Sexton's Rangers win five goal thriller - History
Friday, 8th Mar 2019 07:46 by Clive Whittingham
Ahead of Saturday's visit from Stoke City we look back on a memorable meeting from 1975, a last minute winner from Djibril Cisse, and the QPR career of Clint Hill.
QPR 3 Stoke City 2, Saturday November 29, 1975, First Division
Dave Sexton’s formidable QPR team had started the 1975/76 season in fine style, unbeaten in their first ten league games through August and September. With the likes of Gerry Francis, Stan Bowles and Dave Thomas to the fore it seemed something special was brewing in W12, but October had been tough on the R’s with their first defeat of the campaign at Leeds quickly followed by another at Burnley and although Everton had been vanquished 5-0 at Loftus Road, Newcastle had then come and knocked the R’s out of the League Cup 3-1.
Stoke meanwhile, managed by long serving Tony Waddington, were in decent touch with eight wins and two draws from their previous 12 games prior to arriving in Shepherd’s Bush at the end of November.
The first half belonged to Rangers. Mick Leach teed up Dave Clement for a low cross which made its way through a crowded penalty box to Don Masson who decided to try his luck from an acute angle and found the back of the net off the inside of the post. He looked as surprised as anybody that the ball had found a way in past Peter Shilton.
But Stoke emerged for the second half with renewed purpose and equalised almost immediately. An acrobatic bicycle kicked cross from Jimmy Robertston tight to the byline was rather hopefully helped on towards the goal by Ian Moores but the trajectory of the ball and late dip on the header was enough to deceive Phil Parkes and it landed plum in the corner of the net. QPR had hardly had a touch of the ball, and now they had to start all over again.
Parkes, who’d erred in the first half but escaped, continued with an uncharacteristically shakey display thereafter. The keeper rushed from his line to claim a deep free kick midway through the second period but could only drop the ball at the feet of defender Alan Bloor who needed no second invitation to hammer the chance into the back of the net.
Back came the home team though and they drew level when Masson splendidly found Thomas wide on the left. The winger took his full back to the byline before standing a cross up to the back post where Clement called strongly for the ball so that debutant Phil Nutt, on as a substitute, knew to duck out of the away and allow his team mate to chest it down and volley into the net from close range.
That set up a grand stand finish and one of the most iconic images of the old Loft End. Stan Bowles, brutally hacked down in the corner of the field, was still picking himself up when a young supporter emerged onto the pitch from the Ellerslie Road corner of the ground with the football and plonked it down so Rangers could mount a quick final attack with the free kick. They did just that and although a flicked header from centre back Dave Webb was initially blocked at the near post the ball fell back to him perfectly and he lashed it into the roof of the net to bring the house down.
The goal, scored with the last kick of the game, preserved an unbeaten home record that would last all season and brought fans streaming onto the field in celebration.
Rangers of course would go on to finish second, narrowly losing out to Liverpool in the title race. Stoke finished twelfth.
QPR: Parkes, Clement, McLintock, Webb, Gillard, Thomas, Beck, Hollins, Leach (Nutt), Bowles, Masson
Stoke 2 QPR 2, Saturday November 24, 2018, Championship
Not the first time a QPR season has arguably peaked with an autumn showing at Stoke and slipped away downhill from there. QPR started and finished brilliantly, with a horrendous period in the middle, to secure a 2-2 draw in the Potteries in the first meeting between these sides this season. Nobody could quite believe Angel Rangel had made it as far forward as he had when he headed QPR in front in the first half, but Joel Lynch was soon rectifying the damage with a ludicrous pass out from the back that set up Saido Berahino for an equaliser. A poor start to the second half culminated in Joe Allen making it 2-1 with a goal that looked well offside, but Rangers responded well and equalised when Eze skilfully set up the onrushing Rangel for a thumping second.
