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    The Beautiful Game


Life as a Professional

I scored 14 goals for Chelsea in his first season, several of them significant ones. Chelsea were the only team to beat champions Manchester United twice - both matches were 1-0 and I scored both times. Chelsea reached the Cup Final that year (1993-94) for the first time in 27 years. I scored the only goal in the quarter-final and both goals in the semi-final to get them to the Cup Final. Chelsea lost the Cup Final 4-0 to Manchester United with my shot rebounding from the bar with the score 0-0. Had it gone in, who knows what might have happened!

The following season I experienced European competition as Chelsea progressed to the semi-final of the European Cup Winners Cup before losing 4-3 to Zaragoza..

In training with Vialli

In 1996 everything changed at Chelsea. First of all Glenn Hoddle left to take the reins as England manager. Then Ruud Gullit, a Chelsea player in the previous season, was appointed player/manager. He signed four more overseas players in Gianluca Vialli, Gianfranco Zola, Roberto di Matteo and Franck LeBoeuf and they all went on to make a fantastic impact on the club. Zola used to practise his free kicks after training – I’d never seen anything like it. His ability to bend a ball with both pace and position was absolutely incredible. The fact that at 36 he was still doing very well in the Premiership came as no surprise to me. His dedication and ability set him apart from all but the very greatest players.

However, and quite suddenly I found that there was no place for me in the team. Gullit’s management style is well documented and I was also to become frustrated with my lack of opportunity and this uncertainty that this brought.

After initially re-signing on loan for QPR in November 1996, the deal was made permanent with an £800,000 transfer fee the following month. Also making the short trip with me was John Spencer and we both hit it off under the management of Stewart Houston and Bruce Rioch. However the team just failed to make the play-off’s and thereafter struggled to make progress.

Scoring against Man City 94/95

In action against Steve Davis of Burnley

Indeed, in less than the four years I was at QPR from 1996 to 2001 I played under five management teams – not exactly a stable environment to develop a club and team. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy my second stint at QPR, but finances meant that player’s were released and this certainly made for a very difficult challenge. Gerry Francis returned to the club in 1998 after a spell at Tottenham, and although he saved us from relegation that year, continued progress eluded us the following season.

Iain Holloway was brought in as the new manager in February 2002 and in March 2003, is still at the club and doing a fine job. However I still had two years remaining a relatively lucrative contract, and the club were struggling with finance. At one stage 13 players were released, and it was in QPR’s interests to find me another club in order to reduce the wage bill.

Next Part: Hanging up the boots