Stuart Wardley is the latest former Rangers star to talk to QPRnet.com about his time at Loftus Road. Many thanks to Stuart for taking time out of his weekend to speak to us and keep your eye out for more interviews coming soon
QPRnet.com: When you first moved to QPR how quickly did you think you’d be involved in the first team?
SW: (laughs) It was unbelievable, I thought I would spend at least two seasons in the reserves trying to adjust to the professional game. I didn’t realise how quickly I’d be put straight in so it was shock for me. It was a massive adjustment in a way, the difference in fitness is huge, training every day compared to a couple of evenings a week. I had to make big changes and I found it hard but I loved every minute of it at the same time.
QPRnet.com: You came on at Huddersfield for the first match of the season in midfield despite being signed as a centre half. Was this something that Gerry had discussed with you beforehand or did it just happen that way?
SW: Well prior to that I’d played two reserve games been put in the middle. I did really well and I think I scored in both. Gerry told me he thought I had great energy and could do a job there so I was happy to listen to him. Obviously I went to Rangers as a centre half and I’d played there in some of the pre-season games so I was expecting to be competing for that position. When I arrived Rangers had Karl Ready, Steve Morrow, Chris Plummer, Danny Maddix etc so it might have been a blessing in disguise really because there were a lot of centre halves at the club at the time.
QPRnet.com: It was the Port Vale game where you really first shone, just three games into the season and you score two goals, must’ve seemed a million miles away from Saffron Walden?
SW: Oh it was fantastic, being my first home game I wanted to do well. When I scored the first it was an unbelievable buzz, an absolute dream come true. The lads seemed really happy for me too, which was great and to get the second one was like all my Christmases coming at once! When I was at Saffron Walden I was used to scoring, I got seventeen from centre half but doing in front of sixteen thousand people was a massive difference!
QPRnet.com: You went on to get fourteen goals that season, how did you find the press and fan attention following that first season? Was it overwhelming for you?
SW: It was really nice to pick up the Sunday papers and see yourself in there and it was very flattering to read the nice things people were saying about me. I wouldn’t say it was overwhelming though. At the end of the day you just have to get on with it and make sure it doesn’t go to your head. I thought it was nice.
QPRnet.com: The following season things didn’t go so well for both you and the team, in a way were the successes of your first season as much of a curse as they were a blessing?
SW: I guess it might have been, people probably expected me to do the same again and score another fourteen or fifteen, I don’t think I played well personally that season but as a team we were struggling too.
QPRnet.com: I remember the game when you ended up in goal was it an instinctive thing for you to do or was no one else up for it?
SW: It’s funny actually because before we go out training I’d be the idiot standing in goal while the others all lashed balls at me so when it happened I had a look over at the bench and I gave them a nod and they nodded back so I took the gloves and went for it! I enjoyed it actually and I got quite a good reception out of it. I’d do it again if I had to.
QPRnet.com: What was that relegation season like for the squad, we did well the previous year then the next season with pretty much the same players we struggled, could anyone understand what the problems were?
SW: No, it was very odd actually. The season before we were going to the big clubs like Ipswich and Manchester City and beating them, then the next year we were just so inconsistent. It was very frustrating and so hard to put your finger on what went wrong.
QPRnet.com: We hear now that the attitude of some of the players that season wasn’t good, how did you find the team spirit around the place?
SW: The first season I was there things were really good, there was a great buzz around the place and the lads would have died for each other. The next year that seemed to die down a bit, I’m not sure I could put it down to attitude but things weren’t the same. Gerry was trying everything but it didn’t seem to happen for him.
QPRnet.com: Gerry obviously helped launch your career to what it is today, I assume you have a lot of respect for the man?
SW: Yes, definitely. He took me from non league and gave me my chance. I’ll always be grateful for that. As a manager he knows what he wants, he very tactically aware and it was great to work for him.
QPRnet.com: What difference did Olly make when he arrived?
SW: Whenever you get a new manager everyone wants to impress so I think it lifted the lads because they were all fighting for their places.
QPRnet.com: Into your third season, we were in the second division and Olly had experimented with you as a striker, how did you find playing totally upfront?
SW: I enjoyed it, I didn’t score though and it was much harder than I thought it would be but at the time we were struggling for forwards and Olly said he was going to give me a go and I didn’t mind going up there but as I say it was very hard.
QPRnet.com: What was your favourite game and goal for Rangers?
SW: My favourite game would have to be the Port Vale game at Loftus Road, it was my home debut and an amazing experience, to hit two goals was fantastic and it’s something I’ll never forget. As for a goal, I’ve got a couple! There was one against Blackburn, it wasn’t a great goal but I remember thinking at the time that if I scored there it would be something to tell the grandchildren and I did, it was just funny how it came about. My best goal though was defiantly the one away to Torquay in the cup.
QPRnet.com: You came to the end of your time at Rangers and were playing on a month to month deal, how did the move to Rushden come about?
SW: Obviously I wasn’t getting in the side at the time, I was playing in the reserves and we went up and played Rushden for a game. My agent had heard they were looking for a midfielder and I couldn’t see any future for me at QPR so it was a good opportunity for me to go and play first team football again.
QPRnet.com: How are you enjoying Rushden and how does it compare to QPR?
SW: We’re doing really well. Last year I came in and we got to the play off final, playing at the Millennium Stadium was a great experience for me. We were devastated on missing out but we’ve come back stronger and we’re looking for automatic promotion and maybe the championship so it’s going really well at the moment. The facilities here are second to none and the stadium is great. There isn’t as many fans as at QPR, we get about four to six thousand but everyone is really nice and we’ve got a good squad so hopefully we’ll get promoted.
QPRnet.com: If things don’t go so well for us you’ll be back at Loftus Road next season, will you be looking forward to that?
SW: I’d love to go back definitely, I don’t know if I’d get a good reception or not, hopefully I would though because I really liked the fans at Rangers.