Stoke: Butland 6; Edwards 6, Shawcross 6, Williams 6, Martins Indi 6; Woods 6; Ince 7 (Crouch 84, -), Clucas 6 (Bojan 72, 5), Allen 7, McClean 7 (Afobe 81, -); Berahino 6
Subs not used; Diouf, Martina, Fletcher, Federici
Goals: Berahino 21 (assisted Allen), Allen 60 (assisted McClean)
Bookings: Martins Indi 47 (foul)
QPR: Lumley 6; Rangel 7, Leistner 6, Lynch 5, Bidwell 6; Cousins 6, Luongo 6; Wszolek 6 (Hemed 62, 6), Eze 7 (Hall 90+1, -), Freeman 5; Wells 6 (Smith 89, -)
Subs not used: Ingram, Scowen, Furlong, Osayi-Samuel
Goals: Rangel 7 (assisted Eze), 78 (assisted Eze)
Bookings: Lynch 3 (foul), Leistner 36 (foul), Bidwell 90+1 (foul), Cousins 90+7 (foul)
Stoke 3 QPR 1, Saturday January 30, 2015, Premier League
QPR conceded a hat trick of goals to Jonathan Walters on the previous meeting in Stoke, and if that’s not a reason to give up and fold your club I don’t know what is. An equaliser from Niko Kranjcar just after half time, his second goal of the season against Stoke, gave brief hope that a twelfth consecutive away defeat could be avoided but Walters scored on 21, 34 and finally 90 to seal a 3-1 win for the hosts. It proved, mercifully, to be Harry Redknapp’s last game as QPR manager.
Stoke: Begovic 8; Bardsley 6, Shawcross 5 (Muniesa 42, 5), Wollscheid 6, Wilson 5; Nzonzi 6, Arnautovic 6 (Crouch 63, 5), Ireland 7 (Adam 72, 4), Moses 6; Walters 9
Subs not used: Diouf, Cameron, Butland, Sidwell
Goals: Walters 21 (assisted Ireland), 34 (assisted Ireland), 90 (unassisted)
Bookings:Moses 57 (dive), Walters 84 (foul)
QPR: Green 4; Isla 4, Dunne 5, Onouha 4, Hill 4 (Yun 75, 4); Henry 3 (Zamora 46, 3), Barton 6, Kranjcar 3 (Hoilett 68, 6), Fer 7, Vargas 6; Austin 4
Subs not used: Caulker, Phillips, McCarthy, Zarate
Goals: Kranjcar 36 (assisted Austin)
Bookings: Isla 23 (foul), Barton 67 (foul)
QPR 2 Stoke 2, Saturday September 20, 2014, Premier League
QPR were able to salvage a draw, despite a poor performance, from the first meeting between these sides that season thanks to a sublime late free kick from Niko Kranjcar. Mark Hughes looked like he was going to enjoy his first return to Loftus Road since his unhappy spell in charge of Rangers when Diouf slotted in after ten minutes, although Peter Crouch appeared to have fouled Rio Ferdinand in the build up. Crouch scored himself straight after half time and although QPR had equalised prior to that through a Steven Caulker header which Crouch nudged over his own line, it looked like a frustrating afternoon was in store for the W12 faithful with referee Martin Atkinson waving away numerous obvious penalty appeals for holding inside the box. But with Stoke seemingly engaged on a mission to do some serious physical harm to Kranjcar in the final ten minutes of the game, the Croatian had the last laugh when one of the resulting free kicks was whipped round the wall and into the top corner.
