Marc Bircham's public relations campaign - History
Thursday, 22nd Nov 2018 21:56 by Clive Whittingham
Stoke away for the first time since 2015 for QPR on Saturday, giving us a chance to look back to a controversial meeting from 2004, and pay homage to Sir Clinton Hill who played for both clubs.
Stoke 0 QPR 1, Saturday October 2, 2004, Championship
QPR have generally enjoyed visiting Stoke since they moved to the Britannia Stadium with four wins from the first seven meeting there, but rarely has the task been simple or without controversy.
In 2004 QPR were new comers to the Championship after winning promotion from what was then called the Second Division the year before. They’d found the going tough initially, taking five games to register their first league win amid reports that popular manager Ian Holloway was about to be ousted and replaced by Argentinean Ramon Diaz at the behest of new board member Gianni Paladini.
Holloway’s future apparently hung on a September home fixture with Plymouth Argyle which he duly won 3-2. Rangers, with Diaz waiting in the wings for a slip up, then embarked on a remarkable run of seven straight victories against the likes of West Ham, Leicester and Coventry that catapulted them up to fourth in the table and eventually cemented their place in the division and Holloway’s job as manager despite a decline after Christmas.
The sixth win in that series came at the Britannia against Tony Pulis’ Stoke side which had been promoted from the division below two years before us. Despite eventually winning promotion in 2001/02, Stoke did lose twice to Queens Park Rangers – once on the opening day at Loftus Road, and then again at home after Christmas. Both games finished 1-0 – the latter was settled by Gavin Peacock and followed by ugly scenes outside the ground afterwards where the visiting supporters’ coaches and bus back to the station were attacked by disgruntled home fans.
This bad blood formed the backdrop of an extraordinary afternoon of football in the Potteries. This niggly game exploded into life just after the half hour mark when another midfield skirmish brought players from both sides together for a round of handbag swinging. Suddenly giant defender Gerry Taggert, who almost joined Rangers several years previously, became embroiled in the incident and Marc Bircham hit the deck clutching his face. Birch won’t mind admitting now he’s retired I’m sure that at best he made the most of meagre contact although he maintained on the QPR Podcast a couple of seasons ago that Taggert had split his lip. Either way, referee Eddie Evans bought it hook, line and sinker – sending Taggert off and sparking ugly scenes on and off the field. A tunnel melee ensued at half time.
Stoke, propelled by a sense of injustice and fury, attacked the game with real vigour thereafter and QPR did well to hang in there and not go under in the face of a constant barrage of pressure from the ten men. After Evans failed to dismiss Paul Furlong in the second half for a horrendous two footed lunge the mood darkened further and when Kevin Gallen, playing in a new central midfield role, calmly slotted home the only goal of the game from the edge of the area it was clear that getting out of the game afterwards was going to be a challenge.
The Stoke fans, labouring under the misapprehension that the QPR fans had anything to do with the sending off or the refereeing, surrounded the pen behind the away end after the match and pelted them with rocks from the car park surface. The club had to smuggle Marc Bircham out with the team bus also coming in for some fearful abuse.
A season later QPR came and repeated the trick – winning by a single goal aided by another sending off, this time John Halls, and a penalty kick. After this game things got properly out of hand. The double decker bus taking QPR fans back to Stoke station became lodged on a roundabout outside the stadium as it tried to escape a gang of Stoke fans who then set about trying to topple it over. On the pitch two Stoke fans ran onto the playing surface, wrestled QPR goalkeeper Simon Royce into the back of the net and started to beat him up.
Stoke escaped FA punishment for this while QPR were fined £20,000 for failing to control the players who rushed to their team mate’s aid.
