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QPR's World Cup connections
QPR's World Cup connections
Wednesday, 9th Jun 2010 15:26 by Ross Smith

Ahead of Friday's big kick off Ross Smith remembers two defenders who stood at the heart of England World Cup teams from years gone by and wonders whether we'll ever see their likes again in a Hooped shirt.

I don’t care what anyone says. I love the World Cup. As an Englishman and football fan I get excited about it and I love every aspect of the madness and euphoria it brings.

I love the senseless media hype, the ludicrous amount of official sponsors that mean every trip to the supermarket brings you home with bags full of items gleaming with this years World Cup logo, the free wall charts in the Sunday papers, the BBC coverage on TV and their website that enables us to completely over indulge on moments from World Cups of the past in timeless archived footage and the way that Wimbledon seems to play second fiddle whilst the tournament reaches its obligatory cruel climax. I even love the cheesy, bandwagon jumping songs that are inevitably released every year. When it starts I’ll be watching as much of it as I can this summer and cheering the boys on to victories or, more than likely, the perils of penalty failure and an earlier then hoped exit.

As a kid I’d collect anything from the World Cup sticker albums to the official World Cup Subbuteo sets. Before Italia 90, I always remember my brother collecting every part of Orbis’ World Cup 90 annual as advertised by Old Big Head himself on TV. This was so much more then just a run of the mill sticker album, it was pretty much an encyclopaedia of World Cups from 1930 to 1986 and included all aspects of World Cup memorabilia from classic matches and golden goals to a World Cup Hall of fame (which for some reason included a few strange choices such as Scotland’s Steve Nicol among others) and statistics from every World Cup tournament. It also had the run down on the forthcoming Italia 90 tournament itself, stadiums, teams, group predictions etc.

An odd item the annual included was the Denmark team of 1990 who never actually qualified for the tournament however must have been odds on at the time the publication went to press. I learnt so much from reading that folder that, as a kid growing up in the 80s and 90s before the internet, I would never have found out about. I have to say, my passion for the World Cup probably stemmed from that marvellous folder. I think my brother still has it somewhere, might be worth something on eBay these days but I’d beg him never to part with it.

All this club over country cobblers, I don’t believe there is such a thing. There’s no reason why you cannot be equally as passionate about both club and country. During the season I’m 100% behind QPR - my working week revolves around how they’ve done, who they are playing, where we stand in the league. It’s an obsession we can all relate to and it’s sad but true fact that my general mood for the week can be pretty much defined by those three letters, Q P and R and that magic phrase of “three points”.

In the summer if England are playing in a tournament, I’m 100% behind them. End of debate as far as I’m concerned. I honestly don’t care if the England team has got x amount of Chelsea players in it, or Liverpool players or Man United players. When they pull on that England shirt, they're playing for England and all the minor gripes I have for them during the football season end there. If Lampard scores a goal, I’ll cheer it as much as I will should our own Crouchy net one. And if it’s Terry, well I just hope I’m too drunk to give a shit it’s Terry and I’ll cheer that too. It’s not often I get to have all my mates round and we’ll all be fighting in the same corner so to speak, or in a crowded pub where everyone is rooting for the same outcome.

So with that in mind, and as Clive recently stated in the Newcastle match preview that he was keen to hear from anyone who fancied contributing a piece during the summer, I thought I’d give it a go and throw some form of World Cup/England/QPR related load of cobblers together. I've got time on my hands since my PS3 recently decided to give up the ghost, and after shedding out 469 notes on a season ticket I can’t afford to get the bastard thing replaced. Ironically enough this happened during my World Cup qualifying campaign on the new FIFA World Cup South Africa 2010 game which in my childlike enthusiasm, purchased on the day of it’s official release last month. So to fill the void I thought I'd look back on my memories of two QPR players who actually went to the World Cup finals as part of an England squad.

