Leslie Thomas – Once a Ranger (Not) Always a Ranger ?

The following article, titled: ‘On With the Show’, was written by the author Leslie Thomas and appeared in the match programme dated 9th March 1974 (FA Cup 6th Round against Leicester City):

‘There are times when I truly wish I supported an ordinary team. Staggering away from yet another Loftus Road melodrama with Coventry City, defeated with that final off-hand kick by Stanley Bowles, I began to wonder just how much the stomach frame can stand. I seemed to have missed half the match because I daren’t look. My stomach was still up somewhere around my chin and my knees only just got me to the car park.

If I supported a nice, mediocre team, say half-way up the Second Division I would of have none of this. If they won, then they won, and if they lost against Plymouth Argyle in the League Cup then I wouldn’t go home and kick the dog.

The night of the Coventry match was so theatrical I would not have been surprised to see the curtain come down at the end. If the referee had given us that penalty I don’t think I could have lived through it. If Coventry had got a penalty I could have stood it, Us – never !

For me Queen’s Park Rangers have always had something special and extraordinary. Twenty-two years, man and snivelling boy, I have been watching those blue and white hoops. When I was a reporter on a local paper in the area in the 1950’s, I even suggested in an article that the horizontal stripes made our players look shorter than they really were, this giving extra confidence to opponents ! For a season – and it was nothing to do with my theory, they appeared in silk shirts that I always suspected might have been borrowed from the usherettes at the Hammersmith Odeon.

I’ve felt some cold winds blowing across this ground in the past. I once came to a reserve match on a bitter Wednesday afternoon when there were more people on the pitch than on the terraces. I once heard a man offer to sell his season ticket for a quid – and it was only October. One day the old wooden stand caught fire and a voice cried “Let it burn ! Let it burn !”

The club captain quit to sell newspapers in the street, because, he said it was a better living. Times were hard. But you always came away knowing that you would be going back. The names were hardly immortal, the football was frankly, chancy. Shepherd’s Bush was the only ground where the home goalkeeper always came off sweating more than anybody. And yet when they sold Gilberg and Addinall to Brighton I thought the end of the world could only be around the next corner.

There was something about the place and the players even in those days. I remember returning after the match one Saturday to my lodgings in Willesden to find that a fire engine had skidded and gone straight through the front window of a neighbouring house. The householder, an Irishman, had eight children around the tea table when it happened. The ceiling fell in on them. None was hurt, but they were still sitting in the wrecked room when I arrived. My neighbour looked out from the debris, over the huge bonnet of the fire engine and shouted: “An’ how did the boys in blue get on today then ?”

Considering I was a reporter I was a shy young man. One day I went to a steamed-up caf√© in Shepherd’s Bush and found all the Rangers players in there. Thrilled, I sat and watched these gods. I remember they ate about a hundredweight of chips between them in ten minutes flat.

All through the years, right up to these shining days, I have made the trail to Loftus Road on Saturdays. Once I was thrown out of the press box at Brentford for shouting support for QPR during a league match.

I was in Tahiti when (glory at last !) the team got to the final of the League Cup in 1967. When the news reached me I packed my bags and got on a plane immediately. I arrived four hours before the kick-off and was there to see Rodney Marsh (wearing a-short-back-and-sides incidentally) score that immortal goal from umpteen yards to turn the game. It was worth every mile.

(I am just about to make another journey round the world – to the Far East, to Australia and New Zealand, Fiji, Hawaii, and America. I shall, however, be back in time for the Cup Final. I’ve fixed that)

Whatever they do for the remainder of this season this QPR team have, thank God and Mr Jago, brought life and laughs and entertainment back into football. It was Sally Bowles who sang “Come to the Cabaret”. But it could have been Stan.’

Leslie Thomas wrote various other articles for the match programme and his first ‘Dangerous Davies’ novel was published in 1976. D.C. Davies was based at Willesden North Police Station and between 2003 and 2007 Granada TV produced 17 episodes for our television screens. I have featured one of these episodes in my ‘QPR Screen References’ series.

I have no idea exactly when or why he fell out of love with the R’s, but for some reason something did make him go off and support an ordinary team somewhere !

Steve Russell

9 thoughts on “Leslie Thomas – Once a Ranger (Not) Always a Ranger ?

  1. What percentage of football fans follow a football team from a young age to they pop their clogs, very few I imagine. Thankfully I’m one of them few

  2. What makes us think that Leslie Thomas went off to support another team? I certainly haven’t seen any mention of him as being an Rs fan since the late 1970s but I also have not seen anything that indicates he has joined the “ex Rs fans club” with co-members Roger Daltrey, Phil Collins and Kid Jensen

  3. Being aged 82 now I think we can excuse him not putting in an appearance!
    He lives in Wiltshire now.

  4. Yes, has supported Swindon or Southampton for some years, I can’t remember which away programme I read it in ? Been searching through my collection on and off.

  5. Tim Lott author and journalist…Fanatical R’s supporter in the 1970’s. He even wrote about QPR at great length in one of his early books describing his teenage years living in Hayes/Southall.

    Now a follower of Chelsea when he bothers to go to a game…Looks like he ditched Rangers and most of Football when he joined the Notting Hill set!

  6. That’s right Bernard. David ‘Kid’ Jensen took off to Palace and Phil Collins supports numerous teams apparently !

  7. Not too sure about Tim Lott, Kerrins…A fantastic writer; “The Scent of Dried Roses” is the book you’re talking about. “Rumours of a Hurricane” was also outstanding. But he has a QPR fan character in “White City Blue” reminisce about the 83/84 season thus:”Stevie Wicks just could not miss the target”!!…What target was that, the BBC car park?

  8. I remember my Dad telling me about Leslie Thomas, (whenever he appeared on TV or one of his films were shown), and he took great pleasure in saying that he no longer sits over this side (Ellerslie Rd) because my Dad and his mate gave him a good rollicking (not the word he used) and told him to sod off (again not the phrase he used) after he had had a go at the team. He was not seen again in Ellerslie but whether he went to another stand or another club I can’t be sure.

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