Keith Friend’s 1977 Interview with Frank McLintock for the ‘Superhoop’

Issue No. 8 of the Supporters Club magazine: ‘The Superhoop’, included an in-depth interview with Frank McLintock at the Rangers Training ground on Thursday, 31st March 1977:

KF: Frank, the leading question – what made you decide to quit football at the end of this season?

FM: A number of reasons. I’ve got a business, as you probably know – my pub is in Islington, which takes up a lot of my time. Then the training and all the matches this season, the heavy weather, I have found it a bit tiring. I know I could possibly go on for another season or two. I know that.

But I also know that I am not going to get any better and I’d be fortunate to keep my standard up. I think I’ve kept a good standard in football and I would not like to force it for another season or two. So, I think this is the right time.

KF: Who do you think will be your successor in the Rangers side?

FM: I don’t know, it is difficult to say. It’s a question that only Dave Sexton can answer. It’s possible he may look to someone in the squad, Ronnie Abbott or Stephen Jones, if not he will have to go into the market.

KF: What about Tony Tagg?

FM: Well, I forgot about Tony because he’s been injured for so long and out of the scene. It will probably be a fight between the three of them.

KF: And how do you think QPR will develop as a team?

FM: I have found it very disappointing the way we have gone this year because with the team and the players we have got here, I think it is scandalous that other teams with less ability are in a better position in the First Division than we are. I suppose that is one of the reasons that made me pack it in as well. I have just felt a bit frustrated this season.
top frankKF: What has gone wrong then?

FM: Well there are lots of things I could say but perhaps should not. I think probably our attitude is not as keen as it was last season. Possibly certain players have sat back a little bit, you know. Maybe, last year everyone worked harder for each other and this year, subconsciously we might have been concentrating on the Cups and found the league games a little bit of an anti-climax.

But it should not have been like that. I mean, if you are going to do anything in football, you have to produce the goods week after week, year after year.

KF: What changes then do you envisage in the side?

FM: I would think it would change, because there has been a lot of talk about Don Givens and Don Masson asking for transfers, and with me being out of the side there has got to be some changes. Either buying a centre-half or using one of the young boys and possibly buying another forward.

Plus the fact that Stan Bowles is injured. Touch wood, I hope Stan’s okay and things turn out alright. But it might take six months, it might take eight months before he is properly fit. There again he may come back in four months. It’s something you cannot foretell.

KF: How does your four-year stay at QPR compare with the rest of your career?

FM: Very enjoyable. Not as grand a club as Arsenal, not the same stature, but on the other hand a little more homely than Arsenal was. I’ve been fortunate, I have played for Leicester, a similar sort of club as QPR and I have enjoyed all three of them.

I was set in my ways a little bit at Arsenal. I was convinced that the way we played at Arsenal was the successful way of playing. I think that QPR, especially last year, proved that there were other ways of playing more attractively and still do well. But there is a thin borderline between being attractive and not having any punch and that’s what we have done this year.

We’ve been attractive without having the finishing bite, in league matches especially. It’s opened my eyes up a little bit and broadened my experience for going into management and coaching. I want a balance between Arsenal, when they won the double and a team similar to QPR but with more bite and more resilience. That is the sort of outfit I would like to create.

KF: What would you say was the highlight of your career?

FM: The first time I won something. When we beat Anderlecht in the Inter-City Fairs Cup Final. I had been in the game a long time and never really won anything. I’d got to a few cup finals and been disappointed and it was getting very frustrating. I kept thinking positively. I was fortunate to get to the finals as many players never do.

I thought I’ll really work hard and try and get back there, and it came out right. And I was very pleased with my own attitude of not giving up and keeping at it. I had great moments after that. But that was my first big one.

KF: Where was the game played?

FM: We were beaten 3-1 in Anderlecht, but beat them 3-0 at Arsenal. The odds were right against us, so it was a fantastic win.

KF: What do you feel you have got out of football?

FM: A very happy life basically. Doing something that I have always wanted to do since I was a kid. I have still got a lot of enthusiasm, I still thoroughly enjoy it, I enjoy training. It’s given me a chance to see the world, educating myself. Getting good money for it as well. And keeping fit, I think that’s very important.

You don’t think of it as a young person, but I’m 37 now, probably I’ve got the physical fitness of someone 24, 25, especially the body of one that age. And you take it for granted. I’ve seen people my age as fat as pigs. So, it keeps you fit and gets you into a habit of being fit and I’ll always try and stay that way now.

KF: So you would obviously, if you had the chance to live your life again, go into football, but would you do anything different, are there any mistakes you have made?