Stoke: E de Goey, J Halls, W Thomas, G Taggart (s/o 38), M Hall, D Russell , D Brammer (C Asaba, 45), C Clarke , L Neal (C Hill, 41), G Noel-Williams (K Henry, 45), A Akinbiyi
Subs: S Simonsen, C Greenacre
Sent off: Taggert 38
Booked: Russell, Clarke, Noel Williams, Akinbiyi
QPR: C Day, M Bignot, D Shittu, G Santos, M Rose, M Rowlands (K McLeod, 78), M Bircham (M Bean, 78), K Gallen, L Cook (S Branco, 79), J Cureton , P Furlong
Subs: R Edghill, G Padula
Goals: Gallen 69
Booked: Cureton, Furlong.
Stoke 3 QPR 1, Saturday January 30, 2015, Premier League
QPR conceded a hat trick of goals to Jonathan Walters when last these sides met in Stoke, and if that’s not a reason to give up and fold your club I don’t know what is. An equaliser from Niko Kranjcar just after half time, his second goal of the season against Stoke, gave brief hope that a twelfth consecutive away defeat could be avoided but Walters scored on 21, 34 and finally 90 to seal a 3-1 win for the hosts. It proved, mercifully, to be Harry Redknapp’s last game as QPR manager.
Stoke: Begovic 8; Bardsley 6, Shawcross 5 (Muniesa 42, 5), Wollscheid 6, Wilson 5; Nzonzi 6, Arnautovic 6 (Crouch 63, 5), Ireland 7 (Adam 72, 4), Moses 6; Walters 9
Subs not used: Diouf, Cameron, Butland, Sidwell
Goals: Walters 21 (assisted Ireland), 34 (assisted Ireland), 90 (unassisted)
Bookings:Moses 57 (dive), Walters 84 (foul)
QPR: Green 4; Isla 4, Dunne 5, Onouha 4, Hill 4 (Yun 75, 4); Henry 3 (Zamora 46, 3), Barton 6, Kranjcar 3 (Hoilett 68, 6), Fer 7, Vargas 6; Austin 4
Subs not used: Caulker, Phillips, McCarthy, Zarate
Goals: Kranjcar 36 (assisted Austin)
Bookings: Isla 23 (foul), Barton 67 (foul)
QPR 2 Stoke 2, Saturday September 20, 2014, Premier League
QPR were able to salvage a draw, despite a poor performance, from the first meeting between these sides that season thanks to a sublime late free kick from Niko Kranjcar. Mark Hughes looked like he was going to enjoy his first return to Loftus Road since his unhappy spell in charge of Rangers when Diouf slotted in after ten minutes, although Peter Crouch appeared to have fouled Rio Ferdinand in the build up. Crouch scored himself straight after half time and although QPR had equalised prior to that through a Steven Caulker header which Crouch nudged over his own line, it looked like a frustrating afternoon was in store for the W12 faithful with referee Martin Atkinson waving away numerous obvious penalty appeals for holding inside the box. But with Stoke seemingly engaged on a mission to do some serious physical harm to Kranjcar in the final ten minutes of the game, the Croatian had the last laugh when one of the resulting free kicks was whipped round the wall and into the top corner.
QPR: Green 6; Isla 4, Caulker 7, Ferdinand 5, Traore 6; Barton 5 (Phillips 34, 6), Mutch 6 (Henry 50, 7), Fer 6, Kranjcar 8; Vargas 6 (Zamora 70, 5), Austin 6
Subs not used: McCarthy, Onuoha, Dunne, Hoilett
Goals: Crouch og 42 (assisted Mutch/Caulker), Kranjcar 86 (free kick, won Kranjcar)
Yellow cards: Traore 73 (foul), Fer 84 (dissent)
Stoke: Begovic 6; Bardsley 6, Shawcross 6, Wilson 6, Pieters 6; Whelen 6, Adam 6 (Sidwell 70, 5), Nzonzi 7, Moses 8 (Arnautovic 79, 6); Crouch 8, Diouf 7
Subs not used: Huth, Muniesa, Assaidi, Bojan, Sorensen
Goals: Diouf 10 (assisted Moses/Crouch), Crouch 50 (assisted Moses)
Bookings: Pieters 45 (handball), Diouf 80 (foul), Shawcross 83 (foul), Sidwell 87 (foul)
QPR 0 Stoke 2, Saturday April 20, 2013, Premier League
A long, slow, torturous exit from the Premier League continued for QPR in an April 2013 meeting between these two sides when, despite being chronically out of form themselves, Stoke won easily at Loftus Road. Rangers, long since down, wasted several presentable free kick opportunities around the edge of the Stoke area before the visitors took the lead with a defensively shambolic goal just before half time. A channel ball for Cameron Jerome to chase after should have posed few problems for Chris Samba but he stood off his man and allowed him to cross while, behind him in the penalty area, Clint Hill had contrived to lose track of the only other Stoke man up in the attack and former R’s favourite Peter Crouch could hardly miss from six yards out – although Green may feel he should have saved the reasonably weak shot. The second wasn't much better - Hill again allowed Crouch to stand goal side of him from a set piece and then foolishly wrestled the Stoke man to the ground. Crouch certainly made a lot of the contact, but it was an obvious penalty and although Jay Bothroyd’s prolonged moan about the placing of the ball meant Jon Walters had to try a second time after lashing the first spot kick into the roof of the net, he kept his cool and found the bottom corner when it counted.
