Gary Waddock became the new Head of the Centre Of Excellence and brought in our next Coach. Justin Skinner. He was the first ex-pro we had as Coach. He was what I called at the time, a ‘Super Coach’. He had everything, he had respect from the boys, a sense of humour and used some original ideas in his coaching sessions. I remember on one occasion when he brought along a load of broom handles and asked the boys to hold them up and kick their legs over them. Some of the boys couldn’t even hold the top of the handle as they were too small but did we laugh. He had the big training balls for the boys to sit on, they loved it and we as parents enjoyed watching the training.
Another year, more boys released, less teams and mixed age groups. Gary Waddock moved up to the Reserves and Des Bulpin took over. Dean was now playing for the U13’s and U14’s, Fitz was the Coach. He was an experienced Coach who came from Leyton Orient. We went most of the Season unbeaten and this was also the time when Dean made friends with a new player called Kiyan Prince. He was raw from West Ham, a big striker with loads of goals in him. He also had a sense of humour which Dean loved and he made us all laugh with his antics, odd hats and goofy socks. Des Bulpin left the following Season and Joe Gallen became the new Head. We went on to have Steve Gallen as our Coach and played our games on Saturdays at Harlington. Steve is a great Coach and brilliant with the boys and commands respect, a true professional and massive QPR fan. He tried so hard to keep me from being cheeky and have a professional relationship with us parents but he could never tame me and we became really good, special friends and used to have some wicked banter.
Our world stopped when we heard that Kiyan Prince had been murdered !!! There was grief like none of us had known before, tears and disbelief. We visited the school with Steve Gallen, Tina, Ray, Gary and our two boys. No words can explain this time but Joe, Steve and Terry Springett arranged a get together with the Club’s Chaplain with all Kiyan’s team mates and parents. We needed to be together, we needed to support one another and still we grieve. We then visited Tracy, Kiyan’s Mum, who spent more time comforting Dean and us then herself. She is a very special lady indeed. The funeral followed and again this was an emotional time. Liz and Paul Finney did a beautiful wreath for us to lay on Kiyan’s grave.
We went on tour to Germany and it was fantastic to see Steve Russell and JJ make the journey to support us. They stayed in the same hotel and I can vividly remember a couple of lively drinking sessions. Tina became famous for her waffles and there was the day we got lost with JJ in the boot and a thunder storm like no other. We were getting very hungry and I was trying to navigate in German ! That was a big mistake but we eventually found a McDonald’s. Ray Davenport kept saying that we would end up in Switzerland and then we saw the sign which was only above a shop and not on the border ! We made it back eventually but God knows how ? The wine tasting was another experience ! Our hotel was in a quiet location, quite posh really and all that could be heard in the distance was loud music, singing and arms dancing out of the sun roof which was acknowledged by bemused staff and guests upon our return. The football against the Germans was quite a feisty affair and as you all know, they know how to dive! But we loved the Tour and so did the boys.
When we returned, Dean thrived during this period and he was pushed up the age groups, often playing with Joe Gallen’s U18’s. Joe started him off as a left back then left or right wing (to protect him) and eventually, when he could hold him back no more, he played him in central midfield where he became a regular. Joe Gallen is an outstanding Coach and caring supporter of the Youth, QPR and a special friend who was nothing but a great person
(The final part will follow very soon)