Triumph of the Sing-Along Rangers by Mark Lazarus

The following article appeared in a 1960’s football annual:

March 4, 1967, is a date now part of football history. It marks the day a Third Division club went to Wembley for the first time to play in a major Cup Final – and pulled it off. Of course, it was Queen’s Park Rangers. The little club from Shepherd’s Bush, London.

The club that shocked First Division Leicester City on the way to Wembley – following up by beating Division Two cracks, Birmingham City. Then, in the final, they beat West Bromwich Albion, Division One holders of the League Cup, unbeaten in the competition, experienced in Europe.

‘That good old QPR were the first Third Division side to win a major cup at Wembley is something that can never be taken from us. Few people believed it possible – outside the QPR staff and our tight band of fans. And, at half-time, even some of these QPR fanatics must have had their doubts. We were2-0 down. We hadn’t been playing well. My pals in the press tell me that, at half-time, the press box was buzzing with comments like “the most one-sided final ever.”

You can imagine we were a bedraggled lot as we went into the dressing-room at half-time. We found manager Alec Stock and coach, Bill Dodgin, had beaten us to the changing room. And we hardly had time to take the weight off our feet, when Mr Stock started to hand out second-half instructions.

“You’re all trying to do too much on your own. You’re playing too much as individuals. We’ve been successful because we’ve always played as a team. I don’t care whether you win or lose. This is an occasion. Go out and do it justice. Show them how you can play, not as individuals, but as a unit.”

As we went through the tunnel, skipper Mike Keen urged – “Come on, lads, we’ve got to get three this half.” Well, we went out and started the sort of football that had kept us at the top of the Third Division all season – and helped beat such noted opponents in the League Cup. So different from the first-half, when we had all been too aware of this occasion with its 100,000 fans. Indeed, we started to enjoy ourselves – and it worked like a dream.

We were back in the game when Roger Morgan scored our first goal. We levelled with a wonderful individual effort by Rodney Marsh. I was half-blinded by a bang on one eye when my chance came for No. 3. I had just enough vision to see a gaping open goal when the ball broke loose from a clash between Ron Hunt and Dick Sheppard, the WBA ‘keeper. I cracked the ball in. Goal ! We had won the Football League Cup.

Back in the dressing-room, after all the excitement of collecting the Cup and doing the traditional lap of honour, we sang our battle song – to the tune of “When You’re Smiling.” In the picture heading to this story you can see us in full song. That’s me in the middle. The words of the song – our version of them – are not new. But it was only last season that we really started the sing-along stuff.

After one big win we were in high spirits in the dressing- room. Jim Langley started up a sing-song in the bath. We followed his lead. And, gradually, it became a ritual that really helped us on the way to our big triumph. We even had a recording made of us singing that song in the bath. It was played to the crowd before every game. Alec Stock had thousands of copies of the words printed. Fans were given a copy as they arrived for matches. One group even brought drums along to hammer out the beat !

Nobody got a greater thrill out of winning the League Cup than our “mascot” Jim Langley. At 38, twice the age of players like Frank Sibley and the Morgan twins, Jim is “Dad” or “Uncle” to all the lads. But he joins in the fun as much as anyone. We have a special song for Jim. As soon as he arrives we chorus –

“Sarah Brown has a toy, as happy as can be,
Goes by the name of Jimmy Langley,
Dear old Hoppity, dear old Hoppity,
He goes twiddly-dee, he goes twiddly-dee.”

Jim is also known as “Hoppity” because he seems to play off one leg. Jim’s left foot is deadly – but he’s not quite so happy with his right !

The other character at Shepherd’s Bush is Rodney Marsh. Rodney arrived at the Bush with a reputation. We’d even heard him called “Coco the Clown.” Believe me, Rodney’s nobody fool. Only trouble is, you can never tell whether or not he’s being serious !

The Morgan twins also always liven life wherever they go – because they never stop arguing. Whatever Roger says, Ian disagrees with it. It’s a sure way to tell them apart. And that’s really something. In junior football their likeness created havoc among opposing defences. For they kept on switching wings until nobody knew who was marking who. Ian was the regular substitute for the league side last season. That caused all sorts of mix-ups, too.
Last season was the greatest ever for Rangers – and for me. A case of third time lucky. This is my third spell with QPR. We never achieved much before. Indeed, there were more downs than ups. One was the switch we made to the White City Stadium during my second term with the club. Nothing went right for us there. The first match we were due to play there was rained off. That set the tone. At the White City there seemed to be no atmosphere at all. It was as if we were playing to an empty ground.

