Alan McDonald: Stalwart of QPR and Northern Ireland


There was nothing fancy about the football of Alan McDonald, but for more than a decade he was a mightily effective centre-half for Queen's Park Rangers in the top domestic flight of the English game, and he earned half a century of caps for Northern Ireland along the way.

The rangy 6ft 2in Ulsterman was commanding, combative and, crucially for his longevity, admirably consistent. He was never the paciest of performers but he read the unfolding action intelligently and when the ball was at his feet he was not inclined to risk losing it, thus tending to opt for long-distance punt over delicate dispatch. His characteristic authority, confidence and loyalty gelled with courage, determination and a fierce pride in his work to render him a natural and inspirational captain of both club and country.

Having been spotted by a Rangers scout in Ireland, McDonald enlisted at Loftus Road as a 17-year-old apprentice in August 1981, bedding in gradually and learning from the first-team likes of Glenn Roeder, Terry Fenwick, Steve Wicks and Bob Hazell. The former schoolboy and youth international didn't break through in time to contribute to the Second Division title triumph in 1982-83, but the then manager Terry Venables wanted his promising rookie to gain senior experience and so loaned him to struggling Charlton Athletic, whom he helped to escape relegation to the third tier that spring.

Thus bolstered, McDonald made his Rangers entrance while still in his teens in the following September, playing solidly in a 4-0 drubbing of Wolves at Molineux. There followed a clutch of efficient displays before he was replaced for the remainder of the First Division campaign by the older Wicks.

In 1984-85 his appearances became more frequent as Rangers gradually consolidated their position at the higher level, but it was in 1985-86 that McDonald, who was also an able full-back, truly made his mark. That season he was ever-present in the league and featured prominently as the west Londoners reached the League Cup final, particularly in the quarter-final replay victory over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, in which he scored, and the semi-final defeat of Liverpool which denied Kenny Dalglish's team the chance to become the first to lift the domestic treble.

Rangers under-performed at Wembley, losing 3-0 to Oxford United, but that season, too, he arrived on the full international scene, excelling on debut in a tense 1-0 win over Romania in a World Cup qualifier in Bucharest. Proving that was no fluke, he shone again a month later at the heart of a hectic rearguard action in the goalless draw with England at Wembley which secured Billy Bingham's men their berth at the 1986 finals in Mexico. In that tournament he battled gamely against the high-quality likes of Spain's Emilio Butragueno and Zico of Brazil, playing in all three group matches, which produced only a single point against Algeria.

Thereafter McDonald continued to improve. Combining productively with the smaller, nippier Paul Parker, he was hugely influential as Rangers climbed to fifth place in the First Division under Jim Smith in 1987-88, a feat equalled by Gerry Francis's fine side of 1992-93, the first season of the Premier League.

The big stopper's poise and encouragement were of immense benefit to the development of Darren Peacock, his younger central-defensive partner in the early 1990s who was eventually sold to Newcastle United for £2.7 million, and McDonald remained a Loftus Road bulwark into his thirties.

He was devastated by the club's demotion in 1995-96, but stayed at Loftus Road for one more season before being freed – after playing nearly 500 games for the club – to join second-flight rivals Swindon Town in the summer of 1997. A year later he retired, going on to sample coaching with Northern Ireland under-21s before entering management with Glentoran in his home city of Belfast in June 2007. He took to the task with alacrity, swiftly bringing in new faces and leading the Cock'*'Hens to triumph over Crusaders in the final of the prestigious County Antrim Shield in his first full season.

McDonald tasted even sweeter success in 2008-09 as Glentoran became Irish Premier League champions, pipping their local rivals Linfield by a single point, but then sampled the other side of the coin, resigning in February 2010 after his side had slumped.

McDonald, a popular character renowned as a dressing-room practical joker, owned a trophy shop in Bangor, Northern Ireland, which had been run previously by his international team-mate Billy Hamilton. His death, shockingly premature at the age of 48, happened while he was playing golf on a course near Lisburn in County Down.

Alan McDonald, footballer and manager; born Belfast 12 October 1963; played for Queen's Park Rangers 1981-97, Charlton Athletic on loan 1983, Swindon Town 1997-98; capped 52 times by Northern Ireland 1986-96; managed Glentoran 2007-10; died County Down 23 June 2012.

FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer Trustee opportunities now available at The Society for Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Volunteer your expertise as Tr...

Early Years Educator

£68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

Nursery Nurse

£69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam