The Ale Faurlin interview – part two
Monday, 13th Apr 2020 09:23 by Clive Whittingham
The second half of our deep dive with former QPR midfielder Ale Faurlin starts with him flying in the Premier League and attracting interest from one of the biggest clubs in the world, but heartbreak and dark times lurk just around the corner.
How did you find the step up to the Premier League?
We had a few players coming in. Shaun, Joey, Luke Young, Jay Bothroyd came in. We kept the spirit in the group. We had a lot of passion to play, every single one of us. We really enjoyed it, even in defeat the message was to enjoy every moment. We had good players. In the Premier League you find yourself with a little more time, to think and see things happen, and some of us really enjoyed it. That was the case for me, I really enjoyed that half of the season, and with Adel, Tommy Smith, Heidar - we all enjoyed it and played well.
Some great wins early in that season. I remember us absolutely dismantling Wolves at Molineux when you scored (Ale’s celebration in that game is still his WhatsApp profile pic), and of course the historic win against Chelsea, although we weren’t quite so convincing in that game…
We had a few nice wins. At Wolves I remember down the left hand side myself, Adel and Armand Traore jammed very well there. We played, at times, very nice football under Neil, he gave us that freedom and winning mentality. I remember playing very good football at Wolves, and also I remember we played really, really well away at Stoke against a team that was very difficult to play against.
Chelsea, yes, like you say. With the quarantine I’ve actually been watching and enjoying some old games and I couldn’t believe watching that one back how we were two men up and just couldn’t hold the ball. We couldn’t lift our feet out of the grass and slow down the game and enjoy it. We carried on doing the same things and helping them to push for the game. Sometimes - it happened for us once at Reading when Hogan was sent off but we still felt like we were playing with 15 men - sometimes it happens in football this way. You don’t realise there is an extra player, sometimes when you’re one man down you feel adrenaline pumping. That day was the case with them, we couldn’t take the time to relax and notice how things were, we just wanted to finish the game. We were playing against amazing players, in the end we did it so nothing else matters, we won the game.
An eclectic mix of defeats as well, a random 6-0 at Fulham, and a 3-2 at home to Man City where we played so well it actually felt like we’d won the game. Yaya Toure basically got them out of that by himself…
That’s the Premier League. In the Championship you have one or two players in each team on the same page, in the Premier League there are six or seven in each team on the same page. It’s very difficult. That Fulham game was very weird, we lost 6-0, but my feeling in the game all the time was we were playing the game properly. I never forgot Andy Johnson and Bobby Zamora after that, they were brilliant with Dembele in that game. We suffered, losing 6-0, but we were trying to enjoy every single game.
The Man City game I think was the best performance of the season as a team. A really good team performance. We were on the same page, we worked hard, we were very together, we made it very difficult for them, and we also played good football, took the game to them, went for them. At 3-2 in the last ten minutes they couldn’t get out. I remember all the Sky interviews after the game were saying hands down to the players, we’d been very good. The fans, everybody in the club, enjoyed that night even though it was a defeat.
So there was a game before Christmas against West Brom where we scored, we hit the post, we had a goal incorrectly disallowed, battered them basically, but ended up only drawing and there was perhaps an opportunity for you to foul one of their players in the build up to the equaliser. Neil stormed onto the pitch at the end and was about as angry as I’d ever seen him with you. Can you tell us what happened?
In football you need to win games. In the Premier League if you have a chance you have to kill games. We were fighting for each and every point.
I remember that play very well. If you have the possibility to watch it back, I remember going into the wide area and crossing the ball, then in the transition to the following play I was already chasing back to the centre trying to follow the guy. I wasn’t clever enough, I tried to knock him down and I couldn’t, and they scored.
I remember that night. It was quite a night with Neil Warnock. Everything that happened in the dressing room stays in the dressing room, I’ll leave it at that, but it was an experience. You have to take it, try not to make that mistake again, but it happens in football. You give your best, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, sometimes you make a mistake, sometimes you do a mistake and nothing happens, other times you do a simple thing and it’s a goal.
Neil wrote in his book that he was out of order, went over the top on you and eventually you snapped.
