The Rise and Fall of Gary Waddock..
Back in the early eighties I remember watching this industrious flame haired teenager tearing around the middle of the park. Not the tallest of players and quite significantly pale but he had a heart of a lion and the energy of a Duracell battery.
Gary Waddock demonstrated everything good about QPR in those days and will always be fondly remembered for playing such an integral part in the success of Rangers which eventually led to promotion and an FA Cup Final under the guidance of Terry Venables.
Waddock eventually spent 8 very happy years with the club involved in 240 matches and scoring 10 goals. Waddock gained 21 full Irish caps on the International stage before complications with his knee led to him plying his trade in Belgium before returning back to Britain in 1989 to join Millwall for £130,000. Two years later he returned 'home` to QPR but his second spell was not as fruitful as his first and hardly featured for the first team before being loaned out to Swindon in 1992. Later that same year Bristol Rovers came knocking and snapped up Waddo for £100,000. His love affair at Rovers lasted two years before losing his place in the team and was loaned out to struggling Luton Town in 1994. Gary enjoyed four great years at Kenilworth Road before eventually in the late nineties and over 450 appearances at 6 different clubs, it was time to call it a day on his playing days and started off his career in coaching, back where he started as a youngster down in W12.
Waddock was appointed Academy coach at Rangers and progressed through to the youth set up and on to the reserves before eventually getting his big break in management after Ian Holloway was sent packing to attend to his garden in February 2005. Some fans were a little surprised by the appointment but many saw this as a time when maybe we as a club can clean the decks and rebuild the squad in a similar way to the days under Venables with a mix of youth and experience. Gary continued to experiment with the team for the remainder of the season under the title of 'Caretaker Manager` for legal reasons mainly. Eventually in July 2006 Mr Waddock became the official QPR manager after Ian Holloway agreed terms with Plymouth. Alan McDonald was drafted in as Waddock`s assistant and it gave fans the feeling of passion at the club as we saw two Rangers favourites paraded on the pitch. That however was as good as it got.
The managerial reign of Gary Waddock lasted officially two months where after a miserable week of three defeats ending by being dumped out of the League Cup, Waddock was relieved of his managerial duties and was duly replaced by ex-Ranger John Gregory who incidentally played with Waddock during the same period of the early 80`s. He was 'demoted` to first team coach but many fans wondered how long he would stay at the club after suffering the humiliation of one of QPR`s least successful manager`s and now back to a coach again. We did not have to wait more than one month to find out as Rangers officially announced that on Thursday 19th October 2006 Mr Gary Waddock was no more part of QPR.
It seemed that Gary`s downfall started almost the day he started. No sooner had Ian Holloway been suspended by the club, Waddock announced that Rangers fans were going to see new and exciting football. This seemed a huge slap in the face for Holloway which suggested that he was clueless as a manager. Ian Holloway probably did run out of steam at QPR but I get the impression there was unrest behind the scenes in his last year at the club and nobody can deny that Ollie turned this club around from the brink of disaster. For Waddock to say what he did was maybe not called for in the way he said it, and if I was Holloway then I would have been fuming. The next mistake Gary made was to make the fans aware that various 'senior` players at the club were surplus to requirement, in particular Marc Bircham which I think split a few hairs amongst the fans as he is known as Mr QPR.
If Waddock had come to the club as an outsider then he could have maybe got away with some bold statements about doing things his way but he forgot that he was already at QPR before getting the job and was used to being seen with the squad on the training pitch and no doubt was very close with quite a few players and to some they would have regarded him as a friend. It must be very difficult to one day walk around in a tracksuit sharing jokes and conversations with the 'lads` and the next minute being the boss in a suit. I remember watching that series on Sky recently involving Peterborough United called 'Big Ron Manager` where Ron Atkinson went to the Posh to 'help out` Steve Bleasdale who had just taken over the managerial reigns from previously being the coach. The players found it hard to see 'Bleeo` as the boss and he tried too hard to make them listen. To many of the players they saw him as the coach and did not accept his authority as a manager and he had nothing but problems getting the team to play for him which in the end cost the club the chance of reaching the Play Offs and eventually it cost Bleasdale his job, as he walked out feeling humiliated by the lack of support from the players and his superiors. The whole time I watched this; I could not help but think how similar it must be with Waddo at Rangers.
