Monday, December 10, 2018

The Clive Wilson Interview

Another of our occasional series of interviews with QPR greats sees us talk with former Rangers star Clive Wilson. Many thanks to Clive for taking the time out of his weekend to meet with us and being happy to answer our questions and pose for cheesy pictures! We hope you enjoy it. What have you been up to since you left Spurs?

CW: I went to Cambridge for one year where I finished my career. Then I got a job with Le Coq Sportiff, I worked for them for ten months. I was supposed to be helping out on the football side, the official title was “Football Accounts Manager” but I ended up being stuck behind a desk doing spreadsheets and databases and stuff like that so I left there and now I’m working for Ted Baker, the clothing company. On top of all that I’ve been player coach for the last two seasons at Wingate and Finchley. How are you finding things at Wingate and Finchley then?

CW: All right, the first season was tough, the second season was probably tougher but we managed to get promotion! They’re splitting the league as well, so instead of three leagues it’s going to two with twenty eight teams in each. Which means whereas last season we played thirty six games, this season it will be forty six. How are you enjoying the coaching side?

CW: OK, the first season I coached a lot, last year not so much because we had a change in manager. Actually we’ve had three managers in two seasons. The present one is Tommy Cunningham, he was at Chelsea, made his name at Orient and Barnet. When he became manager he was very much hands on so I didn’t get as much chance to coach as I would have liked. Hopefully this season will be better for me as I’m helping out with the youth team, so hopefully I’ll get more chance to bring on those skills. Are you still playing regularly too?

CW: I have for the last two seasons, I really wanted to wind it down but last season I think I played thirty nine games all told. This season if I play half of that I’ll be happy! I really want to wind it down now and concentrate on the coaching side but you never know, circumstances might dictate that I have to play the whole season. Are your ambitions still within football then, you want to climb the coaching ladder?

CW: I would love to, but the one thing that is in the back of mind is if it doesn’t work for me I’ve got to have something else. I don’t want to put all my eggs in one basket, it can’t be football or nothing. I’d like to stay in sport though, maybe something on the fitness side.

Everyone outside football seems to think that there is a job in football for every pro who retires but that’s a nigh on impossibility. I read today there are six hundred and forty nine players out of contract, well there isn’t six hundred and forty nine jobs going so you have to be lucky and the reality is you really have to know somebody in the game who’s going to give you a job. That’s part and parcel of life I suppose, but at this moment I don’t really know anyone well enough who’s going to say come and work with me. I guess it’s one of those things that can change overnight, some gets a job and says I want you.

CW: That’s exactly what happens, people are in the wilderness and suddenly they’re assistant somewhere. They’ve probably been coaching down in the lower levels for a long time but just not had any recognition. Is management ultimately what you’re looking for?

CW: I don’t know if it’s ultimately what I’m looking for, the sceptic in me says the one certainty in football management is you’re going to get sacked. Yes that is OK if you’re with a Premier League or First Division side at the time, but if you get the sack from say like a Rochdale – where do you go from there? Never say never to anything, but at the moment coaching is what I’m looking at and if management came along I’d have to look at it too. I guess when you look at people like Steve McClaren and Brian Kidd, they were quite happy being number two’s but there’s that little thing in your head that says I want to try being a number one. OK, going back in your career then, you started your career at Man City, did you sign up as an apprentice?

CW: No actually I didn’t. Most people seem to think that. I actually left school at sixteen, went to college for two years and studied electrical engineering. In the second year of college I got spotted by a Man City scout. So I was at college full time and I was training with City part time but I was playing in their youth team Fortunately for me the team had a good year, we got in the final of the FA youth cup but lost to Aston Villa and from that they ended up giving most of that youth team pro contracts so I was never an apprentice I left college and was a professional footballer straight away. Growing up though was that always what you wanted to do?

CW: Always, I remember when I was at school the teacher asked the class what we wanted to be when we grew up and I said I wanted to be a footballer, fortunately for me it turned out that way. So yes I did always want to do it, but when I got to about fourteen people started getting spotted and going on to be apprentices and it never happened for me then. I got to sixteen and nothing had come of it so I thought maybe it’s not meant to be so I went off to college to get some qualifications and got spotted later than you usually would. The rest is history. As you were growing up what players did you model your game on?

CW: Glenn Hoddle. I just loved the way he played football. Glenn had an amazing range of passes and he was as good with either foot He’d do all these flicks and volley out right, volley it out left. Liam Brady too, he was considered a “tricky” player. I used to enjoy watching them both. Was City your club growing up?

CW: Err no it was Liverpool actually. It was no different from today really, today kids support United because they’re winning, at that time Liverpool were winning so I supported them! You moved onto Chelsea from City, was it hard to settle in London when you first came down from Manchester then?

CW: Oh yeh, defiantly. I didn’t know many people in London and I didn’t know London. I found it difficult to adapt to the speed of life, everyone seemed to be in a rush all the time. And of course from Chelsea your next move was to QPR, did that add any extra pressure to you coming from Rangers biggest rivals?

