It’s not every day that you’re named as one of the most influential black people in British football, but for Paul Hall, his moment came last week.
The Queens Park Rangers B-Team manager, alongside former Torquay United team-mate Darren Moore, was one of a handful of names added to the Football Black List earlier in the week.
And he dedicated the accolade to the Hoops, who paved the way for the 49-year-old to make his way as a coach, after hanging up his boots for good in 2011.
“It’s unbelievable to be recognised as somebody in football and to be held in esteem with such great names,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of people ringing up and asking me what I feel about it.
“I’m really proud for myself, my family, my football Club and my country. Without QPR, I wouldn’t have been put on this stage.”
In his current role at QPR, the former striker is responsible for nurturing up and coming talent, which the West Londoners have in abundance.
With a number of youngsters coming through the ranks and breaking into the first-team fold, Hall encouraged his players to dream big in the hope that one day, they might go on to follow in his footsteps.
“We’ve got a lot of young talent – local and international,” he explained. “In terms of educating people, we’ve got the most diverse coaching staff in the whole country, and it would rival anybody in Europe as well. If you look at the streets of West London, you’ll see that in our staff and in our boardroom.
“My job is to make sure that we produce these young players and pass them onto the first-team. Hopefully, they can go on and be stars, like Eberechi Eze, Ilias Chair, Joe Lumley and Seny Dieng. We’ve had a lot of players come through and I’ve had my hand in getting those players to the level that they are. That’s the culture of the Club.”
Among his EFL highlights include a promotion with Walsall to the then-First Division in 2000/01, when the Saddlers went up via the Play-Offs - somewhat of a highlight of his playing career.
“Anytime you win and achieve something, especially like the occasion of a Play-Off Final at the Millennium Stadium, it’s huge,” he continued. “Not many people are going to get the chance to be winners. It made it special. You cried and you laughed then you sweated and shed blood with those guys.”
From Walsall, he moved on to Rushden and Diamonds, where he followed the promotion up with a further Play-Off appearance in the 2001/02 Third Division Final.
It might not have been the result that Hall’s team wanted, with Diamonds missing out to Cheltenham Town, but the forward stole the show. He levelled proceedings from the kick-off, picking up the ball and going it solo, with his mazy run resulting in the equaliser.
“The game before was Rochdale and we’d almost got knocked out of the Cup because we went 1-0 down away from home. Straight away, I went down the other end and scored in the previous game. It was that in my head, and the resilience and character to just hit back straight away.
“By the time the ball went into the goal at the Millennium Stadium, Martin Devaney scored 30 seconds before. We had to pick the ball out of the net and kick-off, and I went straight through and scored. It was unbelievable. Everything aligned and the seas just opened up for me. I tried many times to do it again, but it never worked that way. Those moments are once in a lifetime.”
Manchester-born Hall ticked one off the bucket list when he helped Jamaica reach the 1998 World Cup and he made a return to his national team in the summer, when the Reggae Boys signed up the QPR coach as their new assistant boss.
“When I was about 17, I was quoted as saying I wanted to play in the World Cup. When they put that in the paper, the professionals at the football Club were saying, ‘you’re not going to the World Cup, you’re at Torquay United, son!’ It was an aim. Probably around nine or 10 years later, I was in France playing in the World Cup against Croatia, Japan and Argentina.”
Taking up the position on a part-time basis and juggling two roles, QPR have accommodated his request - something for which he is immensely grateful – and he hopes to continue shaping the future. For that, Paul Hall is fully deserving of recognition.
Throughout Black History Month, the EFL is celebrating current and former players and managers that have had an impact on the game by telling their stories in a series hosted by radio and television presenter Nick Bright.