If the past is a foreign country, then the past of long gone childhood is a distant planet. The summer of 1966 was a good time to be eleven years old in East Acton. We were free to roam for a start. Children were not then considered at risk every time they went out of the front door, and we would be out most nights, sometimes on bikes but mostly kicking a ball around Wormwood Scrubs until it got too dark. Oh, and yes, we did use jumpers for goalposts. Mothers seemed to spend most of their time shopping and cooking.
There were no supermarkets then, not in East Acton anyway - although there was a Co-op that gave out funny tin money as an early kind of reward scheme. Each daily expedition entailed a visit to eight, nine or ten shops. The only shop that mattered to us was Carter’s, a decidedly dodgy sweetshop next to East Acton station, where you could get a bottle of Tizer, a packet of Refreshers and a single Woodbine tipped, known as a ‘tuppenny loose’, for less than a shilling.
Lunch was dinner, tea was tea - and all was well with the world. Dads were likely to work in industry in Acton, North Acton, Harlesden, Park Royal, Brentford or Perivale. Nobody ever went to Oxford Street or Piccadilly unless maybe for an outing before Christmas, and when they did it was treated with almost as much excitement as a trip to Paris or New York would be now.
When we did stay in, we listened to portable record players called Dansettes. The Beatles’ Revolver, the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde, the Rolling Stones’ Aftermath and Otis Redding’s Otis Blue were the sounds of choice that summer. All of these have kept me good company in various formats ever since.
The cool thing to do with your pocket money was spend it on obscure R&B singles on the Sue label from a stall in Shepherds Bush market. These had a distinctive red and yellow label - and you then had to attach the discs to your bedroom wall with drawing pins. Few of these survived, not surprisingly. Television was a black and white box, fourteen inches wide - maybe seventeen inches if you were posh, which none of us were. Two channels only, BBC2 had just about started, but only about three people in the country could get it; and the video age was fifteen years away, which meant that everybody watched the same programmes at the same time and talked about them the next day. Ready Steady Go was essential, the weekend started there every Friday at 6.08pm. Everyone that mattered from both sides of the Atlantic would perform their latest records before a studio audience, who were just as important as the artists, as everyone looked to check out the latest threads being worn by the mods.
Coronation Street was an excellently crafted drama, expertly performed by actors long schooled in repertory. There was great comedy from Steptoe & Son, set in mythical Oil Drum Lane, Shepherd’s Bush, and Till Death Us Do Part in Wapping. Westerns were big - Gunsmoke and Rawhide featured a young Clint Eastwood. There was The Fugitive - and Danger Man, soon to be The Prisoner. Cheapskate quiz shows were a mainstay
A teenage girl from White City Estate, called Monica Rose, briefly became the nation’s sweetheart assisting the odious Hughie Green on Double Your Money. Not very much money either. I distinctly remember a middle-aged Welsh couple declining the opportunity to win all of £16 and going back to The Valleys with eight quid between the pair of them. I’ve had a healthy contempt for the Welsh for most of my life and I think I can trace it back to this incident. Poor chirpy Monica turned out to be a manic depressive who later committed suicide. Probably an R’s fan.
What everybody watched in July 1966, and what changed everything for a lot of us, was England winning the World Cup. I actually got taken to one game, France v Uruguay, at the sadly missed White City. I watched the final on a television even smaller than our own in a Victorian B&B in Bournemouth. Looking back, things definitely fell England’s way, though of course it was impossible to be objective then. But Bobby Moore and Bobby Charlton were possessed of genuine greatness, and were not ludicrously overrated poncified clothes horses, married to tenth-rate so-called pop stars and paid obscenely-inflated salaries.
The effect on me was profound. I was nominally a QPR fan and had been going to the odd game since I was six years old. But to be honest, I would always rather play. Now I found myself to be a football fan and I wanted my weekly fix. Lucky R’s. Lucky me.
A week before the new season the cosiness of our world was shattered when Harry Roberts cold-bloodedly murdered three police officers in Braybrook Street, right by Wormwood Scrubs. I was still in Bournemouth, so I missed most of the excitement. Roberts was a lowlife small-time crook who suddenly got big ideas. The unheard of crime rocked the nation and put East Acton firmly in the public eye.
Talk was still of nothing else when the season kicked off on the third Saturday in August, just three weeks after the World Cup triumph. QPR v Shrewsbury. They were one of those teams who seemed to finish in mid-table every season, but always held their own against us. True to form it was a 2-2 draw, with goals from Les Allen and Rodney Marsh. Much more on these two later, but this game was notable for being the last appearance in the Hoops by one Johnny Collins.