CW: You know what it didn’t, because I didn’t even realise until I got to Rangers that Chelsea were that big a rival! Playing for Chelsea their biggest rivals were always Tottenham so the fans never saw QPR rivals. So I go to QPR then I realised it’s Chelsea! So no, through my ignorance it didn’t really have that much bearing at the time.

The biggest difference I found at the time between the two clubs was QPR was very friendly, more like a family club. With Chelsea there was always a “them and us” factor whereas I found QPR much more homely. Mind you I was starting to settle into London life by then, it was only my fourth year down here by then so I’d probably got used to the Londoners by then. Versatility was one of your strengths, you came to us with a reputation as a winger but ended up being a full back, what do you feel was your best position?

CW: I get asked this so many times! I prefer to play in midfield, but I think I play more consistently at left back. I enjoy the involvement in midfield, central midfield I mean though, stuck out on the wing I didn’t enjoy at all because you end up relying on the other players to get the ball to you, you get the ball, do your stuff then have to wait for it to come back to you again.

When I was at Chelsea I’d only really filled in at full back on occasions when Tony Dorigo had been injured, so I don’t know what made QPR think I’d be a good left back. The game they came and saw me play in was, I think Les Ferdinand’s debut, QPR won 4-2 and I came on as second half sub. I played well that day but I played in central midfield. What was the most memorable game for you whilst at Rangers?

CW: It’s not the one you might think, Man United 4-1, I don’t think that was the game we played the best in funnily enough. We went up to Goodison Park one year and beat Everton three nil, we absolutely murdered them, played them off the park. A total lesson in football we gave them that day, so that sticks out in my mind. Another one is when we went to Newcastle and beat them two-one, Jan Steskal saved a penalty in the last minute, we played very well that day too. What was it like to score with your first touch at Anfield?

CW: (laughs) I tell you, it’s not often you get a touch up there at all but to score with your first touch was a great feeling. It was a game no one expected us to win I remember it well, we were two nil up and they had got their customary dodgy penalty to get back in the game! I came on as sub and I think it was Andrew Impey crossed it from the right and Ray went to head it and in true Ray fashion he totally missed it! The ball bounced off someone’s knee and I’m running in and knock it in the net. That killed the game off, so it really was a wonderful feeling. You were part of our side that finished fifth in the early nineties, how close do you think we were to becoming a top side?

CW: I think we were along the lines of maybe a Leeds today. Our squad, the first eleven or thirteen players were good enough to get to the top but we never had any strength in depth. If we had any serious injuries, say for example an injury to Les we didn’t have anyone who could come in and take his place. We didn’t have anyone who could come in and get twenty goals a season, Dennis Bailey and Devon White came in and scored a few in saying that but I don’t think we had the squad strength to get further.

The breaking up of that team in my opinion was probably the breaking up of QPR. QPR had always been a selling club and we had to sell one player every year to balance books. I think the first to go was Andy Sinton. Saying that we replaced him with Trevor Sinclair so he wasn’t a big loss. Then Darren Peacock went but Danny Maddix had come back by then, so again he wasn’t that great a loss. The biggest thing obviously was losing the fella who guaranteed you twenty goals a season. As a player I assume you want to climb to the top so when your club does well and shows potential then sells it’s best players before fulfilling it, does that make you lose heart?

CW: It’s harder when you’re a younger player. You do well finish fifth and you think great, they’ll want to build on this but as you get older you realise that the ethics of football is that you have to sell to balance the books and make sure there’s enough money coming in and not too much going out. You learn to accept it but it’s still hard to take knowing that you were that close and with an injection of cash, who knows where it could have taken us. After your move to Spurs you took a bit of stick from the Rangers fans at White Hart Lane, there were chants of “I wanna play for Gerry”. Was that the case, or was the move forced on you?

CW: No it wasn’t really forced. My contract at QPR was coming to an end and at the time there was a rule that if you were over thirty three and you’d been at a club for five years you were entitled to a free transfer, that’s the stage I was at. Gerry obviously knew that from his time at QPR. Honestly and truthfully I never made contact with Gerry, he rang me up in the summer and said “you know why I’m ringing, do you want to come and have a talk?” So I said yes. I went to meet him and he made me an offer which was too good to turn down. It wasn’t just about the money, QPR had offered me similar terms to stay but the big difference was he was offering me an extra year which gave me twelve months more security and at thirty three it was too big a chance for me to say no to. If I had been twenty-five then maybe I wouldn’t have gone but I was in the twighlight of my career and I was given the chance of playing for the biggest club of my career. You were there for four years, how would you compare it to your time at Rangers?

CW: Totally different clubs, Spurs is much bigger, the people were still friendly but because of the vastness of it you just didn’t get to know all the people behind the scenes like you do at Rangers. At QPR you knew everyone, the secretary, the box office people, the laundry ladies, everyone. At Spurs you just didn’t get that chance. As you say you were getting towards the twighlight of your career how did you find coping with the pace of the Premiership as you got older?

