QPR defender Clint Hill, who has recently signed a one year contract extension, is one of the most experienced defenders in the Premier League. The 33-year-old has played for six different clubs in a career spanning over 15 years.
Clint Hill had a wonderful debut season in the Premier League last year, when he helped his club survive relegation by the skin of their teeth. His performances didn’t go unnoticed as he was selected QPR’s Players’ Player of the Year and QPR’s Supporters’ Player of the Year.
TheHardTackle caught up with the QPR defender, who was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule and answer our questions. The topics ranged from his dream of playing for Liverpool, the incident which brought him close to retirement, to why he thinks Manchester City will retain the title.
Listen to the interview here
Queens Park Rangers’ New Media Manager Paul Morrissey put the questions across to Clint Hill on behalf of TheHardTackle.
Paul : Although you started your career in Tranmere Rovers, being someone who was born in Merseyside, did you have ever dream of playing for either Liverpool and Everton as a kid?
Clint Hill : Yeah, as a red. I was a Liverpool fan. Used to go to watch matches with my dad, used to go on the Kop. Watched all the heroes…Alan Hansen and people like that. Yeah, my dream was always to play for Liverpool.
Paul : Being sent off in the League final match (2000) against Leicester City must be one of the most heartbreaking moments of your career. Tell us something about that incident and your feelings as you saw your team lose despite putting a wonderful fight back with 10-men.
Clint Hill : I was really young…twenty one-ish…twenty two…playing in a big league cup final at Wembley…eighty five thousand people..all family were there. It was the lowest point of my career.
Never ever came back to revisit the situation…never looked back at video tapes or anything like that..programs or anything really..you hear that much. Just remember being in absolute…in tears…distraught in the dressing room. Never got the chance to walk up the famous steps. So yeah, it was a very low point and I actually thought about retiring after that… to be honest with you..for a good few weeks. Until a lot of people had to have a chat with me, so that’s how low it was.
Paul : During your days in Tranmere, club legend John Aldridge was in charge, how was it like playing under someone like him.
Clint Hill : He was a Liverpool legend. One of the greatest goal scorers in Liverpool history and to play for someone like that…I think I played with him as well in his last game…I think in Wolves and he scored two goals so to be involved in that was magic…and to be involved under him was brilliant. I think I have said this before saying that if it wasn’t for him…and there was someone else being manager…I don’t think would have made it to be honest with you. I was bit of a loose cannon back in the days (laughs) with all my red cards and indiscipline, so really got to thank him a lot.
Paul : Your career at Stoke City was disrupted due to reoccurring knee injuries, how difficult is it for a professional footballer to make comeback from such things?
Clint Hill : I don’t think you ever come back the same player…for what ever reason. Yea, its hard…its hard work…there is a lot of mental…got to be mentally strong. Even when you do come back, you might have to change your game as well to be honest with you due to the injuries. So hopefully, touchwood, I don’t have those injuries ever again.
Paul : A look back at your first season in the premier league, you were selected both as the fans and player’s player of the season – how big was it for personally?
Clint Hill : Yeah, was such a strange season. Looking back on it in the summer…I mean…so many ups and downs…and obviously getting sent off in the first game of the season…was practically thinking my QPR career was over…went out to Forest..came back in….I know I was gonna play 20 odd games in the Premiership and then the two awards was the icing on the cake and one was staying up….so yeah, brilliant season for me in the end.
Paul : QPR survived relegation on the final day of the season in a dramatic match against Manchester City – tell us something about the match and the feeling/atmosphere in the dressing room and from fans after the final whistle.
Clint Hill : Can’t really remember much about it..just remember being…the fancy display we put on..I thought we were brilliant you know…it was right up there with Chelsea away at Barcelona to be honest with you. The amount of talent that Man City have got…I mean towards the end…the were putting out all their four main strikers on…well over 100 million pounds worth of strikers on the pitch…and then when the third goal went in I thought that was it…that we were down…I didn’t know anything about the scores (of the Bolton v Stoke City match) or anything..few of the lads did know that we were okay and it was literally 30 seconds right at the end when Wrighty (Shaun Wright Phillips) came up to be and said listen don’t worry it we are safe..so..It was massive change in emotions (Laughs) to be honest with you..and then just sitting in the dressing room..it was a massive relief..over the last few months…I mean with load of pressure building up…just couldn’t quite believe it really. So I just liked it how it finished in the end.
Paul : What is the most heart-warming moment you have experienced in your professional career so far?
Clint Hill : Was trying to think of..well…Probably when I broke my leg at Crystal Palace…the amount of people and support I got really and the good people in the Saint John ambulance were magnificent. It was my first serious injury…was a really young kid and I was in tears..I thought that was it. So to get support from people not just within or involved in football, but like specialists…nurses…you know that was my first proper experience…so yes probably something like that.
Paul : Coming to the start of the new season – what are your and the club’s expectation this time around? Looking at your squad, where do you expect to finish this coming year?
Clint Hill : Just not to take it as close to the wire as we did last season (laughs). We still got to be level headed in terms of…we are still new to this league. We are still trying to build foundation to be a established a premier league team. I think we can do that gradually and hopefully in the next 3-5 years…and you just don’t know where the club can go you know. It is still early days, and if we can finish…I don’t know…13th or 14th from above..I think that will be a satisfactory season for everyone involved you know…and that will give us that stability again to push on the year after.
Paul : Although football is a team game, if you are to select the most important member of your squad, who would it be and why?
Clint Hill : If you look back over the last few years..you will say..if Adel (Taarabt) was on form..he would be the main one…he could turn a game for you. But we have brought more people into the squad now and when you look around…you have got Wright-Phillips, you have Djibril Cisse, you have got Alejandro Faurlin coming back. So think its…I don’t think you can pin point one player now…which is great for us. Its four or five who can change a game now..I think it gives us more chance to win a game now…which is brilliant.
Paul : From Iain Dowie to Steve McClaren – everyone has praised about your leadership skills as a player, is it something you have developed over the years or is it something that came naturally to you from your early days.
Clint Hill : To be honest with you, it must be born within yourself. Tactically and technically I am probably not the best player, but I go out their everyday no matter what to give 110% and hopefully people play of that. You know, I don’t specifically go out there to be a leader or anything like that. I don’t need an armband to make me play 10% or 20% better so, its nice words to hear that, but obviously it’s just born naturally within yourself.
Quick fire -
Your footballing Idol
Back in the day I am looking at Tony Smith and Alan Hansen, old Liverpool heroes.
Best player you have played against/with
Looking back on my last 30 games, the amount of people I have played against is unbelievable but, Alan Shearer was brilliant, playing against. Playing with is, on his day is probably Adel (Taarabt), just to look at him play.
Your favored position (Left back or Center back)
Center back all days for me.
Best defensive partner
Its hard to think…So many…so many. I mean just looking at the defensive partners we had at the Championship season was magnificent. The records we broke there, so probably say our back four was magnificent and the one at Stoke as well, with Gerry Taggart and people like that.
Most influential manager
I would probably say, the Palace days with Warnock…two years there were really, really good. In the situation we were in, he got a lot out of the players that he had, so I would probably say him at that point.
Championship! Championship winner…winner’s medal, my first proper medal and the way we did it as well, so probably that.
Who will win the Premier League next season
I would say Manchester City. Just basically they have got endless amount of cash and they have got the experience now to push on.
TheHardTackle team would like to express our sincere gratitude to Queens Park Rangers’ New Media Manager Paul Morrissey for conducting this interview on our behalf.