QPR: Green 6; Isla 4, Caulker 7, Ferdinand 5, Traore 6; Barton 5 (Phillips 34, 6), Mutch 6 (Henry 50, 7), Fer 6, Kranjcar 8; Vargas 6 (Zamora 70, 5), Austin 6
Subs not used: McCarthy, Onuoha, Dunne, Hoilett
Goals: Crouch og 42 (assisted Mutch/Caulker), Kranjcar 86 (free kick, won Kranjcar)
Yellow cards: Traore 73 (foul), Fer 84 (dissent)
Stoke: Begovic 6; Bardsley 6, Shawcross 6, Wilson 6, Pieters 6; Whelen 6, Adam 6 (Sidwell 70, 5), Nzonzi 7, Moses 8 (Arnautovic 79, 6); Crouch 8, Diouf 7
Subs not used: Huth, Muniesa, Assaidi, Bojan, Sorensen
Goals: Diouf 10 (assisted Moses/Crouch), Crouch 50 (assisted Moses)
Bookings: Pieters 45 (handball), Diouf 80 (foul), Shawcross 83 (foul), Sidwell 87 (foul)
QPR 0 Stoke 2, Saturday April 20, 2013, Premier League
A long, slow, torturous exit from the Premier League continued for QPR in an April 2013 meeting between these two sides when, despite being chronically out of form themselves, Stoke won easily at Loftus Road. Rangers, long since down, wasted several presentable free kick opportunities around the edge of the Stoke area before the visitors took the lead with a defensively shambolic goal just before half time. A channel ball for Cameron Jerome to chase after should have posed few problems for Chris Samba but he stood off his man and allowed him to cross while, behind him in the penalty area, Clint Hill had contrived to lose track of the only other Stoke man up in the attack and former R’s favourite Peter Crouch could hardly miss from six yards out – although Green may feel he should have saved the reasonably weak shot. The second wasn't much better - Hill again allowed Crouch to stand goal side of him from a set piece and then foolishly wrestled the Stoke man to the ground. Crouch certainly made a lot of the contact, but it was an obvious penalty and although Jay Bothroyd’s prolonged moan about the placing of the ball meant Jon Walters had to try a second time after lashing the first spot kick into the roof of the net, he kept his cool and found the bottom corner when it counted.
QPR: Green 5, Bosingwa 5, Samba 4, Hill 3, Ben Haim 6, Townsend 5 (Mackie 46, 5), Mbia 5, Derry 5, Hoilett 3, Taarabt 5 (Bothroyd 56, 5), Remy 6
Subs not used: Cesar, Onuoha, Diakite, Park, Granero
Bookings: Hill 76 (foul – penalty concession)
Stoke: Begovic 6, Shotton 6, Huth 6, Shawcross 6, Wilson 6 (Wilkinson 61,6), Whelan 6, Nzonzi 6, Adam 6 (Whitehead 69, 6), Walters 6, Crouch 7 (Cameron 90, -), Jerome 7
Subs not used: Sorensen, Kightly, Jones, Owen
Goals: Crouch 41 (assisted Jerome), Walters 76 (penalty, won Crouch)
Bookings: Adam 20 (foul), Nzonzi 77 (foul)
Stoke City 1 QPR 0, Saturday November 10, 2012, Premier League
QPR were left to reflect on gilt edged chances missed after a defeat at the Britannia Stadium in November 2012 stretched their run of games without a win at the start of the campaign to 11. Charlie Adam scored the only goal of the game after Anton Ferdinand had lost out to Jon Walters in the air and Armand Traore had tried and failed to intercept the bouncing ball with his chest. But that would have been academic had Adel Taarabt shot properly rather than attempting a flamboyant chip when through on goal in the first half, and then found the target rather than rolling the ball wide in another one on one situation after the break. Mark Hughes would survive only one more fixture, a home defeat against Southampton a week later, before being given the bullet.
Stoke: Begovic 7, Cameron 5, Huth 6, Shawcross 6, Wilkinson 7, Whelen 5, Nzonzi 7, Adam 6 (Whitehead 77, 5), Etherington 6 (Kightly 71, 6), Crouch 6 (Jones 74, 5), Walters 5
Goals: Adam 52 (assisted Walters/Crouch)
Bookings: Nzonzi 65 (foul), Whitehead 90 (foul)
QPR: Cesar 6, Bosingwa 4, Ferdinand 6, Nelsen 6, Traore 5, Granero 6, Faurlin 5 (Zamora 77, 5), Diakite 5, Hoilett 6, Taarabt 7, Cissé 5
Subs not used: Green, Hill, Onuoha, Derry, Wright-Phillips, Mackie
Bookings: Diakite 45 (foul), Traore 83 (foul), Granero 90 (dissent)
QPR 1 Stoke City 0, Sunday May 6, 2012, Premier League
QPR left it late, but managed to take the fight for Premier League survival down to the final day of the season with a victory against Stroke in the last home game of the 2011/12 season. Locked in a tussle with Bolton to steer clear of the final relegation spot, Rangers looked nervous and tense against a Stoke side that had won only one of its last ten games and came to West London with limited ambition. The mood around the place was dark when news came through that Bolton were 2-0 up at home to a West Brom side that had nothing to play for and knew manager Roy Hodgson was about to leave. But the whole situation swung in the final minute when Anton Ferdinand glanced on Adel Taarabt’s corner and substitute Djibril Cisse slammed the ball into the open goal. Amidst wild celebrations, news filtered through that the Baggies had equalised up in Lancashire. A week later Stoke held Bolton to a draw which meant the R’s survived despite a late defeat at Man City.
