Thursday, January 24, 2019

The Alan McDonald Interview

We were honoured when QPR legend Alan McDonald agreed to an interview with us. Following is the transcript of what amounted to a near two hour conversation. We cannot thank Alan enough for taking the time out of his weekend to do this and hope you enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed doing it. Bring us up to date on what you’ve been doing since you retired

AM: Well obviously I was at Swindon Town, where I finished my career and moved onto the coaching staff, I was coaching the reserves and when the club went into administration the assistant manager was made redundant so I ended up acting assistant manager, reserve team manager, helping doing the kit, doing the boots!

The club was in such bad financial trouble, they were losing something like £26,000 a week so they made fifteen of the staff redundant so we all had to muck in. My idea was to leave Jimmy Quinn the manager as much time as possible to concentrate running the first team, which was virtually impossible because the financial restrictions were astronomical.

Then Jim got the sack and a couple of days later I left on principle. It was actually at the QPR game, I took charge of the team for the day because Jim was scouting, it was there I found out that Colin Todd was at the game, so I made a few enquires and found out that Swindon had arranged for Colin Todd to join with his whole backroom staff so that bought everything to a head and I left a couple of days later.

From there I took a year out because, to be honest with you, I got totally disillusioned with coaching because of the way things had turned out at Swindon, the way things had been done. We felt we’d done the best we could for the club, tried our best to slash the budget and tried to do everything for the benefit of the club and basically we felt we’d been stabbed in the back, so it made me very cynical at the time.

Since then things have sort of looked up, the last eighteen months I’ve been working with Roy Miller who is the manager of the Northern Ireland under twenty one team, I’ve been a coach with them. We’ve had nine or ten qualifying games in the last eighteen months, which was a brilliant experience for me. Also Sammy McIllroy who is the Northern Ireland first team manager, his assistant Jim Harvey has other commitments as he’s the manager at Morecambe, I think it was four games that Jim couldn’t get away for I’ve also been coach for the full Northern Ireland team which has been brilliant.

Obviously I know most of the players but it was great working with the full team because I played for them for ten and a half years so it’s nice being back involved. It suited me because it’s only part time, there’s a friendly coming up in August where the under twenty one team will play Cyprus which will be good experience for them, we’ve got some good young players coming through. Then the European Championships start, our first game is in October which is Spain away, which is going to be a difficult game but I’m not sure if I’m going to be working with the under twenty ones or the full international team because unfortunately the last competitive game in Malta, Sammy McIllroy and Jim Harvey both got sent off! Obviously Sammy will be there but he can’t sit on the bench so I don’t know if they are going to ask me to do that or not.

What I’ve also been doing is working for the Press Association as a football analyst, doing the live games, I report all the match facts back to the controller, live on the mobile then Sky Sports use all the information. All the tackles, free kicks, corners, throw ins you know? So I’ve been doing that about a year as well. It’s brilliant because as I said it’s part time, but it keeps me involved in football so in that respect I’m still really involved in the game and to be honest I’m involved in a capacity which suits me, the part time jobs dove tail together which is great. Are you still in touch with anyone from your time at QPR?

AM: The odd times, when I was coaching we went back to QPR for a few games, when Gerry was the manager, infact at one stage I was speaking to Gerry about maybe getting back but you know with the financial restrictions on QPR were so desperate and it’s awful sad to see, well it’s heartbreaking.

I’ve had a couple of offers to go back and work part time in the academy and the school of excellence but to be honest with you I’m living in Swindon and I didn’t think it was fair on my little boy Joshua, whose five, and my wife if I was travelling up and down. I done it for two years and it was too much I didn’t want to sort of split the family up, we’ve lived here for three years and Joshua’s settled so we’re going to stay here.

