The following article was written by Eric Nicholls and appeared in ‘Goal’ magazine on 7th July 1973:
‘Gordon Jago leads promoted Queen’s Park Rangers into their second season in the First Division in five years with a brand of honesty that would surprise those who look at football through cynical eyes.
Last time in, Rangers celebrated their rise from the Third to the First Division a little early. Clearly they were not ready and, after one season, they were back in the Second. Jago realises this and since he took over as manager two years ago he has been steadily planning and building for the day when they returned.
He says: “We believe we can benefit from the experience of those with the club in 1968. We have a young, enthusiastic staff. In fact, I’m the oldest and I’m only 39. But if we lack age and experience, we are determined to make up for that with all the keenness and enthusiasm among us.”
Yet, but for a peculiar twist of fate three years ago, Jago might not be the name on everybody’s lips around Shepherd’s Bush.
Three years ago he was coach under Les Allen, the former Tottenham centre-forward. Things were not going too well and Jago was unhappy with the situation. They lost 2-1 at home to Swindon in the third round of the F.A. Cup and the situation looked even blacker. Jago was uncertain about his own future, but ever-conscious of his own responsibility as coach.
Then an offer came for him to return to the United States, as coach to St. Louis and he says: “I was used to a high standard of living in the States, but from a footballing point of view I didn’t really want to go back there. But it seemed at the time a good move and I asked Ron Phillips, the Rangers secretary, to prepare my cards and told him I would be leaving the following week.”
“Les Allen was late in for training the following day, and when he arrived I told him I had resigned. ‘That’s funny’, he said, ‘I’ve just resigned too.’
“The final result was that I was asked to attend the Board meeting that week and only a couple of hours before the final confirmation from America, Rangers asked me to take over as caretaker-manager. The American people kindly agreed to wait until the end of the season because they didn’t need me until the summer. The rest you know, Rangers picked up and I was offered the manager’s job on a permanent basis.”
Even now the praises are still ringing around his ears. Jago remains the quiet guy, feet firmly on the floor, only anxious to see the job well done.
After his first coaching appointment with amateurs Eastbourne United, the former Charlton centre-half told me: “One of the things I’d like to do is to provide all the things I never had as a player and that I thought we ought to have had.”
He graduated to Fulham when they were a First Division club and only left to take part in the great North American Soccer venture. His spell as manager-coach of Baltimore Bays opened his eyes to the pressures of management and particularly to the hostility of others.
Says Gordon: “I learned to accept criticism, particularly from outside the club…from public and Press alike. It wasn’t that our results were bad, it was just an anti-Soccer feeling among Americans. Ask Vic Crowe and Freddie Goodwin, who were also in the States, and they’ll tell you, too, that we gained a lot of knowledge about public relations, such as television, radio and promotional ideas.”
Jago will also stress that his great talents in the area of man management stem from his experiences in America. He says: “Man management ? You had to learn all about it. In our club alone we had people of 13 different nationalities.”
But it is a tribute to his character that he has remained the same person, despite his elevation in status in a world that is often described as containing too many cheats, too many selfish people and not enough integrity.
Gordon says simply: “I like to think I was brought up in the right atmosphere. My early days in coaching were spent learning from men such as Walter Winterbottom, Ron Greenwood, Jimmy Hill, George Smith and Alan Brown. Their influence on me was tremendous and I hope I can always say that whatever I do. I will do it to the best of my ability.”
The Gordon Jago-Bobby Campbell partnership of manager and coach has already been compared to that in Arsenal’s “double” year of Bertie Mee and Don Howe, as well as the Joe Mercer-Malcolm Allison team that achieved so much for Manchester City. But Jago knows that one day Campbell will have to be a No.1 in his own right and Frank Sibley, who had to give up the game at 23 with a serious knee injury, has already proved his ability in his handling of the club’s younger players.
These are the facts a manager has to face. But right now there is no summer break at Rangers. Before the start of next season the club hope to have completed a new three-storey office block, with two lifts and a main entrance, a new Director’s lounge, ladies’ lounge and VIP lounge.
So, are QPR really prepared for the First Division or are they merely enjoying the waves of enthusiasm that have greeted their arrival ?
“We’re ready”, Jago says emphatically. “We are there and we intend to stay there. There has been no sitting back to relax since the season ended. We knew we had a lot to do during the summer and what we achieve in this respect before the start of next season is going to make a lot of difference. But the basics have already been achieved.”
He has one of the country’s top goalkeepers in Phil Parkes, an England Under-23 prospect in Gerry Francis and attacking stars like Stan Bowles, Dave Thomas and Don Givens. And this list does not include rising young stars like Martyn Busby, Dave Clement and John Delve. Then of course there is the vastly experienced Frank McLintock, who was added to the squad before the final curtain came down on 1972-73.
There are those who say even now that Rangers have neither the tradition nor the depth to make their mark as a First Division club. The lack of tradition they will accept. But tell them the rest and wealthy Chairman Jim Gregory and his team will tell you forcibly that the First Division is not a closed shop and that there is always room for an ambitious and professional outfit like theirs. They could just be right.’
Gordon Jago resigned in September 1974 and went on to achieve promotion at Millwall in 1975-76. Later he guided Tampa Bay Rowdies to two consecutive NASL Soccer Bowl triumphs. Jago returned to the R’s as general manager in May 1984 before returning to the USA.