Thursday, January 24, 2019

The Clint Hill Interview

Our latest interview is with current R’s number three Clint Hill. Clint talks through his eighteen months at Loftus Road including last season’s title success and the early months of life in the top flight.

QPRnet: You signed for Rangers last summer obviously coming over from Palace I assume Neil Warnock was a big part of that decision?

CH: Yes he was obviously I’d worked with the gaffer for two and a half years before so I knew what he was about, I knew the backroom staff and I understood what he wanted from me.

It was the right decision for me to come across but I think it might have taken a bit of time for the fans to get on board with me and perhaps Shaun Derry, two old has-beens like us!  I defiantly felt that initially but I hope we showed everyone what we could bring to the team and it was a great move in the end.

QPRnet: Did you, Neil and Shaun feel like you had a bit of unfinished business considering how things turned out at Palace?

CH: Yeh, we had some good times at Palace and we were very unlucky not to get in the play off final the first season we arrived. We knew in coming to QPR that we would have a chance of competing for the top six but it all went a lot quicker than we thought and we ended up winning The Championship which surprised us really.

QPRnet: Just to talk about Palace briefly, not every player is on 150 grand a week and set up for life so what is it like for a Football League player when your club goes into administration?

CH: It’s a big concern it really is. Obviously we have all got bills and mortgages to pay and kids to look after so it was a hard time. For the last four or five months we didn’t get paid on time, first it was a week then two, then three, then four so it was a bad time for everyone.

I don’t think anyone had really seen it coming either. We found out on the way to Newcastle, we flew up and as soon as we touched down the lads put their phones on and I’ve never heard a sound like it, there was beeps going off everywhere and you just thought what is happening here!

By the time we got our luggage we’d heard about the ten point deduction but it just didn’t feel real. The gaffer called us in for a meeting before dinner and explained the situation but it only kicked in when we saw the league table after the points had been deducted, it really hit home then.  

QPRnet: What’s Neil like as a manager? He’s had constant success what does he do to get people wanting to play for him?

CH: I think he’s a good man manager and he gets the best out of his players. He treats you like adults too whereas some managers like to dictate your whole life, he doesn’t do that and he prefers just to trust you. He gets the right kind of players and staff in as well and I think that really helps.

QPRnet: Was there any concern about joining QPR considering the turmoil the club had been in under Briatore with the constant churn of managers?

CH: Yeh definitely, no disrespect to the club but it was a bit of a laughing stock for a couple of years. Looking from afar when I was at Palace they had definite potential to do something but there were managers coming and going and all sorts happening in the boardroom. Something was drastically wrong and I think we know now what that was.

So it was certainly a concern for sure but I knew that given time the gaffer would get the right people and the right players in and lucky enough it worked out quite well.

QPRnet: It turned out to be an incredible season and you mentioned how the title win took everyone by surprise, was it meant to be a slower build towards success?

CH: I think there was probably a two year plan as when you throw that many new players together you don’t expect it to click right away. Look at Leicester this season, they’ve spent a lot of money on a lot of different players and it hasn’t quite kicked off for them so it was definitely a surprise when we started the season so well.

We ended up going nineteen games unbeaten and it was like a whirlwind really, we got confidence from that, other teams started to fear us and it all just clicked into place.

QPRnet: Warnock talked of the comeback at Derby as the moment he thought this group could do something was it the same for the players?

CH: We didn’t play well at all that day did we? We couldn’t get going and we thought it was going to be one of those games. To get something out of nothing was unbelievable and it felt like a win in the end. That gave us so much confidence, we knew then we had the players who could get something from tight matches and it really kicked started us for sure.  

QPRnet: That never give up spirit really filled the squad quite quickly didn’t it?

CH: It did yes. We had a great team spirit from the beginning which was quite hard to get with so many new faces. Sometimes in that situation when you have a bunch of new lads coming in there can be some friction with the old players there but it was such a welcoming dressing room at QPR it just clicked from start to finish and it was a great season, it really was.

QPRnet: We saw off the challengers like Cardiff and Swansea at Loftus Road as 2010 came to a close so again that must have firmed up the belief in the camp?

CH: To compete against those two teams and play the football we did and score the goals we did was a massive confidence boost. We knew from the first 10 to 15 games that we had a chance and we knew we had players like Adel Taarabt and Tommy Smith that could produce a moment of class and change games when maybe we weren’t playing so great.

QPRnet: Adel’s influence on the side was undoubted, what’s he like to have around and how frustrating is he to play on the same side as?

