The Ale Faurlin interview – Part one
Monday, 13th Apr 2020 09:20 by Clive Whittingham
The first part of our mammoth catch-up with former QPR midfielder Ale Faurlin takes in his early days in Argentina, his move to London, Jim Magilton’s red face, and that promotion season.
Let’s start right at the start, you’re a Rosario boy and they were your first club, but you only played for them once…
My first team was Rosario Central. I grew up there, did my basics, went through the academy and got my first game as a 17-year-old back in 2004. I was very young. At this time there was a situation in Argentina with third parties buying players - anybody could buy your rights as a player. I found myself in a package with another four players, five of us were sold by the club to a guy and from there we started to move.
Did you get any say in that - the ownership or the moves?
I was very young, my parents were not familiar with this. It was a boom in Argentina at that time. All the clubs in Argentina are always surrounded by debt, deep debt, and a few years after this Rosario Central actually went bankrupt. They sold everything, all their promising players coming through, they did whatever they could to survive and we were part of that. We didn’t have much say, we had to sign. It’s an uncomfortable situation to find yourself in.
You ended up at River Plate which is about as big as it gets in Argentina, how was that?
I was 17-years-old and I having my first pre-season with a professional team. Halfway through I got the call saying: “you’re going to River Plate”. It’s a big club as everybody knows, one of the biggest clubs in Argentina along with Boca Juniors, so I had to move. I’d recently played in the U17 World Cup with Argentina. Things were moving smoothly and quickly for me at the time: I had a perfect situation training with the first team at 17, I’d already made my debut, everything was nice and smooth. Then I got there, and it was a big thing for me, but I couldn’t get near to the first team in two years with them.
We’ve actually got a load of photographs of you playing in that World Cup, how was it?
Argentina made it to the semi-finals of the tournament in Finland, with Ale scoring a winner in a group match against Nigeria, but they were eventually beaten 3-2 by Spain after extra time having led 2-0.
It was great. I still have a lot of memories from that. Rosario is a city 300km from Buenos Aires so from the age of 14 or 15 players from Rosario and Newells started to go to the national team together. Three or four of us were going together to backwards and forwards to Buenos Aires to train - Ezequiel Garay was there, for example (now with Valencia). We were training there every week and things started to get serious. We ended up playing in the World Cup with Fernando Gago (ex-Real Madrid), Lucas Biglia (now AC Milan), Garay – really good players. Spain had Fabregas and he was named the player of the tournament that year. We lost 3-2 in the semi-final, he scored two, one in extra time and was man of the match.
Why didn’t it work out at River Plate?
They had some amazing players. I played there with Augusto Fernandez (Celta, Atletico Madrid), Higuain, Falcao, so many amazing players who had beautiful careers. In that group of players I couldn’t really get a game. River Plate was facing huge problems as well – financial, political, everything – and after I left the club, a year or two after, they were relegated. It wasn’t a great moment for the club but there was a lot of talent. The manager of the B Team where I had been training and playing left and was appointed at Rafaela so me and another two players went there to play. I stayed there for six months and then the opportunity came to go to Portugal with Maritimo so I went there and signed for a year in Funchal, on the island, where Cristiano Ronaldo is from. After six months the manager had moved on from Rafaela to Instituto and I decided to go back and play for him again.
Are you choosing these moves or being bounced around by your owner
All these moves are with my family and my agent, but also there was this third party involved bouncing us around places and trying to get it right. I had a lot of promise when I was coming through the academy, but I couldn’t break through at River, so I was now just trying to make my way. I was never afraid. At the time the Second Division in Argentina was very strong but it didn’t have a lot of money and it didn’t have television coverage so it wasn’t much of a window for people to see you. Some young players were happy to stay with the clubs there and didn’t want to go, when you get to 19 or 20 you need to make a decision either to go and play or stay where you are. Higuain, Fernandez they bounced on but there are examples of others who stayed there and didn’t make it elsewhere but were still really good players. I made my decision, I wanted to go and play, and I always say now to young players if you have age on your side forget about everything else you have to go and play, get experience. That was my way.
When did you first hear about QPR?