But you know with the QPR thing I did speak to them, when the managers job came up last time, I did speak to Nick Blackburn about it, they gave it to Ian Holloway which made sense at the time, although Ian’s had a difficult job because the finances up there were in mess, hopefully he can get that sorted out because it’s too good a club to struggle. It has been a struggle, but Olly’s done remarkably well

AM: He has, and I sympathise with Ian wholeheartedly because I know exactly what it’s like because the two years I was on the coaching staff at Swindon there wasn’t a day went by where you weren’t concerned about money and unfortunately instead of being able to deal with team matters, every single day there is some financial situation arises that affects the manager or the coaching staff, so instead of devoting your whole time to football matters you have to deal with financial problems. Players are knocking on the door saying “are we getting paid this month?” I can understand it, they’ve got families to support and mortgages to pay.

The last thing you want to be doing as a coach or manager is talking about day to day finances because you’re trying to concentrate on other things. So I sympathise 110% with Ian Holloway, I think he’s done a great job in very very difficult circumstance. For me as an outsider looking in, when you look back to the good old days when we playing in the Premier League and things were going great and we had a fabulous team it’s soul destroying now to look at the club, it’s like a skeleton of the club I knew. Some of the staff are still there and I know them very well and I speak to them from time to time, but it’s heartbreaking when you think back to the things we achieved and the good times we had and you see it now, it’s very difficult to take. It must be soul destroying for the fans. I think better times are ahead now we’re out of administration.

AM: Well I hope so, it’s too good a club to struggle, it’s a fabulous club. I spent seventeen and a half years there you know and I wouldn’t have stayed there had it been a bad club. I had a couple of bad moments, with a couple of managers but overall, over the seventeen and a half years I don’t think there’s very much I would change if I had my time over again. I was always very happy there and I was treated very well by the fans and the staff. It still has a very special place in my heart and it always will do, but you see it now and it breaks your heart. It’s still the first result I look for every Saturday is how QPR are going on. Did you see us at all last year?

AM: Yes I did, I saw a couple of games. I saw a great game when they played Reading, Reading beat them one nil and that was a phenomenal atmosphere, there was nineteen and half thousand people there and five thousand QPR fans travelled down. That was going back to the good old days when we used to get twenty thousand people every week. I know it was at Reading which is a great stadium, but Loftus Road is a great stadium. The atmosphere was tremendous and it wasn’t a bad game but it made me think of when the Man United's were coming down and the Liverpool’s, the Tottenham’s, Arsenal’s and the fans were going crazy and enjoying themselves. Obviously it’s just down the road from QPR, but still it was a fabulous travelling support. Did any of our current squad catch your eye?

AM: Well obviously I know Gavin Peacock still, Richard Langley, I think Richard was sub that day and I know Fraser from my Swindon days. They’ve done OK to be honest, but Reading were a very strong team, one of the better teams in the division to be honest with you. I think to be honest, considering the budget, they’ve got a half decent team they just had a couple of bad patches otherwise they’d have been up in the play off’s. Considering at the start of the season they all barely knew it other, it was almost a whole new squad, it’s quite remarkable they gelled so well.

AM: Exactly, and Ian’s having to cut corners to get people in on cut price wages, it virtually needed shaking from top to bottom the whole club you know? Hopefully if they can get themselves sorted out, get the finances sorted out and get a few younger lads through. I worked a couple of years ago with the likes of Brian Fitzgerald and Wesley Daly who are coming through now. They’ve always had a good youth policy at QPR. Obviously if they can get the good young players coming through they can either sell them and make money for the club or keep them and build a good young side that in a couple of years time can do well in the league. Hopefully! OK going back to your early days, how exactly did you end up at QPR in the first place?

AM: Well I played for the Northern Ireland schoolboy international team, we were European Champions, I think it was 1978 or something like that. To be honest I had more or less agreed to sign for Wolves but an old and very dear friend of mine, Bill Smith who was the QPR scout in Northern Ireland who got Ian Stewart as well, the reason he was involved was he was very big friends with Frank Sibley. Bill said to me “do you want to go to QPR?” I said I wasn’t really fussed as I was going to sign for Wolves. He said “look at it this way, it’s a free holiday, QPR want to see you, go over have a holiday for a week and do a bit of training and see London”. I said OK, I’ll go over and train for a week and have a free week in London! Then I was so impressed, everyone was so nice and the club was so good to us you know I changed my mind and agreed to sign for QPR.

It wasn’t as if I was signing for a big club. When I signed in 1979 Tommy Docherty was the manager and I think they were second bottom in the league. The thing that impressed me was it was a small club, it was friendly and the people were nice and I thought I had a good chance of making the grade. I’d been to Manchester United twice on trial and they wanted to sign me, but I thought it was too big a club. When I went there for the weekend there was something like three hundred kids there. So basically it was through Bill Smith that I signed for QPR.

I moved over in October 1979. I finished my last eight months of school in London, which was a total nightmare because of the home sickness. I missed my friends, my family, I didn’t know anybody in London, the only people I had around me were the club. I was meant to go to school three and a half days a week, half the time I never bothered I just wanted to go in training. I just turned sixteen, I was living in digs, it was an awful time. I think if I had it over again, that’s the only thing I would have changed. I would have stayed at home, finished school then come over. The way I look at it though is it built my character, ‘cause I had to get on with it, it was no good moaning. I was extremely homesick but it made grow up very quickly, I was on my own and you had to stand on your own two feet. Not long after that Ian Stewart was there so the two of us sort of stuck together and basically for the first two years I struggled to settle down, but once I did it was fine. So you nearly signed for Wolves, then you made your debut against them?

AM: That’s right yeh, that was strange the way that happened. Bob Hazell got injured and I’d been hoping to get in the team then all of a sudden in came out of the blue. It was a fabulous day. Andy Gray from Sky Sports was playing for Wolves and he bloody cracked my rib that day! But we beat them four nil, I remember Clive Allen scored a couple of cracking goals and John Burridge, who was at QPR when I signed, was in goal for Wolves! That was a tremendous day, because Wolves were a good team in those days and it was a great result, beating them four nil at Moulineaux. So who did you support as a boy?

AM: Well it was funny, I was never really a staunch one team supporter, I flipped from team to team really. Leeds, when they had that fabulous team I used to support them and funnily enough I supported QPR for a while when they had the brilliant team with Don Givens and Gerry and stuff. So when ’76 came I went through a period of supporting them. Then I went through a period of supporting Man United, I still have a little hankering for them, in Northern Ireland kids tend to support one of two teams, Liverpool or Man United. I never really had a set team, I supported whoever was doing well. So did you have any idols, anyone who inspired you to be a footballer?

AM: That would be the local people, the likes of George Best. Pat Jennings was always a massive hero of mine, I was very fortunate to play six or seven internationals with him. Then another guy from Northern Ireland, Jimmy Nichol the full back at Man United, Jimmy and his family used to live about three hundred miles from my Mum and Dad. Jimmy was always a big hero, he went to the same school as me, although he was about eight years older he played football with my brothers. Local people like that, particularly George Best though he’s an absolute legend back home, he was an inspiration you know. George played in my testimonial at QPR and I played in his at Windsor Park which was an unbelievable honour for me. To recognise your dreams like that as a kid then have it happen is very special. So a bit further down your career now, the 1986 league cup final (Alan laughs). What do you remember from that? What do you think went wrong?

AM: Erm, I think we just froze on the day you know. That was my first full season, we had a lot of competition at centre back, we had the likes of Steve Wicks who was a good player, Glen Roeder and Terry Fenwick so for quite a bit of that season I was playing right back. I enjoyed it, I mean I would have played left wing to get a game!

We had a phenomenal run through, we beat some cracking teams, I think it was Nottingham Forest, Chelsea and Liverpool in the semi final and to be fair Oxford beat some great teams as well. I think to be honest we just froze on the day, we never played at all. It’s probably the disappointment I look back on, because I can remember it like it was yesterday. The support was phenomenal, it was a beautiful day the build up had been tremendous. It was a crazy year for me, it was my first full season as a regular and in that season I got in a cup final for QPR and Northern Ireland qualified for the World Cup in Mexico. For me, in the space of six months I’d gone from being a reserve team player to playing in the World Cup and a major final at Wembley. It was just so disappointing.

