Former QPR and Chelsea star remembers the magic of the west London derby
Steve Wicks recalls a famous Rangers win from the 80s - and has some advice for Adel Taarabt
Having featured in QPR’s two most famous wins over Chelsea, Steve Wicks knows exactly what will be required when the Rs renew their bitter rivalry with the neighbours from the Kings Road on Sunday – good old-fashioned hard work.
Wicks is fondly remembered by QPR fans as a tall, imposing centre-half. After beginning his career as an apprentice at Chelsea, he moved to Derby County and then, in 1979, to QPR.
He quickly became a favourite at Loftus Road, earning his own song: “Six foot two, eyes are blue, Stevie Wicks is after you.”
In two spells at Rangers (1979-81 and 1981-86), Wicks lined up eight times against QPR’s arch-rivals, losing just once, and played in the QPR team which famously hammered John Hollins’ Chelsea side 6-0 in the league in March 1986.
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But it is a match two months earlier, a 2-0 League Cup quarter-final at Stamford Bridge, which lives long in his memory – not as much for the result as for the manner in which it was achieved.
“That was probably the greatest game I played for QPR. We won 2-0, and I was captain,” remembers Wicks. “We drew the first game 1-1 at Loftus Road, and [Chelsea chairman] Ken Bates said they’d thrash us on grass at Stamford Bridge.
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“It was nice to prove him wrong, and after being called a Chelsea reject it was a pretty special feeling.
“When I re-signed for QPR in 1981 I joined a real team, this was a side who would work their socks off for each other. They had real team spirit.
“The game has changed now, and managers have to deal with all kind of egos, but the qualities needed are the same – hard work and discipline.”
So can QPR win on Sunday?
“They’ve got one hell of a task on their hands, that’s for sure,” says Wicks. “We need to dig in.
“There will be times when we’re under real pressure, but we have to concentrate, close them down, hunt in packs and not allow them to play – let’s turn it into another cup match.
“Believe me, we need everybody to play to the absolute maximum.If one of the 11 doesn’t do that, then the rest of the team will be punished.
“There are two sides to the game. It’s all very well doing your fancy stuff on the ball, but when you don’t have it, you have to be disciplined, and conform to the rest of the team.
“That, for me, is where the likes of Adel Taarabt is a worry. If he’s in advanced positions and loses the ball, we’re on the back foot.
“I look at Taarabt now, and I think that if we’re up against it, with our backs to the wall, we’re in trouble.”
The pride of that 1986 League Cup win still resonates with Wicks, whose side went on to beat Liverpool in the semis, before losing to unfancied Oxford United in the
final at Wembley.
Wicks played some of the best football of his career during his second spell at QPR, first under Terry Venables, and latterly under Jim Smith.
By the time Venables left QPR for Barcelona in 1984, he had taken Rangers from mid-table in Division Two in 1981 to fifth in Division One and a place in Europe just three years later.
Looking back, Wicks says that period was the finest of his life in a football shirt.
“When Terry Venables was manager in the 80s, I’d say that was the best team I’ve ever played in,” he adds. “We felt like a big club, and no matter who we played, Liverpool, Manchester United, whoever, Terry always had something up his sleeve.
“The greatest player I ever played with was Tony Currie. He really knew how to put a shift in and represented everything that QPR stood for.”
Against Chelsea, however, and despite being the bigger, established club, QPR were frequently perceived as the underdogs.
They will be underdogs again on Sunday, when Chelsea’s modern-day superstars come calling, but against the likes of Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard, John Terry and Juan Mata, Wicks says the current crop of QPR players would do well to adopt the spirit of the Hoops teams of old.
“Chelsea have moved up a level since Roman Abramovich came on board, and QPR have lost touch with them in terms of spending.
“They are renowned as probably one of the top six sides in Europe. Their holy grail is the Champions League, ours is survival.
“But this game is the one for all QPR fans – it was in our day, and it still is. All I could say to the players is: embrace it.
“The atmosphere will be fantastic. This is what you’ve worked so hard for, so don’t fear it.”
Follow Ian Cooper on Twitter @QPRTimes
Steve Wicks supported QPR’s Community Trust on Saturday at the game against Blackburn Rovers raising �2,258.50 for QPR Community Trust through JustTextGiving.