‘I was Dougie’s interpreter at QPR’

QPR coach Steve Gallen and Dougie Freedman
Three weeks ago his brother Joe was in the opposition dugout. Now Steve Gallen is preparing to face his best friend.

QPR’s first-team coach has known Nottingham Forest boss Dougie Freedman since they were youth-team players at Loftus Road.

Freedman will return there on Saturday, having established himself elsewhere as a player and then a manager since leaving Rangers 21 years ago.

A diminutive, skillful forward, who moved from Glasgow to join QPR as a teenager, Freedman never made a first-team appearance for the club. Gerry Francis, then manager, preferred the strapping Danny Dichio.

Freedman joined Barnet and later played for his country and in the top flight for Forest and Crystal Palace.

He remained close friends with the Gallen brothers. Kevin as well as Steve played alongside him at youth level, and their elder brother Joe, previously a youth coach at QPR, is now Kenny Jackett’s assistant manager at Wolves.

So how did they end up being pals?

“Basically, it was because I was his interpreter,” Steve Gallen says.

He explains: “When Dougie first came down from Scotland he had such a strong Glaswegian accent hardly anybody could understand what he was saying.

“Dougie thought Chris Gieler [then in charge of QPR’s youth set-up] was making fun of him when he used to say ‘Dougie I can’t understand a word you’re saying’ but he really couldn’t – practically no-one could.

Steve Gallen, QPR coach
Steve Gallen was promoted to the role of first-team coach this summer

“I understood him perfectly, maybe because my parents are from Donegal in the north of Ireland and that’s a strong accent with some similarities. I had no problem at all understanding him, but others did.

“So I started as his unofficial interpreter really. Not just at QPR – when he went out no-one could make out a word he was saying either.”

Family friends

The accent softened over the course of Freedman’s years living south of the border.

During that time he scored 163 league goals – 18 of them for Forest – and married the daughter of former England and Liverpool goalkeeper Ray Clemence.

Steve Gallen was his best man, and Freedman is godfather to the QPR coach’s son Connor.

Freedman, now 41, has also started a business with Kevin Gallen since both retired from playing.

“He’s remained a close friend of the family over the years,” Steve Gallen says.

“Our families have been on holidays together and we speak regularly. We might not speak for two or three weeks but when we catch up we can talk for hours.

“I think one of the reasons me and Dougie always got on was because we always wanted to talk about football.

Dougie Freedman’s managerial record
Crystal Palace: won 32, drawn 28, lost 32
Bolton: won 34, drawn 33, lost 34
Nottingham Forest: won 8, drawn 6, lost 10

“Other young players maybe talked about other things but for us it was always football; tactics, referees, improvements we wanted to make – that kind of thing.

“That carried on during our careers. Our careers went in very different directions and he played in the Premier League, but even when I was playing non-League he’d want to meet up afterwards and talk about the game I’d played in.

“It’s still that way now, really. The four of us will talk about our experiences in football – Dougie at Bolton and Forest, and Joe at Wolves, for example.


“The two of us spoke earlier this week, but not about the game on Saturday. Neither of us mentioned that.

“It’s the same as it was with Joe when we played Wolves recently. There comes a point before the game when you don’t talk about football. Then normal service is resumed afterwards.

“Actually we were texting a fair bit this week because Scotland and Ireland [Gallen is an ardent Republic of Ireland fan] were both playing and are of course in the same qualifying group for the Euros, so there’s been plenty of banter.”

Former QPR forward Kevin Gallen
Kevin Gallen has also remained a close friend of Freedman

Having not enjoyed the kind of playing career his brother Kevin and Freedman did, Steve Gallen has had to work hard to climb his way up the ladder at the club he has always supported.

He was promoted to his current role during the summer, having served Rangers as a coach at academy, Under-18 and Under-21 levels.

Like Freedman, he has shown resilience when things haven’t always gone his way since those youth-team days.

“It was disappointing for Dougie when QPR let him go but in many ways it was the making of him,” Gallen argues.

“He could have stayed and not got a game but instead he made his mark at Barnet and his career took off from there.

“Dougie’s always been resilient. Down from Scotland at 16, leaving QPR at 18 and not knowing many people, he stayed in London and built a career for himself.

“His playing style reflected his personality; unorthodox, creative and lively.

“Funny enough though, as a manager he’s been different. He places a lot of emphasis on being disciplined and defensively strong.

“We certainly haven’t been defensively minded – no-one could say that about QPR this season – so it’ll be an interesting game on Saturday.

“There will be contrasting styles and it’ll be a test for us. We’ve won our last three games and want to keep the momentum going.

“And it’ll be a bit strange seeing Dougie on the opposite side. We’ve both come a long way.”