Shocked former team-mates of Alan McDonald have paid emotional tributes to the QPR legend, who died suddenly on Saturday.
McDonald, who was 48, made more than 400 appearances during 17 years as a player at Loftus Road, where he later returned for a spell as assistant manager.
He was a hugely popular figure among Rangers fans and was the club’s most-capped player, having played 52 times for Northern Ireland.
Fellow ex-QPR captain Paul Parker told West London Sport that McDonald was “a legend who’ll always be adored.”
Parker added: “I can’t tell you how upset I am. Macca was my very good friend – and he was Mr Queens Park Rangers.
“He absolutely loved QPR and demanded that his team-mates share that passion. If you played alongside him you never wanted to feel you’d let the side down.
“He was everything a player wearing that hooped shirt should be. You ask any QPR fan and they’ll tell you Macca was the man.
“Macca was born a man. He was as rugged and as honest as they come. He gave you everything he had.”
McDonald, who made his QPR debut in 1983, was a smoker and renowned dressing-room joker.
But he was, above all, regarded as a true professional prepared to put his body on the line for the club he joined when he arrived from Belfast as a teenager.
Parker added: “He smoked but no-one could ever question his fitness.
“And while he looked like a big centre-back who would just head it and kick it, he was very good indeed with his feet.
“Not even a manager like Jim Smith, who told everyone what he thought of them, could ever question Macca. He knew Alan McDonald would always produce on the pitch.
“He was, quite simply, one of the very best players I ever played with. Anyone who played with or against him at the time could tell you how good he was.
“He was also a genuinely nice person and a true friend. We used to live near each other and he’d drive me to training every morning.
“It was in the days when QPR trained in Greenford. He’d have the window wound down the whole way so he could smoke – he was a flippin’ nightmare – but you put up with it because everyone just loved the guy.
“The fans loved him because he was Queens Park Rangers. Regardless of who wore the armband, whenever Macca stepped on to that pitch he was the captain. Simple as that.”
Gary Waddock, another fans’ favourite during his time as a QPR player, brought McDonad in as his right-hand man after being installed as manager of the club in 2006.
Waddock, now manager of Wycombe, said: “He was not only a great player, but a great person too.
“There was always laughter and happiness when he was around. He was such a spirit. Such a character.” – Martin Allen
“The word legend gets used too much, but Macca was a real legend. He’s right up there with the finest players QPR have ever had.
“As a player, and as a man, he was one of the very best. I’m shocked and saddened by what’s happened and feel for his family.
“He was someone who meant a great deal to many people and who’ll always be fondly remembered. It’s very hard to put into words how devastating it is to lose him.”
Steve Wicks, who was at QPR when McDonald was a youngster and later starred alongside him in the run to the 1986 Milk Cup Final, said it was important a fitting tribute is paid to him by the club he served with such distinction.
Wicks said: “He was an incredible servant to QPR, was adored by the other players, and the fans will be devastated.
“I helped him when he was a youngster and he came through and was a magnificent player. I’m unbelievably sad to think he’s gone.
“The club must do the right thing and make sure the memory of that great man is given due respect.
“For starters, they should invite his family over for a game and for the first game of the season black armbands should be worn and there should be a minute’s applause.”
Wicks added: “What can you say about Macca? He was one in a million, he really was. A great player and a great person too.
“It was an honour to have played alongside him. In 1986, when we reached Wembley, to go to places like Chelsea and Liverpool you needed someone like him alongside you.
“If I were going into the trenches I’d take Alan McDonald every single time. But apart from that, he was a fantastic, much-loved person who’ll be so greatly missed.”
Another ex-R’s stalwart, Warren Neill, said: “I can’t believe it. We were both apprentices at QPR and knew each other from the age of 14.
“I loved Macca. I can’t believe this has happened. Alan McDonald was a hero to me.” – Kevin Gallen
“We always had such a laugh – there was great banter – but he was also a top professional.
“I’m just gutted. At first I couldn’t believe it was true. Macca was younger than me and it’s unbelievable to think this has happened.
“I can only say how sorry I am for his family and that my thoughts are with them. Macca was a great man.”
Martin Allen also came through the ranks at Rangers in the early 1980s, and described McDonald as “a great player and a top guy as well.”
“Macca was a terrific defender and a terrific character,” he continued.
“We were in the reserves together as lads and I can picture him now, having a sneaky smoke at half-time.”
McDonald collapsed and died while playing golf on Saturday morning.
He was a keen golfer but, as Allen recalled, his early efforts in the sport were unsuccessful.
Allen explained: “My abiding memory of him is from a pre-season visit to Dublin in 1984. We were there because QPR were sponsored by Guinness at the time.
“We were invited to the Portmarnock Golf Club – one of the top golf clubs around – and the people from the club were there to welcome us.
“Alan Mullery was the manager and we’re waiting on the first tee, and Macca’s the last person to turn up.
“Macca shows up wearing a turquoise hat and an absolutely ridiculous top. The image of this will stay with me forever.
“He takes his first tee-shot and leaves a huge divot. He tries again, another divot. After three attempts, another divot and the ball’s still going nowhere.
“You’ve got 18 players on the floor laughing and the manager just standing there, looking at Macca and shaking his head.
“That was Macca. There was always laughter and happiness when he was around. He was such a spirit. Such a character.”
Kevin Gallen idolised McDonald as a boy and was a youngster in the QPR side while the defender was one of the senior players.
He was also at the club when McDonald went back to Rangers as assistant boss following Gary Waddock’s appointment as manager.
Gallen said: “I just can’t take it in. I’m shocked. I loved Macca. I can’t believe this has happened.
“Alan McDonald was a hero to me as a boy and then when I joined QPR there I was playing alongside the man.
“To be honest, he gave me a hard time at first – it was non-stop banter with him around – and I didn’t like it.
“But I got used to it and I realised that not only was Macca a great player, he was a great man – someone I looked up to so much.
“He had a reputation as this hard man. He wasn’t like that at all. He was a gentle giant – a genuinely nice person who everyone thought the world of.
“Macca’s a proper legend and was a great bloke who’ll be missed by so many people. It’s an absolute tragedy that he’s gone.”
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