Sam Sunderland interview: Wings for Life World Run

Ian Holloway EXCLUSIVE: Former QPR boss says axing was ‘worst moment’ of his managerial career and claims Les Ferdinand doesn’t have enough control at club

Sam Sunderland interview: Wings for Life World Run

Ian Holloway is one of a kind – there is no doubting that.

You will never see another of his type in football again.

Ian Holloway was sacked by QPR last May

He is still hurting from his sacking at QPR last May, a job he believes ‘was taken from him’ by Steve McClaren – who was relieved of his duties at Loftus Road on Monday after a run of just one win in 15 league games.

Holloway insists he is not bitter over the sacking; he is enjoying life alongside his wife, Kim, and spends plenty of time with his five grandchildren.

He is missing management, though. Being back on the training ground is where he ultimately wants to be. He wants that tingle that he gets on a matchday when he is in the dugout to return.

Broadcasting and media work can only whet his appetite so much.

On the day of McClaren’s axing, Holloway agreed to speak with about that decision, his own sacking, and much more. As ever, he didn’t hold back.

“I wish I was still there.  I’ve never been so gutted in my life. It was horrible,” he said.

“That was without a shadow of a doubt the worst moment of my managerial career [getting sacked by QPR last season].

“From the bottom of my heart I can tell you I could not have done any more to help that football club. It still hurts thinking about it now.

Holloway is still cut up over his departure from Loftus Road

“I’ll tell you one thing; I left that club in a far better state to when I arrived. Fact.

“They’ve got more players who are valuable assets which they’ll be able to sell on and make money from. It was a mess when I first came in.

“I was asked to do a job and I did exactly what the club asked of me.  At the end of the day when you do a decent job you expect to still be in one. It’s tough to take still now.”

Holloway sighs and takes a deep breath.  Eleven months on and this decision is still one which plays on his mind.

But what about his successor? Former England boss McClaren oversaw the club’s worst-ever start to a league season, but after delving into the loan market to bolster the squad he took them to within just two points of the play-offs before the turn of the year.

However, with the Rs recording just one league win under McClaren in 2019, including a run of seven straight defeats, Saturday’s 2-1 loss to relegation threatened Bolton was enough for the Rangers hierarchy to declare enough was enough.

Steve McClaren lost his job as QPR boss on Monday after less than 11 months in charge

So what does Holloway, who is still being paid by the Championship side, make of McClaren’s sacking?

He looks in a stern manner, and replies: “That’s football at the end of the day.

“You get a contract, but it normally ends in tears. Look at what happened to me at Leicester? The grass wasn’t greener and I was taught a harsh lesson.

“I had to try and make financial changes there and unfortunately we got relegated.

“But at QPR, I did my job. I knew what I was being asked to do and I didn’t care about the restrictions.

“I was trying to build a platform to bring the youth through at the club with Chris Ramsey – it was working well.

“We succeeded, and Steve and his people didn’t at the end of the day.”

So is there any feeling of resentment from Holloway towards McClaren.

“Let’s get this cleared up now,” he slams his hand down.

Rangers looked to have turned a corner under McClaren after a dreadful start, but after just one league win in 2019 he was axed

“This is all about the owners at the end of the day. If they want someone else who they’ve always had an eye on, then what can you do?

“Certain things should work a certain way, but I can’t control who the owner talks to, can I?

“If I was his girlfriend [Tony Fernandes] and he’s talking to someone else [Steve McClaren] that isn’t my fault, is it? Does it hurt? Course it bloody does, especially if he fancies her more, but that’s life.”

Les Ferdinand, the club’s director of football, has faced staunch criticism from many supporters who have questioned his impact at Loftus Road since taking on the job four years ago.

When the topic of Ferdinand arises, Holloway raises an eyebrow.

“First and foremost, for the record, I have always had a fantastic relationship with Les Ferdinand and I always will do,” he insists.

“I’ve never had a problem with him. He’s a smashing fella.”

Holloway raises his voice. “Les didn’t want me to go last summer,” he claims.

Holloway defended Les Ferdinand’s role at the club, but underlined his dismay at Tony Fernandes

“If he was being perfectly honest with you, would he have wanted that change last summer? Why don’t you ask him that… go on? Or maybe he can’t answer that.”

After a brief pause, Holloway continues: “I’ve been told by people since that Les wasn’t very happy after the first meeting with McClaren, nor with the start made to this season.

