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Paul Hall interview: QPR coach on Jamaica job and developing players for Pep Guardiola and Neil Warnock

In an exclusive interview with Sky Sports, Queens Park Rangers coach Paul Hall discusses his experiences as head coach of Jamaica and how the tactical changes at the top end of the game are impacting the approach to player development at QPR

Interim Manager, Paul Hall of Queens Park Rangers looks on during the Sky Bet Championship between Queens Park Rangers and Burnley at Loftus Road on December 11, 2022 in London, England.
Image: Queens Park Rangers coach Paul Hall discusses his journey in football and why development never stops

It was on Queens Park Rangers' pre-season tour of Austria that Paul Hall glanced out of the coach window after training and a thought occurred. "I was just contemplating the lucky life that we have. It beats being on a building site," he tells Sky Sports.

"I was lucky enough to be a player. So many people I know have come out of the game and I am still continuing over 30 odd years later, trying to bring some value to the game. Sometimes I stop and pinch myself. It is a fantastic life. We are so lucky to be doing this."

In truth, though he would never say it himself, QPR are lucky to have Hall. The 51-year-old coach has his UEFA Pro Licence and 35 years of experience in the game. He has been the head coach of Jamaica and is now back honing talent at Loftus Road.

Portsmouth's Paul Hall (centre) attempts to escape the attentions of Chelsea's Steve Clarke (left) and Frank LeBoeuf during their FA Cup quarter final match at Fratton Park in 1997
Image: Paul Hall in action for Portsmouth against Chelsea in the FA Cup quarter-final in 1997

It was there that he played his part in bringing through Eberechi Eze, but there are others. Working with the club's new manager Gareth Ainsworth, Hall is now the first-team coach at QPR but still with an eye on developing the young stars of the future.

"We have to tell them early what we learned late," he explains. "There is so much talent there but it really is just talent until they have that experience. There is no shortcut to stardom. You have to learn from those who have been there before."

The game has changed since Hall made the breakthrough at Torquay, going on to play for Portsmouth more than 200 times in his long playing career. "It was such a different environment. I made my debut at 17 years old and they left me to it," he says.

"You did not do team warm-ups back then, you were just expected to be ready. 'Make sure you are ready at five to three.' I was like, what?! At one game, someone gave me some whisky. 'What are you talking about?!' It was such a mad environment in the '80s.

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"But you have to go with the times. If you are not changing then you will be left behind because there are some very clever people in the game looking at it from different lenses. If you do not understand that you could find yourself on the end of a hiding."

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Hall looks at what Pep Guardiola is doing at Manchester City. "To play John Stones in midfield in a European final? Nobody would have had the cojones to do that." He believes such tactical minds are placing greater demands on young players than ever before.

"These coaches say that the game is very simple but they also make it really complicated. If your left-back is becoming a winger, he has to understand the role. If he is now an inverted full-back, he has to understand what it takes to be a midfielder or a centre-back too.

"Coaches are moving these players like chess pieces so you have to understand every position in your area. You might only need to be moving somewhere else for 30 seconds but you have to understand that role. It needs intelligence, it needs understanding."

Eze scored 14 Championship goals this season
Image: Eberechi Eze emerged as a talent at Queens Park Rangers before playing for England

This is impacting Hall's work at QPR. The priority remains finding players "who can help the team get to the Premier League" but there is also a desire to develop players who can be sold to the biggest clubs at a profit. That means knowing what they are looking for.

"At the younger levels, we are giving them the skills that those managers would want. Once you can deliver that you become employable. Once you become employable, you become a saleable asset. So, yes, we are asking them to do a lot more things now.

"It is really important to give our players a balanced education so that they can play for Neil Warnock or Sam Allardyce in one style of play but play for Pep Guardiola and Roberto De Zerbi in another. We want our players to be coachable by both sets of coaches."

The type of coach that Hall wants to be is changing thanks to his experiences as interim head coach of the Jamaica national team, working with players such as Michail Antonio, Leon Bailey and Ravel Morrison. "That was a massive eye-opener for me," he admits.

"I was always told to make sure that you are ready because the call could come at any time - and it did. I became the assistant manager in the Gold Cup in 2021. I went from a B team coach at QPR to that. It was daunting but you have to be ready for it.

"Six months later I was the head coach against Gerardo Martino, who managed Barcelona and Argentina before Mexico. That is what I want. I want to go up against the best. It was a great development step for me because I had the pressure of a country on me."

Jamaica's coach Paul Hall watches the game against Panama during a qualifying soccer match for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 at Rommel Fernandez stadium in Panama City, Panama, Sunday, Jan. 30, 2022.
Image: Paul Hall watches on against Panama during a World Cup qualifier in charge of Jamaica

Hall helped Jamaica qualify for the 2023 Gold Cup. There was a 1-1 draw against Mexico too. "A massive feather in my cap because I was just so happy to be trading blows with someone with such a great record. He does not know that but for me it was everything.

"I started looking at games in a different way, preparing games in a different way. You have to understand the man you are going up against and I tried to understand Gerardo Martino. How does he attack? What changes does he make? It gave me another layer.

"I came back a different coach."

Hall will always have player development in mind. "You are always a development coach. Pep Guardiola is great at helping players to improve. Development never stops." But he has proven that he is ready to make an impact working at senior level now.

"Going forward, I want to be a successful first-team manager so if there was a project that really spoke to me I would always listen. I have had a taste of it and it is absolutely where I want to be eventually. I believe everything I am doing now is preparing me.

"It is going really well here at QPR because we are getting that togetherness that Gareth Ainsworth likes. He is really bringing the squad together and working to improve the environment. I am really happy with the project and this project is important to me."

No need to worry about the building site.

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