He said this? You know what I need to read that book. That is what happened, yeh. He came up to me when the Sky camera was on the pitch following me closely and he lost it, then I lost it inside of the dressing room. Sometimes it’s good for those things to happen. He wanted to win, I wanted to win. Sometimes you need someone to confront you. At the time you think it’s a negative thing, for everybody around you. I remember having a confrontation with him and the next day in training I was waiting for him. I hadn’t slept, I was thinking this is going to be very bad, maybe they’ll sack me. But we had a conversation, we shook hands, we kissed, we love each other. It’s part of life and it’s important in football, something happens and you have to take the best of that situation and move forwards, not make it a negative.
Crashing back down
We had a bad run around Christmas but we were still outside the relegation zone, which was the aim at the end of the day. Were you aware Neil was under pressure?
Yes, because of the club more than anything. The aim was to be outside the relegation zone and at one point we’d been more comfortable, quite high up the league and people in football forget very quickly. They forget what went before and the next day you’re gone. We were getting very close to the relegation battle, the tension was there, Tony Fernandes had come in over the summer and was looking for the best of the best. Football doesn’t work like that. The pressure was definitely there.
That’s why I played the game in the cup when I got injured. Neil needed to win, he picked a strong team and he asked me to play. There were players carrying injuries and we were very tired because December is reckless. It’s insane, it’s not human, playing seven Premier League games, playing on Boxing Day, after that you need two weeks to recover. I remember he was under an immense amount of pressure and he said to me “listen, I need you to play”. I was the captain that day so it was a big day of mixed emotions. I could easily have said ‘listen gaffer, I am dead, I’m tired, I don’t want to play this cup game’. But I think it was the right decision to play. Every time in football when I’ve had the possibility to play I’ve played. You always do it, sometimes it’s a mistake not to say no, but my way has always been the same and always will be the same the rest of my career however much I have left in the tank I will do the same thing.
Did you know it was bad straight away
Yeh, yeh, yeh, the pain is big. It was the last few minutes of the game, it was January with a muddy pitch, a rainy night, a combination of things. I was very tired. When I landed the instability made the thing happen.
Several players from around that time, Joey and Shaun Wright-Phillips in particular, aren’t particularly fondly remembered by QPR fans. There was a feeling they upset the spirit from the year before, that Neil lost the dressing room by bring them into it. Do you agree?
Not really no. They were brilliant man. I couldn’t disagree more with that. They were hard working. Joey will kill to win a game. He always wanted to win. He might be right or wrong in the way he does certain things or certain reactions but I wanted him next to me on the pitch because he wanted to win games. Joey is one of the best characters I met in the game - very down to earth, he’d played at the highest level and next to me I was nothing but he was good with me. There weren’t problems in that group, it was a good group and we survived in the end.
How was it with Mark Hughes coming in but you being laid up and facing months of rehab?
It was dreadful in terms of the timing. I don’t care about injuries, we’re supposed to get injured, it’s elite sport you get injured, but the timing was very bad. I’d been doing very well, enjoying myself, proving people wrong. I was talking about a new deal and talking with other clubs, it was a special moment and it was a point where I was about to make that next step in my career, so it was very hard.
Mark arrived, I went away from the club for an operation, the first thing he said to me was he was very sad he couldn’t get to work with me because he really needed me. He showed me he valued me, gave me confidence, and the pre-season when I was ready I was straight back into the picture, probably too quick if anything, it was only six and a half months. I worked hard, did my pre-season and was back on the pitch with that team Mark tried to build, all the big names and me. That made me very proud, whatever happened after that I was able to prove to people that I belonged playing with that team.
There was a lot of chat going into that January about an Argentina call up, about interest from big clubs, was it just paper talk or was there something in it?
I was getting attention from the papers and from Sky. I remember doing a Sky interview before Christmas. There were things coming, you could see them coming, it wasn’t just paper talk you could see it happening. My agent was talking with Liverpool when Liverpool signed Henderson and Charlie Adam. It makes you feel good, but on the other hand it is what it is. That’s what I mean about timing. If it had happened a year after it wouldn’t have bothered me, because I’d have been in a different position. But it’s part of the game.
