Growing up in Shepherds Bush in the 1960s: Charlie Ferris with his bogus cup competitions and impromptu dog races, ducking Johnny Bang-Bang’s imaginary bullet - and then, at QPR, there was the one-and-only Hoochie Coochie Man.
The Hoochie Coochie Man’s particular domain was the old London Midweek League matches. There he was to be found, omnipresent, standing behind whichever goal Rangers were attacking, with a stopwatch in his hand, giving the referee the benefit of his expertise. You see, whilst most of us daydreamed of one day wearing that most coveted of QPR shirts, as we proudly wore our Bukta-made replicas with the red number 10 carefully ironed on, the Hoochie Coochie Man dreamed only of being a referee. No doubt, whereas most of us covered our bedroom walls with portraits of Rodney Marsh, the Hoochie Coochie Man displayed pictures of Ken Aston and Jim Finney on his.
So it was that this podgy little man, sporting glasses of bottle-bottom thickness, became a figure of fun for all of us kids, embryonic hooligans all. When we finally tired of rampaging around, Lord of the Flies fashion, on the steeply-sloping grass bank that backed onto the South Africa Road terrace, we could always engage in our other favourite sport - amusing ourselves at the expense of the Hoochie Coochie Man. He was nothing if not heroically diligent as he desperately endeavoured to apprise the referee of the exact mount of stoppage-time that should be added on; and vociferously to inform the linesman that, in fact, the ball had gone out (in Rangers’ favour, of course) - all this in the face of constant distraction in the form of taunting and playful roughing-up. We even derisively chanted his name, in a fashion not a million miles away from the old “Rod-nee” chant that used to drift around the ground (but on a slightly smaller scale, of course!).
Sometimes the Hoochie Coochie Man would have no choice but to yield to the roughing-up treatment, still managing though to issue forth an urgent call for assistance - “Mr. Steward! Mr. Steward!” - as his diabolical assailants pinned him to the ground; whereupon grizzled gents in maroon jackets (who in later years would form the notorious ‘Hole in the Cage Gang’) would hasten to the scene to gruffly bollock the pestilent delinquents in the time-honoured fashion thus: “Clear off you little buggers! If you lot keep on, you’re going out on your arses!” And so on it went. Many a future hoolie was to cut his teeth on the Hoochie Coochie Man... but one day he would hit upon the perfect way of getting his own back.
As Rangers realised their dream of playing in the First Division in the late 60s, so the Hoochie Coochie Man was to realise his, by refereeing a youth match at Rangers. Quite a fair-sized crowd was in attendance on this particular Sunday, because tickets were on sale for Rangers’ forthcoming first-ever match against Chelsea. I can't recall whether the youth match was a proper fixture, nor can I recollect who it was against. But I most definitely do remember that the Hoochie Coochie Man somehow ended up refereeing the match, by virtue of responding to a tannoy announcement, subsequent to the referee and linesman’s non-appearance.
What followed was a travesty, as the Hoochie Coochie Man displayed his total bias by awarding Rangers several non-existent penalties, sending off two of the opposition, and ultimately confirming a Rangers victory by some ridiculous scoreline like 11-0. Oh how we laughed at the farcical spectacle! Needless to say, however, the opposition were none too enamoured with this ultimate example of a homer ref - and the sight of a large group of snarling, red-faced adolescents awaiting the said official’s exit from the dressing-room provided ample confirmation of their not inconsiderable displeasure. Thankfully, word was passed back to our beleaguered hero - and his egress from the ground was delayed sufficiently long enough to ensure his safe passage. Yet the Hoochie Coochie Man was not to be deterred. He had lived to ref another day.
If a dictionary of West London colloquialisms had been around in the 1960s, The Hoochie Coochie Man’s name would surely have featured prominently, because it was very much in currency as a derisory term of abuse. The best definition would probably have been ‘nerd’ as befits the type of person who watches the match with constant reference to his stopwatch and who, if you were unlucky enough to be button-holed by him, would unleash a barrage of quite the most unintelligible verbal garbage in your general direction.
For all the sense he made, he might as well have been saying, “The Martians have landed on Shepherd Bush Green” - to which one might aptly have responded in kind, “Beam me up Scotty.” Nevertheless the Hoochie Coochie Man’s commitment to the QPR cause could certainly never be questioned. Indeed, as an every-present at away matches, the Hoochie Coochie Man served as a useful guide for Rangers fans trying to find the opponent’s ground. If he was coming towards you looking baffled and scratching his head and tugging at his ear in characteristic mode, it was a racing certainty that the ground was in the opposite direction.
God knows, then, why he always walked away from it. So we would proceed on our way (and he on his wherever that was!), aiming a bit of light-hearted banter at him in passing. If he was able to find the ground without any problems, then it was a different story when it came to locating the coach on the way back. Invariably, our departure would be delayed as we awaited the advent of the Hoochie Coochie Man. Half an hour after the agreed departure time he would roll up, grinning quizzically, scratching his sparse thatch of hair and tugging at his ear, quite oblivious to the torrent of stick that assailed his much-mauled aural appendages.
From time to time the club programme would feature a photograph of a group of our loyal travelling fans, by way of paying tribute to them. Rather like the grubby little guy who was always included in the Franklin cartoons in the Sun, or the Woody Allen character Zelig, who could materialise in any given crowd scene, so the ubiquitous Hoochie Coochie Man would always be there, beaming out of countless photographs. Unlike our absentee strikers, the Hoochie Coochie Man certainly seemed to have an uncanny knack of being in the right place at the right time. Or was it that we only used to take about five supporters to places like Carlisle?
Even in the present day, nigh on 25 years or so on from when the Hoochie Coochie Man enjoyed minor celebrity cult figure status at London Midweek League fixtures, much remains the same: unsuspecting supporters are still button-holed, thus to endure a voluble stream of utter gibberish. And many a frustrated coachload still awaits the familiar arrival of our habitually unpunctual hero, plodding his way back without a care in the world. Yet when this usually timid little man donned the all-black apparel of the referee, he underwent a metamorphosis fit to rival Clark Kent’s into Superman, becoming the epitome of the authoritarian official: a veritable born-again bastard.
Transformed into his alter ego, the Hoochie Coochie Man was to exact a terrible revenge on his erstwhile juvenile adversaries, with many of West London’s finest suffering a summary of banishment from the hallowed fields of Wormwood Scrubs or Gunnersbury Park. Was there just a trace of mad gleam in the Hoochie Coochie Man’s eyes as he brandished the red card, I wonder? Perhaps he had taken a lead from Jack Charlton and compiled a little black book for future reference. Certainly, in the most quirky of circumstances, the wheel had turned full circle.
While top-flight football is suspended for the foreseeable future, you are cordially invited to visit this page in order to get a small fix of QPR. Each day, we will post a random article from our archives - and with over 15 million words making it in to print over the years, we can sit out this one for as long as it takes! Underneath each new daily article, we’ll provide a link to previous postings, so you won’t miss out. Of course, if you like what you read and decide to subscribe or to take advantage of our special 2019/20 season bundle offer, that’s what will really keep us going through this! So settle down and enjoy your free daily fix of QPR... on us.
Previous Daily Fixes