SR: Did the team know at the start of the 66-67 season that it would be a ‘special’ one, were the players aware that we would be the team to beat ?
ML: I can honestly say that yes, we knew it would be special because of the previous season, when we had finished third. Without sounding big headed, we knew that we were more than good enough for the Third Division. We played some good football, we were a complete team. I think that everyone in the team thought we would win the league, although we never had a thought about going to Wembley and winning the League Cup. Winning the Cup was the icing on the cake.
SR: Were there any Rangers players that were your friends as well as team mates ?
ML: Jimmy Langley and Rodney. Jim was a wonderful man, an unsung hero. He was 38 when he played for QPR. If you played Jimmy at Golf, Tennis, anything, he would beat you. He was a naturally gifted all-round sportsman. I don’t know if you remember, but at Wembley he went for a ball and accidently hurt one of the West Brom players. As the game continued, Jimmy stayed with the injured player to make sure that he was alright. That was what he was like. I don’t think he ever made a bad tackle in his life. He was a lovely man, a humble man, a very dear friend who is sorely missed.
SR: Was Rodney one of the team or a bit of a loner ?
ML: Rodney was definitely one of the team. People talk about characters in football, well Rodney was a character in his own right. Always upbeat and positive, he was a great player. He scored 47 goals in the season we got promotion and won the League Cup. I would say ten of them were individual goals, the rest were as a result of team work. Everyone in that team played for everyone else, Rodney included. Until this day, Rodney is a dear friend of mine.
SR: What about Clive Clark ? You played with him a few times and then he almost came back to haunt us at Wembley.
ML: When I arrived at QPR, Clive was already there. He played outside left and I played outside right. He was a very good player. He lived in ‘Digs’ just around the corner from Loftus Road. His nickname was ‘Spit’ – I’ll let you work that one out. We sold him to West Brom for about £17,500, which at the time was a huge amount of money. He tried to get me ‘at it’ and told me how much they were on for a win bonus. I can’t remember the exact amount, but whatever it was I told him that we were on treble that amount. We wasn’t of course, but I think he believed me !
SR: We were doing very well in the league and then we played Leicester City in a League Cup tie at Loftus Road. What are your memories of that game Mark ?
ML: They were the first big 1st Division side that we played and no one gave us a chance against all those great players, such as Gordon Banks and Derek Dougan. I’ll be honest, the support we got at that game was fantastic. There must of been over 20,000 in the Ground. In fact, I think the crowd helped us win. Leicester thought that they were coming to a 3rd Division side and that they would just go through the motions. At half time, we were losing 2-1, but the crowd didn’t half lift us. Les Allen chipped Banks for our second goal and the supporters went ballistic. We knew that we would win then, and we did, and it was a just result. Whenever we played at home, the players knew that the crowd was our 12th man.
SR: I have to ask you about that legendary occasion when you tore your shorts during the Carlisle Cup game !
ML: I had taken off my torn shorts and thrown them in the dugout. Alec Farmer handed me a new pair, but before I could put them on, someone passed me the ball. Instinct took over, so I ran along the wing with the ball and crossed it into the area. I was aware that the supporters thought it was funny, but it was the professional and right thing to do. I never got any comments from any of the players. If I had not carried on, or had stopped to put my shorts on, then believe me, Alec Stock would have had plenty to say about it. Looking back now, I can see the funny side of it, but most professional players would have done exactly the same. I would like to add that we did wear underpants under our shorts, (laughter)
SR: What can you tell us about the away leg of the League Cup Semi-Final at Birmingham ?
ML: We beat them 4-1 on their own Ground and that game gave all of the players a tremendous amount of confidence. We were losing 1-0 at half-time, but we played some lovely football in the 2nd half. The whole team was on song and the support we got from our supporters was incredible. All the forwards scored that night except Keith Sanderson, but that’s because he was working so hard. Keith would run forever. Roger (Morgan) got one, and Rodney, Les (Allen) and myself got the others. Keith deserved one, but he was busy playing deeper, just behind us.
SR: The night before the Cup Final…..
ML: We all stayed at the Winton Hotel, owned by the Winton family. It was a fairly relaxed evening, a few of the boys played cards. Fats Domino also happened to be staying at the hotel, and he sung some songs at the piano for us. We all joined in with ‘Blueberry Hill’. Alec Stock just let us get on with it and as I’ve said previously, I can’t speak highly enough of the man. He was pretty easy going that evening, but that said, no one would dream of taking liberties. In the morning, we boarded the coach to Wembley, and it was a journey that will stay in my mind for ever. There were thousands of people lining the streets and walking towards Wembley. Because of the crowds, the coach went quite slowly and it took us a long time to arrive. We did pass the guys carrying the coffin and we all laughed when we saw that. We heard later that by the time they arrived at Wembley, there were thousands following the coffin. That day it seemed like the whole of West London was out on the streets cheering us on.
SR: So you arrived at the Stadium…..
ML: We went on to the pitch to inspect it and we were all nervous because of the vast crowd and the occasion. Once again, Jimmy Langley came into his own. He was walking around talking to each player individually, calming us down, cracking a few jokes. I think it’s fair to say that most of us were overawed. I remember looking at Alec Stock as he was strutting about on the pitch with his chest pushed out, a proud, proud man. All my family were there in the crowd, only about 56 of them, (laughter). I don’t know where I got all the tickets from, (laughter). Then we went back in the dressing room and Alec told us what he wanted from us.
