Charles Dickens probably said it all when in the opening lines of his book, ‘Tale of Two Cities’ he wrote: “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.” At the start of the 1968-69 campaign, QPR FC were in the First Division (the top level of English football) for the first time in their history. This was a dream come true for all supporters. We would be watching the R’s compete against the elite teams of the nation, Manchester United, Liverpool, Everton etc and witness star international players out on the Loftus Road pitch such as Ball, Moore, Charlton, Best, Law et al…..that would certainly make a refreshing change from watching Colchester, Bournemouth and Southend in Division Three I can tell you !
Alas it did all end in tears, we were relegated, finishing bottom with what was then a joint record of the lowest ever number of points for a Division One club that century…..a paltry 18 !!! It was only Leeds United 1946-47, Woolwich Arsenal 1912-13 and Glossop 1899-1900, that had previously shared this unwelcome statistic. Speaking as a supporter who saw every game with the exception of the Manchester United and Nottingham Forest away fixtures, I can honestly say hand on heart, that we were not as bad as our record suggests. Our very own International Rodney Marsh, was sidelined with a bad foot injury and did not play in the 1st Team until November and in some games we were just plain unlucky. Although it is true to say that we were not good enough to stay up but we really deserved more than the four wins and a meagre collection of 18 points.
The away defeats at Newcastle (2-3), Tottenham (2-3), Southampton (2-3)…after being 2-0 up at the Dell and West Ham (3-4)…that last gasp winner from Harry Redknapp…should never have happened and how we did not win those home games against Leicester (1-1), Leeds (0-1) and Spurs (1-1) and that Greaves hand ball is still a mystery to me ? There were of course a number of routs and humiliations including Chelsea at home (0-4) and the away disasters at Manchester United (1-8), Coventry (0-5), Everton (0-4), Sheffield Wednesday (0-4) and you have to admit that any team that concedes 95 goals cannot expect survival.
I did experience many amusing interludes along the way which will always remain with me. At the midweek match at Ipswich on 27th August 1968 (lost 0-3), prior to kick off a group of us crowded round a TV shop with the new colour technology and watched and cheered on the England cricket team as they grabbed a spate of Australian wickets to win the final Test at the Oval. There was also the witty cry of anguish from the R’s supporter on the terraces of Goodison Park when Colin Harvey smashed yet another goal past our hapless defenders…”For God’s sake, someone show a repeat of the League Cup Final.” He did not get his wish but QPR FC did get a “repeat” return to the top tier in 1973—74 and that time the R’s were to show they meant business !”
Bernard Lambert (Kerrins)
Following wins pre-season at Aldershot (3-2), Raith Rovers (3-1) and Dundee (2-0) that historic day on Saturday 10th August arrived and Leicester City were the visitors. The new South Africa Road Stand wasn’t ready in time and I remember that the gates were closed before kick-off. In the programme, the Bush Telegraph editorial stated with the emphasis in capitals that, ‘THE GREAT day has arrived, our dreams have come true and we are in the First Division. We face the great challenge with a mixture of pride and humility and only those people who have been with us in the bad times can fully appreciate how we feel about the good.
We have no illusions about the task ahead. We will have to fight as we have never done before to prove that we are worthy of our position. It is to prove that worth that you see work in progress today on our accommodation. We apologise for the inconvenience this has caused our loyal fans and to those also who have recently joined the Band of Hope. The time at our disposal was very limited but we hope to have everything ship shape very soon. In the meantime we ask everyone to bear with us until we have put everything right.’