QPR players like Bircham etc regarded Waddo as a mate and all of a sudden he turned his back on them. The big problem was that none of these 'transfer listed` players wanted to leave and nobody wanted them. Now he was stuck with 6-8 players who probably hated Waddock and yet they remained at the club. On top of that he signed about 6 new players which enlarged the squad to bursting point and it was clear to many that some of these new signings were never going to have a glittering career at Loftus Road. You don`t need to be a rocket scientist to assume that training must have been difficult for the unwanted and probably it became a distraction to the whole squad as discontent can become a disease.
In fairness, the gaffer did promote the youngsters where maybe Holloway was loathed too and as a result we have seen the emergence of Ray Jones and the promising Pat Kanyuka along with a host of other youngsters like Baidoo, Howell, Bailey and Donnelly etc. All of these players worked under Waddock in the youth set up and much credit must go to Gary for the work he put into these boys as some of them could well go onto having glittering careers in football. We also saw a huge improvement in Lee Cook who seemed to really be enjoying his football under the new boss and even Mauro Milanese seemed to have a new lease of life. However, Waddock was stuck between a rock and a hard place as he was trying to play the youngsters with the new players who some were not good enough and in the end was forced through injury to play some of the 'unwanted` players. Can`t imagine that making a happy dressing room??
The Rangers fans were fairly patient with Waddo for the remainder of last season as they could see that he was tying to give opportunity`s to some of the kids whilst we looked fairly safe from relegation but to finish 19th was not happy reading and only about 1 win in 11 matches was an alarming statistic. The Rangers message boards during the summer were split with 'pro` and 'anti` Waddock fans and yet the new season had not even started! Our opening first three matches produced 4 points and it was not a bad start but soon after it was very clear that Waddock`s reign would be short lived. There was arguing amongst some players on the pitch and the body language suggested the team were far from happy. The side went from bad to worse and by mid September QPR were bottom of the league after a humiliating defeat to Birmingham and even worse, Colchester United a few days later. Finally, time ran out for Waddock as a fairly limp and disorganised Queens Park Rangers were dumped out of the cup by Port Vale who at the time were struggling to win a match in League 1.
On September 20th 2006 Gary Waddock was replaced as manager by John Gregory and it seemed a cloud had been lifted.
Many R`s fans were relieved and excited by the new appointment and the club announced that Waddock would continue at the club as first team coach. To be honest, a number of QPR fans wondered though how long that would last. How can you go into work to face players who were once your friend when you then became their foe and now you were back in a tracksuit wanting to be their friend again? It must have been quite humiliating for Gary in the last few weeks and I am surprised he stayed as long as he did. However, the man has mortgage and family to support like many of us and in some ways it was a nice gesture to keep him on especially the service he had given as a player and coach over the years to the club. At the same time it was obvious that it was maybe the right decision for the wrong reasons?
Gary Waddock will always be fondly remembered by the QPR faithful and he will be forgiven for his poor performance as a manager of this club and I think we will all put this down as a lesson learnt, especially Waddock himself. I am sure he will find work at another club where he will no doubt benefit from his errors and become stronger and wiser for it. I hope he becomes a success one day as someone like Gary Waddock deserves to be treated well because you ask any QPR, Millwall, Swindon, Bristol Rovers or Luton fan what they think of Gary Waddock and everyone will say the same……`top bloke, always gave 110%`
Good Luck Gary and thanks for the pleasure you gave me as a teenager watching some of the best football I watched QPR ever play in the good old days of sweat, blood, guts and plastic!!