The summer of 1966 was a big one for this 11 year old W12 Boy, the World Cup, leaving a Rangers Coverdale Road Primary School to go to a Chelscum Holland Park Comprehensive and little did I know that the next nine months would put my beloved Rangers on the same stage as the big boys – coverage on TV, featured in Charlie Buchan’s Football Monthly, headlines on the back pages of all the Daily’s and the Shepherd’s Bush Gazette’s coverage of Alec Stock’s march to the Second Division via the League Cup Final at Wembley Stadium!
My love of Rangers was instant at the age of five when I was taken to stand in the boy’s pen on the Loft to watch Rangers play a team in red (?), couldn’t remember the score, but I know we scored at the Loft End and the crowd went mad, rattles were whirred and I was hooked.
Six years on and my love was all things Rodney, Peter Springett and blue and white. In March 1966, I saw Rodney inspire Rangers to a 6-1 thrashing against Millwall on his home debut and then a few weeks later go on a school trip to Wembley Stadium to see the England schoolboys beat Scotland in front of 100,000. Then a year later to return to witness a Rodney inspired Rangers winning the cup at Wembley was beyond my wildest dreams.
But March 4th 1967 was the tip of an iceberg that brought the magic of the cup, football and Rangers to all corners of West London and beyond.
The League Cup run gave me great moments of joy and memories that linger to this day;
Rodney scoring four against Colchester in the 1st Round under new lights (I think Wimbledon had our old ones?), Tony Hazell scoring an equalising volley at the School End and Mike Keen’s last minute winner against Swansea in the 3rd Round.
The crowd going mad as we beat Leicester 4-2 in the 4th Round, Les Allen’s shot hitting the bar and going in off Gordon Banks and then realising that the Final was three games away and that it was at Wembley, and not over two legs as in seasons gone by.
Watching black and white fuzzy highlights on a Ferguson TV of our 4-1 demolition of Birmingham in the 1st leg of the semi-final and the crowd jeering the long-haired Trevor Hockey at Loftus Road in the 2nd leg. The sheer joy and celebrations at the final whistle which continued all the way down the Uxbridge Road as I walked home via Crusoes Fish Bar on the Green.
The sheer pride of being a Ranger when I went to school the next day, I could finally face kids who supported the Scum and the like because: ‘We were going to Wembley’.
Then queuing for tickets on a Sunday morning on Ellerslie Road with fans of all ages talking about winning the cup, how good West Brom were and how they wouldn’t handle Rodney. Walking home from the ground on that Sunday I kept looking at my crisp new ticket for the Final – I was going to Wembley to see the Queen’s Park Rangers!!!
Holland Park School suddenly had Rangers popping out of the woodwork, but only real Hoops had tickets, only real Hoops were making flags from white bed sheets, blue paint and broom handles, and only real Hoops couldn’t wait for Saturday March 4th.
The weeks leading up to the game, Shepherd’s Bush was decked out in blue and white. The record shop in the Market, W.G. Stores, had a window display depicting all the matches in the cup run – I looked at it every day. The African man covered in fluff selling sticky clothes rollers from his stall half-way down the main market was predicting a Rangers win. Marshall’s Toy Shop on the Green had flags and scarves in the window.
Friday the 3rd saw big picture pull-outs of the finalists in the Evening News and Standard – I read the words and looked at the pictures long into the night as sleep was the furthest from my mind.
When Saturday arrived, I was up and ready to go at 9am – all decked out in my blue and white bobble hat and scarf, Supporters Club badge with hanging bars and my bed sheet flag, no replica shirts in those days! My mum made me something to eat and after, what seemed like an eternity, I left for Wembley at 11am to meet three mates at Goldhawk Road Station. W12’s Blue and White Army was on its way.
The train ride to Baker Street saw more and more Rangers get on board as each station passed and when we got to the platform for the other Met Line at Baker Street it was all Rangers – I don’t remember seeing a West Brom fan at all. The journey which took me past exotic places like Finchley Road and Neasden took an age and then a cry went up, “there’s the stadium” – I couldn’t see a thing but the magic of the Twin Towers was upon us.
Walking up Wembley Way was like a dream world – the smell of hot dogs and onions, the cry of “Peanuts, Peanuts” and Rangers everywhere. We walked across the black cinder concourse through, what seemed, hundreds of black cabs and up to turnstile C. We must have been early because we sat for ages on the steps outside the turnstile but then it was a 3.30pm kick-off – don’t ask me why?
When we got in the ground we were in an upper tier behind the goal at the tunnel end, and before you could blink there was a full house of almost 100,000, flag waving fans and two teams, one in all-white and the other in all-red lining up to kick-off.
The first-half went by in a flash – we thought Rodney had scored an overhead kick, but he was offside and then Clive Clark battered us and we were two-down, I was gutted!
The second 45 minutes was history in the making. With Rangers kicking towards us, Les Allen crosses a free kick, Morgan R heads home, we go mad, 1-2. Rodney then picks the ball up just inside our half, dribbles and weaves through the West Brom defence and fires home from the edge of the box – we go mad, 2-2.
Wembley was now ours, “Rodnee, Rodnee” we all shouted over and over again and then it happened – Ron Hunt goes on a run and collides with the on-rushing keeper Shepherd, the ball runs loose and Mark Lazarus slots home – we go berserk, 3-2. The last few minutes seemed like a life time and when the final whistle blew we all went mental – young and old, boys and girls, men and women – it was Rangers all together.
Mike Keen led the team up the steps to the Royal Box way over to our right. He held the cup aloft to the sound of: “We Won the Cup, We Won the Cup, Ee-Aye-Addio We Won the Cup”. The lap of honour passed the leaving West Brom fans and came round to us from the left. The cup passing from player to player, the coffin and minstrels on the half-way line and then down in front of us behind the goal – I couldn’t believe it, my Rangers had WON THE CUP!!!
The journey home was Rangers all the way down Wembley Way, on the train, on the platforms and on the streets of W12. I am afraid this 12 year old and his mates didn’t drink beer, but a tanners worth of chips with crackling and a bottle of Pepsi which was like Caviar and Champagne.
The celebrations continued over the next few weeks, I went to the home games against Bournemouth on the Tuesday night and Peterborough on the Saturday after Wembley followed by a trip to Leyton Orient where the Orient players gave us a guard of honour as we came out. School was brilliant – we ruled the roost, for a few weeks anyway.
Saturday March 4th 1967 was the catalyst for great things to come for Rangers and now 47 years on we all wait for more glory days. So my Rangers, especially the young ones, keep believing because when a special day arrives it will always remain special forever. UR’s