CW: The thing is it got quicker and quicker and the players got fitter and fitter. Right now anyone playing in the Premiership who is over thirty-five is doing very well. The fitness of the younger players is unbelievable, I always look at Man United for that, they’re the best side. You look at their players still running in the eighty ninth minute, that’s down to determination and fitness. So for anyone in their late thirties to be keeping up I take my hat of to them. And you played till you were thirty-eight?

CW: Well thirty-seven really, the last season I didn’t really play much, so I wouldn’t count that! Then Spurs decided not to offer you a new deal?

CW: Yep that was George Graham. He told me very early to be fair to him. When he was appointed manager I was thirty-eight and I realised he wasn’t going to be building the side around me! Unfortunately for me as soon as he got there I got a knee injury which kept me out from just after Christmas till about March and as I was just getting fit it was transfer deadline so it was too late to get myself in the shop window.

For almost all of that summer I sat by the phone waiting for it to ring and it didn’t for a long time. It wasn’t until pre-season had started that Cambridge United rung me up and offered me a trial, so I went and got a years contract and played for them for my final season.

At the time I always said I wanted to finish when I wanted to, not when someone else decides. I knew that one year with Cambridge would probably be it for me. As it turns out they weren’t going to offer me a further deal anyway but I’d already made my mind up that I was going to retire – I might have saved myself a bit of face there by telling them that! Was that a case of wanting to go out and still be remembered as a good player?

CW: Yes, I didn’t want to become a journeyman and start slipping down the leagues with different clubs every year. I was coming up to thirty-nine and I had a long innings and I couldn’t complain, trouble is I had to find something else to do at the age of thirty-nine. You were described as one of the best full backs to never play for England. Do you think that’s fair?

CW: (laughs) I’ve got to say yes haven’t I! I think that’s very nice, people seem to think that somewhere along the line I’ve had some international honours but the truth is I have never played internationally at any level at all. It’s a little bit of a blight on my career, but you can’t turn back the clock, I just wasn’t in the right time at the right place.  To my knowledge I was never even close to a squad, no one ever said “you’re in with a chance this time”.

There was always a lot of talk when I was at QPR that I should get a chance, but I was over thirty at the time and back then people didn’t make England debuts when they were in their thirties, I don’t suppose it would be too much of a problem now, but when I was playing it wasn’t the done thing. What would you say was the highlight of your career?

CW: Probably winning the second division championship with Chelsea. Funny story actually. I remember at the time Gary Penrice was with Watford and both clubs had pre-season training at Exeter University. One morning we both training on the same field, they were there before us and when we finished they were still doing laps of the pitch. Gary said to Steve Harrison (who I think was the manager) something like “look at Chelsea they’ve started before us and finished before us and Steve said “lets see where they are at the end of the season” and we won the league at a canter with ninety nine points! So that championship was particularly good! There’ been others too, I got promotion with Man City, mind you I got relegated with them too! That’s what happens when you play for City!

CW: (laughs) True they are a bit of a yo-yo club!

Then of course there was the whole time at QPR as well, that was the best football I played in my career and we had some very good players in that side who possibly should have gone onto do more than they have done. I think Andrew Impey should have gone onto play for England for example, but that whole period was a massive highlight for me. If you could have your whole career over again is there one thing you would change?

CW: Yes, I’d want some England caps. Actual football probably not, but if somewhere along the line I could have got some international honours then yes I would have like that. You played alongside Ian Holloway for many years, do you think he has what it takes to pull Ranger back up through the divisions?

CW: Yes, definitely. He’s got the drive, he’s certainly got he enthusiasm and he’s got the self belief to do it. More than anything he’ll have the passion. He’ll need to be patient because it’s not something that’s going to happen overnight but I’m certain he can do. If he can get the players to have the same passion he has then they can’t go wrong. Every team starts off the season with ideas about going up or getting into the play off’s but I think with QPR it would be realistic to think it will happen I’m not sure the squad is strong enough to challenge automatic promotion but they are capable of getting up through the play offs at the very least. Back to the present day then, you’re starting your third season at Wingate and Finchley – how do you see things progressing for you?

CW: Well it’s part time, we train Tuesday, Thursday and play Saturday. I see it as a stepping stone to something bigger, they gave me my first opportunity on the ladder and I’m there at the moment hoping that something materialises, someone sees something in me that makes them think I can do it at a higher level. I guess we’ll never know till I get given that chance. Final thing then is to tell you that on a poll on our site to find the greatest ever Rangers team you were voted the best left back ever at QPR.

CW: Thank you! My heads swelling! That’s flattering when you think of the great left backs at Rangers, like Kenny Samson and Ian Gillard, to be put in front of them two by the readers is a great honour. Personally I rate Kenny Samson as one the best English left back ever, so to be placed in front of him is amazing and I’d like to thank the fans for that one.

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