We followed our memorable semi-final victory over West Brom with a league match three days later versus Orient at Loftus Road, as they were simply called then. They were dispatched by three goals to nil in front of a very disappointing crowd of 10,531. This seemed to be a trend around about the time of this Cup run with home games against Grimsby Town and Derby County not even reaching 9,000 ! Interestingly, there was no minute’s silence for Rangers legend Dave Clement after his death the previous Monday. I’m sure nowadays there would be (or a minute’s applause) and the wearing of black armbands, maybe that is one way the game has improved in 30 years.
The gap between the semi and the final was a long one, some six weeks and we still had to try and force ourselves into the promotion places, three up in those days with no play-offs. By the time of the semi-final we were three points off of the promotion places, in seventh. There was a Cup hangover as we dropped points away at Chelsea (1-2) and at home to Watford on Easter Monday (0-0). We then hit a purple patch of four straight wins, scoring 15 goals in the process. One of these against Bolton Wanderers ended 7-1. Again this was a hot day in May on a Saturday with the R’s two points off of promotion and only a meagre 10,002 fans turned up. You can see why Ron Phillips, the Club Secretary at the time, got so frustrated !
Our promotion bid hit the buffers with star midfielders Gary Waddock and John Gregory worrying about accumulating points for bookings that could see them miss Wembley with Waddock admitting: “I’ve got a bit of a reputation as a hard man, but that’s the way I play and I can’t change that”. Two away defeats at Barnsley (0-3) and at Luton (2-3) in a re-arranged match from earlier in the season saw the Cup and promotion bid die out. At Luton we saw a sending off for our captain Glenn Roeder which meant that he would miss a possible Wembley replay, which indeed he sadly did.
The build-up to the Final started with the aforementioned Bolton game, with the new club badge being unveiled. It would last 26 years until the Briatore/Paladini/Ecclestone axis of evil took hold. In the programme that day Ron Phillips assured fans their Cup Final tickets would be with them soon, but had to go back due to a printing error !
On a personal level, I had an incredible act of good fortune for my ticket that could never happen thirty years on. I had been to every game with my Dad that season and hadn’t missed a home game for about four years (I was 11-years-old at the time). What my Dad would do most Saturdays was to drop the bloke on the gate a few quid as we entered, so all this meant that my Dad could get a Cup Final ticket and I couldn’t.
What then happened was that my Nan wrote to the club explaining my predicament, leaving an address and my home number. This was all forgotten until one night my Mum received a call…who was on the phone ? It was none other than the Rangers Chairman Jim Gregory. He thanked us for our support and then said my Dad could purchase two tickets together from his allocation. So we ended up sitting in two ¬£20.00 seats on the half-way line for the biggest game in the club’s history ! I think the season after we took no chances, I became a fully paid-up season ticket holder and remained so until 2008.
On the Monday before the game there was a Memorial match for the late, great Dave Clement at Loftus Road which was both a sombre and celebratory occasion with many R’s legends on view. The lead up to the match was incredible – I was at school in Greenford, even before the teams were paired in the Final, the majority of the school was a QPR/Spurs split. Most of my best mates were all Spurs fans. Games of football in the playground for weeks were a Cup Final preview. I was always Simon Stainrod with socks rolled down !
The week leading up to the game was incredibly exciting. This event that I’d watched every year on TV that always featured all the other kid’s teams was now featuring my team, “little QPR”. A major source of excitement was on the day before the game when the Goodyear airship flew across the playground during a lesson on its way to film the aerial shots of the match for TV.
My memories of the day of the Final are of driving through Sudbury by the Barham Park roundabout and there was a crowd of about 200 Rangers fans outside the pub there and on my Dad sounding his horn and seeing my flag out of the sunroof, they let out a massive roar. There wasn’t a Spurs fan in sight, we parked off of Wembley High Street and walked up to the stadium with Spurs fans singing their “QPHa Ha” song. That’s why I still hate you Tottenham.
Apart from getting married and my kids being born, on entering the stadium, that was the most memorable moment of my life. A sheer bank of Rangers fans to my left and then the band playing ‘Abide With Me’, it literally took my breath away. If you remember I had been used to less than 10,000 fans at the Bush.
