William Keech

He was born in Irthlingborough, Northamptonshire, in either 1872 or 1876 ? William Keech was signed from Leicester Fosse in August 1899 and made his debut for the Rangers in September against Tottenham. By all accounts he was quite a character and a very good athlete winning three handicaps and numerous boxing titles. His brother Ben, played for the Reserves.

The story goes that when the team was in Leicester, the proprietors of Sanger’s Circus issued a challenge on behalf of their star, ‘Elephant Footballer.’ Keech was one of four players to accept. The conditions were that they and the elephant should take four penalty kicks each using a ball about six times the normal size. When Keech faced the beast, who was eyeing him very closely, he made out that he was going to place his shot in one corner and as the elephant raised the wrong foot, Keech scored in the opposite corner. He went on to repeat this trick successfully but when Keech took his turn in goal, the elephant copied the same trick and scored twice in the same fashion. This resulted in a replay and Keech once again deceived the elephant with the same tactic and won the competition by three goals to two. He was awarded the cup that was offered as a prize and legend has it that the elephant was never defeated ever again.

Keech was transferred to Brentford in 1902 after making 69 appearances and scoring six goals. He later returned to the Club as a member of the training staff and the 1914/15 team photo depicts him as a Trainer. In Tony Williamson’s book on the history of the R’s, he says that he became a Billiards Marker on his retirement from football. The book shows an interesting pub advert with a picture of Keech and states that he was, ‘Late of Queen’s Park Rangers’ and the marker in the fine billiard Saloon. It also describes itself as the, ‘Queen’s Park Rangers Headquarters’ and that results both home and away would be posted up in the Saloon Bar. That pub in the Harrow Road was called, ‘The Elephant and Castle’

Steve Russell