Team: Springett, Brady (P), Angell, Gibbs, Brady (R), Keen. Lazarus, Leary, Bedford, Graham, McQuade.
Most people of a certain age can recall where they were and what they were doing when USA President John F Kennedy was shot down and killed on the 22nd November 1963. I must admit that I can’t really confirm my whereabouts and activities at the time the news broke (although I reckon I was probably playing table tennis at the Sulgrave Boys Club in the Goldhawk Road, Shepherd’s Bush) but I certainly remember my location the day AFTER that tragic event i.e. Saturday 23rd November 1963.
I was watching the R’s Division 3 league match at Kenilworth Road against Luton Town which resulted in a 4-4 draw. As Spock from Star Trek might have said; ‘It was football Jim, but not as we know it’.
In view of the fact that it was a local away fixture, I made the effort to attend otherwise I would have given it a miss. Believe me folks during that 1963/64 season you would have needed to have been a real brave soul and die hard R’s supporter to travel long distance to watch Queen’s Park Rangers.
Quite simply the Division 3 Rangers team of that campaign can only be described as mediocre at best. There was never a hope in hell of any sort of promotion challenge. Indeed for periods during the season we were looking over our shoulders at the possibility of relegation.
We did have goal ace Brian Bedford, elder statesman and centre forward Stuart Leary, John Collins, Mike Keen, Mark Lazarus and Andy Malcolm, but sadly the rest of the squad were lacking in quality. Every player gave their best of course, but alas you can’t make a silk purse out of a Sow’s ear.
When the players and match officials came out on to the pitch that day, they were all wearing black armbands and before kick-off a two minute silence was observed as the whole ground paid their respects to the dead President.
Shortly after the game commenced I felt like putting on my own black armband because there was an avalanche of Luton goals as Rangers went 4-1 behind and heading for an emphatic defeat. There seemed no chance of any salvation, but as Jimmy Greaves once remarked; ‘football is a funny old game’ and unbelievably the circumstances of the match changed.
By some miracle in the latter stages Rangers rose from the dead. In the end goals from Stuart Leary and those very unlikely lads Malcolm Graham and Terry McQuade rescued a point when at one time all appeared to be lost. Cue celebrations from the three hundred or so R’s contingent inside the ground. Hooray! On this occasion something to cheer about.
On the Sunday of that particular weekend 50 years ago, I was left pondering about two dramatic events, one political and the other sporting. Obviously it needs no spelling out which had the most significant effect on world affairs.
Bernard Lambert (Kerrins)
In the Coventry City programme the following week, the ‘Club Notes by Ranger’ referred to the match at Luton:
‘Last Saturday at Luton, we were really up against it being two goals down inside three minutes and three down after 19 minutes. Then skipper Stuart Leary showed the way with a goal before the interval.
Luton widened the gap to three with a goal soon after the change round but Stuart banged in his second to spark a great fighting rally during which Malcolm Graham and Terry McQuade netted to give us point’.
(Our thanks to Gordon Macey for his assistance with this article)