The game was a nervous, tense affair. Spurs, the 1st Division side and clear favourites, had played over 60 games during the season and looked it. Looking back on the game now, there were two tackles by R’s players in that match that would probably mean a life ban nowadays. Firstly, the one by Bobby Hazell on Tony Galvin and then Terry Fenwick’s on the irritating Garth Crooks. You could not mention the word ‘irritating’ without a mention of Steve Archibald, rightly abused by R’s fans throughout the two games. Even my Mum watching on TV couldn’t get over what an odious individual he was, especially when he grabbed Gary Waddock by the throat. In fact, in all the years of going to football with my Dad, the only time I have seen him stand up and give a ‘Gareth Hunt’ to a player was in that game, of course to Archibald…and this is in the posh seats !
A mention must go to Peter Hucker who produced one of the best displays ever seen in an FA Cup Final and was rightly ‘Man of the Match’. One of the great disappointments was the injury to Clive Allen who got injured very early on and was then substituted early in the second-half. He is the best natural goalscorer I have ever seen and could of conjured up something out of nothing.
Extra time came and with it a shot by Hoddle in the 109th minute, which skidded off Tony Currie’s thigh on the greasy surface and into the net. At this stage I was practically in tears, my dreams were in tatters. All I could think of was all those Spurs fans at school on Monday. Then the moment came in the 115th minute, a long throw by Simon Stainrod in front of the ‘Cyprus Potatoes’ advertising hoarding, a flick-on by Big Bob and there was Terry Fenwick with the header, 1-1. As John Motson reminded us, he was the first full-back to score from open play in an FA Cup Final. Cheers John, it was absolute bedlam, I can’t imagine what it was like on the terraces. I nearly took the eyes out of everyone around me, trying to wave my red Cup Final flag.
A fantastic effort by the team and supporters and it was all to do again on Thursday night, the 27th May, the latest finish to a domestic season ever and in a World Cup year. So much for recuperating before the tournament for Hoddle, Clemence etc
The following morning, instead of the open top bus ride around the streets of the Bush, whatever the result, it was time for R’s fans to queue up for replay tickets. My Dad got there at 4am and managed to get two in the same spot more or less as Saturday. I think he felt that occasions like this don’t come every day and wanted the best view possible. It was a good choice as I believe there was plenty of ‘bovver’ with Spurs fans in our end.
I remember the Thursday of the replay taking an eternity at school with it being totally impossible to concentrate on lessons, all thoughts being about the game. That seems to be a microcosm of my school life, daydreaming about Rangers instead of the subject at hand. The replay had us without the services of Glenn Roeder, suspended after the Luton sending off, so in came Warren Neill at right-back, only 19-years-old, Fenwick moved into the middle with Tony Currie captaining the side. What a character Currie was, waving to fans during the game after a back-pass for example and then pouring pints in the ‘Crown & Sceptre’ on the evening of the drawn game. A much under-rated player in the ranks of QPR legends, he never gets the credit he deserves.
Things started badly for us in this game with Bobby Hazell flying out of defence leaving Tony Currie badly stretched and bringing down Graham Roberts, a penalty with only 7 minutes gone. Hoddle stepped up, 1-0 to Spurs. After this opening, we gave a superb account of ourselves with Gary Micklewhite, in for the injured Clive Allen, ‘scoring’ with a lob which was disallowed with Fenwick appearing to be offside.
In the second-half, we came close with John Gregory hitting the bar and we had a penalty appeal turned down. At the time I absolutely hated Clive White, the referee. I thought that he robbed us, but having got older and matured and having watched the game again in recent years, the penalty and disallowed goal were probably the right decisions. I didn’t see it that way at the time as the seat in front of me at the old stadium would testify and it took me a while to calm down.
That really was a golden time to be an R’s fan and I feel very fortunate to be part of it. The three year period under Terry Venables was fantastic, as of course we went up as Champions the next season, then onto Europe in our first year up. Some of those players; Stainrod, Currie, Hazell and Allen are among my favourites of all time.
Another story of that memorable time was a couple of months after the Final, I was on my school holidays, playing football at Berkeley Fields, Greenford, with a few of my friends (Spurs fans, typically) when a load of men started lapping the field nearby. It turned out to be the very same QPR squad who had done us proud at Wembley. They were in pre-season training back in the days when they were at Birkbeck College, Greenford. I ran home and got my replay programme signed which I still have to this day.
A footnote to the Cup Final season….I was on holiday the previous summer when myself, my Sister and Mum, put some money in a wishing well and we all made a wish. Mine was to see QPR in a FA Cup Final….now who says wishes and dreams don’t come true ? Now if only I’d wished for us to win the bloody thing !!!
(The top 2 pics show Chris outside his Mum’s house in Greenford before the first game)