The 1968-69 Season – First Account

After the excitement of the 1966-67 and 1967-68 seasons, we had high expectations for our first season in the old First Division. After all, we had swept through the old Third Division and despite a nail biting finish, we had acquitted ourselves well in the old Second Division and we were on the crest of a wave. With what followed, the season, other than one or two games, seemed to be faint in the memory (for obvious reasons) and it also was a season in which I moved away from my beloved Shepherd’s Bush to Essex and away from my trusty band of away supporter friends.

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Our first game of that season was Leicester City at home on the 10th August. There was a bumper crowd of 21,494 which included myself and Kerrins. The 1-1 draw did not diminish our optimism for a repeat of the previous two seasons. We were soon to be given a reality check as we then lost the next two away games and with two draws in consecutive home games, we had just three points from five matches which was hardly an electrifying start. When we lost the next four games, including a 4-0 home defeat to Chelsea, our world collapsed. We were mortal ! The end of September and the beginning of October saw a brief change in fortunes with a couple of wins following two draws, but that was very much the end of any hope of staying in the Division.

For the second season running, a certain Rodney Marsh missed the opening games due to a pre-season injury. He did not appear until the nineteenth game on the 10th November at Everton, but it did little to change things and we lost 0-4. Although we did win the following home game against Nottingham Forest on 23rd November with Rodney scoring, this proved to be a false dawn and we had to wait until the 12th April before we secured another win which was 2-1 against Stoke So we could not blame the loss of Rodney as we had at least won as many games without him ! Perhaps the ultimate nail in the coffin was the 8-1 defeat at Manchester United. I think I had to endure listening to that on the radio !

We finished rock bottom, some 12 points adrift of Leicester City and we had amassed 18 points from the 42 games which I think was a record low at the time. Crowd levels were good all season despite our league position with the largest home gate being 31,138 against Manchester United. You certainly knew you had been to a match when the crowd was at that level ! Finally, some weeks into the season, the South Africa Road Stand was opened and the Ground as we know it today, began to take shape. Somewhat of a contrast with the old main Stand on Ellerslie Road ! There were two record transfers that season. Our record signing to date was Barry Bridges for £55,000 and a record sale when Roger Morgan was transferred to Spurs for £110,000.

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For those of us who endured that season, it was an experience we did not feel would happen after the previous two successful seasons and we found it hard to take. From memory, the crowd remained very much behind the team that had given so much. In the latter stages of the season, Gerry Francis made his debut and players such as Ian Gillard began to feature and we had glimpses of what would follow after our relegation. Certain players had reached their level or were just too old and with little change in the squad from the previous season, we should have realised that we would struggle. In addition, the one man who had made it all possible, Alec Stock, succumbed to internal club pressures and illness and left the club in 1968. We had four different Managers in that year…sounds familiar….and with no continuity from the previous season, the master plan fell apart.

Don’t forget that all this was before big TV money and much had been spent on the construction of the South Africa Road Stand. It was a sobering experience for us all but what followed after a few years was well worth waiting for ! The following is an extract from the Bush Telegraph comment section in the Home Match Magazine against Liverpool on the 29th March:-

‘The saddest and most disappointing season in Rangers history is drawing to its close and we must finally face the fact that our stay in the first division is to be a brief one. Everyone can advance his own opinion of why this has happened and there is little point now in listing a string of excuses. Certainly luck has never been with us at any time throughout the entire season but it is considered bad form to blame lack of success on ill luck. The team has fought bravely and well against all the big guns of the Football League and although often defeated, has rarely been overwhelmed, indeed of the 37 league matches played to date, 20 have been lost or drawn by the odd goal (i.e. an extra goal in each of these 20 matches would have given us 20 more points) Perhaps after all is said and done, the experts were right and the gap between the First and Second Divisions is greater than one thinks….One thing cheers us during this dark period until the good times come again, is the large number of supporters who are writing in to encourage and sympathise with us and to assure us of their support no matter what division of the League we play in. To all these we say a very sincere “Thank you” – it’s good to have you with us.’

I think that sums up the season, and, our supporters.

Colin Woodley

11 thoughts on “The 1968-69 Season – First Account

  1. If we’d bought Venables a year earlier; if we hadn’t lost Marsh pre-season, missed half the season; if we’d had a decent goalie – instead of playing a 1/3 season each for Springett, Kelly and Spratley. And if we’d appointed a manager (or not axed Stock), And if we’d had a bit more luck in numerous games….

    But definitely not a season that will be forgotten by any QPR fan who experienced it

  2. Yes QPR it was a strange wasted season for us all and it contrasted very much with the seasons that followed. It was almost as if we did not want to stay in the division with poor signings/team selection and a lack of stability in the managerial department. Every game became a Cup Final and the strain showed.

  3. Thanks Colin that was a very interesting and detailed read.

    Y’know despite everything I still say we deserved better reward than a lousy total of 18 points…In some games we were just plain unlucky!

    Its strange how through the mists of time the mind can sometimes play slight tricks on the memory..(Thankfully as far as QPR are concerned not very often)…I had always thought Rodney was absent until Dec/Jan nearly a six month lay off…Steve Russell will have to edit my personal account! lol

    One of the two fixtures I missed was the 8-1 thrashing at Man Utd away… If I recall correctly this was a re arranged match played midweek following the postponed game originally scheduled at Christmas.Thats fate for you

    Sigh.. no luck in the FA Cup either..We lost at second Division Villa 2-1 after leading 1-0…and even in the League Cup I think P’Boro beat us 4-2?

  4. Another interesting read, and I remember my dad being at a real low after all the expectations. They were early days for me… but never forgotten.

  5. But I do remember we smashed Arbroath 6-3 in a friendly. Always had a soft spot for Arbroath after that. And we seriously were robbed of a number of games. (At least Stoke subsequently took away our lowest number of points record)

  6. Thank you Colin, What a recall you have, A great read and shows that Rangers have always been a real club with real fans.
    69 was also my birth year so i guess it was all my fault!

  7. Just looked up Gordon Macey stats. for 67/8 which showed Rodney returned from injury the same time as 68/9.
    Nov 18th in 67/8 and Nov 16th in 69/9. Scored 14 goals in our second division promotion year but only 4 in the First Division. Incidentally he got the only goal in the Man Utd away game.

  8. Colin… certainly a memory lapse on my part regarding the return of Rodney 68/69…Maybe his absence just SEEMED longer.

    I have requested Steve Russell to amend my own personal account before I am taken away to be hung by the neck until Dead in punishment for this crime against QPR history!

    QPR REPORT..I recall that friendly game against Arbroath(6-3)..It was only the second time in my life that I sat in that old wooden Ellerslie Rd stand..the previous occassion was against Millwall(won 3-0) circa Sept 57.

    Finney..Yeah I reckon (like most things) it was your fault…but we forgive you! lol

  9. Bernie..Ithink those Mint Juleps are obviously taking their toll!!
    I would love to be transported back to the old Ellerslie Road stand days just to experience again the atmosphere (and rust shower) for the big games in 66/7/8. I think I had a couple of games in it as well.
    Mind you it was one hell of a fire risk!

  10. I remember that friendly against Arbroath and what a welcome victory that was.
    Marsh got 3 of them, Clarke 2 and Leach.
    I didn’t go to the re-arranged match against ManU but told that Rodney’s goal was the best of the night !

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