I have many reasons to remember the Season of 1966-67. The double year of Rangers winning the League Cup and the Third Division Championship coincided with my last year in school where I was due to do my A-levels in June 1967.
How did I become a QPR supporter in the first place ? My dad worked in the building trade and in the late 50’s he worked on Saturday mornings. On Saturday afternoons he and his workmates would go to a match close to where the site was. He started to take me with him in 1958 when I was 10 years old. As he worked on a number of sites around London, I visited several Clubs. My first match was Chelsea v Nottingham Forest and I recall Jimmy Greaves scoring a hat trick. Unfortunately, I didn’t see much because I always seemed to have someone 6 foot tall standing in front of me. I had similar experiences at West Ham, Tottenham and Fulham but one Saturday, dad was working locally in Shepherd’s Bush and QPR were playing Plymouth. One of dad’s mates was from Plymouth and Argyle were leading the Division so they decided to see a Third Division match instead of the usual First Division game. Dad said I should have no problem because it was a Third Division game and there would not be many going….wrong !
There was a big crowd at Rangers that day and when we arrived at the Loft, there was hardly room to move. A Rangers supporter picked me up and told me that I should be in ‘the pen’ where the schoolboys get a decent view and I was passed over the heads of spectators and into the enclosure behind the goal. I had a great view and some of the players were so close they had a few words with the boys. The banter was great and best of all, Rangers won. I knew I had found the team for me and I then started going with some school mates. Rangers were scoring goals for fun in those days, over 100 a Season. The Club changed it’s strip to the familiar blue and white hoops and shortly afterwards moved to the White City in 1962, I went to most games because a mates’ dad was on the gate and we got in for free ! Just as well because the quality of the football served up was dire, there was no atmosphere and the players seemed miles away. The Stadium was too big and attendances were down. We were glad when the Club returned to Loftus Road and we could once again be in the pen.
However, when I got to 15, I had to work on Saturdays and so I could only see mid week games. Matches were therefore few and far between until Season 1966-67. By this time, dad had started his own business and the family had moved from the Ladbroke Grove area to Harlesden. My first year at ‘A’ levels had not gone well and my school report said that I had too many distractions. Dad made a deal with me that he would give me pocket money in lieu of my earnings but in return I had to study on Saturdays instead of working. I started off with the best intentions but as the Season wore on and Rangers were making their mark, I started going to Loftus Road on Saturdays. There was no way I was going to miss out on what
eventually turned into Rangers greatest Season.
I did not intend to go to the 1st Round of the League Cup against Colchester but I wanted to see the new floodlights that were to be switched on that evening. The new lights were needed for colour TV which was just starting up. Many thought it was wishful thinking as we had never been on Match of the Day which had started in 1964 and were never likely to be as a Third Division team. Marsh scored 4 goals that night and it was well worth the entrance money just to see him play.
In the last 16, we were drawn at home to Leicester and dad was keen to go to the match because, like a lot of Irish, he was a big fan of Derek Dougan. Again we had underestimated the crowd. We got on a 220 bus in Harlesden on what we thought would be an easy trip to the Ground and would have plenty of time. Normally on a bus, people hardly spoke to one another but that night everyone was going to Loftus Road and there was a buzz with strangers quite happily talking to one another. Some felt that we had a chance because we were at home but most people went in hope rather than expectation. We hoped that we wouldn’t be hammered and that the team would give a good account of themselves against a side of internationals which included Gordon Banks in goal. This was our Cup Final, or so we thought. We stood in the corner of the Ground where the Loft joined up with the old Ellerslie Road “chicken run”. We had a great view of the goal at the Loft End where most of the goals were scored but not a good one of the School End goal. In fact, I did not get a clear view of Roger Morgan’s opener but with over 20,000 in the Ground, the atmosphere was something else. Dougan had scored twice before half time and fans thought that was it. However, Les Allen scored a freak goal which the visitors never recovered from. The ball rebounded off the woodwork and hit Banks on the back before crossing the line. Allen scored again immediately afterwards to put the R’s in the lead and Loftus Road exploded. With the vocal support from the Rangers fans, Leicester were run ragged and Lazarus scored a fourth to put the match beyond the visitors.
Although Marsh scored two goals against Carlisle at home in the quarter finals, the man of the match for me that night was Lazarus. Their defenders could not cope with him and one even tried to hold him back near the half way line by grabbing his shorts. However, his shorts came away in his hand but Lazarus continued his dribble in his ‘blue and white hooped mini skirt’, beating a couple more opponents before sending in a bullet shot that just went over the bar in front of the Loft. What an entertainer ! I did not travel to Birmingham for the first leg of the semi but watched the edited highlights on TV without knowing the score. I was hoping for a draw but could not believe it when we won 4-1 after going a goal down. I was at Loftus Road for the second leg and we all knew that we were going to Wembley. Very few could remember when we had last lost a match and winning was now a habit that we were getting used to.
Dad managed to get two tickets and we left home sometime after noon, intending to get the 18 bus to Wembley. However, after the short walk to Craven Park bus stop, the traffic was at a standstill and there were hundreds of QPR supporters walking to Wembley so we merged in with them. We may have been in what was subsequently learnt was the march to the Stadium but I couldn’t be sure ? The atmosphere was amazing as we met a number of new friends with one thing in common, supporting QPR. One fan told us about some plumbing work he did for Jim Gregory. His bathroom was apparently tiled in QPR colours. Whether this was true or not, we didn’t know but it was typical of stories we had heard about him and his support for the Club.
The game itself was a bit of a blur for me at the time. There were nearly 100,000 watching the match and most of them seemed to be Rangers. I was disappointed with the seats because they were high up and too far from the pitch for my liking. I was also disappointed that we were not playing in the hoops. When I heard that we were due to play in white, I had hoped it would be the strip that I had seen Rangers playing in before the hoops. In the end it was like watching Real Madrid well, the second half was like watching Real Madrid ! We were not in the game in the first half but everyone laughed when a QPR fan said at half time that he had not seen Chippy Clark play at a higher level since he left the Rangers but he now knew what Clive could do against a great team ! Marsh’s equaliser was quality and he ignited the crowd but the drum was giving me a headache. I was in disbelief at the end after we had won the game and the team paraded the trophy. I didn’t want the celebrations to end but as I had some exams the following week, I needed to get home to do some school work. I did get the chance to watch the match that evening on ‘Match of the Day’ which I believe was the R’s first ever appearance on the programme. The Club had now made the big time and it was shown to the nation. I was proud to a Rangers supporter that day – and still am.
What affect did these distractions have on my subsequent ‘A’ level exams ? I passed with flying colours. I think QPR’s success that year put me on a high and I felt that I could do anything. I came to realise that when Rangers win, life is great but losing gets me down and life in general doesn’t seem to go well. I did buy a video of the Final many years ago, so when I need cheering up I still sit down to watch it. These last few years have been low but at least in the Championship the team are at a higher level than when I started supporting them. That is the only positive thing I can hold on to about QPR today.
(aka Liam O’Liam in Irish and cyberspace)