It's been years and years and feels like an eternity since supporting QPR has bared any kind of relevance to following an England side competing at a major tournament. The only inkling in recent times was watching a pre-tournament friendly in 2006 when England faced a Jamaican side featuring newly announced signing Damien Stewart at Old Trafford in what went on to be a very comfortable victory for England and included a hat trick and infamous robot dance celebration for, at the time, rookie international and ex QPR striker Peter Crouch, who also in trying to complete his hat trick initially gratefully received and scuffed a penalty over the cross bar. All smiles and piles at the time of course, however such ineptness in the England players ability to convert spot kicks, would later prove to be the teams all too familiar downfall that year.

You have to go back 24 years to Mexico 86 for my first recollection of a QPR player actually participating for England in a World Cup tournament. And that was of course Terry Fenwick.

Ah… Mexico 86 that really looked like a World Cup didn’t it? The heat, the flair, the Azteca Stadium, those box shaped goals. How good would it have been to welly a ball into the back of one of those perfectly constructed boxed netted goals? The nearest I got to such was playing with my Mexico 86 Subbuteo set which included a marvellous double replica of those wonderful Mexico 86 large boxed, taught netted goals. My first real memory of watching a World Cup tournament was that of Mexico 86 when I was seven years old.

The later kick offs on week nights meant I was unable to watch the first two England games against Portugal and Morocco which meant the only real thing of interest I missed was Ray Wilkins' infamous throwing the ball at the referee dismissal. I managed to watch England save themselves with the 3-0 win over Poland followed by the 3-0 win over Paraguay in the last 16.

QPR defender Terry Fenwick made four starts in that tournament, the first three group matches he featured in as a first choice fullback but missed out on the second round match against Paraguay due to suspension, having picked up bookings against Portugal and Poland in the group stage. For some reason I only remember watching the first half of the ill-fated Argentina match so missed the good and the ugly side of Diego Maradona. Fenwick returned in that game and was one of the several English players left for dead as Maradona turned, ran and took England to the cleaners in the famous “Goal of the Century” to eliminate them from the finals. More gruellingly during the goal, Fenwick was presented with the best opportunity to take out the Argie drug sniffing cheat whilst waltzing into the area, however due to already picking up a yellow earlier in the match Fenwick decided to hold back, the rest is history.

Slightly veering off England for a mere moment, definitely worth a mention of course is another QPR player who featured in Mexico 86 for another team from the UK - Northern Ireland. That man of course is defensive legend Alan McDonald who went into the Northern Ireland squad as a teenager and featured in all three of their group stage matches of that World Cup. Sadly though, the team didn't perform as well as it had done four years earlier in Spain 82 where they reached the quarter finals stage. In Mexico Northern Ireland were eliminated at the group stages, drawing 1-1 with Algeria, losing narrowly to Spain 2-1 and being demolished 3-0 by Brazil, conceding arguably the second best goal of the tournament by relative unknown Brazilian Josimar who netted an audacious looping long shot which seemed to defy physics as it flew over Pat Jennings and dipped into the gaping goal via the roof of the net. An amazing goal.

Four years later England were at Italia 90 and it was Paul Parker representing QPR at the World Cup, again as a full back. He is in fact still the last QPR player to represent England at a World Cup finals. Remembered by some for a hand in the flukiest goal England will probably ever concede in a major finals tournament, Parker made his World Cup debut in England’s second match against Holland on June 16, 1990, in a new sweeper system Bobby Robson had deployed in an effort to nullify a Dutch side that had two years earlier torn England a new one at Euro 88. Striker Marco Van Basten had, on that occasion, run rings around a young Tony Adams eliminating England and leaving poor young Tony with nothing but a severe footballing lesson and a nickname for the next 12 odd years of his career in the process.

At Italia 90 however the new system worked well and England came away with a second successive draw. The main headlines that night though were made by Paul Gascoigne, who had announced himself on the world stage with a breathtaking performance. England probably should have won the game but failed to take advantage of numerous chances created.

The success of that England performance was enough for Robson to decide Parker was an integral part of the team and was he selected to start in every match and played every minute of England’s run to that penalty shoot out against the West Germans in Turin. This included games against Egypt, Belgium, and Cameroon.

