Green: I'd joined QPR to be the No 1 keeper but then Hughes told me I could leave whenever I liked
23:27 GMT, 8 December 2012
Rob Green remembers the precise moment when his world turned upside down at Queens Park Rangers.
The England star's bag was packed and he was about to leave home for a Capital One Cup clash against Walsall in late August when he flicked on the television to catch up with the sports news and saw pictures of Brazil World Cup goalkeeper Julio Cesar arriving at Loftus Road.
Green, who had signed from West Ham just a few weeks earlier in the belief that he would be first-choice goalkeeper at Rangers, had heard rumours of Cesar joining but insists he had been assured by the club that it was just 'paper talk'. Now, in front of his disbelieving eyes, it had become reality.
Eye on the jersey: QPR keeper Rob Green
As Green reflected on events that he says were the worst moments in his 16 years as a professional, he recalled his shock at realising the new challenge he had planned for himself at QPR was about to go horribly wrong.
'I came to QPR looking for a new challenge after six years at West Ham, a wonderful time capped off by promotion at Wembley,' said Green. 'Kevin Hitchcock, the goalkeeping coach at QPR, is an old mate and I came to work for him on the understanding that I was first choice. I'd played for England in May, I was in the European Championship squad and, at 32, I'm in the prime of my life.
'If he'd said to me we're also going to sign someone who's won Serie A five times and the Champions League and is one of the biggest names in South American football, I would have thought twice before signing.'
Out of luck: Mark Hughes was sacked as QPR boss
Green says that when he saw the news that Cesar was joining QPR, he rang the club and asked what was going on.
'I said I'd just seen Cesar turn up at the ground,' said Green. 'They replied, “Oh, is he here, then” I thought to myself, “OK, now I've got to get my head around this and go off and play a football match”.'
Hail Cesar: Julio Cesar in action for QPR
Ever the professional, Green did just that and QPR won comfortably on the night, but the goalkeeper still needed some answers.
'I'd read rumours in the press about Julio coming, but when I asked officials at the club they dismissed it as paper talk and said he wasn't going to sign. Now that the Brazilian had joined the club I needed to know where I stood.
'I asked (the then manager) Mark Hughes. He told me Julio was going to play, that I'd done nothing wrong and that he wanted two top keepers competing for the position. I replied, “Well, if he's going straight into the first team he's not really competing, is he Where does that leave me” Hughes replied, “You're free to leave whenever you want”. It wasn't quite what I wanted to hear.'
Green has known the highs and lows of professional football.
last-minute injury which ruled him out of the 2006 World Cup and the
blunder that allowed the United States to equalise in the 2010 World Cup
must be weighed against a long and successful career at Norwich and
West Ham and his 12 England caps. But Green says he had never
experienced anything like this.
my talks with the club they admitted they had done this with not a
great deal of consideration of where it left me,' he said.
'It made me
realise that I would struggle to play because Julio is a couple of
months older than me, and anyone looking in would soon be asking why
their top Brazilian, signed on a four-year contract, was not playing. I
couldn't compete on a financial level and it was out of my control. I
also knew Mark Hughes traditionally stuck with his preferred goalkeeper
at all his previous clubs.'
Green has no quarrel with Cesar.
Out in the cold: Rob green (back, centre) was shunned by former QPR boss Mark Hughes (right)
'The first thing Julio did on arriving at the club was to seek me out and shake my hand, which I appreciated,' he admitted. 'He's a nice fellow who hasn't done anything wrong. I remember saying to Brian Murphy, an Irish keeper also at the club, “This is going to make my situation even harder as Julio's such a nice guy”.
'The last game I played for QPR under the Hughes regime was our defeat at Manchester City, and by then I'd been told, even before the kick-off, that I would be dropped for him afterwards.'
Green's exile would last the best part of three months.
'In a 16-year professional career I'd been dropped twice for four-week periods. This was, by far, the longest out of first-team action. I made the most of it by clearing up niggling injuries, getting fitter with a personal trainer and joining a local gym to add to my daily training, analysing myself and others as keepers and realising that negative things have happened to me before and I've seen them out.' It was clear, however, that he was making no headway with his manager.
'The manager and I never spoke, but it was clear I wasn't happy,' he added.
In the hot seat: Harry Redknapp is the new manager of QPR
Meanwhile, QPR slumped to the bottom of the Premier League with no wins, eight defeats and just four points from their opening 12 league games. The inevitable happened a fortnight ago when Hughes was sacked and Harry Redknapp became the new boss.
Green is not prepared to admit that the departure of Hughes gave him cause to celebrate, but the events hardly surprised him.
'It wasn't too difficult a decision for the board to make, was it' he said. 'We hadn't won a game. You've got to draw the line somewhere. I've seen 18 managers go at the clubs I've been playing for. It's a part of football, isn't it It's not like a steel worker in Sheffield getting a paltry pay-off and no new job prospects. I'm sure he was disappointed but he'll get another job in football.'
Nevertheless, Redknapp made an immediate impression on Green.
'At the end of his first training session Harry made a point of coming over to me. He had tried to sign me when he was at Portsmouth and Spurs, and it was good to hear him tell me how much he liked me as a keeper. It gave me a boost. That's why everyone in football likes him, and that's why he's a good manager. I said my bit about what had gone on and I told him all I wanted was a fair crack at it. He said it was a fresh start for everyone.'
Food for thought: Rob Green is keen to keep his QPR place
Cesar started the next game, the draw at Sunderland, but he injured his groin and Green replaced him at half-time.
Green then played in the 1-1 home draw against Aston Villa, and the 2-2 draw at Wigan.
'I'm in the jersey now and it's up to me to play well enough to keep it,' said Green. 'I believe Harry when he says it's a fair fight on form alone so we'll see how it all turns out.'
Green believes that under Redknapp, and despite having a squad featuring 13 new signings still learning to gel, relegation is far from inevitable.
Man in possession: Rob Green in action for QPR against Wigan
'I remember being at West Ham when we never got out of the drop zone all season under Avram Grant and the situation was only addressed 45 minutes after we got relegated when they got rid of the manager.
'It was a situation that needed to be addressed at QPR. How long do you leave these matters It hasn't helped having so many new players in the short term, even though I'm one of them.
'I don't want to sound like a member of UKIP but with so many different nations, cultures and languages there have been a lot of changes and it takes time to gel. I don't believe we've got close to our potential, the quality in the squad is high. Harry arriving has boosted us all, he has a track record of getting teams out of trouble, and with two or three wins we'd be out of this immediate mess.'
As for Green, his future at QPR is by no means certain. Cesar's injury is minor and he may even be back competing for the jersey next week. Green does not mind the competition.
'I back myself, I'm confident and I'm in great shape,' he said. 'Now that I've been assured it's a fair fight Julio will have to play well to get his jersey back.'