The date, Saturday 7th September 1957, Harold Macmillan the British Prime Minister informed me that I had, “Never had it so good” and dressed in my smart short grey flannel trousers and school blazer flushed with two shillings a week pocket money, perhaps he was right. Furthermore, as a bonus, I was being taken to my first ever football match at Loftus Road, QPR v Brighton & Hove Albion in Football League Division 3 (South)
My Father was a shift worker in those days and even worse, a Fulham supporter so I was attending the match with my best friend, Mick Stone and his Father. Although Mick and I were both eight year olds, unlike me, Mick was already hardened to R’s culture and adversity. The previous week he had travelled to Southend to see us lose 6-0 and was around during the 1956/57 campaign to witness the departure of our star winger, Mike Hellawell to Birmingham City. What, QPR FC selling their star wingers to other Clubs ? Can this be ?
We stood over the top of the Ellerslie Road terrace exit and watched the white shirts/navy shorts of the Rangers lose 1-0 to the yellow shirts of the Albion. The red jersey of Keeper Ron Springett suffered minor bloodstains as he cut his arm in a clash with a Brighton Forward…..so as Mao Tse-tung once said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
Thereafter for the remainder of 1957 up to 1962, the Boys Pen was my domain (sorry Bill Power but I was there first !) In those days, young kids could go to the match with their friends. The admission was cheap and in the main we were all within easy walking distance from the Ground. The Journeymen team of the late 1950’s (no offence to Pat Woods, Tony Ingham, Keith Rutter, George Petchey, Peter Angell, Ron Springett, Bobby Cameron, Pat Kerrins etc, you were all my heroes) evolved under the management of Alec Stock into the nearly men of the early 1960’s.
Oh the pain of those promotion near misses in 1960/61 and 1961/62, Clive Clark, John Collins, Brian Bedford, John McClelland, Bernard Evans et al, you deserved better reward and personally, I could have done without all that childhood trauma as well. Yes, the great might have been. The taste of many a fine cheese roll from the Loftus Road Tea Bar and the exciting sounds of the tannoy Pop Music (courtesy of WG Stores in Shepherd’s Bush Market) was not much compensation. Love is blind.
In any proper relationship, you have to accept ‘Warts and All’ but believe me folks, it was virtually ‘All Warts’ for the 1962/63, 1963/64 and 1964/65 Seasons. The fans hoped for the best and the players tried their best. The Club made an attempt to move into an up-market venue at the White City. We even had a rich millionaire, John Bloom, desperate to takeover (Mr Paladini eat your heart out) Alas, success there was none. President Kennedy was shot but looking on the bright side, on that very same weekend, the R’s came back from being 4-1 down to get a 4-4 draw at Luton ! Take a bow Stuart Leary, Terry McQuade and Malcolm Graham) and through it all our goal scoring icon, Brian Bedford, carried on regardless. It was still far too much teenage angst for me, surely better days were coming soon ? Cilla Black seemed to think so and yes a sweet Loftus Road lullaby was on its way.
Checking the record books, the attendance for Kerrins first game was 11,139 and the team lined up as follows:- Springett, Woods, Ingham, Petchey, Rutter, Andrews, Kerrins, Longbottom, Finney, Smith and Angell. Cecil Andrews (shown above) was nicknamed ‘Archie’ after the well known ventriloquist and moved to Sittingbourne after the arrival of Alec Stock. Edward Smith was born in Marleybone and played part time as he owned a number of Newsagents in London. Charlie Finney was born in Stoke and only played 10 league games for the R’s, scoring one goal before his transfer to Crewe Alexandria. The other players who turned out that day are more familiar. The Brian Bedford pic is a Press photo from the match at Loftus Road against Newport County in September 1960.
‘Quality…Progress…Realisation’…that’s what the 1962/63 Season Ticket application stated. Inside, were details of the Stadium’s amenities such as:-
Continuous covering all round the Ground
Seats for nearly 11,000 and a “comfortable” capacity of 51,000
First class restaurants for meals before and after the game
Snack bars and licensed bars plus good sanitary arrangements
The White City’s centrally situated Olympic Enclosure offers access by lifts, escalators and stairs to wonderful lush lounges, bars and buffets. There are 300 numbered seats in the heated, glass fronted enclosure……It was also stated that an Open Day would be held when ‘interested supporters can inspect all facilities’
In stark contrast, just a few years earlier, the 1958/59 Handbook includes an article titled, ‘No More Drips’:-
‘Something of a major operation was carried out during the close Season when a complete new roof was fitted to the Main Stand. No more will Stand patrons have to turn their coat collars up when the rain is pelting down (an incessant drip down one’s neck can be most irritating), no more will a shower of rust descend on the unhappy occupants when a hefty clearance results in the ball thudding on sheets of corrugated iron which have long ceased to warrant the term ‘galvanised’. Instead a gleaming new roof awaits them……..’
The White City dream wasn’t to last very long but as the Club enters a new era it may once again signal further talk of moving to a new Stadium ?