Like you say, you were back by the summer, and there were some ridiculous names coming into the club at that time…
We signed players with a huge amount of experience and quality. The training, the approach, everything was taking a step into a more professional environment, making everything better for the players. We felt like we were in a good position. We did a good pre-season, I liked Mark Hughes’ training and day to day, I thought it was good and decent. It was a new group, with quality, with experience, with Champions League winners, with World Cup winners… but as I said before if you don’t win games… We had tough fixtures, we started the season playing good football, but we didn’t get results and the group and the feeling and everything turned to a negative. It was a death sentence after 15 games.
Spurs away, excellent for 89 minutes, they scored two goals in 60 seconds and we lose 2-1…
That was a tragedy. I scored an own goal - a very strange play, I was on the near post and turned, I didn’t see the ball coming. It was crazy. In one minute they scored twice and won the game, when we’d played really well. We played really well against Chelsea as well, but only drew 0-0. There were some good performances in that first part, but no results, and in the Premier League if you don’t win games quickly you’re finished.
You’re back together with Esetban Granero now in Marbella aren’t you?
Yes. We only played that first part of the season together, after that I went on loan to Palermo and the following season he played one game and then moved. We had a good bond and good understanding, not just in football, on and off the pitch. We’re good friends, I went to his wedding. We built a relationship and one of the reasons I came here to Marbella is because his brother is in the company behind the project here. I was in need of feeling good, valuable and playing part of something. They’ve given me that and I’m happy playing here and he’s decided to join me and push for a promotion.
Why did it go so wrong for the team?
We couldn’t jam as a group or as a team, it fell apart very easily. Totally the opposite to the previous season and promotion win. It was the opposite example. We started to lose the basics of football, people get disconnected. There were also some injuries - Andy Johnson got injured against Chelsea which was a big loss because he was unreal. We quickly got very deep into a bad place and in football if you don’t feel like you can do it you can fall apart very easily. After Mark got the sack Harry couldn’t push the right buttons either to get us out of the situation. He tried, but we ended up falling apart even more. That season was difficult to forget, but you want to forget it.
A bad dressing room? Too many egos? Had he tried to change too much too soon?
All together. A mix of things. Big players not happy, injuries, people not doing what they do best. It happens. You cannot control that sometimes.
How did you end up spending the second half of the season with Palermo?
When Harry stepped in I was taken out of the team and was in the stand for a few games. I was young, I wanted to play football. I remember he couldn’t get a win either, two or three games he couldn’t win and Adel was saying to him “Ale has to play, Ale has to play, he will give me the ball”. I ended up playing in the first game we won, against Fulham, when we played well. Then we went up to Newcastle after that and I played but we changed the system a little bit, we lost again and I went out again. It happens, but I couldn’t take it. I got disconnected from the group and in January I just wanted to leave. I wasn’t enjoying my football, I didn’t like the way things were and I tried to change it.
Did Harry ever try to explain why you weren’t playing?
No, no. No. Probably it was silly of me, now with the years of experience I know sometimes there is a situation where you have to go through and you have to be patient and things just get back to normal. It’s part of the game. I wanted to play, but only 11 players can play. Now at 33-years-old I can talk a lot more like this, I can look at managers and think about what they’re trying to do. At the time Harry was trying to win games and he thought that was best for the team. I don’t know if I rushed the decision but as I said before I always take decisions and push forwards. I wanted to play, Palermo came in, I spent all January trying to make it happen, Harry didn’t want it to happen but also didn’t play me either. He picked me for a cup game, right at the end of the window, Milton Keynes again I think, it went very badly and I ended up going to Palermo. That didn’t go well either.
Quite a random place to end up.
Obviously a beautiful place to live. The club was in a bad position. It was a similar situation to QPR, I just changed the shirt. They were also at the deepest point, and actually even worse because Italian football and the way things happen there is way different from England. I had four managers there in four months. The president, Zamparini, has under his process 50-something managers. Crazy. He sacked a manager after pre-season without playing a game. It was quite an experience. The first manager I had there was Gasperini who’s now at Atalanta in the Champions League - we played exactly the same way but couldn’t win games. I ended with Sannino, the bald guy who was later at Watford. Tactically he was spot on. We almost did it. We were basically relegated with seven games to go, he came in and we took it to the last game, we almost did it. We could have done it if he’d come in earlier. He was good at Watford as well, I think he resigned when they were in a good position which was strange.
