The awesome victory against Leicester and the frequency with which goals were avalanching into opposition nets meant that for the first time in a long time - in fact, probably ever - the football world was beginning to sit up and take notice of Queens Park Rangers. No less a luminary than Tommy Docherty, manager of our high-flying neighbours Chelsea, spoke admiringly of the entertainment on offer at Loftus Road. Little was he to know, or us, how his path was going to cross ours more than once in the future.
One predictable reaction to our form was the sight of chequebooks waving at our star players. When the news hit that Newcastle were in with a double bid for Rodney Marsh and Roger Morgan, a collective shrug of resignation was the general response.
Rangers were traditionally a selling club, and whilst chairman Jim Gregory’s love for the club was beyond question, back then anyway, he was still a businessman with a distinct love of a pound note. On this occasion, to everyone’s astonishment, he didn’t bite. The initial bid was £45,000 for the pair, with Newcastle so keen that eventually there was £95,000 on the table. It is difficult to convey now what a massive sum that was back then - and bear in mind that the players concerned were a 19-year-old winger from Division Three and a striker who had already been branded a failure in Division One and sold for £15,000 just seven months previously. The fact that, for two London lads, Newcastle was a lot further away in real terms than it is now may of course have played a part in them staying put. But nevertheless the determination to keep the team together was another galvanising factor in demonstrating that Queens Park Rangers did indeed mean business.
So November 5th saw Rodney and Roger turning up at Loftus Road for business as usual, against Workington - these days to be found in the nether regions of the North-West Counties League. Back then Workington were an average lower league team, who shuttled between Divisions Three and Four - and, in fact, had just had their most successful season ever, finishing fifth, two places behind Rangers. As with many of the Northern teams I watched the R’s play that season, I didn’t have a clue where Workington actually was.
In fact the town’s geographical location was directly the cause of the club’s demise. Automatic promotion to the Football League was still a long way off, and the bottom four in Division Four had to apply for re-election to the league alongside any enterprising non-league outfits who fancied their luck. Nine times out of 10 the old pals act prevailed. Very occasionally, however, teams which provided the most difficult journey for the majority weren’t so fortunate. This definitely applied to Workington, perched out on the Cumbrian coast, and they got their marching orders in 1977, never to return - five years after the same happened to the land-that-time-forgot, poor forlorn Barrow-in-Furness. On this particular Guy Fawkes day, though, Workington were no worse than many teams and better than some. The result was what was beginning to seem a routine 4-1 victory to the Hoops, goals from Marsh (2) - taking him to 21 for the season already in league and cup - Les Allen, and a Jim Langley penalty.
The following Saturday took the R’s to another footballing outpost, last season’s fourth-placed team, Scunthorpe. Another pair from Rodney, another two points for Rangers. ‘Nuff said. Tuesday saw a home fixture with Torquay. I remember a particularly wet and stormy evening leading my mate’s Dad to splash out on stand tickets for us. I can’t remember the exact cost, but it may have been 4s 6d, old money (22.5p) Our spot out on the exposed South Africa Road side was 1s 6d, adults paid three shillings, which worked out to about 0.4p per QPR goal that season. Tell that to the young people today and they won’t believe you.
I remember the novelty of sitting in the rickety old contraption much more than I do the actual game, but Roger Morgan put us ahead in the first-half, and Les Allen added another in a 2-1 win. A Rangers team not firing on all cylinders - but it was enough to put them on top of Division Three for the first time that season.
So, Saturday 19th November 1966 saw top-of-the-table Rangers pull in a crowd of over 14,000 expectant fans for an attractive looking fixture against one of the division’s better teams, Oldham. This was when I first realised that my beloved Rangers could, and would, let you down on occasions. They never got going - and to my amazement didn’t even score. Oldham kept it neat, looked for the breaks, and came out 1-0 winners. Rangers run of 19 games unbeaten in league and cup was over.