QPR: Kenny 6, Onuoha 6, Ferdinand 7, Hill 7, Taiwo 6, Barton 7, Derry 6 (Wright-Phillips 81, -), Buzsaky 5 (Cisse 50, 7), Mackie 5, Taarabt 7, Zamora 5 (Bothroyd 81, -)
Subs Not Used: Cerny, Hall, Gabbidon, Traore
Goals: Cisse 89 (assisted Taarabt/Ferdinand)
Stoke: Sorensen 7, Huth 7, Shawcross 7, Upson 6, Wilson 5 (Shotton 46, 6), Walters 6, Whelan 5, Delap 5, Jerome 6 (Jones 78, 6), Crouch 6, Fuller 6 (Whitehead 78, 6)
Subs Not Used: Begovic, Etherington, Woodgate, Palacios
Stoke City 2 QPR 3, Saturday November 19, 2011, Premiership
It’s hard to believe that QPR are even the same club from the one that went to Stoke and won back in November 2011. A 3-2 win at the Britannia Stadium moved Neil Warnock’s team up to eighth in the league and was their third away win from the first six road trips of the season. They were good value for it as well, out passing and outplaying Stoke to recover from an early Jon Walters goal and not only equalise when Luke Young got on the end of a flowing move to score his first goal for the club but then take the lead when Traore crossed and Helguson rammed in an unstoppable header. The lead was extended still further after half time when Helguson got on the end of Barton’s excellent cross and moments later Shaun Wright-Phillips hit the post in pursuit of a fourth. A typically direct goal from Ryan Shawcross made for a nervous last 25 minutes but Stoke completed just 117 passes in the entire game and QPR were good value for the win.
Stoke: Sorensen 6, Wilkinson 5, Shawcross 6, Huth 6, Higginbotham 6, Pennant 5 (Fuller 68, 6), Whitehead 5 (Whelan 85, -), Delap 5, Etherington 6, Walters 7, Crouch 6 (Jones 65, 6)
Subs Not Used: Begovic, Wilson, Upson, Palacios
Booked: Wilkinson (foul), Shawcross (foul), Delap (foul), Fuller (foul)
Goals: Walters 8 (assisted Crouch), Shawcross 64 (assisted Crouch)
QPR: Kenny 6, Young 7 (Orr 77, 6), Ferdinand 6, Gabbidon 7, Hill 7, Wright-Phillips 7, Barton 7, Faurlin 8, Traore 8, Mackie 7, Helguson 9
Subs Not Used: Derry , Buzsaky, Smith, Hewitt
Booked: Barton (handball), Helguson (foul)
Goals: Helguson 22 (assisted Traore), 54 (assisted Barton), Young 44 (assisted Mackie)
QPR 3 Stoke 0, Sunday March 2, 2008, Championship
Stoke City were second in the Championship when these sides met at Loftus Road in 2008, and were heading for promotion to the Premiership. QPR were in the early throws of the Flavio Briatore reign and his first manager Luigi De Canio was doing an excellent job of hauling the R’s away from the bottom three – nevertheless they were only fifteenth in the table when Tony Pulis’ men arrived in W12 and were heavy odds against for the live Sky clash. Stoke dominated the early proceedings and, as at the Britannia Stadium in the earlier meeting that season, Rangers really struggled to deal with their set piece threat – Mamady Sidibe headed against the underside of the bar from an early corner. Within a minute of that near miss though Mikele Leigertwood had drilled a spectacular opener in from fully 30 yards out. The quickly became 2-0 as Vine headed Buzsaky’s cross back into the path of Leigertwood once more who lashed into the roof of the net after arriving in the penalty box unchecked. Stoke made much of a the harsh straight red card handed out to Andy Griffin by referee Andy D’Urso just before half time for what seemed to be a fair tackle on Hogan Ephraim but Rangers were already well on their way to victory by then and the game was over when a counter attack from a dire Liam Lawrence free kick ended with Agyemany teeing up Buzsaky for a crisply struck third.
