For­mer QPR midfielder, Alder­shot and Wy­combe boss Gary Wad­dock re­flects

The Football League Paper - - INSIDE - By Chris Dunlavy

GARY Wad­dock is used to be­ing writ­ten off. A dy­namic midfielder for the great QPR side of the 80s, a se­ri­ous knee in­jury saw his con­tract paid up amid ru­mours of re­tire­ment.

One op­er­a­tion, 13 years and 350 ap­pear­ances later, he was still turn­ing out for Lu­ton at the grand old age of 36.

Then, as a man­ager, Wad­dock lasted just two months at Lof­tus Road be­fore join­ing Alder­shot, a club given no hope of pro­mo­tion to the Football League. Less than a year later, the Shots had romped to the Con­fer­ence ti­tle.

Since then, the 53-year-old has led Wy­combe out of League Two, man­aged Ox­ford and had a care­taker spell at Portsmouth. Now out of the game, he is de­ter­mined to bounce back once again. And with al­most four decades of ex­pe­ri­ence in the game, the for­mer Mill­wall, Bristol Rovers and Lu­ton man has plenty of tales to tell...


QPR. They spot­ted me play­ing for the dis­trict and I went in for a trial. I joined as a school­boy and went right through – youth team, re­serves and first team.

My de­but was against Charl­ton, un­der Tommy Docherty at the time. I turned up at the ground and found out I was in the squad – I only had an hour to take it all in. I think Tommy han­dled that the right way be­cause if he’d told me on the Fri­day I wouldn’t have been able to sleep. I’ll never for­get it though, we won four-nil.

It was a bril­liant time to play for QPR – we won pro­mo­tion to the First Di­vi­sion, got to an FA Cup fi­nal and played in Europe.


Terry Ven­ables. He came into QPR in 1980 when I was a young player and he put an in­cred­i­ble side to­gether.

There was a lot to ad­mire about Terry. In terms of coach­ing and tac­tics, he was years ahead of his time, as he showed by bring­ing suc­cess to Barcelona. His man­man­age­ment skills were tremen­dous, too – he’d have a laugh and a joke at the right time, but he knew when to pull away and be­come the man­ager.

It was a shame Terry didn’t man­age for longer but, when you re­ally look at it, what was left to achieve? He’d man­aged in the First Di­vi­sion, he’d man­aged Eng­land, he’d man­aged a Euro­pean gi­ant. He’s prob­a­bly sit­ting back and en­joy­ing life now.


I can’t name just one. Gerry Fran­cis was an Eng­land cap­tain and a fan­tas­tic foot­baller. As a young pro com­ing through, he was the one I looked up to. Tony Cur­rie was another who was a real role model.

Then there was Stan Bowles – dear me. He would rock up at about ten to three, get changed, miss the warm-up and still be the best player on the park. Out­stand­ing nat­u­ral abil­ity.

Fi­nally, I’d say Liam Brady for the Re­pub­lic of Ire­land. He was a supremely tal­ented in­di­vid­ual who, at that stage, was one of the best play­ers in the world. He had ev­ery­thing, and de­vel­oped into an even bet­ter player by go­ing to the likes of Sam­p­do­ria and Ju­ven­tus where he is still revered to this day.


Dex­ter Black­stock for QPR comes close, but I’d have to say Nikki Bull, my goal­keeper at Alder­shot and Wy­combe. That sea­son we won pro­mo­tion from the Con­fer­ence, he was as im­por­tant as any cen­tre­for­ward – he’d save you 20 goals a sea­son. The amount of games and points he won us was amaz­ing.


To the First Di­vi­sion – what is now the Premier League – with QPR in 1983. The year be­fore we’d taken Tot­ten­ham to a replay in the FA Cup fi­nal and that gave ev­ery­one the belief we were good enough. In the end, we won it by a dis­tance – we had a cou­ple of games to spare. I was only 22, which prob­a­bly gave me a false im­pres­sion of how easy football was!


