QPR captain wants a coaching role, but targets promotion first
- Credit: EMPICS Sport
At 34 years old, Clint Hill is approaching the age at which most players begin to turn their thoughts towards life after professional football – management, punditry, days on the golf course or at the races. But the Rs captain has eyes only for one thing – the Premier League.
Hill, of course, is no stranger to a promotion challenge. The versatile defender was an ever-present in the QPR side which achieved promotion from the Championship in 2011, playing 45 times as Neil Warnock’s team finished above Norwich City with an impressive 88 points.
A natural leader, Hill remained either in or close to the first team under Warnock, Mark Hughes and latterly Harry Redknapp, through two seasons of Premier League turmoil, ending in May’s relegation. He was one of the few QPR players to emerge from that nightmare with his reputation intact.
And still he plays on. Against Bolton Wanderers last weekend, it was Hill, playing at left-back, whose charge forward ended a flowing move and set up Andy Johnson for the only goal. At 34, Hill sometimes plays like a man 10 years younger, but things were not always that simple.
In fact, Hill’s current durability can be traced all the way back to his days at Stoke City, when a succession of knee injuries disrupted his career – forcing to miss most of an entire season.
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“I’ve been preparing for a few years to be honest with you, ever since my injuries back in my Stoke days,” said Hill.
“I decided to make an adjustment in the way I train and the strength I did as well, so for the last six or seven years I’ve been dedicating myself to the strength side of my legs and upper body to prepare myself for the physicality of the modern game.
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“I’ve had it in my plans for a few years now. It’s kept me in and around the team at the grand old age of 34, as long as you are in and around the first team that’s the main thing.”
Made captain by Redknapp, Hill has kept the arm-band for the new campaign, having survived the enormous play turnover at Loftus Road over the last 24 months.
A professional through and through, relegation hurt Hill perhaps more than it did a number of other players at the club, all of whom were shipped out by Redknapp through pre-season.
The players left behind have begun the season in a fashion which suggests that another promotion challenge may be in the offing – but how does it compare to the class of 2011?
“That was a team which was thrown together as well in such a short space of time, I think everyone was amazed how it clicked so well. But the biggest thing was the team spirit,” added Hill.
“We got a really good set of lads in who went out and put 110 per cent into the game and for each other. I get the feeling again now, when I’m standing in the tunnel, that we want to do well and fight for QPR. It is a pleasure to play in.
“At the end of the day you die by your players. If you get the right players you will do well. We are getting strong players and the spirit is a lot better than it was four or five weeks ago.
“We have some decent young lads and some older ones who have been there and done it in the Premier League. This league is punishing, it doesn’t give you anything for free, so the first thing you need to do is earn the right to play.”
While another crack at the Premier League is the priority for the man from Huyton, he is also grounded enough to recognise that it will, in all liklihood, be his final chance. After that, he will turn to coaching, a next step for which he is already preparing.
Hill added: “I’m doing my A licence now, the rules and regulations have changed over the last few months, you now need an A licence at least. The final assessment will be early next year, and then hopefully I’ll be graduating.
“I might give it a year to get a bit more experience. The last three or four have been full pelt so I may get a year out to get a bit more experience on the coaching front.
“I’m not quite sure what role, but I’d like to have a little go just to see where I stand. It is something I am definitely looking forward to.”