FM: I suppose I was a little bit blind when I was young. I was so enthusiastic about football, I tended to put my trust in someone and do exactly what he said. But now I pick and choose the advice I get and think a lot more for myself than I did when I was younger. So I think I would be a little more different that way.

I also let criticism bother me a little bit, but that was only inexperience. When I played for Scotland, I was criticised even before I’d played because they wanted home players rather than Anglo-Scots and I took it a little bit hard, and I was a little bit inhibited when I played for Scotland a few times. My best games were when I was playing abroad. I’d like to think if it happened again I would be able to shrug it off and put things in the right perspective.

KF: What were the best years?

FM: Without a doubt, Arsenal years. We were in five Cup finals in six years – won the Double during that time, we were runners-up in the league, reached the quarter-finals of the European Cup, won the Fairs Cup. So that was tremendous success during that six-year spell. That was the happiest time.

KF: Were you surprised when you received the MBE?

FM: Yeah, I was. I just got a letter from the Prime Minister, saying that if we put your name forward would you object to it. It gives you quite a kick. I remember talking in the ‘Palace’ to someone. There was a big crowd of 60 or 70 people waiting for different kinds of honours.

I spoke to this guy who was in the army and I said to him what did you do? He said he was a cook in the army. And I said, well what are you getting a medal for and he said that he must have poisoned less than the other sergeants. So you see, you don’t know why you get them, but you are quite thankful for it.

KF: What would you say are the most startling changes in the game since you first came into it?

FM: The toughness of the league programme, the speed of the game has gone up a hell of a lot, more competitive now. Training methods have improved and you are pushed a lot harder. Different competitions introduced, such as League Cup, Watney Cup etc., so players have got to earn their money much more now than they did in the old days.

Although, of course, the money is a lot different as well, more involvement in tactics. There is a lot more thought going into the game, but not always necessarily for the good of the game.

KF: Is there anything in football that you despise?

FM: Yeah, I hate over the top tackles. I have always tried to play hard, resilient and be reasonably sportsman-like. Occasionally, I’ve lost my temper and done the wrong thing but generally speaking I’ve always tried to keep a good record.

But I hate people who let you get the ball and wait for you and coldly and calculatingly go over the top and almost break your leg. That’s a thing I cannot understand why referees don’t spot it, because I could tell you every dirty player in every team. Yet they get away with it week after week.

KF: You obviously enjoyed yourself when you were at Arsenal. Why did you actually leave, what happened there?

FM: Well they bought Jeff Blockley for £200,000 and although Bertie Mee said at the time, I was there to bring him on because he was a raw young player. I found out within a few weeks I was dropped from the team. I knew then it was in his mind to play me in the reserves or transfer me.

I knew I had a few years left in me and it was a terrible blow to my pride because I felt very, very much a big part of Arsenal. I was the captain, and used to hold team meetings and organise things. I had quite a lot to say there. All of a sudden I was out in the cold going to play in front of 150-200 people.

The thought of that was just like sticking me in prison, I could not stand it. That’s how it all started, but in the end I did not want to leave when it came to it. It was a very sad day for me. But you learn things from different experiences, playing under Dave Sexton again.

KF: It was probably a good move in the long run.

FM: In the long run it might have been a good move for me, yeah.

KF: How would you compare the club set-ups at QPR and Arsenal?

FM: Club-wise Arsenal was a much larger organisation. They have got clerk of works there, joiner works, electrician’s shops, you know it’s almost like a big factory. Beautiful ground, considering it was built over forty years ago. It’s still well up to standard with any club in the country. Its very established looking with great big thick walls, kept immaculate, good organisation, the best of everything.

Star treatment for players, even have dental appointments made for them. Nice limousines meet and pick them up from the airport, beautiful accommodation if travelling by coach, best hotels, good tours. Everything is first class with them.
bottom frankQPR cannot compete the same because they have not got the same finance behind them. But they do their best for what they have got.

KF: Who would you say are the greatest players you have played with or against?

FM: George Best and Cruyff, I think.

KF: How about managers and coaches?

FM: I think I have learned a hell of a lot from Don Howe, especially as a midfield player going into the back-four. Our back-four at Arsenal were the smallest in the league, we had the record least goals scored against because we were so well organised and knew each other’s play, and a lot of that was due to Don Howe’s coaching.

Then coming here, I’d worked with Dave earlier, and liked him and Dave’s got a hell of a lot going for him as well, especially in European Cup football. He understands the European style of play. He is one of the few managers in Britain who does know anything about Continental play. Half the managers in this country don’t understand the way Holland play. They think all these moves come by accident. It’s not, it’s very good coaching, its very thorough. And I’m afraid we are not in this country.

KF: So, in fact, Dave Sexton would be an ideal manager of England?

