Scotsman George Whitelaw’s spell at Loftus Road was quite short lived. He played a total of 26 First Team games for the R’s from the date of his arrival from Sunderland in March 1959, up to his transfer a few months later to Halifax Town, scoring ten goals along the way. This however is only a basic statistic, there is far more to it than that.
In the grand scheme of QPR FC history, burly George Whitelaw would probably be considered as merely a very brief footnote but his stay at the club was certainly not uneventful and his somewhat eccentric on-field persona coupled together with a fearsome physical style at centre forward left a lasting impression on the majority of supporters who saw him perform. I am not certain exactly what horror effect he had on the opposition but he sure as hell scared the life out of me…and here’s the unique part, WE the supporters helped pay his transfer fee when he was purchased from Sunderland as the following Editorial comment from the QPR v Bradford City programme, dated 16th March 1959 confirms:-
‘As our supporters will have heard, a large sum of money has been paid to Sunderland for George Whitelaw, who will add much needed thrust to our forward line. Our very grateful thanks are due to the Committee of the Supporters’ Club for the loan of £2,000 which greatly influenced the club when making this important signing. Without their help this valuable signing would not have been possible. We are not in a position to spend money unwisely, but this capital expenditure was considered necessary in the interest of the club. Here’s hoping that good results will materialise and that you will all show your appreciation by giving maximum support during the remaining games of the 1958-59 season.’
It’s nice to know that my Junior Supporters Club Membership fee of one shilling and three pence was put to good use. Yes, George was worth the money. He provided the vital spark with goals and assists which steered us away from the relegation zone during the 1958-59 campaign. Immediately prior to his arrival we were fifth from bottom of Division 3 and the way results were going there was a real danger of dropping into Division 4. Perish the thought !
George was an instant success on his debut, although it was obvious he was not the most sophisticated or skilful footballer ever to wear a QPR FC number nine shirt, he really set the place alight running around like a raging bull creating havoc in the Bradford defence as the R’s gained a vital 3-0 victory and to cap a tremendous all-round display, he also scored. This was of course the era of the shoulder charge on goalkeepers and George Whitelaw had the physique and relish to undertake the task. There was a joke circulating at the time stating that whenever George was in the team the opposing keeper ended up in the back of the net more times than the ball did ! It was not without good reason that he earned the nicknames of ‘Garth’ or ‘Cheyenne’ from a section of the R’s faithful. Look, I’m sorry you younger folks reading this article, you will have to go away and look up your 1950’s newspaper and TV history to comprehend this connection.
The start of the following season, 1959/60, saw George Whitelaw, Arthur Longbottom and Brian Bedford earmarked as our main goalscorers. George scored one or two goals in the very early fixtures but under the new regime of Alec Stock, Brian and Arthur got priority so George was subsequently dropped to mainly Reserve team football until his departure to Halifax Town. Was this a blunder by Alec ? Was George off the boil ? Would a long term strike partnership of Bedford and Whitelaw have been a success ? Alas we will never know the answers, but it is worth mentioning that his goalscoring ratio at his other English lower league clubs, Halifax, Carlisle and Stockport stands up fairly well and when playing for St. Johnstone in 1957/58, his record has been described in some quarters as prolific.
Various R’s fans have indicated to me that George was a much different kind of person off the field of play. He was less aggressive and furthermore I also understand that he tended to be more religious than most of his team mates. Nevertheless, if it came down to a punch-up you would definitely want George Whitelaw in his prime on your side.
Bernard Lambert (Kerrins)
Aged 22, George was signed by Manager Jack Taylor in March 1959. Previously with St.Johnstone, he arrived from Sunderland and made his debut at home to Bradford City on Monday 16th March. He made an immediate impact with a goal after just 2 minutes when he challenged City’s goalkeeper and bundled the ball home. Unusual in appearance, he sported a fringe style haircut and ran with a slightly hunched style with his elbows away from his body. Because of this he was very distinctive and no doubt City’s goalie must have found him to be a formidable figure. Added to this he showed that he was a decent footballer as well and he soon found favour with Rangers fans.
Regrettably, his stay with the R’s was short lived. After finishing the previous season with five goals in eleven appearances, it was hoped that he would start the new season with a bang. For whatever reason it was not to be and under new Manager Alec Stock, he seemed to stagnate. His final First Team appearance was the home game against Brentford (lost 4-2) and his last appearance for the Reserves was on 21st November against Colchester. Sometime after that he was transferred. Always popular with the fans, he was a character and his playing style was unique. Quite why the Rangers let him go was never disclosed, however to this day those of us fortunate to have seen him remember him fondly.