The following article is from Steve Zico’s Uncle, Robert Sanders. He was born in Paddington in 1929 and is based on his recollections of the period with a few snippets of additional information from John Marks’s excellent book, ‘Heroes In Hoops’ – Steve Russell
My first game was either late 1941 or possibly1942. I don’t remember who the opponents were but I do recall that the Ground was nearly empty and being very cold. There was an entrance fee for anywhere in the Ground except the centre part of the Main Stand. (I believe that I paid the boys rate of 3d which is now 1.25 pence) The Main Stand was a steel framed structure with a corrugated iron roof which ran the full length of the Ellerslie Road side. Opposite was a low bank of terracing formed of cinder finished steps.There was similar terracing somewhat higher, along the Bloemfontein Road end. Behind the goal at the Loftus Road end was concrete terracing with a steel, framed asbestos roofed cover.
Competition consisted of the Football Leagues, North and South. There were no divisions, presumably the teams not in either of these had either ‘closed for the duration’ or played in other groupings. Some of the teams I remember were…Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham, Watford, Crystal Palace, Reading (who I think played in green and white hoops), Aldershot and Clapton Orient. Clubs were allowed to play guest players. It was a rotation system before it had been devised. Rangers players at the time included the following:-
Alf Ridyard was a tall, gaunt man who was the centre half and captain. In one game when the teams were about to kick off, he shouted, “Hold it Ref” and beckoned on the Trainer to give him his false teeth for safekeeping. According to John Marks’s book, ‘Heroes In Hoops’, Alf was milking a cow on his Handsworth farm when a club representative signed him on transfer deadline day in 1938.
Jack Rose was the right back and very dapper but three cartilage operations forced him to quit the game in 1948.
Arthur Jefferson was a left back and a terrier. No matter what the angle the ball came at him….whack…it was volleyed back up field.
Joe Mallett played at inside right and wing half. He was a very clever player who joined Southampton in 1947 for a large fee after two spells with the R’s.
Wilf Heathcote was a very athletic centre forward. ‘Heroes In Hoops’ states that he was a school teacher by profession and became the top scorer during the War Years, scoring 90 goals in approx 105 appearances.
With Reg Allen in the Army, Harry Brown took over in goal. He was the one who mysteriously filled in for the Arsenal keeper in the 2nd half of the Moscow Dynamo match at a foggy White Hart Lane.
Frank Neary played right wing/centre forward and was a prototype for Arnie Schwarzenegger ! He was a powerful runner, usually in a straight line and could kick like a mule and along the ground. His left foot was only to stop him falling over. Many of his goals came from corner in-offs. He played his early football in Northern Ireland and later joined Millwall in 1950.
Don Mills was a skinny, pallid youth from Yorkshire and played at inside left. He was an extremely promising player and also a very incisive passer of the ball. He was loaned to Torquay for health reasons.
There was also a forward usually known as ‘Sibley of Southend’
Ted Vizard was the Manager from 1939 until 1944 when Dave Mangnall took over.
Because of Chelsea’s location, they seemed to attract ‘big name’ guest players on weekend leave. These included Tommy Lawton the England centre forward and others of similar standard. There was a memorable match when Chelsea had all their star players available and Rangers were two outfielders plus a goalkeeper short. An appeal was made to the crowd which produced the three volunteers. The wing half was middle aged and breathless. Ginger Smith was a 15 year old winger who I knew as a schoolboy playing in kick-abouts in Queen’s Park. He was a junior with Rangers and eventually was on Chelsea’s books for some years. In goal was George Farmer, a pre-War Rangers player. Unfortunately, expecting only to watch the game, he began his ‘leave’ celebrations somewhat early ! Final score: QPR 0……….Chelsea 13 (yes, thirteen)
A player who became a professional with the R’s was Bert Addinall, who used to play for Paddington ARP (Air Raid Precautions) in Paddington Recreation Ground. I saw him play in a Cup Final at Wembley, Paddington ARP against Greenwich ARP (I think). Several of the Greenwich players were professionals with Charlton Athletic..The end of the war saw the return of various players from the Services including Reg Allen, Ivor Powell, a Welsh International who was later transferred to Aston Villa and Alec Stock who was to become Manager in 1959.
When League football resumed post war, Rangers were back in the Third Division South. The first season was1946-47 and they finished second to Cardiff City but only one team was promoted in those days. The following season I saw just one game as I was doing my National Service in the Army. However, it was a crucial promotion match in Spring1948, a 0-0 mid-week evening game against Bournemouth. That was the last time I saw the R’s for a while, as playing myself on Saturdays made it impossible. In those days, clubs affiliated to the FA were not allowed to play on Sundays. I still attend a couple of games a season with my Nephew Steve Zico, as he gamely tries to convince me that I’m watching a team of world beaters !
Robert E Sanders