QPR hero remembers his side’s only ever win at Liverpool
Clive Wilson on the 3-1 triumph that turned him from utility player to Rangers legend
‘This is Anfield’. There was a time when that brief, but famous sign would strike fear into the hearts of most visiting teams.
Liverpool were undisputed kings of the English game for close on two decades and their home ground regarded as something of an impenetrable fortress – certainly from a QPR perspective.
Apart from their famous 2-2 draw in the 1986 Milk Cup semi-final, Rangers were frequently little more than lambs to the slaughter when they visited Anfield, losing 15 out of 17 games on the red half of Merseyside.
That was until Saturday March 30, 1991 – the game that ended Rangers’ Anfield hoodoo and turned Clive Wilson from an inconsistent utility player into a Hoops hero.
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Signed from local rivals Chelsea the previous summer, Wilson struggled to hold a place in the starting line-up and was named as one of the two substitutes when Don Howe’s team travelled to Anfield.
“Overall the season was quite disappointing, both for the team and me personally,” Wilson told London24.com. “I’d been expecting to play more regularly, but it didn’t happen.
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“To be honest, my form wasn’t that great, which probably justified me being left out, but it was a real downer and felt like d�j� vu after Chelsea.
“We weren’t doing too well in the league and, along with Old Trafford, Anfield was definitely the place you most feared going to at that time – you were lucky to get a draw, let alone a win.”
Unexpectedly, Rangers tore into a Liverpool side still reeling from the recent departure of manager Kenny Dalglish and built a 2-0 lead at half-time through Les Ferdinand and Roy Wegerle.
But a questionable penalty decision – something of a common occurrence at Anfield in those days – threatened to ruin their afternoon when Rufus Brevett was adjudged to have handled Glenn Hysen’s free-kick.
Jan Molby converted the spot-kick and QPR suddenly found themselves under pressure – but Wilson, who had just come on to replace Andy Sinton, stabbed in his first Hoops goal to make it 3-1 and seal victory.
“I remember coming on as sub and scoring with my first touch,” Wilson recalled. “We were attacking down the right and I think Les crossed it to Ray Wilkins, who tried to head it.
“But, with Ray having no hair, the ball skimmed off his head! It went through the legs of Steve Nicol and came to me and I just knocked it past the keeper.
“Winning at Liverpool was a great feeling, but I wouldn’t say it was a turning point for me at QPR – that was the change of manager, when Gerry Francis came in later that year.
“After that we were more structured – he had a team pattern and everyone had a specific job within it. It was Gerry who made me a permanent left-back.
“I’d never had a settled position earlier in my career – I always played midfield and only filled in at left-back when the first choice was injured or suspended.”
Wilson went on to become an integral member of the QPR team that finished fifth in the inaugural season of the Premier League, as well as taking over as the team’s regular – and usually successful – penalty taker.
He formed a consistent partnership with fellow full-back David Bardsley, leading to talk of international recognition – and the 50-year-old admits he was disappointed that the call from England never came.
Eventually following Francis to Tottenham in 1995, Wilson wound down his playing career at Cambridge United and has since coached in non-league and women’s football, but is currently in the middle of a graduate teaching programme at an Epping school.
“Me and Dave had a good understanding. Because squads were nowhere near as big as they are today, you tended to play with the same people on a regular basis, which helped,” Wilson reflected.
“I thought my form was good enough to warrant inclusion in the England squad, but I didn’t get the call and the fact that it never happened was a bit of a disappointment.
“I did think that if I’d been playing for a so-called ‘bigger’ club it might have been different, but then again we did have players who made it into the squad, such as Les, Dave and Andy Sinton.
“I loved my time at QPR though. Winning 4-1 at Old Trafford was probably the game that stands out most – and being top club in London was the real highlight of my career there.
“QPR was a family club, running on a much smaller budget than teams like Arsenal, Spurs and Chelsea, so it was a real achievement to finish ahead of them on a regular basis.”