“I know for a fact he was disappointed that I wasn’t allowed to carry on with my job, and the fact somebody had been talking to someone else and were told they had the job in December.

“I think Les might be a bit frustrated with it all, too. He seems to get all the blame at QPR when it goes to sh**.

“At QPR you need to let the chief executive [Lee Hoos] and the director of football get on with the day-to-day running of the football club.

“You don’t need anyone else’s opinion from above. They should be saying this is what we want to do, this is how we’re going to it and then support us in that way.

“My problem has never been with Les. The people from above are trying to put a modern slant on things, but let the people who are employed to make a difference have an impact.

“Les needs to be allowed to do his job. I don’t think he has enough say there.

“I had to tell him ‘I think I’m getting the job Les’ [back in November 2016], so read into that what you will.

“It’s not just at QPR, a lot of clubs are doing this, when someone else is appointed to a role and they’re making the decisions and the other person has no part in it.

“You have to do things in the right way. If you put people in positions you have to let people do their job.”

So would he consider a return to QPR? Holloway’s mood changes somewhat.

Holloway gave a frank and brutal assessment about the state of QPR

“Am I some sort of sucker? I get treated that after everything I’ve done for the football club. It hurt me a lot,” he shakes his head.

“But I love that club with all my heart and I’m very proud of what I achieved during my three spells there [twice manager, once player].”

So what is the main problem at QPR?

“It’s far too knee-jerky,” Holloway insists. “It’s been that for too long.

“That’s the last thing you ever want to have at a football club. You have to go through bad times to get to the good times.

“At the end of the day the fans perception and the owners perception are two different things.

“You can’t throw money at something and be a success, especially in the Championship, it doesn’t work that way.

“Even when we got back up to the Premier League, we were the sixth-highest spending club in the country the first time around.

“Under these owners the club have recorded losses of around £270 million. That makes me feel sick in itself.

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“I knew what I was doing, Les Ferdinand knew what he was doing and Lee Hoos knew what he was doing.

“There were occasions where we were prevented from doing what we needed to do to take the club to where it needed to go.

“And unless that changes, that will continue to be QPR’s downfall.”

Holloway stresses that his remit was to consolidate the club’s position in the Championship and help develop the younger players in the squad – something McClaren failed to address.

“Right. Why have all these young lads all been loaned out this season? It’s madness,” he explains.

“Some of these boys are a lot better than some of those in the first team. I’d have never dreamed of loaning them out. Never in a million years.

“Ilias Chair is going to be a fantastic player and I really d Ryan Manning.

“Then there was Ebere [Eze] and Bright Oyasi-Samuel – who my chief scout [Gary Penrice] and myself were desperate to get in.

“And Smythy [Paul Smyth] is a great lad and was an absolute steal for £60,000.

Holloway rates Paul Smyth highly and wouldn’t have sent him out on loan this season

“I don’t know what Steve was told and what his remit was. At the end of the day when you do a decent job, you expect to still be in a job.”

He continues: “What I wanted him [McClaren] to do was pick it up and run with it. Go and build on the progress I had made.

“When I’m sat at home rocking in my chair and I’m seeing Ryan Manning loaned out to Rotherham and we lose the first four games of the season, and then little Smythy goes to Accrington, I’m thinking what on earth is going on here? Are you serious?

“I wanted Steve with his coaching skills to develop these players. Wasn’t that his remit? Is that not what he’s actually good at?

“Maybe what Tony [Fernandes] was telling Steve was not the script that Les and the chief executive had.

Holloway claims Fernandes spoke to former England boss McClaren behind his back

“I was more than on board with that script and those lads would have known that under my wings they could go onto bigger and better things.”

So what next and who next for QPR? The wage bill will again need to be trimmed this summer, with several first-team players contract.

“The situation at QPR is heart-wrenching. We were one of the first clubs to go into administration [in 2001], and this time when I came back it was a sort of a hidden administration,” he says.

“Who else is ready to take over that football club the way it is at this moment in time? I’m really not sure.

“I think Gareth (Ainsworth) has proved he can work with lesser players, but is he ready to take over a club QPR at the minute? I’m not so sure. Who else is ready?

“Maybe they should look at Marc [Bircham] and give him a chance. No-one loves QPR more than him – I’ll tell you that.