So you like to live in nice places with crazy chairmen?
Sighs. I should change that. I had two relegations that season, I cannot take it off my Wikipedia. In the end it was an experience.
Back in the Championship you actually played regularly for Harry to begin with…
It was weird. Sometimes you need to prove to a manager you can do it. Sometimes you need to stay and fight. We did a pre-season and I wasn’t really in his plans but I know what happened, I know who helped me – Steve McClaren came in. I was pushing hard to play and I convinced him I wanted to be part of the team. Until my injury at the end of November or December, I was in the team. I played 11 times, we were flying, playing really well, it was a very good team. McClaren helped me and my situation with Harry. He maybe didn’t like how I played or didn’t see it, but Steve helped me with that. Sometimes Harry would come into the game and say this is the team, and you look at it and we had nine midfielders in the 11. You wondered what would happen but you started to play and move the ball and touch the ball and he saw it and it worked out. I’ve got no problem with Harry, he made it work that season.
You got injured again in a game against Derby. I’m sorry to take you back to it, I remember you hammering the pitch, the crowd silent, that must have been terrible?
Yes, you know. I know there are some people who have come back to the pitch and played with these injuries but I don’t know how. That ligament is really strong, you need it to twist and to turn, for about 60 seconds it’s incredibly painful. After that you relax a bit but for 60 seconds it’s so painful. You know straight away you are in trouble. It was terrible, I was getting back to a level, I was trying to push, show a good attitude and let my football do the talking. That’s not easy because this injury changes everything in your body.
This time it was the other knee. Afterwards you do a lot of research and 20 or 30% of people who snap one do snap the other. It’s a big number, and I was lucky enough to be part of that number.
Having worked so hard to come through that rehabilitation once, how do you motivate yourself to do it all over again?
There were some dark moments, and it would get even more dark further down the line. I tried to cry as much as I could, be upset as much as I could, then take it on the chin and carry on. I was lucky enough to be at a club that stood by me, I will be grateful forever for QPR standing by me through these times. The values of the club have always been to do the right thing but still there are clubs that would have just said goodbye. At this level there are a lot of situations like that, where clubs will just disconnect with the player - next please. They might give you a solution and try to help you a bit but, basically, it’s ‘see you later’. QPR never did that with me, there was a good relationship and connection with everybody there and that went two ways. I was still an influence in the group, people understood I was a genuine football guy and they made me feel part of it. In the end I did some filming for the club that day at Wembley.
How was being at Wembley but not playing?
It sucks. It sucks. It’s sad. As years go by you change things in life, you get to points where you know yourself, you know what you like and don’t like, you are comfortable in yourself and you don’t have to say something you don’t believe because it’s a compromise. I cannot sit here and say “oh yeh it was a nice day that I enjoyed”. No. It sucked. It was painful, every single minute of it. But they allowed me to be right there, and that was a nice touch and I’m grateful to them. I did feel part of it, which is not easy. I felt part of the group and the club all the way.
It was the one time I felt like what a fan would feel like. I became like a fan, I wanted the guys to do their best. I always said I could not understand the crazy passion of the fans, some of the things they did, but that day I got to experience it. It was amazing to win that way, another game we shouldn’t win no? One shot. It was shocking. Laughs. Derbv had played really well, McClaren made them play amazing football, they were flying.
Back in the Premier League, you’re back in the team, but another injury at another lower league ground in the cup almost immediately, Burton this time…
The last time I did my knee something had gone wrong with the operation, or the rehab. The way I did it was so easy, it cannot be that easy to rupture your knee. It just fell apart. I was blocking a corner kick, I lifted my leg and the ball hit me and it felt strange. I just thought it couldn’t be happening, not from that. This was the only time I thought I’d maybe got away with it. I walked off, I did some skipping on the side, some jumping, sprinting. Next day, no swelling. It felt different because it wasn’t mine, it was the reconstructed part, so I didn’t really feel it. But yeh, it had gone.
I remember at the start of that summer Harry couldn’t get players and there were only a few of us but still I managed with the injuries to get back and play at that level which, again, made me feel proud. I played the first game against Hull, 70 minutes, a good, decent performance. Then I came on at Spurs when we were 4-0 down, I played 20 or 30 minutes and I played really well, I felt good.