Small in stature, Parker had a wonderful work ethic, speed, and a canny ability in judging play. What he lacked in size, he certainly didn’t lack in heart and also nurtured the ability of the long throw, which England back in the early 90’s were not afraid to deploy given the opportunity due to the nature of our game back then.

It was the second round match against Belgium that Parker was most recognised for his international class. England were up against a confident Belgium team that had emerged strongly from their initial group and were having the best of a tight game with England who at times looked to be hanging on for dear life and penalties. The England team had suffered an injury to John Barnes and had already made a like for like swap in attack where Steve Bull had replaced Peter Beardsley. Things were looking desperate when Des Walker picked up an injury in the latter stages of the match and was showing obvious signs of major discomfort. As England has used their allowed substitutions, things were going from bad to worse as Walker had to carry on through the pain barrier for the rest of the match plus extra time.

This is where Paul Parker came into his own, defending solidly, and often covering ground for two defenders in an effort to help out his injured team mate. His decision making was spot on all night - clearing balls when needed and making precise challenges when the narrowest of misjudgement could result in disaster. If England had conceded just one that night, there is no doubt in my mind they would have walked quietly into the night at Italia 90.I reckon football today would be a very different animal had that been the case. No Gazza’s tears, no penalty drama and no so near but yet so far heartbreak that’s now become such a common emotion for England fans. It would have been seen as just another tournament failure. Luckily though England went on to snatch victory when David Platt connected a fine volley onto Gazza’s floated free kick in, cue John Motson, 'the last minute of extra time'.

Parker should be very proud of himself for that performance alone, I honestly believe that in a strange way, the work ethic and class he contributed that night has indirectly helped shape the way football is now broadcast as a multi million pound entertainment industry rather then just a sport on our TV’s in today’s media.

It was however the ill-fated semi final against West Germany many England fans have somewhat sadly uniquely remembered Parker for. It was the Rangers man who provided the catapulted deflection for that freakish goal that having cannoned off him, sailed inch perfectly over the English wall and goalkeeper Peter Shilton’s famous outstretched long arms and into the net to give the West Germans the luckiest of leads. However I would like to argue, and I’m sure other QPR fans would also like to make a case for this, the goal itself was certainly not helped by the aged Shilton’s ineptness between the sticks. Obviously caught off his line, and almost static like, he couldn’t back peddle fast enough to prevent it dropping in. Freakish trajectory of the ball fresh from the underside of Parker’s heel, suspect goalkeeper positioning - England left trailing.

Redemption though was just around the corner. The second incident we remember more fondly as Parker went on to have a hand in both goals scored in that second half in Turin. His sublime long pass to would be self confessed crisp addict, cheesy television host and one time England hot shot Gary Lineker provided the ammunition for him to control and slam home a deserved equaliser. Sadly though England crashed out on penalties that night, the first of many penalty losses we have endured since.

You can't say Parker really put a foot wrong representing England at that tournament. At the time he was one the finest defenders in the country and went on to sign for Manchester United just over a year later just as their dominance of English football under Alex Ferguson was about to take hold.

There was another QPR player included in the England squad at Italia 90, and as that ball looped over Shilton's head Parker probably wished his club mate was in the team. The third choice goalkeeper David Seaman replaced by Dave Beasant who broke a thumb in a training ground accident during the tournament. Seaman went on to be fantastic goalkeeper for England but he too suffered a Shilton like moment towards the end of his international career, conceding a very similar daft goal to Ronaldinho in the Japanese tournament of 2002. He was an Arsenal legend by then and had severed all ties with QPR many years before that little goof.

Seaman's replacement at Loftus Road, back in the days when we were a suitably big enough force in the English game to go to the World Cup and spend money on one of the tournament's outstanding players, was Czechoslovakia keeper Jan Stejskal who moved to Loftus Road the following season after Sparta Prague had been eliminated from the European Cup. Stejskal made his debut in 'that' game at Elland Road where Rangers came from two down to win thanks in no small part to the goal of the season from American Roy Wegerle. The mercurial front man was in the USA squad when they hosted the tournament in 1994, by which time he was playing in the Premiership for Coventry City, and at France 98 when he was a DC United player.