I’m the sort of player who responds to a crowd. Our League Cup matches were just meat to me . I’ve never played better than in the matches against Birmingham and Leicester at a jam-packed Loftus Road. The crowd were marvellous. They lifted us to a peak. The fans – particularly when they are singing – can make a tremendous difference to the game. They give you the incentive to play well. That’s why I like to have plenty of my own supporters in the crowd. And, believe me, I’ve got plenty fans – in my family and friends.

I’m the second youngest of thirteen – and we’re a close-knit lot. Eight boys and five girls. Take in their friends and it means quite a crowd of personal fans. When I played my first game for Wolves, a crowd of them specially chartered a 36-seater bus to come up and watch. It was standing-room only after all the family had got on. It was the same for the League Cup Final. I bet I had more relations in the crowd than most of the other players put together !

Involved in all this is one reason why I didn’t settle down at Wolverhampton. I had been transferred to Woives for ¬£27,500. I felt I could make the grade in Division 1. But I didn’t want to live too far away from the family. So I lived in London and travelled up to Wolverhampton each week for matches. It didn’t work out. I was soon on the way back to Rangers for ¬£14,000 – the third time I had signed for Alec Stock.

First time had been for Leyton Orient as an amateur. Then when Alec came home from a spell with Roma in Italy, and took over at QPR, he signed me for Rangers. After coming back from Wolves I had a two-year stay at Loftus Road before moving again. This time to Brentford for £10,000. For one season I played the best football of my career. Scoring 17 goals in a season from the wing. I helped Brentford to near-promotion.

Then I became unsettled again. Eventually, two seasons ago, I was only too pleased to sign for Alec Stock – for the fourth time. This time I hope to stay.

It was really a bit of luck that got me into senior football. While I was playing as an amateur for Barking in the Isthmian League, I was thinking more of professional boxing than football. Two of my older brothers were well known in the fight game. As Lew Lazar, one fought Pat McAteer for the British and British Empire middle-weight titles, and Wally Thom for the British and European welter-weight titles. Another brother, Harry, fought as a top-line welter-weight.

I was all set to follow them. Boxing was in my blood. I’d trained with my brothers and had 14 bouts as an amateur light-middleweight for the famous Stepney and St George’s club. Every one said I had more skill with my fists than my feet, and could go even further than brother Lew. I was undecided which way to turn – but my mind was made for me.

Barking played at Grays in an Isthmian League match. Scouts from Orient, Palace and a number of other clubs came down to watch the Grays’ left-winger. He was highly rated. Luckily for me he had a stinker – and I hit top form. Result was the scouts went for me – and as far as I know the other lad is still playing amateur football. From the time I signed for Orient, football was my only sport. Boxing became less important. My heart wasn’t in it. I gave it up altogether – unbeaten in my 14 fights.’

Unfortunately Mark Lazarus didn’t stay, he moved on for the final time, in November 1967, for a fee of ¬£10,000 to Crystal Palace.

Steve Russell

4 thoughts on “Triumph of the Sing-Along Rangers by Mark Lazarus

  1. Legend is used too lightly nowadays but Mark Lazarus R’s Legend is fully justified.
    Remember one occasion probably in 1966/67 season when he lost his shorts & was thrown a new pair & carried on running down the right wing new shorts in hand attacking the Loft end. Or did I imagine all this?!
    Marks banter with the touchline fans was famous & anyone who dared give him a bit of stick was soon put in their place with a colourful response. The best days! Thanks Mark

  2. Yes a great player and man. As I have said before he was always joining us on the terraces for away matches if not playing and I can add to the shorts incident for one away game when unseasonable snow fell and he was lying on the floor getting increasingly covered in snow to rise like the abominable snowman to continue the game..priceless..but that is the legend.
    Great memories of a great day when footballers played for pride and their team, and fans, for peanuts.

  3. My dad always tells the tale of Mark charging down the wing with no shorts on and he also remembers how Mark looked after Rodney, if anyone gave him a hard time Mark would sort it out – The good old days.
    On the subject of singing does anyone else have the Players at Ease album?
    Mark is, (I think) the lead singer on most of the player songs.

Comments are closed.