Once I was back at Instituto I played a year and a half for them. I arrived back from Portugal and played six months from January to the end of the season and at the time I was trying to get my Italian passport. We were going through the process of the paperwork, waiting for that to come through to give me a better chance to move to Europe. That first summer we had a pre-contract offer from Pisa who were Serie B in Italy at that time. Once I got the passport we could sign the contract. In June I flew to Rome with my agent and we spent most of the transfer window there, trying to move things along and get the passport. Time started to pass, the window was almost at the deadline, and I panicked and decided to go back to Instituto and forget about the pre-contract offer from Pisa. I said ‘listen, I cannot wait’, it was a week or ten days until the window closed, my missus was seven months pregnant with Tiziano at that time and wouldn’t have been able to fly to join me in Pisa until after she gave birth so that was a big thing as well. All of these things made me not wait, and go back. The crazy thing about this is a few days before the window closed the passport came through which was a good thing, but Pisa disappeared. Something happened with the company there and they just disappeared so I would have had a big problem if I’d stayed in Italy and waited for them.
I went back and played one more year at Instituto. When QPR came and the opportunity came it was another year on. People came and said we have an opportunity for you here, a contract of three years. At the time I was blinded by my dream of playing in the first league in Argentina. Instituto were doing really well, they’d been consistent for a year and a half, and a few clubs were knocking at the door to give me the opportunity, so I wasn’t very kind to QPR to begin with. Players I played with at the time who had more experience than me said to me “listen, you play football to move to Europe and play there, to make a living from it, to play in different leagues. You have an opportunity here and you have to take it”. I was 22 and didn’t know anything about the second division in England. It was a good call. I gave it a lot of thought and decided to give it a go. After that it was amazing.
The start of a beautiful friendship
Was it the London thing that convinced you?
I always say to everybody I was really lucky. I knew English football but not that much to understand if it was London, the north, the south… At the time when I arrived at QPR a team mate of mine from Instituto, a striker called Morales Neumann, he went to Barnsley. (Uproarious laughter) That’s what I’m saying. He’d played in the World Cup at under 20s level, played many games in the Argentinian First Division, and moved to Barnsley. Imagine. I was very lucky, it was like a dream for me.
Chiswick is a bit different to Barnsley.
QPR weren’t particularly well known for telling the truth back then. They put it around that you’d turned down Inter Milan and Jose Mourinho to come to London. Any truth in that?
To be fair to you we were working with Italian people at the time, I had the passport and there is a link there, but it doesn’t make any sense that you would say no to Inter Milan to move to the second division in another country. I think they were making a boom of the situation, the signing. It didn’t matter for me because I was right where I wanted to be.
How involved were you in the deal and the contract negotiations, because obviously there would be problems with this down the line?
In the end you could all see what went on with the contract. When the charge eventually came through we were facing the last part of season and we were almost champions already, somebody just threw it there because they wanted to make something of it. Since day one we did things in the right way. It wasn’t ideal with the third party there, as it had been with Tevez and Mascherano before, and with a lot of south American players, not just Argentineans, to be fair. But we did it in the right way. When I went to sign the federation investigated the whole thing. They came, they interviewed us, they recorded everything, they said “yes, go ahead, sign, it’s fine”. When I renewed my contract it was the same thing - they went through everything, they analysed everything, they said “yes, it can go through”. Then suddenly with four months to go in a championship winning season they came out with a problem. I think somebody tried to make something out of it. It was crazy to live with.
When I arrived at QPR there was a contract of three years to sign. I was finishing my season in Argentina, and not even a week after that I flew straight to London. I said I’ll fly in and sign, but after that I need to go back to Argentina to have a week break with my family. I flew to London and after I signed I never went back. When I arrived Gianni Paladini was with us, my agent, and they were saying to me "listen Ale you have to train before you sign". I said I wasn’t training. I don’t know how things work in England, I’ve been told by team mates and others in the same situation that you sometimes train before you sign, but in Argentina this would never happen. I remember being very sceptical about this, saying “no, no, no”. In the end they said if you don’t train you don’t sign, the manager wants to see if you’re the player from the videos. I flew in with just hand luggage, a few trousers, a shirt. No boots. Nothing. The guy who teaches the goalkeepers handed me a pair of boots to train in, I remember they were terrible. In the end everything went smoothly, I did a bit of kicking the ball around and that was enough. Peter Ramage, Fitz Hall, Hogan Ephraim, all the lads made it very smooth, it was a great group of players.
