WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

We catch up with QPR’s Divi­sion Two cham­pi­ons from 1982-83

The Football League Paper - - INSIDE - By Neil Fissler

IN 1981, Queens Park Rangers be­came the first Foot­ball League club to take the bold step of rip­ping up the grass pitch at Lof­tus Road to in­stal an ar­ti­fi­cial sur­face.

The first ever game to take place on it was in Septem­ber 1981 when Lu­ton Town were the vis­i­tors to West Lon­don.

Iron­i­cally, the Hatters were one of three other clubs who sub­se­quently fol­lowed Rangers. Old­ham Ath­letic and Pre­ston North End were the oth­ers.

War­ren Neill says the ar­ti­fi­cial sur­face, which was ba­si­cally a layer of as­tro­turf on top of con­crete, played a big part in help­ing Rangers win the Sec­ond Divi­sion Cham­pi­onship by ten points in 1982/83.

Rangers had the ba­sis of a good side that had been beaten by Tot­ten­ham in an FA Cup Fi­nal re­play the sea­son be­fore, but it gave them the ex­tra edge they needed.

Neill points out that many teams were beaten be­fore they ar­rived in West Lon­don, even though they were al­lowed to train on the pitch on a Fri­day.

“Ob­vi­ously, we had the plas­tic pitch, but it was a bit like once we went ahead we never thought we were go­ing to lose,” he re­called.

“A lit­tle bit too much was made of the plas­tic pitch. It was great for your touch, but as you get older you re­alised it was very hard to play on. There was no give in it.

“I fin­ished quite early be­cause of back trou­ble and I think a lot of it was re­lated to that, but it was just alien to the teams that came to play on it.

“I think they were more scared of it than any­thing else. If you went down on it, then it did burn. De­fen­sively, it made you stay on your feet. You only went down and slid when you had to.”

Ter­ri­fied

Neill re­mem­bers well one of the mind games Rangers used to play on some of the teams who were ter­ri­fied about what was go­ing to hap­pen to them play­ing on the sur­face.

“When you look back, most teams didn’t know how to ap­proach the game. Yet they trained on them a lot,” he said.

“There was one oc­ca­sion. I for­get who we were play­ing at the time, but Terry Ven­ables sent the kit man into the away dress­ing room be­fore a game with two tubs of Vase­line.

“When they asked what it was for, he said it was for the burns and they all went white with shock,” laughs Neill.

1. Steve Burke: A winger who is now based in Lin­colnshire, where he sold sport­ing goods in a mar­ket and ran a sport shop, as well as a pub. Now a gam­ing ma­chine col­lec­tor for But­lin’s. 2. Ian Gil­lard: Eng­land left-back who went into coach­ing at Alder­shot and then worked at the Mars fac­tory in Slough be­fore set­ting up his own clean­ing firm un­til semi-re­tir­ing. 3. Si­mon Stain­rod: A striker who man­aged Dundee and Ayr, be­fore hav­ing a spell as a pre­sen­ter on talkSPORT. Now a player’s agent liv­ing in Cannes, France. 4. Steve Wicks: Cen­tral de­fender who went into man­age­ment with Craw­ley Town, be­fore be­com­ing a play­ers’ agent , a prop­erty in­vestor and work­ing in cor­po­rate hos­pi­tal­ity at Lof­tus Road. 5. Peter Hucker: Goal­keeper who runs his own suc­cess­ful soc­cer school in East Lon­don and has also coached at Spurs academy as well as work­ing in adult ed­u­ca­tion. 6. Bob Hazell: Cen­tral de­fender who re­turned to his na­tive West Mid­lands, where he has worked as a sports man­ager for the Youth Of­fend­ing Ser­vice in the Birm­ing­ham area. 7. John Gre­gory: The Eng­land mid­fielder has held a num­ber of man­age­ment posts since tak­ing charge of Portsmouth in 1999. His last job was with Craw­ley Town, but he quit be­cause of health prob­lems. 8. Mike Flan­a­gen: A for­ward who man­aged Gilling­ham, coached Mill­wall and has been as­sis­tant man­ager of Non-League Margate. He has also worked for a com­pany that builds and fits swim­ming pools. 9. Tony Currie: The Eng­land mid­fielder set­tled in Sh­effield and ran Sh­effield United’s Foot­ball in the Com­mu­nity pro­gramme for more than 25 years and is now a club am­bas­sador. 10. Terry Fen­wick: Eng­land cen­tral de­fender who man­aged both Portsmouth and Northamp­ton Town and has since worked in Bel­gium and Trinidad & Tobago where he is de­vel­op­ing tal­ent. 11. Gary Waddock: The Repub­lic of Ire­land in­ter­na­tional has man­aged Rangers, Wy­combe and Ox­ford and been care­taker man­ager of Portsmouth. He is now in charge of Alder­shot Town in the Na­tional League for the sec­ond time. 12. Clive Allen: A striker who worked as a Sky Sports pun­dit be­fore re­turn­ing to Spurs as re­serve team man­ager and first team coach. He has now re­turned to the air­waves. 13. Glenn Roeder: A de­fender who man­aged Wat­ford, West Ham, New­cas­tle and Nor­wich and scouted for the FA. He was an ad­viser at Sh­effield Wednes­day and is now in­volved at Steve­nage. 14. Ian Dawes: Full-back who man­aged Non-League Red­hill and ran coach­ing schools, be­fore work­ing as a teacher at a pupil re­fer­ral unit in Sur­rey 15. War­ren Neill: A full-back who was on the Rangers coach­ing staff and then at Lu­ton Town but is now earn­ing a liv­ing driv­ing a Lon­don taxi. 16. Gary Mick­le­white: A winger who stayed on at Rangers as a youth de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cer, be­fore be­com­ing as­sis­tant man­ager at Wy­combe. He, too, is now driv­ing a cab in Lon­don.

NOT PIC­TURED Ian Ste­wart: A winger who is back in his na­tive Belfast work­ing as Grass­roots De­vel­op­ment Man­ager for the Ir­ish FA. Tony Sealy: A for­ward who set­tled in Hong Kong, where he ended his ca­reer and has been em­ployed by Hong Kong Foot­ball Club as its di­rec­tor of op­er­a­tions for 21 years. Dean Wilkins: Mid­fielder and brother of Ray, who man­aged Brighton & Hove Al­bion, coached at Southamp­ton and is now first team coach at Sh­effield United. Wayne Fere­day: A winger who lives in Bournemouth. Worked as a car valeter in New Mil­ton, be­fore be­com­ing in­volved in a fur­ni­ture shop in Christchurch. He also works in the me­dia. Mark O’Con­nor: The Repub­lic of Ire­land Un­der-21 mid­fielder has worked closely with Tony Pulis at Plymouth and Stoke and is cur­rently on the coach­ing staff at West Brom. Martin Duffield: An Eng­land youth in­ter­na­tional mid­fielder who has worked for a hire com­pany. Alan Com­fort: A winger who, af­ter in­jury ended his ca­reer, be­came a vicar in the Angli­can Church in East Lon­don and Es­sex. He is cur­rently lin charge at St John’s Church in Waltham­stow.

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