John had only just turned 24 but had been a regular in the team for years. Sometimes the butt of the crowd, he was a wholehearted local lad whose greatest day had come six months earlier when he had scored a hat-trick against Hull, Third Division champions that season. A good QPR man, but Rangers’ ambitions were moving beyond honest endeavour and he was soon to be sold to Oldham.
Three days later, another home game, in the League Cup, against Colchester. They were newly promoted from Division Four but had never encountered the likes of Rodney Marsh before. Rod ran riot, scoring four goals; Mark Lazarus got another - 5-0 to the R’s. This was the kind of entertainment I had been looking for.
Saturday brought the first away game, at Watford. I certainly wasn’t allowed to go. It was up north for a start - and it sounded like grim fare, with a 0-1 defeat. So the opening two league games had produced a solitary point - and we had a win in a competition that Rangers were hardly likely to get very far in. “Same old story!” moaned the long-suffering regulars. But the QPR story was about to change more dramatically than anyone could possibly imagine.
The 7,900 faithful who turned out for the home game against Swindon in early September 1966 did so with a certain amount of resignation. One point from two league games was not the start we had hoped for. Things improved with a 3-1 win, courtesy of two goals from Mark Lazarus and one from Roger Morgan. This was still standard Division Three fare, though. The following Tuesday saw the second home game under the new floodlights, which had been ceremonially opened by the chairman of FIFA, Sir Stanley Rous, at the previous game, against Colchester. Rumour had it that the old lights had only been replaced because the price of tallow had gone up rather sharply in recent months.
The opponents were Middlesbrough, newly relegated, and in fact quite a glamorous name compared with what we were used to. It helped to bring in a good midweek crowd of just below 9,000. This was when we really got an inkling of what was to come. Rodney Marsh was certainly switched on by the new lights, adding to his four against the hapless Colchester with a hat-trick against the Boro. The visitors played as if they couldn’t quite believe they were facing a team and an individual player this good - finishing bewildered and well beaten.
Saturday saw the Hoops away at Reading. I don’t think they’d nicked our colours yet. Still, they were definitely considered our rivals. At this point in our history we had never played Chelsea at all in a competitive game outside of wartime; and the records show that we shared Second Division status with Fulham for just one season - 1948/49.
The Pensioners were out of our league in more ways than one; and Fulham, although something of a laughing stock at this time, were still hanging on to top division status year after year. Perennial rivals Brentford had just gone down to Division Four, leaving the Royals and dear old Watford as the fixtures which had that extra bit of needle. This game was no exception, with a Jim Langley penalty and a goal from Ian Morgan giving Rangers a hard fought and very respectable 2-2 draw.
Tuesday saw League Cup action again, this time on the road at Fourth Division Aldershot. Les Allen scored in a 1-1 draw. I have no reports of this game to hand - but I doubt it was all that great. So a replay was needed; but before then we had a home fixture against newly promoted Doncaster.
This is one of those games that particularly stands out for me. It was a beautiful late summer’s day. The Small Faces had just replaced the Beatles at number one with the mighty All Or Nothing, and all seemed right with the world. We had our routine established by now. We would get to the ground exactly an hour and a quarter before kick-off so we could be right down the front leaning against the wall on the South Africa Road terrace, about ten yards to the right of the halfway line. I don’t know why we had to stand there, but we had to.
South Africa Road was an open terrace, giving uninterrupted views of the game to the residents of the flats opposite. The other side of the terrace was a mudbank, which I fell down more times than I care to remember. The School End was an open terrace. There was a rickety old stand in Ellerslie, and there was The Loft, which was to remain unchanged until the end of the seventies. The nominal capacity of the ground was about 27,000, although it was many years since this had been put to the test.
We would buy our programmes (six pence, old money) and digest the information off by heart. It was a single sheet of paper folded to make six pages of statistics, tables and notes. We would listen to the tannoy play Apache by the Shadows at least six times. They must have had some other records to play but I can’t remember any. The adult regulars that we were getting to know started to drift in about ten minutes before kick-off and at long last the teams would appear.
One noticeable point about this game was it was the first time this season that lining up together was what would become very much the regular starting XI. As with most teams that have great seasons, Rangers were very lucky with injuries that year - though heaven knows they paid for it in following years! - and once the line-up was settled it rarely changed.