Your first manager here was Jim Magilton, what were your first impressions of him?
Jim Magilton, and everybody when I arrived, they were wanting to change things. I was amazed by everything in that first season. The season was a crazy, crazy season, a terrible one for the club, but an amazing and brilliant year for me. You had to catch up with everything, I was changing country, I didn’t speak any English, Tiziano was 11 months old and I had to adapt to the football. The football was way different even from what the Championship is now. That season was hard for everybody, but I enjoyed my football. I think it was a good thing that I understood very little of what was going on around me with the changing managers, sacking people, fans booing the board. I didn’t have a clue basically. I started to find out the last few months of that season.
In September or October we played away at Chelsea in the League Cup. For me, from the Second Division in Argentina, to be playing in that it was amazing, I remember that game like it was yesterday.
I remember Jim Magilton had John Gorman with him who was brilliant. It was very weird how that situation ended. John I’ve been in touch with for years, he was a really nice guy, everybody loved him. Jim was very competitive, he wanted to win everything. He had almost like a South American mindset, like a crazy person. At some points we played really good football with him. We got into the play off positions when Ben Watson came in as a loan player. In the end he made a mistake with Akos, they had something that in South America wouldn’t have been that big of a deal but it was an accumulation of things.
Yes we’d been going so well, scoring lots of goals, beating Barnsley, Preston, Reading, Derby… and then suddenly lost 5-1 to Middlesbrough and 3-1 at Watford in three days and the manager got the sack. What happened that weekend?
I didn’t have a clue. I was sitting there. People were screaming.
Let me tell you this story, in one of the other games Jim was hammering us, I don’t even remember the game but he was hammering everybody, screaming “what’s going on with that, what’s going on with you, we need to do better with this, we cannot do that”. I was watching everybody around me, very low, heads down. I just wanted to say something, but I couldn’t speak any English. I cannot really speak English now, back then I could not say anything. Being in that situation I got a rush, like 100 miles per hour, and I stood up, and started to say things half in Spanish with very little English. Nothing really important. But people started to laugh. There was complete tension in the dressing room, and I started to shout, shout, shout Spanish words. Everybody looked at me and started to laugh. When I speak with them even now they remember this.
John Gorman was good cop and Jim Magilton was bad cop?
Yes. Jim would go really red every time. His face went red. It was funny. To be fair I remember when he played in training he was very good player.
So did he hit Akos?
I didn’t think it was much. The situation with Akos was an accumulation of things. What happens in the dressing room stays in the dressing room - football is like that. Football is crazy now, you cannot do anything, back in that time things were changing in that direction. The Watford dressing room you could knock the wall with your hand and the wall would fall apart they were so thin, people were outside listening, I think people made the most of the situation. We’d had a few bad weeks. It was frustration more than anything.
Is Flavio Briatore around the place at this time, talking to you guys? How was he?
It was exactly what you saw in the Four Year Plan. Flavio was like that. It was really funny to be around him. At times it was hilarious. We’re talking about a character and a very successful person in what he does. He was trying to make things right, with the Italian touch. Everything was a mess at the time and he was trying to change everything.
I’m 33-years-old now so I’ve seen it all. Whenever you cannot get results, you’re in a bad position, they always send through a guy to give you motivation. Most of the time it doesn’t work. I remember somebody coming in and us having meetings every ten days, Flavio showing up and having a meeting, the guy from the kitchen showing up and we had a meeting. We were in a really bad position at one point, if Neil hadn’t come in we would have gone down. We were 11 or 12 games without a win. I don’t like to speak about managers but…
… Paul Hart. I don’t know what to say. I was 22-years-old, not even 23, but, hmmmmmmmmm, I couldn’t believe. I couldn’t believe. It wasn’t football. It was something else. We got very deep into the trouble.
I remember after that the assistant manager, Mick Harford, tried to do something different but he couldn’t do anything either. I don’t know if it was the timing, the situation, he couldn’t jam with the squad or what it was, but I didn’t have a good feeling from day one with Paul Hart. From his side, in football, you can just end up in the wrong place at the wrong time and it’s a disaster – this was one of those.
I remember a 5-0 loss at Nottingham Forest one Tuesday night when you got hooked at half time. Freezing cold, abysmal performance, that was about as bad as it got.
