Clive Allen on his record breaking career - Interview
Tuesday, 17th Dec 2019 20:49 by Ron Norris
As he launches his autobiography, QPR goalscorer supreme Clive Allen sat down with Ron Norris to look back at his career in Hoops.
QPRnet: Coming in to a club with a famous name (metaphorically) on the back of your shirt did you feel more eyes on you than the other lads, did it add to the pressure on you?
CA: No I have got to say I never felt any real pressure, I was always very fortunate that from the age of six my Grandfather used to take me to see my Dad play at QPR so it was like a second home to me to be honest and I was very comfortable starting my career there. It did help that I knew everybody at the club but I was just as determined to succeed as anyone else. At times you did sense that people might say “he's only here because his Dad played and managed at the club” but I never saw it a burden, I didn't find it a problem.
QPRnet: You were coached by Theo Foley as a lad for QPR, what sort of impact did he have on your career?
CA: He was fabulous, he nicknamed me “son of Les” from day one! Theo played against my father and knew him well so I never got away from it! He was a good player himself and a fantastic coach who developed some good young talent for QPR at that time. He was one of those I'll never forget, if I needed his help or wanted to do extra work he was always there for me. I got on really well with Theo, he was an outstanding coach and brilliant for young players.
QPRnet: Your debut came in 1978 as a substitute against Chelsea. Subs were used less often back then so I guess you didn't assume you might get some time off the bench?
CA: I was excited, I had been involved a few times without playing so it was a gradual introduction. I always remember a young Ray Wilkins was the captain for them, he obviously knew of me and I remember him tapping me on the shoulder as I came on and he said “good luck, I'm sure it's going to be the first of many”. I'll never forget that, you remember little things from those early days and that was one of them.
QPRnet: He was an incredible man, so many people say so many good things about Ray.
CA: Absolutely right.
QPRnet: Do you remember your first QPR goal?
CA: Villa Park yes! I came on as sub, Villa Park was one of my favourite grounds even then. I always remember winning there as a youth team player in the Southern Junior Floodlit Cup competition. Villa were a very powerful strong team, we went there and won and I scored that day and then I got my first senior goal there too. It wasn't at The Holte End but I remember curling it in from the corner of the box so it was always a good ground for me and you never forget your first goal.
QPRnet: So you make your full debut and score a hatrick then follow up with your first full season in the side as a teenager and you score 30 goals. You can't have dreamed of a start like that can you? Or did you have that sort of confidence?
CA: It was just that natural progression really, coming through the youth team into the reserves and then getting my chance in the first team. I think having Paul Goddard alongside me was a massive help so it was great that Tommy Docherty put us in to the side together and we had a really good understanding. Perhaps there was that surprise element from us but we just took off. It was a great combination and I was just trying to score in every game.
QPRnet: Did you feel the pressure or the attention? You were young, banging in goals and bigger clubs were circling, how did that affect you?
CA: No I didn't and I think that was down to the influence of my Father at that time, I was striving to play every game, to score in every game, he would mention it and say people will take note and what you have you. I was fortunate to have that sort of education from inside the game from the age of six. I knew what I had to do regardless of press speculation and Dad kept me very focused.
QPRnet: How did the move to Arsenal come about?
CA: Complete surprise to me, I was unaware of that and I had no intention of leaving the club at that point but Tommy Docherty called me in and said you are going to a great club, they had agreed a deal with Arsenal and they wanted me to speak to Terry Neill. Arsenal had just played in the cup final against West Ham so I ended up being the first million pound teenager and everyone said the game had gone crazy!
QPRnet: Obviously that didn't quite work out and you moved to Palace before rejoining QPR in 1981. What was the motivation to coming back?
CA: Just returning and coming back really, it had been a turbulent year, obviously first with the transfer to Arsenal and then the trade with Kenny Samson to go to Palace. It was a very difficult season at Palace, I grew up very quickly there, it was tough but in a way it was the making of me. However the chance to return back to QPR was one I wasn't going to pass up, Terry Venables was there and it just felt right to come home.