QPR: Camp 7, Mancienne 7, Connolly 7, Hall 7 (Stewart 79, -), Delaney 8, Buzsaky 8, Leigertwood 9, Rowlands 8 (Ainsworth 81, -), Ephraim 8, Agyemang 7, Vine 8 (Blackstock 75, 7)
Subs Not Used: Pickens, Lee
Booked: Mancienne (foul)
Goals: Leigertwood 12 (assisted Buzsaky) 21 (assisted Vine), Buzsaky 56 (assisted Agyemang)
Stoke: Simonsen 7, Griffin 3, Cort 5, Shawcross 5, Pugh 5, Lawrence 5 (Buxton 62, 6), Diao 6 (Gallagher 55, 5), Whelan 6, Cresswell 5, Sidibe 5 (Wilkinson 46, 5), Fuller 7
Subs Not Used: Hoult, Parkin
Sent Off: Griffin (two footed tackle)
Booked: Cresswell (dissent)
Previous ResultsHead to Head >>> QPR wins 17 >>> Draws 8 >>> Stoke wins 11
2018/19 Stoke 2 QPR 2 (Rangel 2)
2014/15 Stoke 3 QPR 1 (Kranjcar)
2014/15 QPR 2 Stoke 2 (Caulker, Kranjcar)
2012/13 QPR 0 Stoke 2
2012/13 Stoke 1 QPR 0
2011/12 QPR 1 Stoke 0 (Cisse)
2011/12 Stoke 2 QPR 3 (Helguson 2, Young)
2007/07 QPR 3 Stoke 0 (Leigertwood 2, Buzsaky)
2007/08 Stoke 3 QPR 1 (Vine)
2006/07 QPR 1 Stoke 1 (Rowlands)
2006/07 Stoke 1 QPR 0
2005/06 QPR 1 Stoke 2 (Ainsworth)
2005/06 Stoke 1 QPR 2 (Furlong, Langley )
2004/05 QPR 1 Stoke 0 (Cook)
2004/05 Stoke 0 QPR 1 (Gallen)
2000/01 Stoke 0 QPR 1 (Peacock)
2000/01 QPR 1 Stoke 0 (Thomson)
1997/98 Stoke 2 QPR 1 (Barker)
1997/98 QPR 1 Stoke 1 (Barker)
1996/97 Stoke 0 QPR 0
1996/97 QPR 1 Stoke 1 (Sinclair)
1984/85 Stoke 0 QPR 2 (James, Fillery)
1984/85 QPR 2 Stoke 0 (Bannister, Gregory)
1983/84 Stoke 1 QPR 2 (Allen, Fereday)
1983/84 QPR 6 Stoke 0 (Charles 2, Stainrod, Gregory, Stewart, Fillery)
1976/77 Stoke 1 QPR 0
1976/77 QPR 2 Stoke 0 (Bowles, Givens)
1975/76 Stoke 0 QPR 1 (Webb)
1975/76 QPR 3 Stoke 2 (Webb, Masson, Clement)
1974/75 Stoke 1 QPR 0
1974/75 QPR 0 Stoke 1
1973/74 Stoke 4 QPR 1 (Leach)
1973/74 QPR 3 Stoke 3 (Bowles 2, Givens)
1968/69 QPR 2 Stoke 1 (Leach 2)
1968/69 Stoke 1 QPR 1 (R Morgan)
1947/48 QPR 3 Stoke 0* (Hatton 2, Ramscar)
* - FA Cup
Clint Hill >>> Stoke 2003-2008 >>> QPR 2010-2016
This is a very similar signing to Shaun Derry in many ways. It’s a player at the wrong end of his career age wise, somebody who has not impressed when we have played against him in recent times and a limited footballer even in his prime. He is however very experienced at this level, known and liked by our manager, covering an area of the team that we’re lacking in, and cheap. As with Derry, and Leon Clarke, I cannot help but feel that we could and probably should be doing better than Clint Hill.