Results elsewhere meant that Rangers kept top spot, and this was guaranteed for two weeks, with first round FA Cup action on the agenda for the following Saturday. A rather chastened R’s team took the field at home to Poole Town of the Southern League. Peter Springett had a minor injury and wasn’t risked, so this game marked the debut of Mike Kelly, who had been signed from leading amateur team Wimbledon and had actually won an Amateur Cup medal with them at Wembley.
One can only guess how much the players were up for this game. The crowd was back down to four figures, just under 10,000, most of whom must have been expecting a goal feast. Again though, the team were not firing on all cylinders and there was relief when Marsh put us ahead on 41 minutes.
A couple of minutes later, potential disaster struck. Debutant ‘keeper Kelly got a kick in the head resulting in a nasty gash, and had to be stretchered off. No sub goalies on the bench in those days meant that an outfield player would have to do the job. My first thought was that Marsh might do it. He had donned the goalkeeper’s jersey in similar circumstances for Fulham the previous season, in a game that rather unfortunately for Rodney was televised in highlights form and had given a performance that was memorable in more ways than one, and which veered from the sublime to the ridiculous. I’m afraid I can’t remember the opponents or how many he let in.
Anyway it wasn’t to be, as the old-timer, Jimmy Langley, took the responsibility. He acquitted himself well enough, but the non-leaguers started fancying their chances in the second-half and made something of a game of it. The class of Rodney was all that separated the teams, and his hat-trick saw us through, 3-2. All in all, it was a thoroughly sloppy performance from a Rangers team who had been rattled by the loss of the ‘keeper.
It was typical of Jim Langley to stand up and be counted when it mattered. Jim had been around a long time. A First Division left-back at Fulham for many seasons, he had faced the finest wingers around week after week, played in two losing FA Cup semi-finals, and collected a couple of full England caps on the way. England caps were a lot harder to come by then, that’s for sure. He had been signed at the beginning of the previous season, at the same time as Les Allen and for the same reason - to add experience to the team, and to help nurture the youngsters, to pick them up when things weren’t going well, and to keep their feet on the ground when they were. He was now 37 years old.
No disrespect to Jim, but when I picture him now, I see in my mind’s eye an octogenarian at least, and not a man who was eight years younger than the handsome youthful fellow who stares at me from the mirror every morning. I was 11 myself, so knocking on 40 was old to me. Very, very old. His fitness was beyond compare and so was his enthusiasm. Jim Langley was a crucial part of Rangers’ success that season.
So that was November. All in all it was a fairly lacklustre month for the R’s after the goal feasts of September and October, but we were top of the division and our attention was now back on the League Cup for our next game. Elsewhere in the world this month, world champions England played two games at Wembley, a drab goalless draw against Czechoslovakia, and a 5-1 stroll against Wales, both Charlton brothers on the scoresheet for this one. Strangely, the Czechs would be the only foreign opposition England would face for almost a year after the World Cup triumph. Money wasn’t God then. Imagine the lengths that would be gone to now to exploit such a marketing opportunity as your very own world champion football team. Everybody loved them as well. I was still young and naive, but it was generally thought unthinkable not to support your national team as fervently as your club.
Life was simpler then in many ways. Difficult to believe as it may be now, pretty much everyone loved, or at least liked Manchester United as well, unless they came from Liverpool or Moss Side. They were indeed the team of all talents, with Best, Law and Charlton at the height of their powers, and they also had a traditional vulnerability in defence, which always gave the other team a chance, and made most of their games entertaining - games that we might see highlights of occasionally on Match of the Day, or Star Soccer if it was against a London team. United were currently battling it out at the top of Division One with champions Liverpool and Chelsea. Ah, Chelsea. More on them later.
The Beach Boys were at number one with Good Vibrations as November came to an end. Strange that, I always think of it as such a summer record. In China, the Cultural Revolution was underway. At Sloane School, in class 1X, Roman Britain was on the agenda. In Londinium West our own little revolution was coming along quite nicely, thank you.
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