QPRnet: Did you feel disappointed to be ducking back down to the second division or was that not quite a dip as it might be now?
CA: It was closer then I think, and I think we showed that in the coming seasons under Terry. The old second division was tough, as The Championship is now, but clubs coming up to the top flight could definitely compete more than perhaps they can now.
QPRnet: You mentioned Terry Venables there of course who was in his pomp, quite the innovator as a manager?
CA: Absolutely yes, fantastic to play for, certainly I found him to be a great coach for me as a striker and the way we played our football was something I really enjoyed and I thoroughly enjoyed working with him.
QPRnet: That first season QPR we had that incredible cup run to Wembley. When did we start to think we had a shot of going of a long way?
CA: Amazing season! I think we thought we could do well, you start The FA Cup thinking you never know, might be our year and we were certainly hoping for home draws because we were so good on the plastic pitch. I guess we might have gone out in the early stages but we got ourselves going and once we won the quarter final against Crystal Palace, you are in an FA Cup semi final and you just think this might be our season.
QPRnet: I’m guessing the West Brom semi final might have been the personal highlight for you?
CA: I think so yes, quite ironic it was at Highbury I guess and I scored the winning goal off my kneecap! It is every schoolboy’s dream to go to a cup final and there I was with my QPR to face Spurs so there was loads of connections for me. Magical experience.
QPRnet: What are your memories of the final?
CA: It seemed like a long build up for the week before because all the focus was on that game, all the media attention was on it, all the interviews etc. In those days it was unlike anything you ever experienced because in a way the world was looking at you and your team playing in an FA Cup final. Such a big thing then, the magnitude was far more than it is now, so it was a momentous occasion. I turned 21 on the Thursday just before the game too so it was quite a week leading up to it.
QPRnet: Was there a sense of disappointment or achievement after two games?
CA: Yes but I think it made us realise we could compete, Tottenham were a top team with fantastic international players and it just proved to us that we were competitive. I thought we were unlucky not to win the first game, the second was very tight and obviously I didn't play in the reply because of being injured in the second minute of the first game but the lads were fantastic and it was so close.
Result aside it was a big stepping stone for the team and the football club, it gave us such confidence for the next season and we were ready to win the league I think. We were geared up for it, we were confident about how the team played and what we could achieve and we went on to have a fantastic season.
QPRnet: I guess that campaign was a different kind of pressure to the cup run because this was perhaps a competition we knew we should be competing at the top end of?
CA: Definitely, I think the cup run and the experience of that helped us handle it well. We were considered one of the favourites but the team was really consistent, we were entertaining but also we were ruthless in terms of getting our results so it was a fantastic season.
QPRnet: We went on a few long unbeaten runs and every time we got beat we would pretty much bounce into another one. The confidence in the squad must have been top class?
CA: I think that was one of our strengths, there was a couple of hiccups along the way but when we did get going we had consistency in performance, we played some really good football and we were confident about that. Terry was one to make sure that if we had a poor result we would quickly bounce back and that was so important to gaining success that season.
QPRnet: How was the artificial pitch for you? People used to say it gave us a huge advantage but that side were so strong away from home that was surely unfair?
CA: I think it was yeah, yes we were good at home but I think the football we played away from home was equally good and as you say we had a magnificent record on the road, you have to if you are going to win the league and we certainly had that.
QPRnet: The MIddlesbrough game might have been a highlight for you? Hatrick in a 6-1 win?
CA: Yes, there was some good moments but I thought that was our best performance during the season, the football we played that day was great, our counter attacking was amazing and obviously scoring the goals was important from a personal point of view.
QPRnet: The 1-0 win over Leeds secured promotion but winning the title was a dramatic affair in the end. Big celebrations that night?
CA: There was, it was fulfilling that dream and proving that we were able to do it. We were confident we could do it but getting over that line and taking the club back in to the top flight was a fantastic feeling.