That's Clint Hill, as assessed by this site way back in 2010, on the day he signed from Crystal Palace. Don't ever say we don't roll out the red carpet for new arrivals. Or know what we're talking about.
There was little indication of the glorious season to follow at the start of that summer. Neil Warnock had turned things around in 2009/10 having arrived from Crystal Palace but the quickfire acquisition of Hill, Shaun Derry and Leon Clarke didn't exactly scream ambition and promotion. Hill and Derry, in particular, were both the wrong side of 30 and had been part of a Palace side that itself was almost relegated the year before – albeit with the considerable handicap of a points deduction and Paul Hart in charge for their final dozen games – and totally outplayed by Warnock's QPR at Selhurst Park in April. Derry had a particular nightmare that day, again with the caveat that he was trying to keep hold of Adel Taarabt and Akos Buzsaky.
Hill, 31, was only given a 12-month deal because he had an ankle "like a cement mixer". He was signed to play at left back, despite growing up at Tranmere and Oldham as a centre half, instead of Dusko Tosic, who'd impressed on loan from Portsmouth at the end of the previous season and was available on a free.
When Warnock first arrived at Crystal Palace he'd swapped his starting centre half, Leon Cort, for Hill from Tony Pulis' horrible Stoke side. Cort, who I quite rated, Warnock joked hadn't been booked yet that season and that would never do for his centre back. Typical bloody Warnock anti-football, signing a clogger from Stoke to kick people instead of a more talented, younger player. And now here it was happening to us.
Indeed, it was typical Warnock, we were right about that at least. Team over individuals, footballers over names, leaders across the park, dressing room spirit… by the end of 2010/11 QPR were champions, the seventh time Warnock had won a promotion from the second tier. Giving a speech in the dressing room at Watford's Vicarage Road ground after a 2-0 win in the penultimate match sealed the elevation, Warnock said Hill was a "fucking hero" after starting 45 matches that season.
The team had genuine ability, with the likes of Ale Faurlin, Adel Taarabt and Wayne Routledge better than anything else in the league in their positions. But it had a heart as big as a dustbin as well, with Derry, Hill, Paddy Kenny and Jamie Mackie absolutely key in Warnock's dressing room.
The wily old boss knew full well what it took to win promotions. It took people like Clint Hill.
It is easy to slip into the trap of talking about Clint Hill the leader as if that's all he is.
Vocal on and off the pitch in all the right ways, he went on to be an outstanding captain of QPR. As the club lost itself in piles of Malaysian and Premier League money, and lumbered itself with one self-absorbed footballer after another - interested only in the disgusting wages the club was forking out and not at all bothered whether they played or not, whether the club won or not, or what those who did care about that thought of them - Hill was a beacon of light. He carried himself with dignity, represented the club superbly, spoke with honesty and passion about the place and engaged with the supporters at a time when the club as a whole and most of his colleagues were moving away from those who cared most. Neil Warnock's wife Sharon said she hoped their son would grow up to be like Clint.
But that does a disservice to his playing ability, which quickly became apparent to the initial doubters and remains at a deceptively high level to this day.
Clint Hill is, first and foremost, a good footballer with a very decent left foot for a centre back, an undiminished ability to win the vast majority of the balls he competes for in the air and a reading of the game far superior to most centre backs in this league which always meant he could be relied upon for a timely interception and block. That, coupled with the leadership qualities, meant the defence was always more secure with him in it, right up until his final match against Bristol City. After leaving QPR he spent a season with Glasgow Rangers, scoring in an Old Firm derby and winning the club’s John Greig Achievement Award. After that he turned up at Carlisle, pushing 40, and was named the club’s Player of the Year.