“Or why doesn’t Les get his tracksuit on and have a go himself? He’s got his coaching badges and he knows his stuff. QPR could do a lot worse.”

The former Blackpool boss says QPR fans must be patient moving forward

Holloway ends the 55-minute interview by asking to relay a message to the QPR faithful.

“I remember when we lost once to Peterborough 4-1 and they sang ‘you’re not famous anymore’. I’ll never forget that day,” he explains.

“I’ve had wonderful support through terrible times at that football club.

“The support I had from the terraces [in his second stint] helped me nurture some young lads and get a team that really cared about QPR.

“I want to put on record my thanks for what Jamie Mackie, James Perch and Nedum Onuoha did for me at the end of last season. I owe them a debt of gratitude.

“They knew they weren’t getting new contracts, but they were the ultimate professionals.

“They should be thanked by every single QPR fan, because they helped those young lads come into the team, learn on the job and develop.”

Holloway concludes: “QPR fans must be patient. When they aren’t, that’s what upsets me the most.

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“You can’t go and buy success now, [Flavio] Briatore did. You need to build an identity at a football club.

“If we don’t end up thinking we can fill a 40,000 stadium in the future, then we’re not thinking straight!

“We want to get to the point where we were under Gerry [Francis] back in the early 90s – the top London club in the Premier League.

“I was there when we nearly had to move to Wimbledon and it was tough times then for the football club.

“I’m jealous I’m still not there now, but that’s life. Good luck to whoever gets the job next, it’s a wonderful football club.”

Following the completion of the interview Holloway grabs his flat cap and walks off into the distance.

He turns back and shouts ‘keep the faith’ – referring to his former side’s continued struggles.

QPR fans certainly need to ensure they try and do that, with uncertain times ahead in W12.


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Sam Sunderland interview: Wings for Life World Run

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Sam Sunderland interview: Wings for Life World Run

Sam Sunderland interview: Wings for Life World Run

Having made a name for himself as a fast and accomplished motocross rider at just 24, Sam Sunderland is ditching his bike and relying on his body in the Wings For Life World Run. MF spoke with Sunderland about race tactics, leaving his bike behind and motocross fitness. 

How are you preparing for the Wings For Life World Run? 

I’ve been doing some more running work recently just to get my body used to not being on a bike. As a professional rider I’m usually in pretty decent shape anyway.

When I won a stage in the Dakar Rally earlier in the year I was riding for around 3½ hours through a lot of different terrain rivers and sand dunes for more than 350km, and you need to be in pretty decent shape to keep going.

Do you have any specific tactics for lasting as long as possible?

Not really. This is a different type of race to what I am normally used to where there is a definite start and finish line. In the kind of racing that I do we regularly ride for well over three hours in pretty tough conditions, so I think I’ve got the staying power to give it a good go.  

How far do you think you’ll get before the car catches up to you? 

I’m not sure but I’m hoping that my mental strength will push me as far as I can go. I’m in pretty decent shape and my endurance levels are good so I am hoping to keep going for a while.

I think the great thing about this race is that if I fancy it I can keep going for as long as I can and if I’m not feeling it within the race I can reassess my targets, which isn’t something that you can do in a motocross race. 

Does the training that you’re doing for the run fit in with your regular bike training at all? Will it be beneficial for when you compete on your bike again?

It’s always a good idea to keep your base level fitness as high as you possibly can, so cardio training is an important part of what I do. And I’m sure training for Wings For Life will only help me when I am on two wheels. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if find that my body deals with a three-hour motocross race a lot better after this. 

Will it be tough for you competing on foot rather than on your bike? 

[Laughs] I wouldn’t mind being on my bike, though I’m not sure if the course is long enough. Plus I might be tempted to take an off-road route and I don’t think that the catcher car would be able to follow! It might actually be a bit easier than what I’m used to because I won’t have to haul my bike up any of the steep hills.

Have you had to change your diet much to train for the event?

Not really. Diet is a key part of my regular training so I’m pretty much there when it comes to preparing for the race.

What made you decide to take the Wings For Life World Run Challenge?

I love different challenges so I was immediately interested. But I’m also a supporter of Wings For Life, which funds research into spinal cord injury. Every single penny of my entry fee goes to them so I was keen to take part.

Sam Sunderland will take part in the Wings for Life World Run on 4th May 2014.

Follow Sam Sunderland on : @samsunder