We got hammered. For me it was a big game, the stadium and the atmosphere was amazing, it was one of the biggest games in the Championship to play. I remember their number ten, Robert Earnshaw, a small guy who would score always. I remember Majewski in the middle as well, they had good players and they killed us. We were all over the place.
One big change for me in England, and in the beginning I suffered a lot from this, was that people just approached football like a job. I’m coming from a different environment in Argentina, a different way to see things, a different way to feel about football. In my first year that was big for me. We would lose 3-0, you go out of the stadium and people are asking for your picture or a signature. I’m asking myself ‘how can they ask me this, how are they not hitting me in the face?’ If it was me in that situation I would have killed the guy, but here they were asking me for an autograph. We’d be back on the bus, on the coach, and people were just being relaxed and like nothing had happened, just trying to disconnect and go again. For me I would be very upset for two or three days, and I was seeing people around like nothing had happened. Over the years I learned to separate things, but at the time that was very difficult for me.
What were your first impressions of Neil Warnock?
Neil won’t give you a lot of direction on tactics, but he will make you feel like you want to destroy the guy in front of you. You want to give the best of you for your teammates, he’s very special in bringing that out of everybody. Straight away he pushed the right buttons and got us winning games. He changed the mentality. We came through a situation that was dark, we had so many loan players, loan players, loan players. It wasn’t a group, it was just individuals playing, thrown on the pitch with nobody playing for nobody. It was a tough season for us and in the end we just made it work and he was the most important key in that.
Who does the tactics then, do you just go out and freewheel?
What I’m saying is he’s old school. He’ll give you three attacking things we need to get right and three defensive things we need to get right. He’ll make it very simple, but you’ll do that to perfection, to the top of your game. It’s things he’s been doing for years and years and getting promotion after promotion after promotion. Whatever team he gets, whatever club, whatever history or philosophy the club has, he will get people to think like him, to fight for him, to fight for the people around you and to really believe in what he’s saying to you. That’s the key to winning things. He understands that. He’s a character, he has a great sense of humour, he knows how to deal with people, to talk to players, and to get the most out of his squad.
Don’t take this the wrong way but there were a few players at the time we didn’t think would be ‘Neil Warnock players’ yourself included, and then you ended up being one of his main men…
Straight away with me there was a connection there. He was very clever. The first thing he said to me, before his first game with West Bromwich, he called me out of the dressing room and took me to his office around the corner and he said to me “listen, you’re a very good player, but people say you don’t have enough character, you don’t have enough bollocks, you are not aggressive enough”. He would push you like that. You’d want to go out and kill somebody. It was the same thing with Adel, he would say the right things to Adel to get the most out of Adel. We finished the season in a good position, much more relaxed.
And then you all pop down to Cornwall for a Neil Warnock pre-season, beating the local village team 15-0 in between barbecues at his house…
I remember coming back from my family and holidays into that. One thing Neil does is get the new people in early at the start of the pre-season. We started the pre-season and in the first exercise of football possession, seeing the likes of Shaun Derry, Clint Hill, Paddy Kenny, Jamie Mackie, I was thinking to myself ‘fucking hell we are even worse than last year, where are we going, where are we going?’ (More uproarious laughter) In the end though, he knew what we needed, he knew how to do it. Hands down to him.
We went down to Cornwall with him and played a lot on the golf course. I have not played golf in my life so I was just in the room, facing the ceiling, while everybody was playing golf. He knew, he let us jam as a team. He would say lads, have a pint, talk things through, have a nice time. There is a fine line, he was really good at that. It’s one of the reasons he’s a special manager.
We did go to his house for a barbecue, yes. It’s a nice house. He’s so funny, we basically just went to Cornwall so he could be at home, he didn’t want to go anywhere, he wanted to be around home with his lovely family and lovely place. There were a few short golf holes to play, there was a lake and people were fishing. He’s funny. We had a great time playing for him.
Jamie, Paddy, Clint, Shaun… did they hit the ground running, shall we say?
I’m still in touch with most of that team, they’re great people to have around. Good characters with a positive attitude. They just ran and ran. They knew how to work hard and have fun doing it. Hands down to them.