Steve Burke at QPR. He was ex-Not­ting­ham For­est and a real char­ac­ter. His spe­cial­ity was im­per­son­ations – he did a Brian Clough that was spot-on and in­cred­i­bly funny. Alan McDon­ald, god bless him, was another larg­erthan-life char­ac­ter. Ev­ery dress­ing room needs peo­ple like them.


I was away with Ire­land and we had a team meet­ing the day be­fore the game. The man­ager, Eoin Hand, was giv­ing us a pas­sion­ate team-talk.

But be­hind him there was a black­board, a great big thing you put tac­tics on. Well, as Eoin was talk­ing, you could just see it start to fall.

He was obliv­i­ous but all the lads could see it head­ing for him and it even­tu­ally smashed him on the head.

It was a big old thing and, look­ing back, you think ‘Wow, that could have been se­ri­ous’. But at the time, ev­ery­body was pre­tend­ing to be con­cerned while se­cretly try­ing not to burst out laugh­ing.


Which one do you want? Play­ing in the FA Cup fi­nal is an in­cred­i­ble ex­pe­ri­ence, some­thing not many play­ers ever do. I was very proud of that.

As a man­ager, it was ob­vi­ously the pro­mo­tions with Wy­combe and Alder­shot. Nei­ther club had a lot of money, but had a great group of play­ers who wanted it more than any­thing.

At Alder­shot, we were way out of the bet­ting. No­body ex­pected any­thing. But we started well, went on a run and the play­ers gained a lot of con­fi­dence from it. Ev­ery-

body was writ­ing us off, say­ing ‘Once they hit the top they’ll fall apart’.

But they’d reck­oned with­out a fan­tas­tic group of play­ers who dealt with that pres­sure fan­tas­ti­cally.


The in­jury that forced me to re­tire in this coun­try – a rup­tured me­dial lig­a­ment at QPR. I was only 23-24.

In to­day’s football, it’s not that se­ri­ous. Back then, it was a bad one. And there were a num­ber of other fac­tors that meant my time in this coun­try was done.

But I ended up go­ing over to Bel­gium with Charleroi, did well, then came back to play for Mill­wall, Bristol Rovers and Lu­ton. I fi­nally re­tired at 36, which isn’t bad for some­one with a dodgy knee.


An­field in the 80s. Those were the Liver­pool glory days and they were right on it, the team to beat. You’d like to think you went there full of con­fi­dence, but no mat­ter who they played, they had 11 world-class in­di­vid­u­als on the pitch. It was hard not to be in­tim­i­dated.

They had Graeme Souness, Ian Rush, Mark Lawren­son, Alan Hansen. Peo­ple who could beat you and kick you in equal mea­sure. It was a great place to play, but al­ways a very tough game.


Graeme Souness. He had ev­ery­thing. He could hit 40-yard passes, he could score goals. And as ev­ery­body knows, he could cer­tainly tackle. I was on the end of one or two, and you don’t for­get them.

Ev­ery­thing they said about him was true. He was a fear­some op­po­nent. These days, he’d have had more red cards than you could count.

But, that said, I don’t think many play­ers from those days would stay on the field of play long now. We were all hard, but fair.


Quite sim­ple – to get back into coach­ing and man­age­ment. When I’m an old man, I’ll be happy to look back at my suc­cess. Right now, I’ve still got more to achieve.

I’ve been very for­tu­nate. As a player, I reached the high­est level. As a man­ager, I’ve got ex­pe­ri­ence at ev­ery level from League One to the Con­fer­ence, and won two pro­mo­tions.

I’m proud of my ex­pe­ri­ence and I want to keep us­ing it.

Best sign­ing: Nikki Bull Best player: Gerry Fran­cis Funny man: Alan McDon­ald Big­gest achieve­ment: Alder­shot pro­mo­tion

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

PASS MASTER: Gary Wad­dock in ac­tion for QPR against Southamp­ton in the 1980s Tough­est place to go: An­field in the 80s Best man­ager: Terry Ven­ables Tough­est op­po­nent: Graeme Souness

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