QPR: Green 5, Bosingwa 5, Samba 4, Hill 3, Ben Haim 6, Townsend 5 (Mackie 46, 5), Mbia 5, Derry 5, Hoilett 3, Taarabt 5 (Bothroyd 56, 5), Remy 6
Subs not used: Cesar, Onuoha, Diakite, Park, Granero
Bookings: Hill 76 (foul – penalty concession)
Stoke: Begovic 6, Shotton 6, Huth 6, Shawcross 6, Wilson 6 (Wilkinson 61,6), Whelan 6, Nzonzi 6, Adam 6 (Whitehead 69, 6), Walters 6, Crouch 7 (Cameron 90, -), Jerome 7
Subs not used: Sorensen, Kightly, Jones, Owen
Goals: Crouch 41 (assisted Jerome), Walters 76 (penalty, won Crouch)
Bookings: Adam 20 (foul), Nzonzi 77 (foul)
Stoke City 1 QPR 0, Saturday November 10, 2012, Premier League
QPR were left to reflect on gilt edged chances missed after a defeat at the Britannia Stadium in November 2012 stretched their run of games without a win at the start of the campaign to 11. Charlie Adam scored the only goal of the game after Anton Ferdinand had lost out to Jon Walters in the air and Armand Traore had tried and failed to intercept the bouncing ball with his chest. But that would have been academic had Adel Taarabt shot properly rather than attempting a flamboyant chip when through on goal in the first half, and then found the target rather than rolling the ball wide in another one on one situation after the break. Mark Hughes would survive only one more fixture, a home defeat against Southampton a week later, before being given the bullet.
Stoke: Begovic 7, Cameron 5, Huth 6, Shawcross 6, Wilkinson 7, Whelen 5, Nzonzi 7, Adam 6 (Whitehead 77, 5), Etherington 6 (Kightly 71, 6), Crouch 6 (Jones 74, 5), Walters 5
Goals: Adam 52 (assisted Walters/Crouch)
Bookings: Nzonzi 65 (foul), Whitehead 90 (foul)
QPR: Cesar 6, Bosingwa 4, Ferdinand 6, Nelsen 6, Traore 5, Granero 6, Faurlin 5 (Zamora 77, 5), Diakite 5, Hoilett 6, Taarabt 7, Cissé 5
Subs not used: Green, Hill, Onuoha, Derry, Wright-Phillips, Mackie
Bookings: Diakite 45 (foul), Traore 83 (foul), Granero 90 (dissent)
QPR 1 Stoke City 0, Sunday May 6, 2012, Premier League
QPR left it late, but managed to take the fight for Premier League survival down to the final day of the season with a victory against Stroke in the last home game of the 2011/12 season. Locked in a tussle with Bolton to steer clear of the final relegation spot, Rangers looked nervous and tense against a Stoke side that had won only one of its last ten games and came to West London with limited ambition. The mood around the place was dark when news came through that Bolton were 2-0 up at home to a West Brom side that had nothing to play for and knew manager Roy Hodgson was about to leave. But the whole situation swung in the final minute when Anton Ferdinand glanced on Adel Taarabt’s corner and substitute Djibril Cisse slammed the ball into the open goal. Amidst wild celebrations, news filtered through that the Baggies had equalised up in Lancashire. A week later Stoke held Bolton to a draw which meant the R’s survived despite a late defeat at Man City.
