One of the themes that seems to have recurred this season is that of luck - or our extraordinary lack of it. This brought me in mind of one of the unsung heroes of my formative years, an unlikely chap by the name of Keith Sanderson.
Keith, or ‘Sandy’ as we knew him, was one of the signings made prior to the start of the 1965/66 season. This was a real fantasy period, or so it seemed at the time. Transfer records were broken - yes, it was only £20,000 for Les Allen, but that would be a couple of million in today’s money, and we were only a Third Division team. Our Uncle Jack was Jim Gregory - Mr. QPR - but somebody I never felt I would trust as far as I could throw him (this wouldn’t have been far, as he was a portly bloke). Still, his heart was in the right place - in W12.
Anyway, amongst the rush of new faces was one you would have barely noticed - the aforementioned Mr Sanderson. Now, what Sandy had was a quality very rarely encountered in a footballer: an IQ above 50. In fact, this guy was a veritable genius - the Stephen Hawkins of the through ball. He had a degree from Cambridge University! In fact, he was so clever that he only played football part-time. I never did find out what he did with the rest of his time - designed rockets or something, I suppose.
With Sandy on the pitch we had a real brain in midfield and, extraordinarily, other players, particularly Rodney, who could join him on that different plane of existence. Sandy rarely scored - a mere handful as I remember - but without him the team would never have gone on to achieve the success they did. Sandy was my Dad’s favourite and my Dad knew about these things - go beneath the flash and the brash and there was Keith Sanderson, working like a combination of Holloway and Quashie, but with intelligence and experience.
However, my lasting recollection of Keith did not occur on the pitch, but rather on the LP record. This was a truly naff offering. It was called Players at Ease, Volume 2 - QPR. I dread to think who featured in Volume 1 - Fulham, I suppose. And judging by the quality no-one would have dared to issue a Volume 3. The cover was hardly a Tales of Topographic Oceans or Led Zeppelin III. Instead, it depicted a seaside pier slot machine type of thing, with old style Subbuteo figures in it, and a couple of idiot football types resplendent in cloth cap and scarf holding the handles. How this represented ‘Players at Ease’ is beyond me. More like some sort of torture.
Included in this collector’s item were interviews with all the players, conducted by one Jimmy Henry, whom I seem to remember was a minor radio celebrity of the day - and what an embarrassing collection they were. Remember, this was before anyone had coined phrases about parrots, moons and days ending, so most of the team had literally nothing to say. That is, nobody with the exception of Sandy.
His presence bestrides the recording like an intellectual colossus. Henry asks Sandy how he accounts for the team’s success. He gets a sensible answer and that should be that. However, the unsuspecting Henry adds the quip, “and luck of course.” This proves to be a major blunder. Our hero, Sandy, will have nothing of it. “There’s no such thing as luck”, quoth he - and, you know, he was right. The interview continued with what was just about short of a stand-up row, ending with interviewee agreeing to differ. The memory has stayed with me and has often influenced my own thinking - and not just with regard to football.
Let me explain. We lose to Chelsea in the last minute, have apparently dominated the game. Bad luck? No! We should have scored more goals than we did, then we would have won - it’s as simple as that. If you spend threequarters of the game in the opposing penalty-area, week in, week out, you will generally win. When you get the ‘lucky’ breaks, they’re more likely to bring you a goal.
I could easily go on. Problems due to injury and suspension results from other events. A large enough squad can withstand these problems and a disciplined team will have few suspensions. We all know how Ray’s transfer speculation has gone wrong - but do we really believe this was bad luck or Ray’s inexperience, or simply lack of money? Financial problems are nothing to do with luck, they reflect the status of the club and the aspirations of the Board. I wonder if Keith Sanderson’s part-time job made him a fortune? Perhaps he’d like to come back and be Uncle Sandy? I’m sure he’d have the brains not to waste the chance - he rarely did on the pitch!
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