Issue No.4 of the Supporters Club magazine: ‘The Superhoop’, included extracts of an interview with Dave Clement. Keith Friend recorded the interview on Friday 26th March 1976:
KF: How did your career begin Dave?
DC: Well, I was still at Battersea County School at the time, and I was playing for Surrey Schoolboys, when Derek Healy, the Rangers Chief Scout, spotted me and invited me along for trials. He was impressed with me at the trials and I signed for QPR on schoolboy forms. That was in 1962 at the age of 14. I left school at 15, but the Club was not really sure whether I was good enough. They felt I had something but wanted to leave it for a while.
So anyway I found a job as a junior draughtsman (that is what I wanted to be if I did not make it as a professional footballer) in a drawing office in Vauxhall and went to day college once a week. But I only stayed there for just under a year. Then I went to the American Embassy for another year and worked in the printing department. During this time I was training twice a week with QPR and playing in the South East Counties. Then the Club eventually signed me when I was seventeen.
KF: Actually, you really took up another sport.
DC: Yes, when I was younger, at school, I was more interested in swimming than football. I was the youngest person in Britain ever to win the Bronze Award Badge for swimming, where you have to swim 100 yards of each stroke, dive off the top board, dive for a brick etc. I was about six at the time.
Then at about 11 or 12, I was Southern England Champion at back-stroke, and represented London Schoolboys and Surrey Schoolboys. They reckoned that if I had continued I probably would have made the Tokyo Olympics, but at that time I was training seven days a week, every morning and every evening and I just got stale. Then all of a sudden, just one day, I decided that I had had enough, which caused a lot of rows in the family, but I just felt I loved football more. Now, I think I can say I probably made the right choice.
KF: And now ten years later, it is your Testimonial Year, commencing in May. What plans have you made?
DC: We have a few things in mind such as stag-nights, a boxing night, a river-boat disco, probably a main dinner and dance at the end of the year, and perhaps a small one during the year as well. It really depends on the support we get from the supporters. We have to try and decide what they would want us to organise.
As far as this and the game is concerned, perhaps the supporters could help us out because I was a little disappointed at the crowd attendance at the games against Red Star Belgrade and Moscow Dynamo. These sort of clubs ask for big guarantees, so it is no use bringing a top club over if it is not what the supporters want to see.
Maybe they would prefer a Scottish Club or an All-Star X1? It is very difficult. A lot of luck is involved, holding it at the right time, so that it does not clash with other matches, hoping that the weather will be good. So our supporters could assist us by letting us know what they would like to see.
KF: There has been a lot said and written recently about QPR’s home attendances. What is the general feeling of the players with regards to this and also the away match following?
DC: Well, with the actual supporters that turn up, we are delighted because they seem to be backing us. But we are obviously not getting the numbers in, maybe because people don’t quite seem to believe that we are there. I think we have got to win the League Championship or a cup, before people realise that we are the best team.
KF: Tradition has a lot to do with it. It is only nine years since we were a Third Division side.
DC: Yes and we are building up tradition this year. If we win the Championship and go on, it will be the players in the future years who will reap the rewards of bigger crowds. But I cannot understand the “floating supporters” in London, surely QPR must be the team to watch. It must be the best entertainment value for money. I just cannot understand why we don’t get the crowds.
But answering your question, the players are very disappointed with the crowds, because we feel we are doing our bit. There is nothing better than going away knowing that you are really being backed by your supporters, and at home as well when you are battling it out with another team and you know there are 30,000 supporters going in to every tackle with you. It’s a great feeling. Really our away support is non-existent. I realise there are about 300 regulars, faithfuls, but compared with other clubs, it is almost non-existent. But we would like to thank those people who are backing us all the way.
KF: We have been taking quite a bit of criticism recently up to in fact the Everton game. Would you say this was justified?
DC: We did hit a bad patch round about December, early January when we lost a few games. We started changing our pattern of play a little bit and we were not really playing up to a Championship side. So I think the criticism was a little bit justified. But since the West Ham game we have taken seventeen out of eighteen points.
KF: But you were criticised at Everton and Billy Bingham was quoted as saying that you were a dirty side.
DC: That was a statement based on pure ignorance. We probably play more attractive football than any other team. What he is in fact saying is that we matched them physically for work rate, which he did not like, and our skill won it in the end. But you are going to get games like this in the Championship. Every match cannot be a lovely free-flowing game, there are a lot of battles involved and you have to win these hard battles. But on the other hand we have won a lot of games by pure, beautiful football.