QPR: Kenny 6, Onuoha 6, Ferdinand 7, Hill 7, Taiwo 6, Barton 7, Derry 6 (Wright-Phillips 81, -), Buzsaky 5 (Cisse 50, 7), Mackie 5, Taarabt 7, Zamora 5 (Bothroyd 81, -)
Subs Not Used: Cerny, Hall, Gabbidon, Traore
Goals: Cisse 89 (assisted Taarabt/Ferdinand)
Stoke: Sorensen 7, Huth 7, Shawcross 7, Upson 6, Wilson 5 (Shotton 46, 6), Walters 6, Whelan 5, Delap 5, Jerome 6 (Jones 78, 6), Crouch 6, Fuller 6 (Whitehead 78, 6)
Subs Not Used: Begovic, Etherington, Woodgate, Palacios
Stoke City 2 QPR 3, Saturday November 19, 2011, Premiership
It’s hard to believe that QPR are even the same club from the one that went to Stoke and won back in November 2011. A 3-2 win at the Britannia Stadium moved Neil Warnock’s team up to eighth in the league and was their third away win from the first six road trips of the season. They were good value for it as well, out passing and outplaying Stoke to recover from an early Jon Walters goal and not only equalise when Luke Young got on the end of a flowing move to score his first goal for the club but then take the lead when Traore crossed and Helguson rammed in an unstoppable header. The lead was extended still further after half time when Helguson got on the end of Barton’s excellent cross and moments later Shaun Wright-Phillips hit the post in pursuit of a fourth. A typically direct goal from Ryan Shawcross made for a nervous last 25 minutes but Stoke completed just 117 passes in the entire game and QPR were good value for the win.
Stoke: Sorensen 6, Wilkinson 5, Shawcross 6, Huth 6, Higginbotham 6, Pennant 5 (Fuller 68, 6), Whitehead 5 (Whelan 85, -), Delap 5, Etherington 6, Walters 7, Crouch 6 (Jones 65, 6)
Subs Not Used: Begovic, Wilson, Upson, Palacios
Booked: Wilkinson (foul), Shawcross (foul), Delap (foul), Fuller (foul)
Goals: Walters 8 (assisted Crouch), Shawcross 64 (assisted Crouch)
QPR: Kenny 6, Young 7 (Orr 77, 6), Ferdinand 6, Gabbidon 7, Hill 7, Wright-Phillips 7, Barton 7, Faurlin 8, Traore 8, Mackie 7, Helguson 9
Subs Not Used: Derry , Buzsaky, Smith, Hewitt
Booked: Barton (handball), Helguson (foul)
Goals: Helguson 22 (assisted Traore), 54 (assisted Barton), Young 44 (assisted Mackie)
QPR 3 Stoke 0, Sunday March 2, 2008, Championship
Stoke City were second in the Championship when these sides met at Loftus Road in 2008, and were heading for promotion to the Premiership. QPR were in the early throws of the Flavio Briatore reign and his first manager Luigi De Canio was doing an excellent job of hauling the R’s away from the bottom three – nevertheless they were only fifteenth in the table when Tony Pulis’ men arrived in W12 and were heavy odds against for the live Sky clash. Stoke dominated the early proceedings and, as at the Britannia Stadium in the earlier meeting that season, Rangers really struggled to deal with their set piece threat – Mamady Sidibe headed against the underside of the bar from an early corner. Within a minute of that near miss though Mikele Leigertwood had drilled a spectacular opener in from fully 30 yards out. The quickly became 2-0 as Vine headed Buzsaky’s cross back into the path of Leigertwood once more who lashed into the roof of the net after arriving in the penalty box unchecked. Stoke made much of a the harsh straight red card handed out to Andy Griffin by referee Andy D’Urso just before half time for what seemed to be a fair tackle on Hogan Ephraim but Rangers were already well on their way to victory by then and the game was over when a counter attack from a dire Liam Lawrence free kick ended with Agyemany teeing up Buzsaky for a crisply struck third.