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s decision to release him in the summer of 2016 wasn’t the first time Hill had been written off at Loftus Road. Even Neil Warnock, surely one of his biggest fans, felt Hill was only going to be good for one more year, and contracted him accordingly. After promotion Rangers started chasing the so-called bigger names and better players, and Hill – who'd been sent off in an opening day thrashing by Bolton - actually spent the initial part of Rangers' return to the top flight out on loan at Nottingham Forest while Arsenal's Armand Traore settled into that position.
But after a 6-0 shellacking by Fulham, he was recalled, and put back in the team for a daunting visit from soon-to-be European Champions Chelsea. He was, of course, magnificent in a 1-0 win, and kept his place for the rest of the season, even when Warnock was replaced by Mark Hughes.
The spending only got more excessive, the names only bigger, the egos only more unbearable, when Hughes started moulding his team the following season. Hill and Derry joked that they'd know QPR were in trouble if either of them got back in the team. And so it proved. When the toads from Kia Joorabchian's client log sold Hughes, and QPR, down the river the Welshman turned to first Hill, then Derry, and finally Jamie Mackie as well as his reign fell apart. All three were better than the con artists and mercenaries that went before them, and Hill further endeared himself to the support by talking about his sadness at the direction the club, and the dressing room, had taken.
Relegation, apparently, prolonged Hill's career another year, back at "his level". But when QPR won promotion again in 2014, that surely would have to be that. Now 36, and only meant to stay for a year in the first place, another Premier League season would be beyond him. Of course it would. And besides, Rio Ferdinand was on the horizon. Arguably the nadir of QPR's shambolic, shameful approach to top flight squad building.
Needless to say, once again, it didn't go well and Hill, once again, was called for and, once again, turned in an outstanding effort. He even, finally, got the first Premier League goal of his career, a thumping header in a 3-3 draw at Villa Park. Although, as we know, he’d had a perfectly legitimate one ruled out by rank bad officiating in a crucial game at Bolton in 2012/13.
One torturous afternoon at West Brom, after which Hill himself admitted he couldn't handle left back any more and would have to be played at centre half from now on or not at all, and an afternoon of brutal schooling by Luis Suarez at Loftus Road apart, Hill has never looked his age, nor fitted with the perception of him.
He was that rare example of a modern day QPR player you felt cared about the result and how the club was progressing as much as we did, and we loved him for that. But more importantly, he was still the best all round centre back at Queens Park Rangers even at the point he was written off by the club for the final time and released.
Clint Hill had played at Wembley before. It had not gone well.
As a 21-year-old he’d been a defender learning his trade in a Tranmere Rovers team managed by John Aldridge which punched above its weight in the First Division, and was renowned for lengthy cup runs. In 2000 they went all the way to the League Cup final at the old Wembley to face Martin O’Neill’s Leicester City, beating Premier League Middlesbrough and Bolton on the way.
Leicester won 2-1. Matt Elliott twice came up from the back to head home at set pieces. Clint was sent off on the hour for a second bookable offence.
Hill was denied a redemption of sorts, albeit at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, in 2002/03 by the club he would later go on to serve with such distinction. It’s often forgotten that the loveable Scouser was part of Iain Dowie’s Oldham side beaten by that Paul Furlong goal on one of the greatest ever nights at Loftus Road.
He’d left Stoke City long before they started troubling Wembley occasions – the Potters lost to Manchester City in the FA Cup final of 2011 – and the Palace side he was part off lost a fractious 2008 play-off semi-final to Bristol City.
It seemed like it wasn’t meant to be. Palace are serial play-off competitors – their four promotions the joint most achieved through the end of season knockout along with Blackpool. If Hill couldn’t banish his demons at Selhurst Park, surely he wouldn’t find much more luck at Loftus Road. QPR, after all, had only been to Wembley four times in their history – twice for the same final – and won once, in 1967.