I can remember after the game we had a party booked anyway. I can remember the feeling that night, I stayed that night because I had to fly over in the morning as we had a friendly in Belfast for Northern Ireland on the Wednesday. I was just shocked, we never played at all, we never got going, never got out of the traps. To be totally honest Oxford were by far the better team, they did deserve to win it you know. It was just so disappointing we never got going whatsoever, we played so well through the whole competition but when it came to the final we might as well have stayed in the dressing room it was so one sided, we never got out of first gear at all. That’s the major regret and I’m sure the other guys would say the same thing. We had some fabulous players and we should have done better, we played some fabulous football all the way through and dominated teams and it comes to the one game that matters and we bloody play like we’ve never played together before. OK something more cheery then! What would you say was your proudest moment at QPR?

AM: I think that was, I can remember being on the pitch at the start of the game, you look around and one ends Oxford and in the other end there must’ve been forty thousand QPR supporters, you see the blue and white at one end and I can remember that being tremendous. That particular season would be the highlight of my career as a footballer, I made my international debut in October 1985 away to Romania and we beat them, then we drew with England and qualified for the 1986 world cup and within a couple of months I was playing at Wembley then off to the World Cup. So that particular six months were the proudest moments of my career but one of the worse with the Wembley fiasco.

There were so many good points, I can remember beating Manchester United four one on New Years Day and Dennis Bailey got a hatrick and all of a sudden Dennis was a national hero! Things like that and while Gerry was the manager we finished 5th and 9thand we had a very good team, a very very good team and for QPR who were one of the smaller Premier League teams at the time, for us to finish in the top half a dozen or top ten was a fantastic achievement, for us that’s like winning the league. That was probably the golden period when Gerry was there, we had a fabulous team, a great spirit a real good camaraderie around the club and I think that showed where we finished in the league. Loyalty isn’t something you see in football much there days, you stayed with QPR for seventeen years, was that because you enjoyed being there, did you have offers to leave?

AM: Yeh there was a couple of times there was a couple of rumours, at one stage very strongly there was Tottenham, at one stage Man United were talked about and Chelsea were talked about. To be honest with you I was always happy, we got well paid you know and we had a good team and it was a good club. I had a couple of disagreements with a couple of managers, but you’re going to get that no matter where you are. I had a couple of bad times where I wasn’t playing so well but at the end of the day I was always very happy there, over the seventeen years, probably there was only a period of one year in broken bits where I was a bit disillusioned or unhappy. A month here, a month there. There was one stage where I thought I maybe better moving on, I’d had a run in with a certain manager and I just thought maybe it’s time to go, but that sorted itself out.

On the whole I’d say the reason I didn’t leave is because I was happy. The backroom people, some of them are still there, were fabulous, QPR through and through and were nice people. The club helped me through a difficult period and in life, I think, you’ve always got to give something back, so I thought I’m happy here, I’m playing well, in the top division, it’s a good club and we’ve got a good team. OK we sold players like David Seaman, Paul Parker but you had to be realistic, QPR had to sell players to survive and the players we were buying in were good players. We used to sell someone for two million quid but use that money to buy in three or four new players

AM: That’s right, everyone went crazy when we sold Les Ferdinand for six million quid, but that was brilliant business. QPR got Les for about twenty, twenty five grand and sold him for six million. We got Paul Parker for a couple of hundred thousand pounds and sold Paul for a fortune, same with Dave Seaman, but we were signing good players to replace them. So yes, I was extremely happy, sometimes the grass isn’t greener on the other side, it wasn’t a case of money, I could have moved and got more but I was on decent money anyway and we were doing well, the club was good, I could have gone somewhere else, uprooted myself and ended up going through a bad period and realising it was a mistake. When you got towards the end, when you left the club, was that your choice?

AM: No That’s the impression we got, most fans were pretty disgusted as to how you were treated.

AM: My wife Tanya was absolutely distraught, totally gutted. It hit her more than it hit me. When I look back now and I look back at all the facts and the things that happened, sometimes you can’t see things and you don’t discover things until later. I was very disappointed in the way it was done, because I’d been speaking to Stewart Houston who was the manager then and he’d signed Steven Morrow from Arsenal to more or less replace me and that was in the April before the transfer deadline, I’d been playing really well that season and I think it was only because John Spencer got signed, otherwise I’d have won player of the year.