QPR: Camp 7, Mancienne 7, Connolly 7, Hall 7 (Stewart 79, -), Delaney 8, Buzsaky 8, Leigertwood 9, Rowlands 8 (Ainsworth 81, -), Ephraim 8, Agyemang 7, Vine 8 (Blackstock 75, 7)
Subs Not Used: Pickens, Lee
Booked: Mancienne (foul)
Goals: Leigertwood 12 (assisted Buzsaky) 21 (assisted Vine), Buzsaky 56 (assisted Agyemang)
Stoke: Simonsen 7, Griffin 3, Cort 5, Shawcross 5, Pugh 5, Lawrence 5 (Buxton 62, 6), Diao 6 (Gallagher 55, 5), Whelan 6, Cresswell 5, Sidibe 5 (Wilkinson 46, 5), Fuller 7
Subs Not Used: Hoult, Parkin
Sent Off: Griffin (two footed tackle)
Booked: Cresswell (dissent)
Previous ResultsHead to Head >>> Stoke wins 11 >>> Draws 7 >>> QPR wins 17
2014/15 Stoke 3 QPR 1 (Kranjcar)
2014/15 QPR 2 Stoke 2 (Caulker, Kranjcar)
2012/13 QPR 0 Stoke 2
2012/13 Stoke 1 QPR 0
2011/12 QPR 1 Stoke 0 (Cisse)
2011/12 Stoke 2 QPR 3 (Helguson 2, Young)
2007/07 QPR 3 Stoke 0 (Leigertwood 2, Buzsaky)
2007/08 Stoke 3 QPR 1 (Vine)
2006/07 QPR 1 Stoke 1 (Rowlands)
2006/07 Stoke 1 QPR 0
2005/06 QPR 1 Stoke 2 (Ainsworth)
2005/06 Stoke 1 QPR 2 (Furlong, Langley )
2004/05 QPR 1 Stoke 0 (Cook)
2004/05 Stoke 0 QPR 1 (Gallen)
2000/01 Stoke 0 QPR 1 (Peacock)
2000/01 QPR 1 Stoke 0 (Thomson)
1997/98 Stoke 2 QPR 1 (Barker)
1997/98 QPR 1 Stoke 1 (Barker)
1996/97 Stoke 0 QPR 0
1996/97 QPR 1 Stoke 1 (Sinclair)
1984/85 Stoke 0 QPR 2 (James, Fillery)
1984/85 QPR 2 Stoke 0 (Bannister, Gregory)
1983/84 Stoke 1 QPR 2 (Allen, Fereday)
1983/84 QPR 6 Stoke 0 (Charles 2, Stainrod, Gregory, Stewart, Fillery)
1976/77 Stoke 1 QPR 0
1976/77 QPR 2 Stoke 0 (Bowles, Givens)
1975/76 Stoke 0 QPR 1 (Webb)
1975/76 QPR 3 Stoke 2 (Webb, Masson, Clement)
1974/75 Stoke 1 QPR 0
1974/75 QPR 0 Stoke 1
1973/74 Stoke 4 QPR 1 (Leach)
1973/74 QPR 3 Stoke 3 (Bowles 2, Givens)
1968/69 QPR 2 Stoke 1 (Leach 2)
1968/69 Stoke 1 QPR 1 (R Morgan)
1947/48 QPR 3 Stoke 0* (Hatton 2, Ramscar)
* - FA Cup
Clint Hill >>> Stoke 2003-2008 >>> QPR 2010-2016
This is a very similar signing to Shaun Derry in many ways. It’s a player at the wrong end of his career age wise, somebody who has not impressed when we have played against him in recent times and a limited footballer even in his prime. He is however very experienced at this level, known and liked by our manager, covering an area of the team that we’re lacking in, and cheap. As with Derry, and Leon Clarke, I cannot help but feel that we could and probably should be doing better than Clint Hill.
