I grew up living in Pennard Mansions on the Goldhawk Road (close to the Market) for nearly twenty years. The first football match I ever attended was (says in hushed whisper) Chelsea v Manchester United in 1969. Why my Dad, who was a Rangers fan, took me to Stamford Bridge, I don’t quite know, but there, I’ve admitted it and no longer do I need to consider a trip to an Institution in order to cleanse my soul !!! When I was seven or eight, Dad would occasionally take me with him to Loftus Road. It is a long time now but I think the first Rangers game I saw was against Orient in 1970 or 1971.
I fell in love with the Ground. The fact you could get so close to the players was a big factor and the players back then had no problems in coming over to sign your programme or have a quick chat, everything was so much more relaxed than it seems now. During those times, I never imagined that one day I would be lucky enough to work at the club, let alone become the Chief Executive. When my Dad started to work on Saturdays, I was, fortunately, still allowed to make the short trip on my own…down Lime Grove, across the Uxbridge Road, past the Police Station, down Swindon Street and into Loftus Road. Sometimes, I would change my journey just to take in the smells of fresh bread from the old bakery at the top of Loftus Road.
Quite a number of games stand out over the years. As a youngster, the UEFA Cup run in 1977 was fantastic. The atmosphere created by a night match at Loftus Road is always special but playing against foreign opposition, in front of a full house, with such an outstanding team to support, made those evenings absolutely unforgettable. I just hope that my son will be able to enjoy Rangers in Europe at some stage. My favourite game is probably the FA Cup Semi Final against West Brom. It was fairly forgettable as a match but the outbreak of joy on the North Bank when Clive Allen scored, and then again, at the final whistle it was something that will always live with me. However, the celebrations of the evening are much more of a blur. I enjoyed the FA Cup Final itself, but defeat always blunts any sense of enjoyment. I was working at Swindon when Rangers won promotion at Hillsborough a few years ago, so I missed out on that great day. As for the Milk Cup Final and the Play Off Final against Cardiff, the less said the better !
But some games stand out for a number of reasons and not always positive ones. I will never forget the crack that echoed around Craven Cottage when Paul Went’s tackle broke Martyn Busby’s leg. It was the first time that I had ever seen anything like that and I can still vividly remember the sight of Buzzer’s broken leg dangling in the cold night air. I can remember being one of the first people inside Loftus Road for that FA Cup Quarter Final against Leicester. In true Rangers fashion, a complete unknown scored two goals against us and the Cup dream was over for another year. Stan Bowles was my ultimate hooped hero and I was like an excited schoolboy when I first met Stan whilst I was working at the club. He was doing some matchday hospitality in the Executive Boxes for the R’s. He is a wonderful character and I hope he retains good links with the club. I asked him to sign a copy of his book for my son and I was delighted when he signed it, ‘from Big Stan to Little Stan’
I had been working at Portsmouth FC for just three weeks when the opportunity to join Loftus Road plc presented itself. The people at Pompey were great but to be able to work and try to have a positive effect at the club you love, was too good to pass over. It also meant that I would be involved with Wasps and I was keen to find out exactly what this newly turned professional sport was all about. I hate to spoil any myths, but working at a football club is much like working anywhere else during the week. But there was always a buzz on matchday, irrespective of the opposition. Once all my pre-match commercial duties had been performed, I used to watch the games from between the dugouts, trying to assist the PA guys as much as possible. Certainly I was able to pick up all the funny sign language that Managers use to communicate at distance with players. On a few occasions this meant that my passion got the better of me and I would often draw dirty looks from the fourth official. Maybe I should have been more professional but I challenge any of you not to do the same.
Friends used to say that it must have been great working at the club you support. Most of the time that was true but there were times when I wished that I could have gone back to being a supporter in my seat in the Lower Loft, in blissful ignorance of the wider issues surrounding the club.