Rodney’s Return

In this modern day and age it would have probably been called a damaged metatarsal but way back then in the 67/68 Season, medical jargon was more primitive and it was merely known as a broken foot. The midweek Reserve team fixture against Southend United at Roots Hall on the 8th November 1967 was to be one of the tests to see if QPR goal scoring genius Rodney Marsh had fully recovered from this injury which had kept him out of 1st Team football since the start of the Season. Although judging by the R’s results and position in the Division 2 league table (second place at the time) some less informed pundits could have been excused for thinking that he HAD been playing 1st Team football for QPR FC right from the August kick-off.

I was working at the time for a firm of Insurance Brokers in the City of London so immediately after work had finished for the day, I took the short walk to Fenchurch Street Station to catch the Southend trainyes football supporters in that era sometimes did turn up wearing a suit, collar and tie ! (None of that replica shirt nonsense then) On the train I met up with some friends from the Bush also ‘suitably’ dressed for the occasion I hasten to add ! There was a very large crowd at Roots Hall that evening. I believe it was over 3,000 and nearly half were R’s fans. The Official Supporters Club ran a dozen coaches from the Ground. Daphne Biggs and co. couldn’t sell the travel tickets fast enough ! It was amazing considering it was a midweek away Reserve Team fixture ! Yes folks, such was the pulling power of Rodney Marsh, supreme QPR icon.

To be quite honest, nothing much happened in the game for the first 85 minutes. Rangers did field a fairly strong team including Kelly, Glover and Watson but the football was non-descript. There was of course the chanting of ‘Rod-nee’ each time he touched the ball and the bizarre sight of the entire mass of Rangers fans from behind one goal walking round to the opposite end at half time where the R’s would be attacking. Then in the 86th minute cometh the man cometh the hour ! Rangers pressed forward in that famous Wembley all-white strip. The ball bounced kindly for Rodney just inside the boxhe turned and hit a thunderous shot into the top corner of the net. Yes you have guessed ithysterialoud chants of ‘Rod-nee’ and a pitch invasion by some of the more excited fans. All hail the hero !

Rodney Marsh returned to 1st Team football at Loftus Road ten days later against Middlesboro’ and scored in the 1-1 draw. As the history books show, the R’s together with that old ‘Marsh Magic’ went on to clinch promotion to the top flight for the first time in their history at the Villa Park Finalebut that’s another story. As a ‘footnote’, the following pre-Season of 1968/69, Rodney suffered a similar injury. This time he was sidelined until January. Who said lightning never strikes twice ?

Bernard Lambert (Kerrins)

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The programme cover is shown above and inside the Rangers theme continues as the editorial headline proclaims in large bold letters, ‘Rodney Marsh Back In Action’. The Southend Manager was the ex-Rangers player Ernie Shepherd and he wrote, “We hope Rodney comes through his test alright and will soon be back in the First Team. I am sure our team, which includes several experienced senior players, will give him a fair but tough reception. I will long remember Rodney’s display in the League Cup Final at Wembley last Season when he showed me that he has a tremendous amount of individual natural ability.”

In his book, ‘Shooting To The Top’, Marsh writes in detail about the match.

“It was a Reserve Game with a difference. Rangers fans proved what great folk they are by turning out in force. A dozen coaches were hired, others went across to the east coast by car and rail and all told, more than a 1,000 made the trip from West London. I find it impossible to say how much I appreciated their support. They were magnificent. A crowd of 3,092 eventually pushed their way through the turnstiles – Southend’s best Reserve gate, apparently for five years. It would be untrue to say I was anxious about my foot, my condition and my form. I was scared stiff ! I had not played for eight months and I just did not know what to expect from myself. I felt well generally, but as soon as the game started, I realised how much I was out of touch. My timing was wrong. I lacked sharpness. I was misjudging angles in giving and taking passes. I was invariably arriving too late or too early for crosses. In short, there was more wrong than right with my game.”

I remember being amazed that there was a mention of the game in whatever newspaper that dropped on the mat the following morning. Going back to that book, Rodney then describes the build-up to the goal. “Late in the match, however, I had the break I needed. Mick Kelly, our goalkeeper, threw a long ball up the centre and it bounced once as Southend’s centre-half and myself went up for the ball. The centre half slipped and as I turned with the ball, I found myself with a clear run with only their left-back, retreating fast, between me and the Southend goal. I took the ball on a bit, saw enough of the goal to justify a shot and swung my foot and as I swung, the ball hit something and bounced. It meant that I hit the ball on the volley and it hummed into the net – a full blooded drive on the run. It was one of the hardest shots and sweetest goals of my life.”