FM: Don Revie has got a hell of a lot going for him you know, but he is not a coach. But if Dave and Don got together it would be an ideal situation. Dave, understanding how to play against foreign opposition and interpreting it on the field, because England don’t actually do this.

They talk about a lot of things but don’t actually go out and practise things, shadow play and spot mistakes happening, instead wait for the match when it’s too late. On the other hand, Don’s got a lot going for him too, he gets very good team spirit, fights very hard for his players, contract wise, and he is a very good motivator. It’s just that they lack a bit of pattern, teamwork and understanding, and if they got someone like Dave it would be perfect.

KF: Do you think England have any chance of qualifying or even winning the World Cup?

FM: Very slim and no chance of winning it because they don’t seem much nearer now to getting a settled side than when they started. That’s the thing that disappoints me about Don. I like him, but this is one area where he is lacking. He seems to be constantly permutating all the time and I think he would be better getting maybe about 25 players and say this is my nucleus of a side and work on these, then occasionally bring in someone who has shot to stardom.

KF: How do you see football in general progressing?

FM: Very badly, unless they make changes. British footballers perform miracles with the conditions they have to play under and the amount of games that they have to play and the competitiveness week after week.

I read an article by Paul Breitner. He said he wondered how British players stand seventy games a season with each one as hard as the next. It was beyond him. He said they have three or four hard games a season, and build up for the odd European game, and work at their technique during the week.

We must cut down the league programme and regionalise North and South, saving money and everything else. Some players going part-time and really look at the system and try and get someone alongside Alan Wade, whose got a big name in the game, like Ron Greenwood.

Go to foreign countries and pick out the best training methods and ideas and bring them back here and chat to the managers and coaches and direct them, like the Continentals have done, for years, because that’s how they have come on leaps and bounds. Our domestic programme is so intense, you have not got enough time to work on your technique. We’ve got to adjust.

KF: What does the future hold for Frank McLintock?

FM: I want to be a manager or a coach. I have the business going well and I know I could make more money if I concentrated on my pub and bought another one, I could be financially well off but it does not give me the same satisfaction as football has for twenty years. It would be a big break leaving football altogether, although I must be mad going into management, because it’s such a suicidal business. But it’s in my blood, you know.

KF: Well, you still have a lot to offer.

FM: I think I have got good qualities, I think I’ll do very well if I get a decent chance.

KF: So what happens, Frank, when the end of the season comes?

FM: Well, I have had a couple of offers, which I cannot talk about just now. Just waiting for the right one. I have got a good offer already, but I’m waiting for another one which I hope might come up.

KF: Would you stay in this country?

FM: Yeah, I have had offers to play and coach in America and Canada but I want to stay in this country. I might think about going to America in about five years time when it’s well established over there and all the antics are cut out, because I take my football seriously.

KF: What advice would you give youngsters contemplating a football career?

FM: It’s not as glamorous as you think. There is nothing glamorous about coming to Ruislip on a wet Monday morning when you have been beaten on the Saturday, when you’re a bit tired, and you have got to be pushed and you know it’s a hard morning and you have to do the same for the next three or four mornings.

There’s a lot of criticism and a lot of pressure on you as well and unless you can stand it you had better not come into it, because no matter who you are you are going to get it. But it’s a good life.

KF: Have you got any criticisms of Rangers supporters?

FM: I find they get very impatient when I call for a ball from Phil Parkes and we try and play the ball through the middle. They want the ball banged up front, but they have got to realise that we have not got forwards that we can just clatter balls up front to, because Stan Bowles wants the ball played to his feet and so does Don Givens most of the time.

I’ve played at Arsenal when we’ve played plenty of long balls from the back, but there were two entirely different players in Ray Kennedy and John Radford who will run all day for balls knocked into space.

A lot of the crowd put pressure on you by saying ‘kick it up the field’ but we’ve just not got the fellas going up knocking balls on and other people coming in behind them. You can count the big balls up the middle that we win, it’s just a waste of time. That’s why we try the patient build-up and Slovan Bratislava said that over there we played more Continental than the Continentals.

We’ve got a hell of a lot going for us but it’s just that sometimes supporters forget and are impatient, but this is what British crowds are like.

KF: Would you say that Bratislava game was the best performance of the season?

FM: Yes we played fantastic over there. It was a superb performance, nice and thorough and efficient and yet very enterprising as well. This is what I like about QPR, when they are playing well they are terrific and I would like to see them play like that more often.

KF: But unfortunately, they are going to have to do it without you next season. Frank, it was a tremendous interview. Thanks very much and lots of luck for the future.

Frank re-joined Leicester City as manager in June. He later had a spell as QPR’s youth team coach.

Steve Russell