Saturday 4th March 1967. A bright, spring day. I had been to Wembley once before, an England friendly against Belgium, which coincidentally marked the England debut of one T. Venables. This was different, though. This was the ultimate. We had standing tickets, of course, but we were lucky to have the best view in the house - upper tier, looking down over the corner flag. You could actually get a decent view at the old stadium before it went all-seater. The R’s were resplendent in all-white. They looked the business, but there was a slight disappointment that the hoops would not be seen, clashing with the Baggies’ blue and white stripes. So we wore the white, they wore all red.
After what seemed like an age, the game kicked off. Albion seemed determined to show they were in charge right from the off. They were too. Rangers were nervous, and it took only seven minutes before Rangers old boy Clive Clark cut in from the left and scored. It wasn’t looking good. The younger players were looking overawed, and Keen and Sanderson were being overrun in midfield. No surprise when Clark made it 2-0 on 36 minutes with an almost carbon-copy goal. Poor Tony Hazell was having a torrid time at right-back. The half-time whistle was met with depression on the terraces, and the (then) highly unusual sight of a QPR team trudging off the pitch, tails between their legs.
Time for a classic Alec Stock half-time team talk. He was good at those. “Go out there and enjoy yourselves” usually did the trick. Sure enough, the team came out for the second-half looking bright and enterprising. They started passing it about - and, yes, they did look as if they were beginning to enjoy the occasion. The supporters, though now resigned to being on a loser, at least began to feel that we wouldn’t be embarrassed.
As on so many occasions before, it was the older players who started to turn it around. Jim Langley was magnificent at the back, Les Allen started to drop deeper and boss the midfield, and Mark Lazarus began doing what he was brilliant at - running at defenders, with pace and aggression. His opposing full-back was Welsh hard man Graham Williams, who was known to intimidate many an international winger - you could get away with a lot more back then. Water off a duck’s back to Mark though, and it was now Williams turn to suffer as Tony Hazell had before the break.
We started making chances, but ‘keeper Sheppard was equal to anything thrown at him. Sixty-three minutes gone and Lazarus was fouled once again out on the right. Master of the dead ball, Les Allen, swung over a perfect cross, Roger Morgan lost his marker and headed it firmly past the ‘keeper - 2-1. We started to believe now - and, more importantly, so did the team. Rodney Marsh had had a frustrating game in the first-half, but he was now on top of his game - and Albion were petrified of him.
We all have moments in our life that stay with us forever. One of my moments came with 15 minutes of this game left. Top sports writer of the time was a guy called Alan Hoby, who would cover all the big games, cup finals, internationals, etc. Purple prose was his speciality, and he didn’t get to report on too many QPR games. He got this one, though, and if he was still with us, I’m sure he would have no objection to me quoting directly from his match report in the Sunday Express.
‘Right on the half-hour, Rangers’ energetic Keen placed the ball at the fluent feet of Marsh. I have seen many great goals at Wembley by many world class stars, but none of them was any better than this extraordinary effort by Rangers’ most lethal goalscorer. Picking his way with lazy finesse through the paralysed Albion defence, Marsh embarked on an old-fashioned dribble which beat at least three men and bewitched everyone who saw it. Zigzagging across the green turf, pivoting with arrogant ease, Marsh ended this dazzling effort with an equally nonchalant right foot shot from just outside the box, which hit the post before glancing in amid an explosion of sound from the fans. This was an astonishing comeback.’
I did look this up to check it, but I swear I can recite that paragraph pretty much verbatim.
Only one team was going to win now. Albion were being completely overrun. Eight minutes to go on this unreal day and reality was turned even more on its head when Ron Hunt, who had never knowingly been past the halfway line before , played a one-two with Lazarus and burst into the area. Goalkeeper Sheppard bravely dived at his feet, and whilst the two of them lay in an untidy heap, who else but Mark Lazarus followed up to place the ball firmly in the net, whilst pandemonium broke out at our end - 3-2 to the QPR.
Some frantic defending ensued, but we knew that Rangers were not to be denied. For the first and last time ever, a QPR captain proudly ascended the Wembley steps to collect a trophy. I close my eyes and I’m there again now. Not a March 4th goes by without me raising a glass to those lads. Shepherds Bush must have a place to be that night, but it was home for tea for this boy, followed by the thrill of watching it all again on Match of the Day.
My first season as a fully paid up football fan. I thought it would always be like that. I sometimes think I should have quit whilst I was ahead, but I knew already that this relationship was designed for the long haul, a marriage with no get-out clause. Anyway, we were home to Bournemouth the following Tuesday.
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