SR: Were you aware of the crowd as you walked out for the kick-off ?
ML: We shouldn’t of been, but yes we were. Let’s face it, we were 3rd Division footballers and it wasn’t something that happened every day. Les (Allen) had played at Wembley before, and although I can’t speak for him, I think it even got to Les as well. Also West Brom had a great team then. In their Semi-Final, I think they beat West Ham 4-1 in both home and away games. And we knew that our supporters expected us to go out and beat them, (laughter). In the 1st half we looked exactly what we were, a 3rd Division team. I still believe that their second goal was offside. On any other occasion, the whole team would have disputed it, but we just accepted it. That’s how affected we were by the occasion.
SR: So 2-0 down at half –time, what did Alec Stock say in the dressing room ?
ML: He didn’t shout, or rant and rave. He just said that we’d had a chance to soak up the atmosphere, we’d had our day out, and now it was time to go out and play like he knew we could. He never changed tactics or anything. He told us to go back out and enjoy ourselves. Don’t get me wrong, Alec hated losing, but he must have realised that if he tore into us, we would have gone further into our shells. He said it was a beautiful day, so go out and enjoy it. Alec said exactly the right things.
SR: Into the 2nd half…..
ML: We were a different team. We all started looking for the ball more. I was fouled and Les took the free kick. He crossed it and Roger Morgan scored. Now we were really up for it. Mike Keen had a great shot saved. Les took the corner and I hit a volley that was cleared off the line. We were slowly applying more pressure. Then Rodney got the ball in the middle of the park and off he went on a run towards their goal. Rodney says that he was looking for someone so that he could lay it off, but they just opened up so he kept going, shot and scored. From that moment, we knew we would win.
SR: What do you remember about our winning goal ?
ML: Well, Rodney reckons that if it happened today, Ronnie (Hunt) would have been sent off. Ronnie played it to me and I flicked it on with the outside of my foot. It went up in the air with a wicked spin on it. When it bounced, I think the spin meant that the keeper couldn’t keep hold of it. Ronnie carried on running for the ball and collided with their keeper. The ball came back to me and I clipped it into the net. I did start to run towards our supporters, but Les was shouting behind me…..’Mark, you can’t do that here.’ So I stopped, but I did give the crowd a wave.
SR: In your mind’s eye, can you still see yourself scoring that goal ?
ML: Yes I can, clearly, (laughter) I scored better goals before and after that one, but none as important for the club as that goal. Our supporters were singing: ‘We want four, we want four.’ Well, we tried our best to give them another one, (laughter)
SR: What did you do after the match ?
ML: We went back to Harold Winton’s Hotel in Queensway, where there was a celebration for us, our families and friends. It was a very nice evening. There wasn’t an open topped bus parade or anything like that, and we kept the celebrations quite low key as we had a game at home against Bournemouth the following Tuesday night. I remember we had a massive crowd for that game, and we won 4-0.
SR: That song,’ QPR The Greatest’, how did that come about, had you done a bit of singing Mark ?
ML: At that time I was living in Chadwell Heath, and Les Allen lived close by. We would drive home together and sometimes stop at a certain Pub, mainly to socialise and wind down, as I don’t drink. The Compere would often ask me to get up and give them a song. So I would. Someone obviously heard about this, got in touch and asked if I would sing the QPR song, and I accepted. All the proceeds from the song went into the players’ pool and was shared out throughout the team. If any of the players earned anything outside the game, any monies always went into the players’ pool. That way everyone in the team benefited. It was a good and fair way of doing things. I think the song sold about 25,000 copies. It was mainly bought by QPR supporters, (laughter). Anyway, we never reached the heights of the Pop charts.
SR: You scored three hat-tricks for the R’s, the one at Swansea I remember particularly well, I think you even scored one with you head that day ? But you also scored a hat-trick for the Reserves against Luton in what was probably your last ever game in the Hoops. What can you tell us about the circumstances of your final departure from Loftus Road ?
ML: I do remember the game at Luton. I can’t remember if I scored three goals, but I do remember that we gave them a good hiding. As a result of that game, Luton, who were looking for promotion from the 3rd to the 2nd Division, wanted to sign me, but the terms were not agreeable. Then Crystal Palace got in touch, so I went and spoke with their Manager, Bert Head. As a result of that talk, I signed for Palace. I never wanted to leave QPR, but in football money talks so I was sold for £10,000.
SR: What did you do after your football career was over ?
ML: I started off in Transport, then I went into the Removal business.
SR: Finally Mark, would you say a few words for the QPR fans.
ML: I would like to say that I had 17 years of playing professional football, and believe it or not, QPR were both the best club I played for and the best team I played in. The support from the supporters was the best of my career, and it was always appreciated. It was a wonderful, wonderful time. I realise that the team and myself gave the supporters a lot of pleasure, but believe you me, they gave me back all that pleasure and much more besides. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and the memories will stay with me forever. I had a great time at QPR, and that was mainly due to the supporters. So a massive thank you.
Steve Zico and Steve Russell
Mark doesn’t have very much memorabilia, in fact, sadly, not even the Wembley tankard he was presented with, but he did let us use two of his Press photos which have been included above.