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ALAN McDonald was brought over to London by the club’s Northern Ireland scout Bill Smith for a week’s training, having already impressed in the schoolboy European Championships.

He had already agreed to sign for Wolves – but Alan found everyone at Rangers so nice and friendly that he changed his mind. He had also previously been impressed that the club had shown a keenness to develop young Northern Irish talent such as Billy Hamilton and Paul McGee.

He moved over to London permanently in October 1979 at the age of 16 where he completed his last eight months of schooling in Acton.

Alan was extremely homesick – but being on his own made him grow up very quickly. He moved into digs in Greenford, where he was joined by fellow future Northern Ireland international Ian Stewart.

Alan signed professional forms at Rangers in September 1981. He developed under the tutelage of George Graham and Theo Foley.

In May 1982, Alan even scored a hat-trick for the South East Counties side in an 8-0 win over Fulham at Loftus Road.

During the 1982/83, season Alan was loaned to Charlton Athletic to gain league experience. He made his debut in April ‘83 versus Crystal Palace.

Alan made nine appearances for the Valiants and is fondly remembered still as one of their best loan signings.

In the September, Alan made his Rangers debut. He was called into the side to replace Bob Hazell, who had been concussed in the home win over Sunderland.

His debut was made in a 4-0 win at Wolves, ironically, the club that Alan had snubbed to join Rangers. This was in fact the club’s first top-flight away win since a 3-1 win at Chelsea in March 1979.

During this game, Alan suffered a cracked rib (courtesy of Wolves striker Andy Gray!). He would go on to play four more matches for the newly-promoted Rangers side that season.

The 1984/85 season saw Alan brought into the side in December ‘84, this followed the sacking of manager Alan Mullery. He formed part of the new sweeper system under caretaker boss and R’s legend Frank Sibley.

During this period, Alan wore the unfamiliar number seven shirt and scored in a 2-2 Boxing Day draw with Chelsea at Loftus Road. He also impressed BBC Match of the Day viewers in another 2-2 draw with leaders Spurs in W12.

The 1985/86 season was a turning point in Alan’s career – he became a regular in the Rangers side, playing in 50 of the club’s 51 matches.

Macca formed part of the side that took the club to the Milk Cup final with wins over top-flight sides, Watford, Nottingham Forest, Chelsea and Liverpool.

The quarter-final replay win at Stamford Bridge is remembered fondly by R’s fans for Alan’s headed goal that set us on the way to a famous victory.

Alan also made his Northern Ireland debut in this season, against Romania in October 1985. Amonth later, he played a massive part in helping the boys in green reach the World Cup finals in Mexico with a memorable 0-0 draw against England at Wembley.

Following some impressive performances for Northern Ireland in the World Cup, Alan continued to be a dependable and consistent performer at the heart of the Rangers defence.

His partnership with Paul Parker was a major part in the club finishing fifth in the First Division in 1987/88.

Alan had signed a new three-year contract that summer and came up with some vital goals at the other end as well. He netted the second goal in a 2-0 home win over Arsenal and the only goal on Good Friday away at Watford.

The following season saw Alan come up trumps in a big moment again, a last-minute extra-time equaliser in a 2-2 draw in an FA Cup third-round replay against Manchester United.

Alan was awarded a testimonial at the end of the 1989/90 season, celebrated with various events throughout the season such as a race night at Loftus Road.

In May 1990, Alan’s testimonial was played in W12 – it was a QPR XI versus a Chelsea XI. Alan, who was still only 26 at the time, attracted star names such as George Best, who wore the blue and white hoops as a star substitute.

Alan was cheered off the pitch at the end by the Rangers fans, a section of Chelsea fans came over as well, only to disperse after a glare from the big man!

During the nineties, the measure of the man was shown when team-mate Darren Peacock mentioned that he preferred the number five shirt for superstitious reasons. Alan gave up the shirt in those pre-squad numbering days and wore the number six shirt from then on.

Injuries took hold for Alan in the 1990/91 season, but a new man at the helm for the 1991/92 season gave him a boost.

Gerry Francis took over as manager and Alan was a regular in the side for the next four seasons alongside the player that Alan later regarded as the best defender that he ever played alongside, left-back Clive Wilson.

Rangers were relegated from the Premier League in 1996. This meant that for the first time in his QPR career, Alan would be playing second-tier football.

Player-manager Ray Wilkins departed early in the 1996/97 season; he was replaced by Arsenal coach Stewart Houston.

Up until March, Alan had only missed three matches that season, this included scoring a last-minute winner in the FA Cup third-round replay win at Huddersfield Town.

Steve Morrow – a fellow Northern Ireland international – was signed prior to transfer deadline day. Following this, Alan was not picked for the first team again.

At the season’s end, Houston told Alan that he was not to be offered a new contract.

Alan’s final game for the club therefore was in March 1997 at home to Wolves, the team whom he had made his Rangers debut against and the team he could well have signed for back in 1979.

Alan’s heroics at Loftus Road didn’t end there, though. The following March, 1998, Alan returned to W12 with his new club Swindon Town, a team that had only gained 11 points from their previous 60.

After 20 minutes, Swindon goalkeeper Fraser Digby was sent off – with no substitute ‘keepers back then. Alan donned the gloves and for the next 70 minutes, pulled off some fine saves as Swindon won 2-1.

Alan said after the game that: “It was Roy of the Rovers stuff for me, to return to QPR and take over in goal.

“It was tremendous, though, to get a good reception from the supporters.”

Alan returned to the club as assistant manager in February 2006 under Gary Waddock. This lasted until the pair left in September. 

Following his departure, he stated: “It hasn’t changed my affection for QPR – that will never happen.”

Alan McDonald remains Queens Park Rangers’ most-capped player with 52 Northern Ireland caps while at the club.

He played a total of 483 times for Rangers, scoring 18 goals between 1983 and 1997.

He is a regular name in most all-time XIs put together by QPR fans and a worthy inductee into the Forever R’s Club – our ex-players and managers’ association.

Alan said in a 2002 interview: “I never really won anything with QPR, but when ordinary people on the street say ‘You’re the greatest centre-back or you’re in the best team ever’ that makes up for not having cups and medals in my eyes.”

Macca was always one of us, ever since he came to west London for that week’s training in 1979 (and always will be).

As long as the name Queens Park Rangers Football Club gets mentioned, so will the name Alan McDonald.

Rest in peace, Macca – 10 years on.

Words by club historian Chris Guy