Introduction By Cos Ataliotis To Alec Stock’s Italian Adventure
So, what do you know about Alec Stock as a Manager ?
Almost certainly, you’ll know that he ranks amongst the best Managers in the history of Queen’s Park Rangers Football Club, responsible for back to back promotions to the top flight and our famous League Cup win during the Sixties. Probably, that he went on to manage successfully at both Luton and Fulham and finally Bournemouth during the late Sixties, Seventies and early Eighties. Possibly, that he was Player-Manager at Yeovil after the war and was involved in a famous FA Cup ‘giantkilling’ against Sunderland, scoring one of the goals. But what else ? What about his Managerial career in the Fifties ? What happened between his time leaving Yeovil in 1949 and joining Queen’s Park Rangers in the summer of 1959 ?
Well, he had a long and generally successful period as Manager of Leyton Orient which lasted almost the entire decade and his career during this time has tended to be overlooked largely because of his achievements later on. But what is interesting is that his Managerial stint at Leyton Orient was interrupted twice. Stock was highly thought of and doing well at Leyton Orient. In February 1956, Arsenal came calling and asked him to be their ‘Manager’. At least that was what Stock thought he was going to be doing. But having accepted the Arsenal job and started work, he quickly realised that there was no Manager’s job for him at all. Arsenal already had Tom Whittaker, a man who described his job as ‘Secretary-Manager’. Whittaker picked the team, chose the tactics and generally ran the show. Stock was more like an Assistant Manager, only without even those duties. Alec, despite his title, was left on the fringes. The final straw came when instead of going with the Arsenal first team to a match at Sheffield United, Stock was asked to stay behind and watch Aldershot Reserves,
Just 53 days after joining Arsenal, Alec Stock resigned and Harry Zussman, the Leyton Orient Chairman welcomed him back. Later when he reflected on his career, Alec was honest enough to admit that he felt he had made a mistake by not clarifying his role with Arsenal at the outset. And yet, he also described his decision to leave Arsenal so quickly as one of his biggest regrets. On reflection, he felt that despite his mistake, he should have stayed and had the patience and confidence to impose himself in the Arsenal Management structure. However, fifteen months later, came the second and perhaps the most extraordinary interruption to his Leyton Orient Management career. Alec was in demand again but this time, it was top Italian side AS Roma who wanted him.
In those days, it was rare for any British footballer to play abroad for a foreign Club and even fewer Managers in Alec Stock’s position would have been asked to manage abroad at such a high level. Stock felt it was a great chance to broaden his football knowledge and experience and so, in August 1957, Alec accepted the challenge and went to Rome. On the field, things went well. Stock managed AS Roma for four months and a total of eleven games, losing just once. After a solid start, Stock’s side progressively rose up the league table to occupy third place in the Italian top flight, just behind an outstanding Juventus side in first place, which included one of those rare British exports, the legendary John Charles. What could possibly go wrong ? Stock was a man of great honesty, integrity, pride and dignity whose side was doing well. Yet, after four months, Stock was dismissed. After Stock departed, AS Roma slumped and they finished the Season in mid-table.
At different times, Alec Stock subsequently described his experiences at AS Roma as painful, confusing, frustrating, annoying and bitter. He found the way that AS Roma functioned behind the scenes as a Football Club was like nothing he was to encounter before or after. So why was Alec so annoyed ? What disturbed him about the way AS Roma was being run ? And what could possibly have happened that would have resulted in his removal when his team were doing so well ? There are very few accounts available about Alec’s time and experience in Italy. In 1982, Alec Stock wrote his autobiography, ‘A Little Thing Called Pride’ with journalist Brian Woolnough. Although the book contains a brief account of his period with AS Roma, it gives few clues as to what actually happened and is in parts, slightly ambiguous. But there is another account of his time with the Italian club and what a fine one it is. Again, it is provided by Stock.
In 1967, around the time he was winning the Third Division Championship and League Cup with Queen’s Park Rangers, Alec sat down with journalist, BBC football correspondent and radio broadcaster, the late Byron Butler, to write a book about Football Management. The theme of the book was to expound Stock’s belief that the basis of success for any professional Football Club is the sound management of each and every aspect of that club. He examined and discussed how the different roles within a club should and should not interact and overlap, as well as providing examples from his own experiences.
The book was called, ‘FOOTBALL CLUB MANAGER’ and tucked away in Chapter 10 is a detailed and insightful description of how his AS Roma experience began and ended. Everything was clearly much fresher in Alec’s mind back then and although Butler modestly claims in the preface, that all he did was push a tape recorder under Alec’s nose, put his words in an acceptable order and sprinkle some full stops, you sense in a Chapter like this one, that he also had the skill and ability to steer Alec in a direction which gives a difficult and unfamiliar area, great clarity, whilst extracting the full story from him. Butler was a fine journalist. The book has long been out of print and is difficult to find. It has taken me a while, but after patient discussions with the publishers, I have very kindly been given permission to reproduce this particular Chapter on Roma, unedited and in its entirety on a not-for-profit basis for the 50th anniversary of Alec Stock’s reign in Rome.
I’d like to dedicate the reproduction of this extract, firstly, to Alec’s surviving family, his two daughters, Elizabeth and Sarah and their children and secondly, to the last West Country Manager we enjoyed, a Manager of different character but very similar integrity, Mr Ian Holloway. So jump aboard the Queen’s Park Rangers tardis and join Alec Stock, one of our greatest Managers, as he tells you the story of his Italian adventure. And I’ll leave you with the thought, that although you will be reading about Alec’s experiences from fifty years ago and the book from which the extract was taken was published around forty years ago, the recent influx of foreign ownership to British Football clubs in the last few years may mean that some of the incidents and events you will read about, may have a remarkable and contemporary resonance.
Enjoy the journey.
The book: ‘FOOTBALL CLUB MANAGER’ by Alec Stock
Edited by Byron Butler
Originally published by Routledge and Kegan Paul
This extract is reproduced by kind permission of Taylor & Francis Books (UK)