This article appeared in the popular football weekly, ‘Soccer Star’ on 14th July 1967. It was written by Tom Jagger and was the eighth in the series, ‘Great Managers of Today’ and featured the legendary Alec Stock:
‘There was quite a flutter backstage of the soccer scene when it was known that Queen’s Park Rangers wanted to buy Alex Elder. It was recognised that Burnley would not let their Irish international full-back go for peanuts. And the Turf Moor folk quickly confirmed that by asking for something around ¬£50,000. Yet QPR hung on, obviously ready to negotiate at a big figure, which went to show once more that they now have the cash and are not afraid to spend it. In fact, they’ve matured. Nobody could doubt that, anyway, after they had conceived the remarkable idea of swapping the goalkeeping Springett brothers.
Yes, that’s all evidence of drive, imagination and decision, and I reckon it is a continuing tribute to the man who is always scheming their future – Alec Stock. Here’s a man who has had a varied life and a varied soccer career. And the two have provided him with the know-how for running a successful club with power and push, and yet with happy players.
He knew where he was going two years ago. He planned promotion to the Second Division, and missed the target because of finishing just behind Hull City and Millwall. Two months back he made it, and in such determined fashion that his boys finished with a final lead of 12 points over their nearest challengers. It was such a particularly good performance that Liverpool boss Bill Shankly said: “I don’t believe Queen’s Park Rangers’ blend of youth and experience, which is the basis of success, just happened. I know he encouraged the club to invest in a youth scheme which always needs time to mature, and to the products of that he has added players wisely bought.”
Looking back over Alec’s 21 years of football management, Shankly added: “To stay so long in the profession, he must be made of steel. Certainly he will know, as a manager, of things which happen in the game, which would break the heart of a cement floor.” No doubt about it, he has known it as tough as any, though already is able to look back upon many very pleasant occasions.
The moment his team had finally made certain of a spot in the Second Division was one of those wonderful moments. Again, there was the time when QPR carried off the League Cup and upset all the odds. Then, farther back, there was the fantastic period when he once managed a camp of Italian footballers – Roma – to their own league championship. That was a far greater achievement than might appear at first glance because he did not know a single word of Italian. He knew something about Italians themselves through his experience as a wartime tank commander, but had never conquered their language so it’s easy to imagine the recurring difficulties he must have faced.
One thing is certain, Alec Stock has learned the lesson that attacking football pays off best. His theory is that most folk can organise a defence, but there is more difficulty building up an attack, which is why he concentrates on that section of his team. Says Alec: “Defensive football destroys everything that is best in the game, and the fans come to see attacking wingers and forceful wing-halves and centre-forwards because they provide entertainment and the spectacular goals. You don’t get these in Continental football with its planned defensive and negative game. Most of their goals are scrambled affairs.”
Certainly, his Rangers boys don’t leave their supporters hungry for goals. At any rate, they didn’t last winter when they hit 134 in league and cup games, and conceded only 52. It’s going to be a big test for everybody at the club. No doubt about it, there is a big difference between the Third and Second Divisions. But it matters not to whom you speak, everybody is looking ahead in confident mood. And why shouldn’t they ? After all, they met a couple of Second Division teams last season. Looking up the record, I note that they clashed with Carlisle United and Birmingham City twice in the League Cup, and won the lot. Then they also came out tops against First Division West Bromwich Albion and Leicester City.
Impressive ? Of course it is. Yet you won’t get the QPR boss to boast about the possibilities or his own team’s capabilities. Except to say: “We are at our best when the team is aggressive, and when we are carrying the war into the other camp.”
As we know, Rangers went on to gain promotion on the final day of the season in dramatic circumstances at Villa Park. Then sadly on the brink of QPR’s first season in the top flight, Alec Stock resigned in August 1968. He went on to manage Luton Town, Fulham and Bournemouth.
However, he did eventually return to Loftus Road in 1977 as a Director and briefly as caretaker manager. I remember the anniversary of our 1967 League Cup Final victory at a West London hotel, but unfortunately he wasn’t well enough to attend. Alec Stock died in Somerset in April 2001.