RAY Houghton reflected on how he almost joined Queens Park Rangers the summer before scoring against them in the Milk Cup final.

The Oxford United legend put his side 2-0 up at Wembley in 1986, with Jeremy Charles sealing the club’s only major trophy late on.

The U’s had paid Fulham their then-record transfer fee of £147,000 for Houghton the previous September.

But the midfielder could have played against United in the Wembley final, with QPR boss Jim Smith – who left the Manor Ground in June 1985 – keen to get him on board earlier that summer.

He said: “Jim wanted me to sign. Over the summer when I was at Fulham, Jim had rung me up and said he was interested.

“But then the chairman, I think it was Jim Gregory, didn’t want to pay the £149,000, I think it was.

“So they decided against it, and I eventually went to Oxford.

“Low and behold we play against Queens Park Rangers in the final.”

Houghton went on to play for Liverpool and became a Republic of Ireland regular, which saw him appear at Wembley 14 times in his career.

But United’s 3-0 win in 1986 was his first visit to the iconic stadium, so it will always hold a special place in his heart.

He said: “You always remember your first time and that’s certainly the case with Oxford.

“I’d never been to Wembley before as a player.

“Back when I played, the FA Cup and the League Cup were the two tournaments that you wanted to be involved in.

“Reaching the final, beating Aston Villa - one of the teams that I played for later on in the semi-final - was absolutely incredible.”

Ray Houghton was speaking at the launch of the new Paddy Power store on New Inn Hall street, Oxford.