CH: He’s got unbelievable talent and skill and he could turn a game on a sixpence. He could be playing for Real Madrid if he really wanted to but he has these little frustrating elements of his character that no one can quite figure out!

He played a major part in our season though and I think he scored 19 goals and he got a similar amount of assists so he made a huge difference to us. I think Adel would be the first to say the players helped him out a lot too, we had to do a lot of his running for sure! It was a great team effort though and he was a massive part of it.

QPRnet: When the news broke that the club were under investigation for the Alejandro Faurlin transfer how hard did that hit the squad, what did it do to morale?

CH: I just thought to myself here we go again anything good that happens to me is always followed by something bad! We had such a great season and I was really worried that it would take it all away. It was so frustrating and it just dragged and dragged until the last day of the season. I couldn’t understand why it took so long to sort out.

Gianni was telling us not to worry but you can’t help yourself, the papers were publishing all kinds of stories and you end up with your head all over the place. Thankfully we got the right result because it would have been devastating if the club didn’t go up.

QPRnet: I think it came out publically the Monday after the Millwall game and that was an uncharacteristically bad performance. Had you found out before?

CH: No I think it was just a bad game, we were confident in the dressing room and we were fired up but some days you just don’t click and it was just a bad game to be involved in really.

QPRnet: You weren’t in the team at Watford but that was where we secured promotion. Everyone celebrated the result regardless of the hearing. From a players point of view whatever happened you had done your job hadn’t you?

CH: Yeh you had to celebrate no matter what because at that moment we were champions even if they did take it away from us. I think we had the right to celebrate because it is such a long, tough season in that division. A lot of emotions came out that day and I’m just thankful that the right decision came in the end so we could do it properly for the Leeds game.

QPRnet: It was a really strange day that Leeds game, getting up in the morning for what should have been a massive party but with this huge doubt hanging over us. It was horrible for the fans it must have been equally bad for you guys?

CH: It was, we didn’t know if we needed to win the game just to stand a chance of getting in the top six! It was such a strange situation to be in. I think we heard the news about five minutes before we went out to warm up, Gianni came running in absolutely screaming his head off and crying tears of joy that we had got the right decision.

It was an odd position to be in after that. We didn’t really want to play the game we just wanted to celebrate because our emotions were running so high. So it ended up being a kind of a nothing game because really we just wanted it to be over, lift the trophy and celebrate with the fans and everyone else.

QPRnet: The parties in The Bush were brilliant, you lot must have had some good nights as well?

CH: It was weird really, we went out after the Watford game, Amit came with us and looked after us then the following week a few of the boys went out but it was such a strange feeling because we had won the Championship and then everyone just went their separate ways for the summer.

There was no bus tour or anything like that, that was frustrating for us and probably the fans as well because we wanted to celebrate just as much as you did so not to have that or any kind of reception was very strange. We had a good few beers though don’t get me wrong!

QPRnet: You must have been massively proud overall. You were first choice all season and now had your first shot at The Premier League?

CH: Yeh, in my head when I first came to QPR I thought I’d be doing well if played 20 games and that perhaps I’d come in and do a job when needed. Thankfully I hit the ground running, the results helped and we kept pretty much a stable team throughout.

QPRnet: So you go off on holiday and start picking up the papers and things are going wrong with in the boardroom. It must have been a bit of a worrying summer for you?

CH: Typical QPR! There were all sorts of rumours about takeovers, is the manager going to stay, what players are coming in and going so it was a strange summer really. We got back and we heard there was a takeover coming, it dragged on longer than we hoped and gave the gaffer a few headaches getting in the players he needed but thankfully it worked out well and now we have got great owners who respect the club and want to push it on.

QPRnet: What are Tony Fernandes and Amit like around the place? Aare they very hands on with the players?

CH: I’ve briefly had a chat with Tony Fernandes and I’ve seen Amit about here and there but they don’t come into training they leave all that to the gaffer and the staff. I think they just look after what they need to. The gaffer has their full backing, he can call them whenever he wants and that’s the way it should be.

QPRnet: Did you always expect it to be a much tougher team to get into this year?

CH: God yeh! Obviously with the new owners coming in and speculation about new players, I pretty much knew that if I got ten games I’d be happy. Obviously I started the first match and that ended very badly on both a team level and a personal level. If I’m honest with you I thought that was me done, I thought I’d have to move on and kick start somewhere else.

QPRnet: You got loaned out to Forest after that, having worked so hard to get your first chance in the top flight that must have been a bit frustrating feeling that you’ve got to go and start again?