I think you said on the podcast a night out with Jamie Mackie is like starring in The Hangover…
Yeh with Jamie that’s exactly how it is. He’s just… insane. I think he has a serious problem.
We start that season with three wins, three clean sheets and then the comeback at Derby, did that surprise you?
Yes, because as you say we were in Cornwall playing against the guys from the pub on a terrible pitch, all of the friendlies were the same and we didn’t know where we were at. We started off flying. It’s important in the Championship to start that way, to win games. As a group you can have the right characters, players, technique, quality, but in the end if you don’t win games you don’t jam, and if you don’t jam things quickly fall apart. If you do win games it can be a fluid thing, you end up happy with smiling faces. When we didn’t win we drew, like at Derby we just carried on and carried on and in the end crazy things started to happen.
It wasn’t just about people being nice and crazy, we had people in that group who were very clever you know. Clint, Shaun, Heidar Helguson was something else, they were very sensitive to the way things happen and they knew this was a different season and we needed to take that opportunity.
Talk to me about the dynamic of the midfield, you had Adel up ahead being Adel, Shaun to your side kicking people, and you linking things…
We didn’t play much from the back, we didn’t bother with that. But we were hammering people, we were pressing people for fun, winning that second ball which back at that time was pure gold in the Championship. We did that to perfection with Neil. After that we had players with a good understanding, there was a good dynamic between me and Adel and the guys around. With Shaun he knew how to compensate for us. Over the years you have to change as things happen to you but back then I was very anarchic you know, I was moving around like crazy. Shaun was always in the right position covering me, and with Adel we had a very good dynamic. I knew where he would be before I even got the ball and he was always on the same page as me.
We had pace in that side. Hogan Ephraim started that season really shining, he was very talented and knew how to play football. Heidar was one of the best strikers I played with. Kaspars Gorkss smashing people in the back. Clint Hill, Fitz Hall, there was some quality from Matt Connolly, he was so good, and Bradley Orr. Kyle Walker was unbelievable, he showed up in the right moment.
Did you all want to kill Adel at times?
Yeh of course. As everybody says, you ask anybody in that group they’d all say the same thing. But thanks to that we did it. We understood Adel needed to be Adel, we needed to be strong as a group with him and without him at times on a day to day basis. When you’re on the pitch you wanted to have Adel next to you because he was on it. Every time you stepped onto the pitch whatever he didn’t give you during the week he will give you on the field during the game. We knew that, he knew that. The gaffer knew how to control Adel and deal with that. Winning makes everything happen. The group had this love hate relationship with Adel, but he was the best player I’ve played with, he was on a different page to everybody else. I was cool if he didn’t want to train, I knew we needed him more than he needed us.
The FA charges were made public after a rare defeat, at Millwall on a Tuesday night. Did you guys know it was coming?
It took us by surprise completely. It was very hard. It was basically the end of the season. We didn’t know how it would end. You talked with people, my agent, the club, they kept saying "it’s nothing it’s nothing it can’t be done" but as the time went on everything was getting stronger and stronger, louder and louder. It was unique. It actually made it more perfect in the end I think, looking back and speaking now, but at the time it was uncertainty and anxiety for everybody. I remember getting to the club every day and facing 30 of the guys all asking the same question, "what’s going on?" I had nothing to do with what they were saying was wrong but it was my name there.
How was it when you went home at night, could you sleep?
You go through it because you have less of everything in your life. If it happened now, at 33, I’d probably break down and stop playing. Now I overthink everything, 100 times, I analyse everything. Back at that time I was 22, I just wanted to play football, I was enjoying myself every week, they let me play there was no problem with that and everybody got behind me even more - the gaffer, the group. I actually performed even better with the pressure.
Yes, a nice goal against Sheff Utd I remember, probably your best for us?
I didn’t have many. Neil wanted me to go box to box but I changed my game a lot under him, I had to adapt my game a lot to be fair to you coming to play in English football. You have to adapt, you have to run, work hard, tackle. I started to enjoy it. But it takes a bit of the scoring away, and it hadn’t been perfect before that. At Instituto I scored 10 times in 50 games which wasn’t bad for a midfielder. I didn’t score much at QPR but that was a good one.
It was mathematically sealed at Watford but with the charges hanging over us did that detract from that day at all?