KF: We have amassed over 100 points for cautions already this season Dave. Why do you think this is so?
DC: Well, unfortunately I have had 22 of them. So you had better put that down to me. We have had some for dissent, because some players do tend to get too frustrated at times. But I think it is sometimes a team’s enthusiasm which can be one’s downfall at times. It’s what I said to the Commission at my disciplinary hearing yesterday, that I am a very enthusiastic player and very aggression that I think makes me a determined player who wants to win every game and sometimes every ball (when it is not always on to win every ball), it is that enthusiasm that spurs you to make tackles that are not on and so give away free kicks. I think we have to try and control our enthusiasm.
KF: It might interest people to know that you are the players’ spokesman. What does this entail?
DC: Well, I am the Union delegate. I represent the players at the PFA meetings which are held a couple of times a season where such things as better conditions for apprentices, freedom of contracts etc. are discussed. Then, I call a meeting of all our players and report to them and they give me their opinions. Then we have a democratic vote on issues, and subsequently I represent the feelings of the majority at the meetings.
I also organise a couple of parties during the year for the lads and I have to collect their Union subscriptions, which in some cases is like getting blood out of a stone. Then at the PFA “Footballer of the Year” dinner, I have to organise our tables and seating plan. It is enjoyable really. There is not that much involved in it.
KF: You mentioned freedom of contracts, do you think this will be a good thing for football?
DC: Yes, I would like to say here that the PFA only want it introduced if it is good for football.
KF: What are the benefits?
DC: It will bring inflated transfer fees down to a realistic level and instead of the normal negotiations, clubs would be paid compensation based on wages, age and the divisions the player was going to and from. It would allow players, if they wished, at the end of their contract, to join a club of their choice. But I do not think you will find players constantly changing clubs from year to year, because most have family ties, children at school, or business interests locally.
It will accelerate part-time football in the 3rd and 4th Divisions, which will be a good thing so that the players could operate a dual career, and earn more money, instead of existing from hand to mouth as some do now. Yes, I feel it would be good for football, but there is still a lot more talking and ironing out to be done before it becomes effective.
KF: What was your first reaction when you heard you had been called into the England squad?
DC: When Dave Sexton told me, I was quite shocked, because they named the squad the week before and I was not selected in that. So I was quite surprised, but it was fantastic, I could have jumped over the training ground. It was also a great relief because you start to think is it getting too late, will I ever get a chance? So it was nice to think that I had been thought of.
KF: What were your impressions of the England set-up and what did the training sessions consist of?
DC: Very good. Actually, you don’t do a lot of physical work – you are expected to be fit when you report. What it mainly consists of is organisation, becoming familiar with other players style of play and blending into a team, tactics and free kicks. But generally getting to know the other players.
KF: Do you feel very patriotic when you put on your England shirt?
DC: Yes, every player I met in the last squad was determined to do well for England, to win, and felt proud to wear their international shirt, and I certainly did.
KF: Don Revie has changed his squad around a lot hasn’t he?
DC: He has recently, because he wants to see as many players as possible before he announces his next squad for the home internationals, American trip and the World Cup qualifying game against Finland, which will be his strongest possible squad, so he has spent the last year assessing players.
KF: Well, let’s hope you are in it. Have you got any business interests Dave?
DC: No, not at the moment. I have a few things in mind, but I am just concentrating on playing for the time being. A few of us are taking our coaching badges at present and although I would like to stay in the game when I finish playing, I am not sure if it is a viable proposition because there are too few jobs for too many people,
I also think to run an outside business successfully you have got to concentrate on that business more or less full time and at the moment it would not be possible. But that’s just my personal view.
(Both pics are taken from my collection. The caption on the reverse side of the bottom one reads: ‘Here’s Mud in your Eye – Enjoying a mud-lark are Queen’s Park Rangers stars Stan Bowles (left) and Dave Clement. They both had plenty to celebrate on Tuesday (2-11-76). They had both been selected for the England squad that is to meet Italy in a World Cup qualifier on November 17.
And for controversial Stan, called back into the squad after a spell out in the cold, there was the additional prize of being selected as the Daily Mirror Footballer of the Month for October’)