The argument that Robert Draper constructs (in issue 10) for giving Roy Wegerle both encouragement and a fair chance, is a very sensible one. Frustrating, irritating, exasperating, he may be - but I’ll take a minute’s inspiration over 90 minutes perspiration any time. I realise I am probably over-stating the case for Roy here - and freely acknowledge that, along with everyone else, I’m often driven to distraction by his lackadaisical approach (shades of that other talented enigma, John Byrne, here).
And yet... just as you are cursing the lazy so-and-so, he’ll produce that one moment of sublime skill that takes your breath away, and that marks him out as a special player. The sort of moment that you’d willingly pay your admission money for alone - although we would all like to see a more frequent occurrence of these moments!
So, to those of you already advocating we dispense with Wegerle’s services forthwith, I say: let’s not be too hasty. Talent like his is all too rare nowadays - and should be cherished, not impatiently discarded. Yes, I know he needs to work harder and be more consistent, but let’s just see how he fares next season: he might just pleasantly surprise us.
Regarding Roy’s mentor - a Mr R Marsh esq of Tampa, Florida - Robert proffers the view that he didn’t seem to be the type to ‘get stuck in’ - and asks us to correct him if he’s wrong. Well Robert, you’re wrong! Marsh was extremely capable of looking after himself - and possessed a very mean streak when the mood took him (which no doubt he developed as a means of self-preservation, after being on the end of some brutal treatment for many years). A few examples, then, are in order, to illustrate my contention.
Firstly back to August 1969, when the R’s were at home to Glasgow Rangers in a prestigious pre-season friendly. The choice of opponents had caused the local police and the press to voice their mis-givings as, at this time, Glasgow Rangers fans had a hooligan reputation second-to-none. However, the club tried to carry the match off in a low-key fashion - and the match went ahead with a heavy police presence.
So what happened? Rodney, after suffering his usual treatment, decided on a bit of revenge by heavily hacking down his opponent. An angry Glasgow Rangers player made a beeline for Rodney, at which point Rodney thoughtfully resolved to welcome him with a familiar greeting - a ‘Glasgow handshake’! Mayhem ensued, with the usual mass of snarling, jostling players. No-one was sent off, though the R’s manager, Les Allen, promptly decided to withdraw Marsh. Some ‘friendly’! To think the club had tried their utmost to pass the afternoon off as peacefully as possible!
I witnessed another example of ‘Marsh madness’ at the closest possible quarters, standing at the front of the School End terrace (in the days when you could go anywhere in the ground) for a league match against Charlton in October 1969. Right in front of me, the Charlton centre-half, John Keirs, was shielding the ball from Marsh, and attempting to shepherd the ball out over his own goal-line. A frustrated Rodney decided he’d had quite enough of this, and fiercely barged Keirs onto the red shale track that used to surround the pitch. As Keirs lay in a crumpled heap, moaning in agony, the perpetrator of the wicked deed was besieged by a justifiably irate Charlton team. The sight of Rodney grinning and spreading his arms in a gesture of mock innocence convinced me that he took a malicious delight in his evil doing. No doubt Keirs still bears the gravel-rash scars to this day!
Marsh had another memorable clash, with that flamboyant character Frank Worthington - in his Huddersfield days. Attempting to take a throw-in, Rodney became increasingly irritated by ‘Worthy’ jumping up and down right in front of him. Finally, he let him have it, throwing the ball, with some force, straight into his face. If you possess a copy of the QPR v Birmingham programme from December 1969, you’ll find an illustration of this incident within its pages. It’s an absolutely classic photograph!
Perhaps, though, the definitive example of ‘Marsh madness’ came during his Manchester City days. In a televised match against Southampton, Marsh set off on a run down the right-wing, during the course of which he proceeded to inflict grievous bodily harm on three Saints defenders by alternatively kicking, butting and trampling his way through them, whilst, miraculously, retaining the ball (surely the hallmark of genius!) Gerald Sinstadt’s description of this blatant physical assault remains in my mind as a classic piece of understated commentary: “A slight collision there, off the ball...”
I don’t know if this incident is featured in that controversial video Foul Play - if it isn’t, it represents a glaring omission on the part of the compilers! Yes indeed, Rodney came to give as good as he got as he matured as a player - and a bit more besides.
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