Spring was very much in the air in early March 1967. Days were longer and the mood in swinging London was one of optimism. The summer of love would soon be upon us, although this was a well-kept secret to all but a few in Ladbroke Grove, South Kensington and San Francisco. You would never have guessed it by listening to the radio - the top 20 anyway.
There was a distinct lull between the pop and soul classics of 1966 and the flower power epics that would be assailing our senses in a few months’ time. From January to May, the coveted number one spot was passed from Tom Jones to the Monkees to Petula Clark to Engelbert Humperdinck, on to Frank and Nancy Sinatra, and then to Sandie Shaw. Radio One was still six months away. Out in the North Sea the pirate ships were going strong, but most of the nation were still tuned in to the BBC Light Programme, which served up such delights as Sandy MacPherson and his organ, and the Billy Cotton Band Show.
No beads and no kaftans then in Shepherds Bush, although there was no shortage of mods. What we did have, though, was something we had never had before - a trophy-winning football team. The sheer bravado of the improbable and incredible victory over West Brom was a talking point for the whole country. Three days after the historic day of March 4, grown men were still wandering around London W12 in a daze, induced by a mixture of alcohol and disbelief. The private party continued at Loftus Road on the evening of Tuesday 7th March, with a triumphant homecoming and a league game against Bournemouth.
Over 21,000 were there to welcome the boys home. Rangers started as if the champagne was still bubbling and were 2-0 ahead before Bournemouth knew what had hit them, goals supplied by Marsh and Keen. One could almost feel sorry for the Cherries. Truth be told they were a pretty poor side who were struggling against relegation, and they last thing they needed was to be thrust into an atmosphere which must have been overwhelming. The pace eased off after the frenetic opening and Rangers cruised home 4-0, further goals coming from Marsh again and Les Allen. The only down side to the evening was the sight of Jimmy Langley being stretchered off with what looked as if it might be a serious injury. Bournemouth eventually avoided relegation by two points. No matter, it would be many years before our paths crossed again.
Mike Keen’s goal was his seventh of the season. Fitting that he should score, as more than anyone he must have enjoyed the occasion. At the age of 26, this was his eighth season in the first team, so he had seen plenty of dark days before he climbed those Wembley steps. As a young player, he had been something of a target for the boo-boys, but had shown the strength of character to overcome that and was now an cultured midfield player and a fine leader. Most of his goals came from late runs into the box, rather in the style of Martin Peters. He was to score 45 of them for Rangers in a total of 440 appearances over 10 years.
Another player enjoying the spotlight was Ron Hunt. Still only 21, Ronnie was probably the best centre-half in the division at the time, his lack of stature being made up for by excellent positional sense and superbly timed tackling. It was less common for defenders to get involved in set-pieces back then, and Ronnie was seldom seen to cross the halfway line until, of course, he made the surge forward at Wembley, which no R’s fan who was there will ever forget, and which led to the winning goal. A one-club man, Ron was to stay at Rangers until 1973, but a succession of injuries meant that he never really got the opportunity to fulfil his potential, and he retired from the game at the age of 28. He ventured past the halfway line at least once more, in November 1970, when he scored his one and only goal, away at Sheffield United.
The party continued on the Saturday, with Peterborough providing the opposition. The club even pushed the boat out and produced a souvenir programme for the occasion, which made something of a change from the usual one sheet of black and white, folded into six pages. Further cause for celebration came with the news that the injury to Jim Langley was not as serious as first thought - but he was not fit for this game, his place being taken by a new signing no less, one Bobby Keetch. Formerly of Fulham, Bobby was restaurateur, bon viveur, antique shop owner, man about town and puller of birds extraordinaire. He was also an extremely average footballer with a talent for intimidation that was given far greater reign in those days of yore. I don’t recall too much about his performance in this game, but Bobby would write his page in the QPR story the following season. Ian Morgan also got a start in place of Keith Sanderson.
We had played the away fixture at the Posh less than three weeks previously, winning 2-0, and they came down determined not to be over-run. They served up one of the party pooping performances of all time, and came away with a goalless draw. Seven days later we had a repeat scoreline at Brisbane Road. I had never been further east on the Central Line than Oxford Circus, and wasn’t quite ready to do so yet, so am unable to relate how much excitement was on offer. I can report that Langley and Sanderson had recovered from injury, and we fielded the full Wembley XI. Somehow, and don’t ask me how, this game also contrived to finish goalless. This was the first time QPR had been involved in back-to-back scoreless draws for four seasons. (This information courtesy of the Ministry for Useless Statistics, Shepherds Bush branch).
The following week, a distinctly chilly and premature Easter was suddenly upon us. As was the fashion back then, there was a full league programme on Good Friday, followed by the same on Saturday, and then again on Easter Monday. Two home games on successive days at a Bank Holiday would no doubt provoke large scale female protestations these days but, back in 1967, I can happily report that there were no B&Qs, no garden centres, men took no part in shopping whatsoever, and the concept of sloping off to one’s second home in Andalucia or Tuscany had yet to really catch on with the good working citizens of West London. No, as one we did the decent thing, and the rusty old turnstiles clicked over 33,000 times in little over 24 hours for the visits of Darlington and Gillingham. Roger Morgan had picked up a knock at Orient and stood down for the first time this season, his shirt being passed, probably for about the millionth time in their short life, to brother Ian.
Darlington were a poor side, and this turned out to be a holiday stroll for Rangers - 4-0 the score, goals from Marsh, Lazarus, Allen, and a Langley penalty. Gillingham were traditionally made of stronger stuff and still had an outside chance of making a run for the second promotion spot, but another goal from Marsh and one from Ian Morgan gave Rangers the points in what was, as always, a competitive game against the Gills.
Easter Monday saw the trek up to the North-East for the return fixture against Darlington. Struggling to avoid relegation, the Quakers provided stiffer opposition on their own ground and Rangers came home reasonably satisfied with a point in yet another shut-out. Darlington still ended up being relegated, though.
So that was March 1967. Indelibly printed on the memory as the month when Queens Park Rangers won a trophy at Wembley. Interesting to find when I started to research this article, that it was also a month when the team played six league games and didn’t concede one goal. I’m fairly sure this hasn’t happened since, although we did come close a few times in the glory years. If you can prove me wrong, please write to the usual address and win the keys to the editor’s holiday home. Pure fantasy? So was March 1967.
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