat a Premiership team, I don’t know what happened to us that day but these things happen in football sometimes.
QPRnet.com: In your first season you ended up playing in three of the biggest games of our recent history, the play off semi final at Loftus Road must have been a great occasion to be involved in?
GP: Yes of course, that season I remember we didn’t play very well until the last four or five months then we started winning games and made the play offs. That was very good for the club because between October and December we didn’t win for something like eleven games so to get to the play off final was very good.
QPRnet.com: Obviously the day at Cardiff didn’t work out but it must have been a proud occasion to be involved in?
GP: I made a video of the game but I have never been able to watch it again! I think we played well and we had very good chances so we were very disappointed because we should have won. The day was fantastic though, we played with seventy two thousand people there so it was a very good experience.
QPRnet.com: Did the squad use the defeat to motivate us next season?
GP: Yes, also the next season the squad was the same so we had more confidence, it was very important that we have the same squad and same manager as everyone knew each other on the pitch so that really helped us.
QPRnet.com: For a while it looked like we might blow automatic promotion but we came through the wobbles and ended the season with that great game at Hillsborough, that must have made up for all the disappointment at Cardiff?
GP: That game against Sheffield Wednesday we played under pressure because we knew after twenty minutes that Bristol City were winning and we were only drawing at that moment so that was very tough for us.
But I think we played a very good game and we showed great personality, we got the promotion and with so many fans in the stand it was a really great feeling.
It was a fantastic day and that night I did not sleep, before the game I slept very well but the day after I could not because I was so excited.
QPRnet.com: We got off to a poor start in our first season back in the Championship and Ian Holloway found himself under pressure early on, did you think that was fair after what he’d achieved the previous season?
GP: I don’t know, everything was different in the championship, it is a different style of football. I know I didn’t play well in the first few months but I came back for pre-season and did not get fit. Once I got fit I think I played better. The end of the previous season when I was fit I think I played well. In the end though that was a very good year for the club, we finished in the middle of the table which was alright.
QPRnet.com: And we had that great run of seven straight wins which showed we could compete at that level?
GP: Yes, that season we played against bigger teams like West Ham, Sunderland, Wigan, they have more money to sign players and we finished eleventh which was very good for us.
QPRnet.com: There were rumours about Ramon Diaz coming in and that you’d been arranged to act as his translator, was there any truth in that?
GP: That is false, absolute rubbish, some people talk too much. The only thing with Ramon Diaz was he was my manager at River Plate so people say Gino is the translator but it was not true, he was my manager but I didn’t see him once I left River Plate in 1996 so no, not true.
QPRnet.com: As a full back was it frustrating to play for a manager at QPR who liked a direct style of play?
GP: I love to play football, I like to keep the ball and try to play maybe I have a different style from English football. Argentinean football is more one touch but when I play with Olly he likes to play direct football. I respect that and try to do what Olly says and he helped me be strong so maybe I am a better all round defender now.
QPRnet.com: At that end of that season it was announced you were being released from the club, how did your departure come about?
GP: It was a very hard time if I’m honest, I played for three years at QPR I enjoyed a lot, apart from my first six months when I didn’t play. I think I could have stayed at QPR for another two seasons but I had to respect the clubs decision and find another club and I wanted to stay in England.
QPRnet.com: There was a lot of controversy about your release, it seems things got a bit confused at the time?
GP: One day I will tell everyone what happened because I am a very honest man, some people they don’t say the truth so one day I will, just not today, sorry.
Maybe some people don’t know the history of what happened and at the time I never said anything about it, I received calls from newspapers and the radio but I never talked about it so I would like to say to the QPR fans that in the future I will explain what happened because I would like the QPR fans to think I am a good man and not a liar.
I was very sad when I left QPR, I was very happy in London and at the club and so was my wife.
QPRnet.com: You might have been sad to leave QPR but you signed for a big club in Nottingham Forest that must have been an exciting move for you. How are you enjoying things there?
GP: When I signed for Forest Gary Megson was the manager but in my first few months I got injured and didn’t play. After that I didn’t talk with the manager anymore so that was a very tough moment for me. Then for the last ten to fifteen games we had a very good run and finished just one below the play offs so the manager used the same team.
I want to stay here but only if I play, if not I want to move somewhere else because I need to play first team football. At QPR I played every week but now I don’t play for a long long time, its frustrating because I enjoy my training sessions and I have a very good manager now so everything is good I just don’t play!
QPRnet.com: Looking back on your time at Rangers do you have a favourite moment that stands out for you?
GP: I have two, when I played my first full match against Barnsley at Loftus Road as that game was very good for me. The other time was when we won promotion of course, that was very special.
QPRnet.com: You were very popular with the fans, what do you think helped make you such a favourite?
GP: I don’t know, maybe because I put in one hundred percent every game and try to do my best but I really don’t know, Maybe this question should be for the fans to answer. Maybe it is because I play very well or maybe because my English accent is funny I really couldn’t say! However I would like to say thank you very much to all the QPR fans for making me feel very wanted and maybe one day I will get to come back to Loftus Road.