Sadly we were robbed of the possibility of our proudest moment at that American World Cup in 1994. Four years on from Parker in Italia 90 QPR had arguably their finest striker of all time and in the form of his career as the World Cup approached. Les Ferdinand had terrorised Premiership defences consistently in the two seasons leading up the World Cup and had forced his way into the England team after seizing his chance when netting a well taken goal in a home qualifier against Poland at Wembley.

Unfortunately for Les a very average England squad drained of confidence by a manager completely out of his depth failed to qualify for USA 94 finals after squandering home advantages to both Norway and Holland and losing the return fixtures in farcical and controversial circumstances in the preliminary stages. The Norway game saw the once reliable and sought after Des Walker, fresh from a spell in Serie A, systematically implode as an international footballer, arguing with the referee over a decision while Norway were busy sticking the ball in the back of the net and generally going rotten over night. Of course the away match against the Dutch will always be remembered for the scandalous refereeing decision to award a penalty to England at 0-0 before bottling the decision and giving a free kick just outside the box and not sending off Ronald Koeman for one of the most obvious last man professional fouls you'll ever likely to see. Needless to say that same player stuck the ball in the England net from a similar positioned free kick minutes later with the hapless David Seaman astonishingly seeming to offer one of the best free kick takers in Europe about 80% of the goal to aim at. The late Brian Moore’s “Their gonna flick one now” comment, still haunts me today.

The comedy value of that campaign in hindsight was almost as spectacular as England’s failure when Channel 4 aired a documentary called "An Impossible Job” a year or so later. Sadly though, we QPR fans never got to see Les get his chance to play at a World Cup while at QPR. After leaving us he did make it into Glen Hoddle’s England Squad at France 98 as a late replacement for Ian Wright, but never managed an appearance.

Since then it’s been down hill for QPR as far as England international calibre goes. After dropping out of the Premiership in 1996 and plummeting to the depths of Division Two (as it was), we’ve not had a player get a sniff of an England call up, and we're not likely to any time soon. We’ve had to endure/enjoy watching those players too good to stay with us play for their country after moves away from Loftus Road in the likes of Trevor Sinclair in 2002 and Peter Crouch in 2006 and no doubt the forthcoming 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Oddly enough Crouchy has a phenomenal scoring record for England, long may that continue. He will always be to me a QPR man and the only bright spark to come out of that miserable miserable season in 2000/01. Elsewhere this year we have former favourite Danny Shittu in the Nigeria squad vowing publicly to kick Messi up in the air at the first possible opportunity but our end of season revelation Dusko Tosic missed out on a Serbia call up after only playing five games last season.

So can we expect to see ever see another Queens Park Rangers player pull on the famous three lions at another World Cup? It seems nothing but a dream right now and after the turmoil we’ve endured since the takeover(s) we would probably have to be mad to even think that. However perhaps the 2018 tournament, in England providing those knob heads at the Daily Mail haven’t already deprived us of any chance of that happening, could be a possibility. The day we stop dreaming is the day we die right?

Photo: Action Images

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simmo added 16:55 - Jun 9
Great article, Due to being born in 84 I just about remember the Italia 90 tournament but only real memory of England tournaments is Euro 96 onwards... Its good to be educated on people like Paul Parker as Clive Wilson is my generations Parker although i do remember him playingfor us briefly and turning out reguarly for united. I 100% concur with your first 2 paragraphs, bring on Saturday!

Kiwi76 added 05:52 - Jun 12
Thanks for article - memories of both 86 & 90 tournaments and still remember Les scoring vs Poland in qualifiers for 94 event before wheels came off. Nice to have some real enthusiasm down here this time round with NZ's first appearance since 82 - hopefully can last past first game....

18StoneOfHoop added 08:35 - Jun 14
Excellent article,Mr Ross Smith.Impeccably remembered and researched,very well written.Stuff the PS3 - more articles for LoftForWords please.

SonofNorfolt added 02:24 - Aug 31
In an all time best QPR XI, Terry Fenwick would be one of the first players selected. Excellent for us.

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