QPRnet: And back into the top flight, QPR didn't just make up the numbers?
CA: No not at all, I think we showed what a good side we were, how competitive we were and how the club had moved forward.
QPRnet: Bit of a wobbly start but once we found our feet we proved to be a good side?
CA: Yes we did, we were confident in the way were playing and perhaps we had that bit of a surprise element about us but as we got going our confidence grew in terms of competing against the top teams and we showed what a good side we were.
QPRnet: I wanted to ask about your memories of the Crewe League Cup game, Rangers won 8-1, a remarkable scoreline?
CA: I think that emphasised what we could do to teams, when we did play well we were unstoppable and I think that was an example that day of how we could play and what we could do. We were ruthless like that.
QPRnet: How much of an achievement was finishing fifth for a club like ours?
CA: It was massive, we qualified for Europe and whilst we were striving to improve each season to go and have two seasons like that back to back was quite something, we believed we were good enough and we proved it.
QPRnet: After that season Terry Venables moved on to Barcelona and ultimately you moved on to Spurs. How did that come about and were you ready to move?
CA: No, there was some speculation that Terry would take me to Barcelona but he went and signed Steve Archibald from Tottenham and that left an opening at Spurs who needed to replace him. I had no idea at that time really, I think there was surprise and disappointment that Terry went but I don't think anyone could deny him that opportunity, he deserved that chance and he was never going to pass that up. Alan Mullery replaced him at Rangers and he bought in Gary Bannister from Coventry and probably within a couple of days the approach came from Spurs. QPR allowed me to speak to them and in a way because of my Father's history with Tottenham … I guess I had always felt destined to play for them one day so it was the time to do it.
QPRnet: You picked up five England caps, three whilst at QPR. Did you feel you should have got more?
CA: Well there was a pairing by the name of Beardsley and Lineker in front of me in fairness. I’ll never forget I was on the bench in Madrid when England played Spain and Gary scored four goals that night, I think I realised there and then that chances were going to be limited for me! That's the nature of football though, I was so proud to win my first cap in The Maracana against Brazil in that famous game where John Barnes scored the incredible goal so I fulfilled an ambition to play for my country, you can't get a bigger accolade so whether its 55 or 5 I'm happy with that.
QPRnet: You are perhaps more associated with Spurs in the public eye but QPR must hold a special place in your heart and many memories?
CA: Oh without a doubt, its where I grew up, where I learned my footballing trade. It was like a second home to me and I've such a big soft spot for QPR, I always will have. I've got great affection for the club.
QPRnet: What's the one moment if you look back that makes you smile or the most proud?
CA: I think my full debut, to make your full professional debut at home to Coventry and score a hatrick, well it doesn't get any better than that really does it!
QPRnet: You have your autobiography our now called Up Front. What made this a good time in your life to reflect back?
CA: This has been my way of life and I wanted to tell the story, not just the playing side but my involvement in football over the years. From the early days of my career and what's happened since with media work and my other involvements in the game. It’s been well received, people seem to enjoy it.
QPRnet: When you approach a project like that you obviously want it to have broad appeal but ultimately it’s a personal story so how do you approach it, what's your process?
CA: It's just telling the story as it happened really, the things you have done that perhaps people don't associate you with as well as the inner details of certain experiences to give people an insight as to what it was like, hopefully that comes across.
QPRnet: It must be quite a healthy, cathartic experience I guess?
CA: Absolutely yes, one hundred percent it was, it was two years in the making and it's been a fantastic experience for me and there's hopefully plenty in there for QPR fans to enjoy.
Ron first started interviewing figures from the QPR present and past for QPRnet back in 2001. Across the next 13 years he racked up more than 50 chats with players, managers and officials – you can access the archive here. With the site now mothballed, LFW is more than delighted to be hosting Ron’s fresh interviews here, even though he brought us Richard Thompson to start with. Read his recent chats with Kaspars Gorkss, Tony Roberts, Andy Sinton and Tommy Smith here.
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