That's Clint Hill, as assessed by this site way back in 2010, on the day he signed from Crystal Palace. Don't ever say we don't roll out the red carpet for new arrivals. Or know what we're talking about.
There was little indication of the glorious season to follow at the start of that summer. Neil Warnock had turned things around in 2009/10 having arrived from Crystal Palace but the quickfire acquisition of Hill, Shaun Derry and Leon Clarke didn't exactly scream ambition and promotion. Hill and Derry, in particular, were both the wrong side of 30 and had been part of a Palace side that itself was almost relegated the year before – albeit with the considerable handicap of a points deduction and Paul Hart in charge for their final dozen games – and totally outplayed by Warnock's QPR at Selhurst Park in April. Derry had a particular nightmare that day, again with the caveat that he was trying to keep hold of Adel Taarabt and Akos Buzsaky.
Hill, 31, was only given a 12-month deal because he had an ankle "like a cement mixer". He was signed to play at left back, despite growing up at Tranmere and Oldham as a centre half, instead of Dusko Tosic, who'd impressed on loan from Portsmouth at the end of the previous season and was available on a free.
When Warnock first arrived at Crystal Palace he'd swapped his starting centre half, Leon Cort, for Hill from Tony Pulis' horrible Stoke side. Cort, who I quite rated, Warnock joked hadn't been booked yet that season and that would never do for his centre back. Typical bloody Warnock anti-football, signing a clogger from Stoke to kick people instead of a more talented, younger player. And now here it was happening to us.
Indeed, it was typical Warnock, we were right about that at least. Team over individuals, footballers over names, leaders across the park, dressing room spirit… by the end of 2010/11 QPR were champions, the seventh time Warnock had won a promotion from the second tier. Giving a speech in the dressing room at Watford's Vicarage Road ground after a 2-0 win in the penultimate match sealed the elevation, Warnock said Hill was a "fucking hero" after starting 45 matches that season.
The team had genuine ability, with the likes of Ale Faurlin, Adel Taarabt and Wayne Routledge better than anything else in the league in their positions. But it had a heart as big as a dustbin as well, with Derry, Hill, Paddy Kenny and Jamie Mackie absolutely key in Warnock's dressing room.
The wily old boss knew full well what it took to win promotions. It took people like Clint Hill.
It is easy to slip into the trap of talking about Clint Hill the leader as if that's all he is.
Vocal on and off the pitch in all the right ways, he went on to be an outstanding captain of QPR. As the club lost itself in piles of Malaysian and Premier League money, and lumbered itself with one self-absorbed footballer after another - interested only in the disgusting wages the club was forking out and not at all bothered whether they played or not, whether the club won or not, or what those who did care about that thought of them - Hill was a beacon of light. He carried himself with dignity, represented the club superbly, spoke with honesty and passion about the place and engaged with the supporters at a time when the club as a whole and most of his colleagues were moving away from those who cared most. Neil Warnock's wife Sharon said she hoped their son would grow up to be like Clint.
But that does a disservice to his playing ability, which quickly became apparent to the initial doubters and remains at a deceptively high level to this day.
Clint Hill is, first and foremost, a good footballer with a very decent left foot for a centre back, an undiminished ability to win the vast majority of the balls he competes for in the air and a reading of the game far superior to most centre backs in this league which always meant he could be relied upon for a timely interception and block. That, coupled with the leadership qualities, meant the defence was always more secure with him in it, right up until his final match against Bristol City. After leaving QPR he spent a season with Glasgow Rangers, scoring in an Old Firm derby and winning the club’s John Greig Achievement Award. After that he turned up at Carlisle, pushing 40, and was named the club’s Player of the Year.