CH: Very frustrating, I just thought typical me so many sendings off!  Just like the Wembley final with Tranmere, anything good that happens usually ends quite badly. I just thought what have I done, I’ve always wanted to play in The Premier League and I let my frustrations get the better of me and go and get sent off.

The suspension finished and I wasn’t really in the squad, I had weekends off which I’ve never really had in my career and I decided that it wasn’t worth being in The Premier League if I wasn’t going to be near the team. So I went and had a chat with the gaffer and asked if I could go out and play some games if I wasn’t in his plans. To be fair to him he said yeh, you go and get yourself some games and we’ll see what happens.

QPRnet: Was it just a case of getting your head down, doing well and hoping another chance came for you at Loftus Road?

CH: I thought I’d be there for the full three months and figured if I did OK I might get a year or two at Forest but twenty eight days in and I got the phone call on the Friday before the Chelsea game from the gaffer and he said he’d have to bring me back because of injuries. It’s just gone on from there really.

QPRnet: So you come back to a squad that now includes the likes of Joey Barton and Shaun Wright-Phillips is it daunting having players of that level in the team or does it give everyone a huge lift?

CH: Probably a bit of both, you want them to think of you well and to see you as a good player and it spurs you on because you want to compete against the best players. Having them in your team and alongside you in training can only help you improve.

QPRnet: You did come back into the side and played against Chelsea at Loftus Road that must have been an amazing game to be a part of?

CH: To play against Chelsea was incredible obviously they are a massive team and its QPR’s biggest derby match too. I think I went from playing Middlesbrough to Chelsea in the space of four days! It was unreal and one of the greatest days of my career.

QPRnet: The crowd were just incredible that day I genuinely think it shocked and stunned the Chelsea players?

CH: I do as well, and the way we went at them too. The stadium is small, the pitch is tight and the fans are on top of you so it’s a great place to play but on the flip side if you are a rival coming there it can have a massive effect on you. The way we got stuck into them probably took them over the edge a little bit for sure with the sending’s off and the shenanigans that went on so it definitely worked in our favour.

QPRnet: As we speak we are gearing up to travel to Anfield and you’ve got to be dying to be a part of that game?

CH: I’d love to be a part of that I make no bones about it! It is such a special place in my heart and for my family. I used to go to support them when I was a kid and I’ve got my Dad and family coming to watch so if I can be involved in any way or just touch the Anfield sign I could retire a very happy man!

QPRnet: What are your ambitions for the rest of the season? Are you just looking to get in as many games as you can now?

CH: I think that’s all I can do really. I’m not going to be a first choice regular I’ve known that since I came back but if I can help out in any way playing the odd game here and there then that’s what I’ll do. If I can get another seven to ten games I think I’ll be very happy with that this season.

QPRnet: What do you think the future holds for you beyond that?

CH: I really don’t know. I’d love to stay because this is a great club, I’ve loved every minute of it and my family are settled here but obviously clubs move on and players move on. I’m in my last year now so we’ll just see what happens.

QPRnet: You’re 33 now, how much longer are you looking at playing for?

CH: The way I’m feeling now I think I could definitely do another couple of years, if I can get to 35 that’d be brilliant and then I think I’ll just take it year by year and play as long as I can.

QPRnet: And do you fancy coaching or management or is it not for you?

CH: I’d like to dabble in it yes, I’m curious about it I really am. I’d like to see if I can handle it and how I deal with the pressures so if possible I would like to have a little go at it for sure.

QPRnet: You’re one of many QPR players who make good use of Twitter, the banter between the lads on there is great, it comes across that there’s a really good atmosphere around the dressing room?

CH: There is definitely, like I said welcoming squad and dressing room at QPR and whoever comes in is made to feel at home. The new lads have really settled in quickly and as you said the banter is great. I go into training every day with a big smile on my face which is brilliant.

The Twitter thing is quite funny really because you forget sometimes it’s in the public domain, you think it’s just between yourselves sometimes and then you read it back and think God everyone else can see this!

QPRnet: When you are long since retired and someone says QPR to you what is going to be the thing that comes into your mind?

CH: It’s got to be champions! I look at that medal everyday it’s hung up next to my bed! It’s one of my best achievements in football and this is such a great club to play for, such a friendly family club. It is one of the best I’ve been at and it’s been the highlight of my career it really has.

We’d like to express our gratitude to Clint for taking time out of his evening to talk to us.

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