AN INDIVIDUAL firmly entrenched in the history of Queens Park Rangers Football Club.
In the latest interview with a W12 crowd favourite, www.qpr.co.uk catches up with former R’s midfielder and manager Gary Waddock…
GARY, you were a tremendously wholehearted midfielder who made 240 appearances for us between 1979 and 1987. How did you originally sign for QPR and how old were you?
I was around 12 or 13 and playing for my district team in north west London. I was asked to go in for training at Queens Park Rangers and that led to me signing schoolboy forms and then an apprenticeship.
What was your time like in the QPR youth setup?
It was great for any young lad who wanted to become a professional footballer. I was watching first-team players regularly on the training ground and I was looking up to them to see if I could join them one day. So they were exciting times as it was all I ever wanted to do. And I got a really good insight into how the club was overall in terms of players and supporters.
What do you remember of your first-team debut?
My full debut was at home to Charlton Athletic in November 1979 when I was 17 years old. Tommy Docherty was the QPR manager and he only told me I was playing just over an hour before the kick-off. I absolutely loved the whole occasion.
You were a first-team regular by the time you were 18 and you went on to become the most-popular player with R’s supporters during the 1980s. You had a fantastic rapport with the crowd here, didn’t you?
Well, I think it was because they could see that I gave everything out on the pitch. I would always go into challenges and try to win possession of the ball – even when the odds were stacked against me. So I had a really great relationship with those Rangers fans and it was a lovely period for me personally coming through and playing in the first team at such a young age. Supporters are always on your side when they see homegrown players progressing and giving their all.
Then once Terry Venables took over the managerial reigns, everything moved to the next level here at Rangers, didn’t it?
Yes, it was a brilliant spell. In fairness to Terry, he established a fantastic team. He had a real mixture and blend of experience and youth. Terry was a marvellous coach with the right man-management skills. He knew when to have a laugh and when to put us in our place. His coaching was way far in advance of anyone else at the time. You can see how good Terry was with the way his managerial career went in the years that followed. We reached the 1982 FA Cup final under Terry. The first game against Spurs finished 1-1 and then we narrowly lost the replay 1-0 at Wembley Stadium.
Those two matches must have been the highlight of your QPR career?
Oh, yeah! It’s everyone’s schoolboy dream to play in an FA Cup final. We were a Second Division club taking on a top-flight team in Tottenham. To appear in those two games at Wembley was so exciting for all of us. In the first match, I was fouled and laying injured on the ground when Glenn Hoddle ran through to score for Spurs. If only they had invented VAR in the 1980s then it could have been a different decision! But we made a great recovery to get back into the game and deservedly equalised. We went on to win a lot of fans and plaudits for the way we played in the replay, where we did enough to win.