Back in 1967, I was going through the turnstiles at the Loft End and saw Ron Phillips standing by the wall. He then waved to me and I pointed to myself. That’s how I came to be the 250,000th spectator as reported in the Shepherds Bush Gazette:-
‘Colin Vine had a pleasant surprise waiting for him when he passed through the Queen’s Park Rangers turnstile on Saturday for their match with Portsmouth. Waiting inside the ground was Rangers’ Secretary, Ron Phillips, who welcomed Colin as the 250,000th spectator of the season. He was given a seat in the Director’s Box for the afternoon, a season ticket for the rest of the season, a ball autographed by the two teams and a certificate to commemorate the occasion. Colin, a 24-year-old heating engineer, of 73 Devonport Road, Shepherds Bush, has been a Rangers supporter all his life and picks the League Cup Final last season as the greatest game he ever saw them play. Although he watches Rangers on Saturdays, Colin is a regular player with Sepia F.C. every Sunday.’
In 1974, I had a boozy session with Michael Wale in a country pub in West Berkshire and I told him the story. He took my telephone number and to my surprise, he rang to tell me what he had written for the Derby programme:-
Michael Wale’s Rangers Report – Our 250,000 Supporter – Colin Vine
‘I’ve never met many QPR fans on my wanderings, this is no reflection upon our club but just the fact, I think, that it is very much a local affair based upon years in the Third Division. So it was a surprise the other night when I was having a drink deep in Racing country at East Garston, near Newbury, that I should meet the man who was named all those years ago officially to be Rangers 250,000th supporter. He is Colin Vine and for 20 years he lived in Shepherds Bush before moving out of London. He is now a successful young executive with his own heating and air conditioning Company, but more to the point, he is an even stauncher Rangers supporter and this season for the first time, bought a season ticket in the Ellerslie Road Stand and motors a round 100 mile trip to each home game. And what is more, Colin spreads the word about the Rangers across the countryside.
We met in a very pleasant pub called ‘The Queens Arms’ run by another exile Londoner, Bill Hill, who it must be admitted, is still a keen Brentford supporter, but often Colin and Bill are to be heard discussing the past of their teams (if I was a Brentford supporter I suppose I would live in the past). Colin still thinks it’s a blessing the Rangers never completed that proposed move across West London to Griffin Park. And Bill is agreed upon that too. So they must have something in common.
Colin first started coming to Rangers when he was 11-years-old: “I can’t quite remember the first game I saw, but I think it was a Reserve match, there were no goals and Conway Smith used to take the penalties. I used to stand in the Boys Pen at the Loftus Road End and I used to go with a crowd from school. I lived in Devonport Road. Over the years I went to most home games, but seldom went away because of work. But I did go to that League Cup game up at Birmingham the year we won the Cup.” Remembering the fervour of those years, I asked Colin the question that has often been posed this season. Why don’t Rangers get bigger gates ? “I think it’s because Shepherds Bush has changed as an area. People who grew up there have moved away. In my boyhood days it was very much a local side.”
The occasion of Colin being picked out of the crowd as Rangers quarter of a million man, came before the game against Portsmouth in our previous First Division promotion season. “I remember going through the turnstiles at the Loftus Road End and the Secretary Ron Phillips picking me out and taking me to the Director’s Box.” What happened next might reassure a lot of those who still follow the R’s from the terraces.
Colin explains: “To tell you the truth I didn’t like the view from the Director’s Box because in those days there was a pillar or two in the way. It was in the old Ellerslie Road Stand and so after a drink at half-time in the Directors room, I slipped back to the terraces and watched the rest of the match from there. Then afterwards, I went back to the Director’s room and met some of the players and officials. I remember especially meeting Bill Dodgin and being very impressed by him. What it brought home to me seeing the other side of a football club, was that as far as I was concerned being a Rangers fan was about being a fanatic, but to the people on the other side it was a business because they earned their living from it. I think it was a very good idea meeting them and chatting.”
Following on his decision to move back to the terraces from the seated comfort of the Director’s Box that day, I wondered what Colin’s views were now of the terraces versus seats controversy. Many people like myself, would be delighted to see Rangers build the first all-seater stadium in soccer. Many others would disagree. Colin says: “Basically, I’ve switched to being a season ticket holder so that I didn’t have too much trouble in getting in. The last few times when we were on the way up last year, it was murder. I used to enjoy it on the terraces because you get all types there. Some of the rougher ones are very witty. I think this seating business is good for all clubs because they can take a higher return on each match financially. I often hear people saying: ‘How can you afford a season ticket ?’ Well I pay £35.00 a season and when you think that some people are going to pay £2.00 a match all the season, you’ll see it’s a good investment and doesn’t work out at so much.”
And what are Colin’s views on the present Rangers side ? “This is without doubt the best team they have ever had. The football is of a higher quality but the excitement is as high as when we were in the Third Division. I think the best game this season and probably the best football Rangers have played, was against Manchester United. But there have been so many good games that it would be easier for me to single out a bad game.” Colin’s ambitions for the club at the moment, is to see them in Europe. I still live in Shepherds Bush and I would feel immensely proud for our local team to be competing with the big name European clubs. After all, to me and many others, it still is very much a local club, far more than Arsenal or Spurs, or even Chelsea.
Shepherds Bush has a character and style of its own. As Colin says, “I remember when the Who used to play in the Bush, they were called the High Numbers in those days.” So Rangers have become another local success story. I think the only clubs that have this intense local feeling nowadays are West Ham and Brentford. Colin is still proud he was raised in the Bush and when I asked him bluntly why he spent many Saturdays driving that 100-mile round journey back to his old home he said: “I couldn’t imagine going to Swindon.” !!!’
(At the time Michael Wale presented ‘Rockspeak’, a music and chat show on Radio One, ten till midnight every Friday)