The only point of contention was at right-back, where Ian Watson ousted Tony Hazell for some parts of the season. The idea of an all-purpose squad was an alien notion back then, particularly at this level. Each shirt number was a separate position with its own name and defined role. The idea was that if for instance the right-half was injured, the number four from the reserves would automatically step up. Well, he wasn’t needed this season - and this was how Rangers lined up on Saturday 17th September 1966, and for most of the season:
Goalkeeper(1) Peter Springett
Right-back (2) Tony Hazell
Left-back (3) Jim Langley
Right-half (4) Mike Keen (captain)
Centre-half (5) Ron Hunt
Left-half (6) Frank Sibley
Outside-right (7) Mark Lazarus
Inside-right (8) Keith Sanderson
Centre-forward (9) Les Allen
Inside-left (10) Rodney Marsh
Outside-left (11) Roger Morgan
Substitute: (12) Ian Morgan
Keen Hunt Sibley
Lazarus Sanderson Allen Marsh Morgan
Substitutes had only been introduced the previous season amid much controversy - substitutions were regarded as the sort of thing you would expect from cheating Johnny Foreigner and not quite British - and could only make an appearance to replace a player who was genuinely injured. This restriction was soon widely abused and was dropped before too long.
Rangers really clicked that day. Doncaster didn’t have a prayer. Headed goals from Roger Morgan and Mike Keen, and a rare goal from Keith Sanderson, made it 3-0 at half-time. In the second-half, Rodney got his goal; Keen and Morgan got another one each - 6-0 to QPR. Things were definitely on the up.
Coincidentally, Chelsea also scored six that day - 6-2 away at Villa. I remember watching it on Match of the Day. The excellent Bobby Tambling scored five. Tony Hateley, father of Mark, scored for Villa and impressed enough to be sold to Chelsea soon after for a record fee of £100,000.
Tuesday saw the replay against Aldershot. Not quite the evening entertainment we had quickly got used to, largely because Aldershot gritted their teeth and never passed the halfway line. They had no more chance of keeping the R’s out for 90 minutes than they had of flying to the moon (it was three years before anyone did that) and patience was rewarded with a penalty from Langley and a goal from Marsh. Of course.
Saturday 24th September 1966 saw us at Mansfield. Mark Lazarus missed this game as it was Jewish New Year, so Mansfield had to face an identical twin on each wing. Perhaps they were confused. Perhaps Rangers were just too good. Whatever, they scraped home 7-1. Then they went home, disappointed. Eighteen months previously, Mansfield had won 8-1 at Loftus Road.
Hard to believe, I know - and indicative of the progress that had been made. Only three players played in both games - Tony Hazell and Ian Morgan, who were both 17 then, and Mike Keen, who apparently missed an open goal in the last minute to make the revenge complete. The goals came from Marsh (3), Allen (2), Langley (pen) - and, for the second game running, Keith Sanderson.
Interesting fellow, Keith Sanderson. He was a Cambridge graduate, who actually played as an amateur and had a top job in the then fledgling computer industry. Alec Stock had signed him from Plymouth in January 1965. Not particularly skilful, he used his considerable cranial capacity to make a significant contribution in midfield in a sometimes 4-2-4 formation with Mike Keen. I remember an article in one of the weeklies at the time making great play of the fact that Keith was a footballer who read The Times. He played 52 games in 1966/67 - not bad for a part-timer, and was still around to play a handful of games in Division One two years later.
No time to celebrate, as little more than 48 hours later Rangers were at Ayresome Park, where for some reason Middlesbrough were playing their midweek home games on Mondays. Boro had been well beaten at the Bush three weeks earlier, but at home they were a different proposition. Ayresome Park was a very big ground by Third Division standards, so highly rated that it had just been used in the World Cup, being the venue for the legendary North Korea victory over Italy, amongst others. In short, it was just the sort of place where one would expect a Queens Park Rangers team to have an inferiority complex. Not any more, as Rangers shared the spoils with a highly creditable 2-2 draw in front of 13,000, goals from Marsh and Lazarus.
So that was September. Eight games in total, five wins and three draws. No less than 27 goals were scored, and 18 of them were NOT scored by Rodney Marsh. As the month ended, Jim Reeves was at number one with Distant Drums, which became a rather predictable football chant among the more moronic elements of society, otherwise known as Chelsea supporters. The drums heralding the arrival of Queens Park Rangers as a footballing force, however, were getting closer and closer.
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