That injury was the lowest point, the darkest point. I didn’t even want to get the operation done. I felt empty. Like nothing. I wasn’t even thinking. I was just at home, letting things happen, feeling very empty. I didn’t feel like doing anything, even basic things in life. I was in a place where nobody wants to be. I never asked for any help, I never felt like I needed any help, but I think I probably made my family suffer a lot in that process and now I think about that a lot. I think they got a toxic reaction from me.
Not many players have come back from three, Chris Cohen at Forest I remember…
Yes, and even he wasn’t really able to come back. I felt a real connection with several players who did the same as me, three times. Chris was one, Sergio Canales was another (Real Madrid, Real Sociedad, Valencia, Betis), I met him and knew him from Esteban’s wedding and he was facing the same thing. We always kept in touch because of that, with Cohen as well I’ve always followed how he’s done because he went through the same as me. It was tough. It makes you more aware of other things, I was very passionate as I said at the start of the interview if we lost 3-0 I wouldn’t be able to talk to my missus for three days, as crazy as that sounds. You start to understand life in a different way. You become, in my opinion, a more rounded person, you get to know yourself a lot more.
You do come back though, as part of Chris Ramsay’s team back in the Championship.
I remember at the start of that season we won 3-2 at Wolves, a good game, I played well, it was a strong performance. I was in the dressing room afterwards being very emotional about it. I remember Nedum, the Chief, being around me, Junior Hoilett, Charlie Austin they were around me. It was a nice group of players. It was a weird season, we had some players who were on the point of leaving or staying. The club was facing the change, after the disasters Les Ferdinand had come in and started the process of what they’re doing now. A different approach and a transition year.
You got a brief second go with Neil Warnock, how was that?
Neil helped me a little bit. I’d been playing with Chris but not every single game, he came and gave me that lift to push again. I was losing a bit of tempo from my game, with age and my injuries I was feeling it a little bit more when I was playing. Once I get tempo in my game I start enjoying myself but when you have injuries they stop you performing and it’s difficult to get the engine again. He had three or four games and played me in all of them, it allowed me to get my tempo and engine again, and I ended up playing 30 games. From the place where I’d been, I was so happy.
I remember a Sky game against Brighton where Lewis Dunk put a horror tackle in on you and you just absolutely flipped your lid.
It was an emotional season. There were a few tackles that made me lose it very easily. It was a bit of everything, what had happened, the history, that was part of what I was going through. I remember that was a bad tackle, but maybe at another time in my life it would have been nothing.
The club had stood by you before like you say but you were released at the end of that season, was that amicable?
Was it a money thing?
I couldn’t understand. I knew the club was facing a complete change of direction, but money wise it wouldn’t have been an issue. They were saying “we’ll only get the best of you by playing and I don’t think you’ll be playing much”. Excuses. I didn’t get it. I got that they wanted to change completely, a change of direction, but it hurts me a lot that I wasn’t part of that plan when I thought I could have been one of them, like Chief, staying a few years and being there for the young lads, being a big part of it. I’d played 30 games that season and I wanted to play football. It shocked me. It affected me a lot. It hurts me a lot. I couldn’t understand, for months. It was two months before I signed anywhere else, very late in the window, I signed for Getafe.
It happens in life, the change of air wasn’t bad at all, it worked well. We moved to Madrid, we enjoyed a year there in the sunshine with a different style of life. Every time I go back to Chiswick, even now when I’m coming into the area I feel like I’m home. Perfect. Brilliant. But do I see myself living again in Chiswick and England? No. No way. It’s not possible.
It worked out well. The sunshine, I came into a group with other Argentineans, South Americans, Spaniards, everything changed and in the end it worked really well. It was quite a remarkable season for me as well. It wasn’t about proving people wrong, I don’t need to prove anything to anybody, but I was a key part of a team that won promotion and played 30 games again.
Would it have been less painful if they’d given you a bit more notice or not really?