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s decision to release him in the summer of 2016 wasn’t the first time Hill had been written off at Loftus Road. Even Neil Warnock, surely one of his biggest fans, felt Hill was only going to be good for one more year, and contracted him accordingly. After promotion Rangers started chasing the so-called bigger names and better players, and Hill – who'd been sent off in an opening day thrashing by Bolton - actually spent the initial part of Rangers' return to the top flight out on loan at Nottingham Forest while Arsenal's Armand Traore settled into that position.
But after a 6-0 shellacking by Fulham, he was recalled, and put back in the team for a daunting visit from soon-to-be European Champions Chelsea. He was, of course, magnificent in a 1-0 win, and kept his place for the rest of the season, even when Warnock was replaced by Mark Hughes.
The spending only got more excessive, the names only bigger, the egos only more unbearable, when Hughes started moulding his team the following season. Hill and Derry joked that they'd know QPR were in trouble if either of them got back in the team. And so it proved. When the toads from Kia Joorabchian's client log sold Hughes, and QPR, down the river the Welshman turned to first Hill, then Derry, and finally Jamie Mackie as well as his reign fell apart. All three were better than the con artists and mercenaries that went before them, and Hill further endeared himself to the support by talking about his sadness at the direction the club, and the dressing room, had taken.
Relegation, apparently, prolonged Hill's career another year, back at "his level". But when QPR won promotion again in 2014, that surely would have to be that. Now 36, and only meant to stay for a year in the first place, another Premier League season would be beyond him. Of course it would. And besides, Rio Ferdinand was on the horizon. Arguably the nadir of QPR's shambolic, shameful approach to top flight squad building.
Needless to say, once again, it didn't go well and Hill, once again, was called for and, once again, turned in an outstanding effort. He even, finally, got the first Premier League goal of his career, a thumping header in a 3-3 draw at Villa Park. Although, as we know, he’d had a perfectly legitimate one ruled out by rank bad officiating in a crucial game at Bolton in 2012/13.
One torturous afternoon at West Brom, after which Hill himself admitted he couldn't handle left back any more and would have to be played at centre half from now on or not at all, and an afternoon of brutal schooling by Luis Suarez at Loftus Road apart, Hill has never looked his age, nor fitted with the perception of him.
He was that rare example of a modern day QPR player you felt cared about the result and how the club was progressing as much as we did, and we loved him for that. But more importantly, he was still the best all round centre back at Queens Park Rangers even at the point he was written off by the club for the final time and released.
Clint Hill had played at Wembley before. It had not gone well.
As a 21-year-old he’d been a defender learning his trade in a Tranmere Rovers team managed by John Aldridge which punched above its weight in the First Division, and was renowned for lengthy cup runs. In 2000 they went all the way to the League Cup final at the old Wembley to face Martin O’Neill’s Leicester City, beating Premier League Middlesbrough and Bolton on the way.
Leicester won 2-1. Matt Elliott twice came up from the back to head home at set pieces. Clint was sent off on the hour for a second bookable offence.
Hill was denied a redemption of sorts, albeit at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, in 2002/03 by the club he would later go on to serve with such distinction. It’s often forgotten that the loveable Scouser was part of Iain Dowie’s Oldham side beaten by that Paul Furlong goal on one of the greatest ever nights at Loftus Road.
He’d left Stoke City long before they started troubling Wembley occasions – the Potters lost to Manchester City in the FA Cup final of 2011 – and the Palace side he was part off lost a fractious 2008 play-off semi-final to Bristol City.
It seemed like it wasn’t meant to be. Palace are serial play-off competitors – their four promotions the joint most achieved through the end of season knockout along with Blackpool. If Hill couldn’t banish his demons at Selhurst Park, surely he wouldn’t find much more luck at Loftus Road. QPR, after all, had only been to Wembley four times in their history – twice for the same final – and won once, in 1967.
In 2013/14, despite the signing of Richard Dunne at centre half, and the addition of Benoit Assou Ekotto on loan from Spurs at ghastly expense to play left back, Hill completed another 46 matches. When Assou Ekotto, persistently half-arsed in his efforts for the club, once again cost QPR a goal through pisballing about in possession in a dangerous area at Brighton, followed by the traditional collapse and demand to be substituted with some mysterious injury or other, even Redknapp couldn’t tolerate him any longer and Hill was back in at left full back.
