We received the very sad news in December that Jim Langley had died. I remember him as a great character, a gentleman and a QPR legend. The sliding tackles, those almighty throws and the spectacular bicycle kicks. The overlapping full back who always seemed to have a smile on his face. I couldn’t attend the funeral at Breakspear Crematorium in Ruislip on 21st December but JohnQPRHayes did and represented the Independent R’s. I would like to thank him once again for organising the flowers which also included a moving poem that he had written and is shown below. I was going to write something in December but decided instead to wait and contact his son, Peter Langley. He very kindly wrote the following fascinating article for our Website and he also forwarded the wonderful pic of his Dad on the Loftus Road pitch. Many thanks once again to Peter for doing that and we send our best wishes to him and his family.
Jim, God Bless and thanks.
It seems that he was always destined to play for QPR at some stage. He was born in Kilburn and spent the first couple of years of his life there before moving to West Drayton. His father was a Fishmonger with a passion for greyhounds which he trained and raced. I assume, but I don’t know for sure that he raced them at White City. This could explain his first connection to QPR and I say his connection because it was he who was pushing for dad to play for QPR. Dad went to school in West Drayton, Evelyns Secondary Modern (a school later attended by Frank Sibley) I don’t think he achieved much academically but his Sports Master wrote in his 1943 school report’That he was an extremely talented footballer.’
In December 1944, Dave Mangnall the then QPR Manager wrote to dad.
I would like you to play with our reserve team on Saturday 30th December,
on this ground, kick off 3pm. We are playing West Ham Res, and from what I
hear about you, I think you ought to come here and lets have a look at you,
and see if you are ready for this class of football.
Would you try to phone me today (Friday) about 12 noon, or let me know
somehow if you can play.
Unfortunately, dad never made the grade. I think the fact that he was only 5′ 2″ and about 9 stone put them off. That said, he was invited back again in December 1947 for a further trial. On this occasion the letter was penned by Alf Ridyard
Rather a surprise to be hearing from me, I suppose, hoping you are
Keeping fit and have managed to put a few inches on since I saw you last.
My reason for writing to you is that I have had a line from your dad last week
asking if we would give you a trial, as he understands you are playing very
well at left half these days. We are sending a reserve team to play at Slough
Social Centre on Saturday 6th December and wondered if you would be able
to play for us. We are sending a fairly useful team and you would have a good
chance to shine as the opposition won’t be too great. If you can play will you
phone me at Shepherd’s Bush 2618.
I don’t think that he would had put enough inches or weight on and the chance had been lost, or at least for the next 18 years. His career took an alternative route and I’m sure with the benefit of hindsight, QPR wished they had signed him. But, if they had, would he still have been playing for them at Wembley in 1967. Who knows ? For dad, it was the right move. He eventually signed for Guildford City and then moved to Leeds. He enjoyed his football at Leeds but did not enjoy being in the north of England so when his Manager at Guildford (Billy Lane) moved to Brighton and then offered him a move there, he jumped at the chance. It was at Brighton that he won the first of his representative honours and his England B caps.
He then signed for Fulham which is where he spent the majority of his playing career and where he made a name for himself, winning three England caps. A travesty for a player who brought to the game the attacking full back and the art of overlapping, not to mention sliding tackles, overhead kicks and the long throws. One has to say that he was ahead of his time. As over the following years, the overlapping full back was to have an immense impact on the game. His time at Fulham was undoubtedly the happiest of his playing career. I remember Fulham as a fantastic family Club. But like all good things, it had to end. Times at Fulham were changing. New faces were brought in, the atmosphere was different, it was time to go.
I am aware that Fulham were approached by a couple of Clubs sounding out the chances of him becoming their Player Manager. I know that one of them was from the north of England which is presumably why he declined the offer. As for the other, I think that he felt that he still had a lot to offer as a player and did not want to go into management at that particular time. QPR made an enquiry which for dad was the chance to fulfil what started as a schoolboy dream. An offer not to be missed, and so he signed for QPR. He signed a one year contract, with the option of a further year. When he took up the option of the second year, there was a further option to stay the following Season.
Jim Gregory as the Chairman and Alec Stock as the Manager, were a combination reminiscent of his earlier days at Fulham. Both were true Gentlemen, had a passion for the game and showed respect to the players. They in turn rewarded the Club with its greatest achievements. Alec Stock had put together a team of players young and old. Some up and coming stars and some characters who had had their day and were intent on enjoying their twilight years. The family atmosphere which was such a part of his playing days at Fulham was evolving at QPR. There was belief in themselves and their ability to perform as a team. You don’t need me to tell you the rest.
I was only 12 when dad played at Wembley in 1967. The enormity of the achievement was probably beyond me at that time. I knew who the players were but I knew nothing about them. It is only in recent years when I have had the opportunity to meet and spend some time with the players that you become aware of what they had back in 1967. It is amazing that after 40 years, the warmth and affection that they had for each other is still going strong. Dad wasn’t superstitious, more obsessive compulsive disorder. As a supporter, you will know that the first thing he did when he went onto the pitch was to kick the upright with both feet. I think it gave him the reassurance that he hadn’t forgotten to put his boots on. He would always have a cup of tea in the dressing room before the game and at half time. He tells a story, where on one visit to Liverpool, he was visited in the dressing room before the game by Bill Shankly, who handed him a cup of tea and wished him luck. How times have changed ! Maybe his worst habit of all was that he loved his cigarettes. Not a good advert for the present day footballer, but at half time he would always light up a fag. Not in the presence of the Manager though. He would sit and listen for a couple of minutes and then he would adjourn to the Mens lavatory, cup of tea in hand and he would then light up a fagWembley included !
When dad left QPR, he went to Hillingdon Borough as Player Manager. Alec Stock left QPR and went to Luton. I think it was 1972 ? Hillingdon met Luton in the 2nd Round of the FA Cup and to be played at Hillingdon. On the day, Alec said to dad: “If you beat us, I’ll eat my hat.” (Some of you will remember the famous dark blue trilby hat that he always wore) Hillingdon beat Luton 2-1. Rather than have Alec eat his hat, dad claimed it. Another scalp claimed during an illustrious career and there were still more Wembley honours to come
Dad was a true sportsman, not only in the way that he played the various sports, but in the amount of sporting activities that he took part in. He probably has more trophies for sport outside of football than he has for football. He has always played to win. He was an exceptional darts player with numerous trophies. He has trophies for ten pin bowling, cricket and golf. He played table tennis, bowls, you name it, he played it. The love of his life as with many a footballer, was playing cards. Talking of cards, his lifetime hobby has been collecting cigarette cards. I have numerous press articles written about him and his collection which I now have. For many years, right up to the present day, supporters who have been aware of his hobby, have sent cigarette cards to him through the post. They have arrived as individual cards or complete sets. Needless to say, the collection is massive and still growing.
It is very difficult to condense what could be a book into three or four pages. The above does not really give you an insight into the man, whose reputation as ‘Gentleman Jim’ on the field of play, does not adequately reflect the amount of charity work that he did or the generosity that he showed to the supporters. A point supported by the many messages of condolences received since his passing.