It was obvious then, Stewart dropped me and I couldn’t understand why so I spoke to him about it and said if you feel I’m not good enough for you it’s probably better to move on, which I didn’t want to do. I was thirty three then and I’d always wanted to finish my career at the club, I felt I had a good couple of years left. It went past the transfer deadline and I’d been speaking to him for about a month before but he wouldn’t give me a straight answer, I kept saying look, what’s happening. Do you want me to leave? You have haven’t spoke to me about a new contract and my contracts up and he said “well if we can get into the play off’s, I’ll think about giving you a new contract” I said that’s no good to me I need to know about my future, I’m an experienced player, I’ve got a wife, she’s pregnant I need to sort out what I’m going to be doing in the future.

He just dragged on and on and we got to deadline day so I said, look Stewart what’s going on, do you want me to leave be honest with me because if I’m going to leave I can probably get myself a good club, a team that’s pushing for the play off’s something like that, and he just said “no I can’t let you go” and I stayed till the end of the season.

Then after the last game he spoke to all the players together and had a meeting for what was happening next year, I wasn’t invited, he called me into the office upstairs and said they weren’t offering me a new contract and I was being released. Looking back I was extremely disappointed with the way it was done, I felt I deserved more. Stewart had only been there eight months and there was other people at the club who had been there a few years and I felt they could’ve stuck up for me a bit more. I felt that at least they could have been a bit more upfront with me but I don’t hold grudges at the end of the day I knew I was getting old but I felt I had another two years left in me and I felt I could still play at that level. I went and played at Swindon the next year and we done really well, till the middle of November we were top of the league.

It was just the way it was done, I felt I’d shown the club extreme loyalty, and they’d been very kind to me up till that point, to be honest with you then I would’ve been interested in doing even part time coaching or whatever but it just never happened, it’s a shame. I’ve been back loads of times and it’s fine but it was just that one of those things that could have been handled better. Well if it’s any consolation you’ll be remembered long after Stewart Houston is forgotten.

AM: Oh yeh! It was just the way the club was going at the time. It was then that the club started going downhill, not because they got rid of me I hasten to add! That’s when the rot started to set in, personally speaking, if I’m going to be totally honest with you, the rot set in when they got rid of Ray Wilkins. He came in during a difficult period, Gerry had left, everybody was concerned about that ‘cause Gerry had been so popular so they appointed Ray to appease the fans.

Ray was a new manager and of course he made mistakes, we all make mistakes, Ray is one of the nicest guys you’ll meet in football, lovely man and he said himself there’s things he would change but he was an inexperienced manager, straight into a difficult period then of course we got relegated from the Premier League. That was difficult, then three games into the new season we were top of the league we’d won two and drawn one and they sack him!

I must admit the disappointment of being relegated was one of the lowest points of my life and we all went away in the summer, had a good break, and we came back pre-season and we had a real good chat in the training ground with Frank Sibley and Ray Wilkins and all the squad. I’d never seen a more determined bunch of lads, we felt we’d let Ray down, we’d let the club down and we hadn’t performed well that year in the Premier League. So we had a really good chat, everybody worked so hard, it’s the hardest I’d ever seen us work pre-season and we were absolutely flying in pre-season and we started the season brilliantly we went down and beat Portsmouth, unfortunately Kevin Gallen got that injury, we’d beaten Oxford at home and went up and drew with Wolves. So were sitting with seven points out of nine from three games, then they drop a bombshell that they’d sacked Ray. They lads were so deflated after that, we’d all pulled together in pre-season so we couldn’t understand why they’d done it. From what we’ve heard Stewart Houston’s approach was slightly more, shall we say, authoritarian?

AM: Without a doubt. That’s when the club was ruined in my opinion. There was eight million pounds spent on players which was poorly spent. The atmosphere at the club was awful. The bitching started between the players, which was never us because we had a fabulous team spirit. Just the whole atmosphere at the club on the playing side was dreadful. Of course during that time I was having problems with Stewart on a personal level because of my contract situation.