Along with Dunne, Danny Simpson and Nedum Onuoha he formed an impenetrable wall in the semi-final away leg at Wigan. One of the worst games in the short history of the play-offs, but a tie successfully killed which is what Rangers had set out to do. The home leg was no Oldham, but there was electricity in the Shepherd’s Bush air. Trailing by a goal after half time, it was Hill who was sacrificed - at the time, it was said, at his own insistence – to get the more attacking Yun Suk-Young on down the left side. Rangers won 2-1 in extra time.
At Wembley, Hill insisted on being removed. This time it was Gary O’Neil who saw red at the national stadium and that compounded a situation of Rangers’ own making. Harry Redknapp’s team selections, throughout the season, had often seemed to have been made with no regard for the opposition whatsoever, and frequently needed one, or sometimes two, substitutions at half time to get the side into the shape and system it should have been in to start with.
That was no different on the big day, where Redknapp’s insistence on picking his golden boy Niko Kranjcar despite his lack of first team action and hamstring injury meant the first change came after 23 minutes and saw left back Armand Traore come on. Another odd idea, playing Kevin Doyle wide, ended before the hour which meant that when O’Neil went off a short time later two substitutions had been used, and one attacking left sided player had already been brought on. Redknapp had worked himself into a position where either he had to take Bobby Zamora off three minutes after bringing him on, or take off top scorer Charlie Austin.
Hill’s demand that he be replaced instead, allowing Traore to come to left back, was self sacrifice on the highest stage, and helped swing the final dramatically into QPR’s favour despite the numerical disadvantage. He now stands on the touchline himself, as assistant manager at Fleetwood Town, and will maybe one day return to Loftus Road to manage the side.
Hill, choked, said afterwards: “13 years ago I let a lot of people down here, I got sent off and didn’t get a chance to go up those steps. I’ve regretted it throughout my career. These lads have made me a very proud captain today, by giving me a chance to get up them steps and rectify an error I made. I got a chance to lift a trophy at Wembley Stadium, something I never thought I’d do.”
In the process, Hill followed Mike Keen as the only QPR captains ever to have walked our team up the steps at Wembley Stadium. If there’s never another, the honour couldn’t have gone to anybody more deserving.
Others >>> Geoff Cameron, QPR (loan) 2018-present, Stoke 2012-present >>> Mark Hughes, Stoke (manager) 2013-2018, QPR (manager) 2012 >>> Jay Bothroyd, Stoke (loan) 2008, QPR 2011-2013 >>> Peter Crouch, QPR 2000-2001, Stoke 2011-present >>> Jason Jarrett, Stoke (loan) 2005, QPR (loan) 2007-2008 >>> Chris Barker, Stoke (loan) 2004, QPR 2007-2008 >>> Andrew Davies, QPR (loan) 2005, Stoke 2008-present >>> Richard Johnson, Stoke 2004, QPR 2004-2005 >>> Paul Peschisolido, Stoke 1994-1996, QPR (loan) 2000 >>> Tony Scully, Stoke (loan) 1998, QPR 1998-2001 >>> Mike Sheron, Stoke 1995-1997, QPR 1997-1999 >>> Mark Stein, QPR 1988-1989, Stoke (loan) 1991, (loan) 1996-1997 >>> Simon Stainrod, Stoke 1987-1988, QPR 1980-1985 >>> Gary Bannister, QPR 1984-1988, Stoke 1993 >>> Paul Barron, Stoke (loan) 1985, QPR 1985-1988 >>> Robbie James, Stoke 1983-1984, QPR 1984-1987 >>> George Mountford, Stoke 1946-1950, QPR 1953-1954 >>> Des Farrow, QPR 1948-1952, Stoke 1952-1954 >>> John Bowman, Stoke 1899-1900, QPR 1901-1905
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