QPR Legend Alan McDonald (1963-2012)
He didn’t have the goal poacher’s instinct of Clive Allen, Gary Bannister or Les Ferdinand. He didn’t have the panache of Ray Wilkins or the dazzling skills of Roy Wegerle. And yet, for many fans who, like myself, grew up watching QPR in the 1980s and 90s, Alan McDonald was undoubtedly a hero in blue and white hoops.
Even then, it was rare for a player to spend 15 seasons at one club, almost all of them at the top level. McDonald managed it because of the spirit he epitomised, the passion and commitment that supporters of every club want to see from one of their players, that feeling that he would run through a brick wall for his team – and come out on top. How many other players would be cheered off the field after being red-carded for elbowing an opponent – none other, in this case, than current QPR manager Mark Hughes?
Managers came and went, so did other central defenders – Steve Wicks, Paul Parker and Darren Peacock, to name but a few. Yet Macca always seemed to be one of the first names on the team sheet throughout his long service at Loftus Road and I can’t remember any Rangers fan questioning that, or suggesting he should be dropped. He was always worthy of the captain’s armband on the numerous occasions he wore it, not something that can truthfully be said of all his successors.
Even when McDonald returned to Loftus Road as a Swindon player – in fact, emergency goalkeeper – and helped them to inflict defeat on Rangers, he was afforded a warm reception by the crowd. And that was still the case almost a decade later, when he rejoined the club as assistant manager to Gary Waddock.
I was fortunate enough to get to know Macca during that brief period and found that there was no side to him. He was always straight-talking, always willing to chat about QPR and football in general (especially if he was taking a cigarette break anyway!) and what you saw was what you got.
It was clear that Alan McDonald retained a deep affection for QPR despite his somewhat shabby treatment by the club not once, but twice. The last time I spoke with him was for a ‘nostalgia’ feature on Rangers’ famous Milk Cup win at Stamford Bridge, when he scored the opening goal. Even 25 years on, he took a huge amount of pride in that and knew exactly how much beating Chelsea on their own turf meant to QPR fans of that era.
It’s inevitable that, as you grow older, the heroes of your youth begin to die. But I’m sure every QPR fan who watched him commanding the back four year for so long will agree: it was far, far too soon to lose Alan McDonald.