Within that period of time I left, we had Simon Barker leave, Ian Holloway leaving. You had leaders leaving the club. Leaders on the pitch leaving the club and there was no one there. Well the events speak for themselves what happened at the club. I have my views on it and they’re very strong views but at the end the day I’m not going to throw any mud at people, people make decisions because they think they are doing the right thing but in hindsight you’d say that’s when the rot started to set in at the club and the club is still paying the price now for that year. Even for the fans it felt like a huge weight had been lifted when Houston and Rioch were sacked, then of course the next appointment was another mistake

AM: Yeh well, there’s been a few. At the end of the day if Chris, Chris Wright was honest he’d hold his hands up and say things should have been done better. The thing with Chris you got to remember is he was a supporter it was the first experience he’d had of running the football club so he was a very inexperienced Chairman with an inexperienced manager when Ray was there. When Ray got the sack, that was the start of the downward spiral and if you look at the events and the time scale, you look at and it doesn’t take a blind man to see that was where it started to go wrong. That’s gone, that’s past history. Hopefully now the club can pull themselves round and get back to where they belong. Things seem to be heading in the right direction, we’re pretty comfortable with Olly, we think he’s doing a great job.

AM: That’s it, it’s been a difficult couple of years for the fans, the players, the staff everybody and hopefully as you say there’s light at the end of the tunnel and they can get themselves back playing where they should be playing. During your career who would you say was the best defensive partner you had at QPR?

AM: Erm, Terry Fenwick was a good player. The best player I played with generally was Clive Wilson, I think Clive as a full back was unbelievable. People talk about when Les left that it took a lot from the team but I personally think that when Clive went, you know there was no talk of Clive going as far as we were concerned it wasn’t an issue Clive was staying and it was a real bolt out of the blue when he went to Tottenham. He was superb Clive, such a gifted player, so skillful and a fabulous guy as well. I played with some cracking players though. Everyone goes on about Mark Dennis but he was a brilliant defender, he was just a bit of a nutcase!

We had some great defenders over the years, Dave Seaman was a fabulous goal keeper, Paul Parker was good, Danny Maddix was a good man to man marker, Dave Bardsley good full back, Darren Peacock done well and went onto Newcastle, Steve Wicks was a good player. Glen Roeder, Glen was my hero when I first got into the team, he was a fabulous player. We had so many tremendous players I’m spoilt for choice but over the years I played with Clive, he was great. We had our rows and all that but he was such a cool player, you’d expect him to hoof it into the stand and all of a sudden do a little turn and he’d be away with it. You’ve had some great battles over the years, who would you say you enjoyed marking the most?

AM: Probably one of the biggest battles I ever had was with Mark Hughes that was infamous. Mark was a tremendous professional, he’s a quiet guy a bit like myself, it’s different when you’re on the pitch but off it I’m a quiet guy I like my privacy and Mark’s very much like that. When you’re on the pitch, you’re on to win and you give 110% and Mark was always a battling player, very gifted, very strong, good goalscorer. Obviously at times it got a bit, well it went beyond the legal bounds from both of us but that’s the way the games played and you do whatever you can to try to win the game so it was always enjoyable because we always had a bit of a ding dong!

When we used to get the old derby’s with Chelsea I used to have a good old game with Kerry Dixon, always looked forward to them and I played against Kerry for Northern Ireland against England, so they were always good games and obviously they had the added spice of being a local derby. Yeh, you versus Mark Hughes was always brilliant to watch!

AM: When you get two players who are committed to winning you know at times it gets a bit dirty so you give it out and the good thing with Mark was he’d give it out and he’s take it and get on with. I tend to think there was a lot of mutual respect for each other. What you saw is what you got. Who would you say was the best manager you worked under?

AM: I think Gerry was tremendous, obviously his record at QPR speaks for itself when you look at how we done under him. Terry Venables was a very good manager, when Terry came to the club we were struggling and he transformed it within the space of three years they went to the FA Cup final then got promotion to the first division. They’d be the two best, I think Ray Wilkins could’ve been a good manager if he’d been given the time to do it, as say people had a lot of respect for Ray, I certainly had the up most respect for him because he was an honest fella. I think if he had been given the time, he would have done it, the players were 110% behind him. That’s half the battle isn’t it?