There was also a mention of the amazing scenes that followed in that short newspaper article and Rodney also wrote about them. “What happened then was out of this world. The Rangers supporters there swarmed on to the pitch waving banners and rattles and even a Union Jack or two and began dancing and shouting as if we’d won the F.A. Cup itself. They beat me on the back until I became scared they were going to put me out for the rest of the Season. Police were eventually needed to restore law and order. What a leg-up to my confidence it all was. It did me a power of good.”

The programme listed the Rangers team as follows:-

Kelly, Watson, Finch, Moughton, Hunt, McGovern, Glover, Leach, Fox, Marsh and Turpie but Marsh writes in his book that Roger Morgan and Mark Lazarus were included to give him support and provide a service that would really test his condition. He also mentions that Southend included five First Teamers that night.

Steve Russell

(My copy of the book is the Sportsmans Book Club edition from 1969. It was originally published in 1968 by Stanley Paul)

15 thoughts on “Rodney’s Return

  1. I never went to that game, but wish I had.
    A great read chaps.
    I know a lot of our supporters have (non-playing) issues with Rodney and tht’s fair enough.
    Purely on playing ability, he is the finest QPR player that I have ever seen……It was like watching a master Magician.

    I watch good, but ordinary footballers playing for our country, and I’m told that I’m watching world class players……(and we wonder why we never win anything)

    Rodney was a world class player, from the Third Division all the way up to the First Division.
    He was born 40 years to early.
    What would his worth be if he was playing today?
    However, even with our new found wealth I doubt we would be able to afford more than one of his leg’s.

    The Rodney, Stan debate will as ever roll on.
    As time passes I suppose more and more will favour Stan, as fewer and fewer will be around who saw Rodney play.

    It’s all about opinions and I was lucky enough to see them both play for us.

    Stan’s the Man…..
    But Rod is God.


    Always Queens Park Rangers

  2. Another fascinating article, thanks.Along with the game at Villa Park six months later, this is another match that has gone down in QPR folklore.But not many people know about it as it was an away reserve game.I’ve spoken to loads of fans who were there and it seems amazing in this day and age. Having been to many a reserve game myself over the past 25 years, the biggest away support I can recall was at Brighton on Good Friday about 13 years ago when about 20 of us travelled down there.But then we were going to witness Brian Crofts last ever game in hoops.Thankfully.

  3. Steve / Kerrins,

    Fantastic read.

    I am sat here ready to read again ‘shooting to the top’.

    Every time I look thru that book it really brings back what a great little club we were and will be again.



  4. great read. i was very young when rodney played for us but still admired his talents later on as my brother is a man city fan.

  5. Another brilliant read about a true talent who graced the number 10 shirt. He was magical. As a young fella I had heard about him long before I saw him play and wondered what all the fuss was about, then I saw him play and he lit the place up……. nuff said.

    The Stan/Rodney debate will carry on. Fact is they are both Legends who made the number 10 shirt so special at this great club of ours.

    Thanks to Kerrins and Steve…. keep em coming!

  6. Great article. I remember going to a home reserve match at the same time, where the programme was a bit better than the stadard typed A4 sheet you used to get for reserve games. This was a glossy fold out, on the front of which was a photo of Rodney Marsh crouching facing away from the camera, shirt hanging out and sticking up. The caption underneath read “Rodney’s Back”. I can’t remember anything else about the game, not even the opponents.

    Another lesser known memory of Marsh is the game they used to play the day before the FA Cup final, The Football League against the Scottish League. In 1967 it was at Highbury, and guess who set that part of North London alight that may evening?

  7. Colin.

    I’m sure the match you refer to was also another “comeback” match in Nov 67…It was a midweek home reserve fixture against Bristol Rovers (Won 3-1?)..I understand that there were over 4,500 there…but I was not one of them that night and I will forever hang my head in shame for not attending the game! lol

  8. Colin…Wasn’t that game the England U21’s/U23’S against the senior side ? It was shown on tv and Rodney scored an amazing goal that night

  9. Colin…Steve

    If ever there was a time for some Alan Barnes or Vic Gibbons input this is it lol

    I’m pretty certain I have got it mostly right about that Rodney “comeback” reserve home fixture at LR in Nov 1967..sadly the other game in May 1967 has faded from my memory

  10. happy days at rangers when we kings of football, rodney still remains my all time favourite player ….oh and the days of changing halfs by the fans…remember that to…great article….ROOOOODDDDDNNNNEEEEEEE

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