We knew we did it. Regardless, if they wanted to take it off us or not, if they allowed it or not, we knew we did it. We did it every single week. We proved ourselves. We were the best all season.
That week was very difficult, there was a hearing every day. On the Tuesday or Wednesday I had to go and give my bit of the hearing in a box at Wembley. My father flew over from Argentina to be with me for the last month or so of the season to help me, be with me and support me which was so important. I remember walking through the car park at Wembley together and we couldn’t believe it, he couldn’t believe he was in this box at Wembley Stadium, but obviously that’s not really how you want to get to Wembley, or how you ever imagined you would be there. It was so weird. You are putting your hand on a bible and saying you will tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth and all of that. But as I said in the beginning, I had nothing to hide really. There was the federation and lawyers asking questions, they wanted to go through everything again and we went through it.
It went right down to the last day and even on that morning we didn’t know. They were talking about whether they would give us the trophy, and maybe a few weeks later they would take it off us. They couldn’t do it, there is no record of that in football history, they knew they couldn’t do it, in they end they were sensible.
Tell me about that morning, before the Leeds game at lunchtime, waking up with the whole thing coming to a head…
I remember in the dressing room Neil was being very sentimental. He gave a very deep talk to us saying how proud he was with us. He said it didn’t matter to him if they wanted us to be champions or not, if they wanted to take points or not, and he wanted us to feel the same way. Everybody was full of anxiety; it was a very tense moment. After that we were going out for the warmup and Gianni came running through screaming with a notice of the news. It felt like 50 years lifting off your body. It was crazy. Emotions were all over the place. People were crying. I was crying.
I still have this image in my mind, a memory of going to the game that morning. You could feel it in the air, all around. It was amazing. An incredible moment and an incredible day.
How did it feel to get your hands on the trophy? I remember you walking out with your flag around you to an amazing reception.
Yes, I had my Argentinian flag around my neck, I’m a very proud Argie. You know, there are very few moments like that in football. It’s only that 10% of players who are winning everything and lifting trophies all the time, the rest of us are just human beings and moments like that make all the hard work worth it. That was one of them. I will remember it forever. My dad was there to see it. My missus, my son was very little, they were all there. It was a dream come true. From the Argentinean Second Division to the Premier League.
How was the party?
A big bill. A big, expensive bill for Amit. He did pay it I’m happy to say. He was a key part of that promotion as well. He’s a nice character Amit. He’s nice, gentle, sensitive, always with his feet on the ground, always with a nice word or the right word at the right moment. He’s a nice soul.
Part two available by clicking here, features a storming start to the Premier League, a potential move to Liverpool, and many, many exploding knee ligaments…
The Twitter - @loftforwords, @alefaurlin
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Welcome to our last match before Christmas. With South Essex going into Tier 3, by the time we take to the pitch at Roots Hall, it’ll be another behind-closed-doors match. With the Tier 3 boundary creeping inexorably closer, one wonders how long the JobServe will hold out and still be able to allow fans to attend. Robbie is doing all he can to make it possible for supporters to attend, and I confess I’m seriously considering our January 2nd match against Tranmere. In other news, I’m relieved to read that the FA will not take disciplinary action against Colchester United after a shameful minority chose to boo players and officials taking the knee, in the words of the EFL “as they highlight the inequality and injustice experienced by the Black Community”. I noticed a tiny minority chose to boo at our mid-week match at the Abbey Stadium, but I was pleased to hear they were immediately drowned out by the remainder of the 2,000 cheering and applauding. I admit I’m a little anxious about today…
Letters from Wiltshire #23 by wessex_exile
As I’ve been providing updates on the ongoing US presidential election, it is worth mentioning that the Electoral College votes have now been cast, which formally confirms Biden as the new President-elect. Normally a formality, as the losing candidate has usually long-since conceded defeat, but these are far from normal times, and America has far from a normal lame-duck President. Still, at least the threat of members of the Electoral College ignoring the popular vote in favour of an outcome demanded by Trump has failed to materialise. In the UK, new Covid tiers were announced this week, with London going into Tier 3. Colchester stays in Tier 2, but only just, with as far north east as Maldon, Braintree and Chelmsford also moving into Tier 3 – and as if you need reminding, Tier 3 means no supporters at matches.
Queens Park Rangers Polls