I’m an emotional person. It affected me the way they did it. They did it one day after the season finished. Going into the last game of the season, during the week I was thinking of saying to Jimmy “don’t play me”. I was scared something would happen to me. I wanted to finish fit, that was my big target. I couldn’t really enjoy that game at all. It would have been nice, even if they’d just said to me on the Friday it’s going to be your last game, I think Clint for example knew it was to be his last game. It would have been completely different for me, I would have enjoyed the game, I would have made sure I said thank you to the fans… they took that away from me and I didn’t like it. That upset me, at that time, with Les and with Jimmy. I’m very upset with Les until now.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s football. I still follow the club because I’m part of QPR regardless of whether I’m there or not, I spent seven years there and a lot of things happened so I follow the club and you can see what they’re trying to do. Hands down to them, it’s very difficult to buy players from lower divisions, to bring in young players, to try and make the most of players, sell players and keep in the division, it’s very hard. It’s not easy in football, I understand. But back at that time I couldn’t really see it. I’m still upset, it’s an emotional thing.
Since then you’ve basically been touring around holiday destinations – Madrid, Mallorca, Mexico, Marbella..
It’s been tough.
No, no really. I am 33, I would like to have six or seven years like I had at QPR at one club, from 26 to 34, and then to retire. I had a good year in Getafe, but football and situations make you make decisions all the time and I made the decision to go to Cruz Azul, a big club in Mexico, everything was good for me but then after six months they told me they didn’t want me. Another decision, another movement, another change, for the family it’s very frustrating, very demanding. My son is at an age where he needs to stay in a place and make friends. It plays on your mind. The last few years have been like this. Living in Madrid, hands down a great place. Mexico City is not easy to live in I have to say but I met lovely people. Mallorca, let me tell you, it’s an amazing place. I was part of a successful project there, I didn’t really make it on the field a lot, a little bit when I arrived, but they went through from League One to La Liga in two years and I was part of that and made a lot of friends. Now in Marbella it’s the same thing, I truly believe we can do something big here as well.
Will it be coaching and managing after this? Or some time on the beach?
I’m tired. I will make the most of playing because I love football. Obviously I’ve changed a lot in the way I see it but I still love it. I understand we all have an end date, as part of the game. Maybe a year, maybe two, I’ll try to play as much as I can. Then I don’t know. Really, I don’t know. Age has taken me to a place of uncertainty.
I used to always, through my career, have a good understanding with the older people in the group. Every time I went for a coffee with them I would sit and talk with them and feel their uncertainty of what was coming next. I remember telling them “agh don’t worry about that, don’t worry about that”. Now I’m at that point myself, it’s weird. You’re lucky to make a living from it, and make your way through, then there’s excitement, uncertainty and fear. A lot of emotions you have to work through and I’m in the process of doing that.
Has the manner of your departure from QPR soured you from ever coming back, for a Forever R’s induction or something like that?
No, of course I will go back. I will go back definitely. Always, I’ll come back to London, it’s part of me, west London even more, Chiswick even more and Loftus Road what can I say. It’s part of us, part of my family. Tiziano spent seven years there, since then he’s been in international schools. He speaks English, he plays on the PlayStation speaking English, we’re grateful for that. It reflects what England, London and QPR gave to me and I’ll be forever grateful.
The Twitter @loftforwords, @alefaurlin
Pictures – Action Images
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Good afternoon everyone, and first and foremost I must take the opportunity to wish you all a happy, healthy and most of all chocolicious Bank Holiday Easter weekend. This morning I should have been waking up in Langenhoe with all the kids, probably slightly muzzy-headed after my cousin’s wedding yesterday, and preparing for the journey home via Sixfields to watch the U’s bolster their promotion hopes. Needless to say, first the EFL, and then the wedding had to be postponed, so here I am still in North Wilts, though what a beautiful day it is!
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Good afternoon everyone, North Wilts calling. We’ve all no doubt heard (and used) variations of the expression “strange times we’re going through” during this crisis. They certainly are, and without a doubt the term crisis is apt, with deaths and positive tests seemingly rising almost exponentially at the moment. But we’ll get through this, and when we do, I firmly believe as a society we’ll be better for it. We’ll be a society better connected to our family, friends and neighbours, and more caring for those that need support. More so, we'll be a society in tune with the concept that we don’t have to burn fossil fuels to conduct business, we do have the technology available to avoid it, we’ll all be pretty adept at using it, and will all be far more comfortable with using it. It's an ill wind...
Queens Park Rangers Polls