In 2013/14, despite the signing of Richard Dunne at centre half, and the addition of Benoit Assou Ekotto on loan from Spurs at ghastly expense to play left back, Hill completed another 46 matches. When Assou Ekotto, persistently half-arsed in his efforts for the club, once again cost QPR a goal through pisballing about in possession in a dangerous area at Brighton, followed by the traditional collapse and demand to be substituted with some mysterious injury or other, even Redknapp couldn’t tolerate him any longer and Hill was back in at left full back.
Along with Dunne, Danny Simpson and Nedum Onuoha he formed an impenetrable wall in the semi-final away leg at Wigan. One of the worst games in the short history of the play-offs, but a tie successfully killed which is what Rangers had set out to do. The home leg was no Oldham, but there was electricity in the Shepherd’s Bush air. Trailing by a goal after half time, it was Hill who was sacrificed - at the time, it was said, at his own insistence – to get the more attacking Yun Suk-Young on down the left side. Rangers won 2-1 in extra time.
At Wembley, Hill insisted on being removed. This time it was Gary O’Neil who saw red at the national stadium and that compounded a situation of Rangers’ own making. Harry Redknapp’s team selections, throughout the season, had often seemed to have been made with no regard for the opposition whatsoever, and frequently needed one, or sometimes two, substitutions at half time to get the side into the shape and system it should have been in to start with.
That was no different on the big day, where Redknapp’s insistence on picking his golden boy Niko Kranjcar despite his lack of first team action and hamstring injury meant the first change came after 23 minutes and saw left back Armand Traore come on. Another odd idea, playing Kevin Doyle wide, ended before the hour which meant that when O’Neil went off a short time later two substitutions had been used, and one attacking left sided player had already been brought on. Redknapp had worked himself into a position where either he had to take Bobby Zamora off three minutes after bringing him on, or take off top scorer Charlie Austin.
Hill’s demand that he be replaced instead, allowing Traore to come to left back, was self sacrifice on the highest stage, and helped swing the final dramatically into QPR’s favour despite the numerical disadvantage. He now stands on the touchline himself, as assistant manager at Fleetwood Town, and will maybe one day return to Loftus Road to manage the side.
Hill, choked, said afterwards: “13 years ago I let a lot of people down here, I got sent off and didn’t get a chance to go up those steps. I’ve regretted it throughout my career. These lads have made me a very proud captain today, by giving me a chance to get up them steps and rectify an error I made. I got a chance to lift a trophy at Wembley Stadium, something I never thought I’d do.”
In the process, Hill followed Mike Keen as the only QPR captains ever to have walked our team up the steps at Wembley Stadium. If there’s never another, the honour couldn’t have gone to anybody more deserving.
Others >>> Geoff Cameron, QPR (loan) 2018-present, Stoke 2012-present >>> Mark Hughes, Stoke (manager) 2013-2018, QPR (manager) 2012 >>> Jay Bothroyd, Stoke (loan) 2008, QPR 2011-2013 >>> Peter Crouch, QPR 2000-2001, Stoke 2011-present >>> Jason Jarrett, Stoke (loan) 2005, QPR (loan) 2007-2008 >>> Chris Barker, Stoke (loan) 2004, QPR 2007-2008 >>> Andrew Davies, QPR (loan) 2005, Stoke 2008-present >>> Richard Johnson, Stoke 2004, QPR 2004-2005 >>> Paul Peschisolido, Stoke 1994-1996, QPR (loan) 2000 >>> Tony Scully, Stoke (loan) 1998, QPR 1998-2001 >>> Mike Sheron, Stoke 1995-1997, QPR 1997-1999 >>> Mark Stein, QPR 1988-1989, Stoke (loan) 1991, (loan) 1996-1997 >>> Simon Stainrod, Stoke 1987-1988, QPR 1980-1985 >>> Gary Bannister, QPR 1984-1988, Stoke 1993 >>> Paul Barron, Stoke (loan) 1985, QPR 1985-1988 >>> Robbie James, Stoke 1983-1984, QPR 1984-1987 >>> George Mountford, Stoke 1946-1950, QPR 1953-1954 >>> Des Farrow, QPR 1948-1952, Stoke 1952-1954 >>> John Bowman, Stoke 1899-1900, QPR 1901-1905
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