AM: It is, you got to have the players respect, Ray had that as a player and he’d gone someway to gaining it as a manager, which you have to do. Given more time I think he would have done a very good job at QPR.

Jim Smith was good, I got on brilliantly with him. Jim’s of the old school, Jim is a character there’s no two ways about it, at times we’d have a laugh he’d just come out with things, he’s a lovely bubbly guy. He wasn’t the best coach in the world but he had a good coach with him, he was a fantastic man manager though. The thing with him was he just said it how he saw it. If he thought you were absolute crap he would say you were absolute crap! He wouldn’t go in around about way, he would just come out and say it and I think people respected him for it. There were times when the cups when flying and he looked as if he was going to have a heart attack, his head would go bright red if he was fuming! He was a character Jim and there isn’t enough of them left. I say those three or four were the best I worked with at QPR. What was Olly like as a player? Did he give the impression he’d succeed in management?

AM: Yeh, he always had that idea, I can remember having a good chat with him when the approach had been made by Bristol Rovers, he was travelling up and down from Bristol for three hours every day to QPR and to do that, I mean I travelled and hour and half each way to Swindon and back and it killed me, I don’t know how Ian did that from Bristol and back and put in the level of performances he did.

He was a fabulous professional, he would probably say himself that he wasn’t one of the most gifted players in the world but what you got from him was 100%, he would work his backside off. I can remember coming back one pre-season and Ian had spent the summer training at an athletics club because he thought he wasn’t fit enough and he was the fittest guy at the club!

We used do runs in Richmond Park, about eight miles and he’d win hands down. Tremendous professional, unbelievable attitude and a lovely lad as well. You always had the feeling he’d go into management, as I say he got the offer to go to Bristol on a four year contract to play and go into coaching as well, he deliberated over it for while because it meant moving down to the second division as well. As it turned out it was the right move for him because he got into managing early and he did a good job down there and now he’s at QPR doing a good job there. So what are you looking to do now? Are you happy with the two part time roles or do you want to get back into football full time?

AM: I’m happy enough doing that, obviously we made the decision that we’re going to stay in Wiltshire but I’ve applied for a couple of jobs. I applied for the Aldershot manager’s job when it came up and I got an interview for that but Terry Brown who was the Hayes manager got that. To be honest I’m not desperate to get into full time football at the moment, if something came up that appealed to me I would look at it and apply, but I’m reasonably happy doing what I’m doing. We’ve got the European Championships coming up for Northern Ireland, that starts in October and that’ll be nine internationals in the next eleven months so that will be pretty time consuming.

Plus I’ll be doing the press association to keep me involved week to week. I’ll keep my ear to the ground if something comes up then OK, but I don’t really want to uproot my family now, I’m getting too old for that. I guess it’s a bit selfish but I don’t want to be travelling two hours here, two hours there. I had nineteen years of football coming first in my life and to be honest I want to enjoy my life where I’m home weekends and things like that for the time being. As I say Joshua’s five and I want to be enjoy being around him and spending time with him, playing football in the back garden I want to have that time at home but if something came up that interested me I’d look at it. That’s pretty much all the questions, the last thing I’ll say then is that on a recent poll on our site you were voted the greatest ever centre back to play for Rangers.

AM: <laughs> They’re easily pleased aren’t they! A couple of friends of mine are still season ticket holders and one of them sent me a programme when they done the greatest team of all time and I was in it. That’s a great honour for me because when people say to me what did you win, really when you look at my career we never really won anything with QPR but for me when ordinary people on the street say you’re the greatest ever centre back or you’re in the best team ever, for me that makes up for not having cups and medals and all that. I probably was never one of the most gifted players in the world but I give what I had and it’s nice to be appreciated. I had some kids come up to me about twelve years old and said “oh your Alan McDonald, my Dad used to watch you and he says you were the best player at QPR”. They’re twelve years old and they know me! So it’s nice if you affect people’s lives and it’s a great honour for me when they do these polls. It’s very humbling because when you’re there you get paid and you enjoy your job and for people to appreciate what you’ve done is great, it’s great for me.

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