I was, back in November 2001, lucky enough to spend an evening with QPR legend and ex-England international, Stan Bowles, my all-time sporting hero.
During the course of our conversation, after I had almost flattened him rushing in to the pub where we had arranged to meet, I asked him about his time at the club and what he is doing now etc. It went something like this:
PD: Firstly congratulations on being named best QPR player ever in a recent poll. How did you hear about it?
SB: Thank you. It came out of the blue. I got a phone call from a woman at Sky telling me all about it. Its very nice, a great honour.
PD: What are you doing now?
SB: I work at the Rangers on match days doing the corporate hospitality. I also do a bit for my brother, he lives in Manchester and is in the rag trade, I sell a bit of stuff for him down here when he can’t get down.
I have also just been doing some autographed photos for a firm in Watford, Westminster Collections. They want me to sign 2,000 of them. My mate George (Best) did one for them. I asked him how long it took to sign 2,000 autographs and he said it took him about four hours but I can’t see that. I do some bits and pieces for Sky occasionally too. That’s about it really. I enjoy what I do and it keeps me going.
PD: Do you enjoy doing the corporate events at the Rangers?
SB: Yes, its good fun, I get to meet a lot of people. It’s a long day though. I get there quite early in the morning and I’m still there in the evening.
PD: Do you get to see the games whilst you are “entertaining”?
SB: Yes, I don’t do much during the games, it’s all beforehand, at half-time and afterwards, so I sit and watch the match.
PD: Do you still do any coaching?
SB: Not really. I do a bit in Woking on Wednesdays for a friend of mine, coaching the kids. I haven’t done any serious stuff since Webby left Brentford. Gerry said when he took over at the Rangers that he might give me some but he hasn’t taken it any further yet.
PD: Do you get on all right with Chris Wright?
SB: Yes, he’s a nice bloke and he really is a fan. I think its great that a real fan is running the club. I think he knows that he’s made a few mistakes but hopefully that’s all behind him now.
PD: How are the book sales going?
SB: Very well. It was in the top ten bestseller’s list in London for three weeks, sold more than Joe Frazier’s autobiography. I fell out with the publishers when they went bankrupt though so I’m selling them myself. Funny enough, they are the same company that does the club programme.
PD: Which of the current players do you like the look of?
SB: I’ve seen a bit of Richard Langley, he looks a very good player. Gerry thinks a lot of him.
PD: Which don’t you?
SB: None really, they all try as hard as they can. I think Gerry knows that the present squad is not good enough but he will sort it out.
PD: Seen any of the young ones, Pacquette, Jeanne etc?
SB: Not really, I don’t get to see the juniors very often. I saw them once this season but I didn’t really know who was who.
PD: Can we survive if we get back in the Premiership?
SB: Yes definitely. Gerry would not be here if he did not think we would, it’s his main aim.
PD: Should Hoddle have gone?
SB: Definitely. It’s been going on for months. Little things come out now and then. Personally I think he has been brainwashed by people like that Eileen Drewery.
PD: Who do you think should replace him?
SB: Maybe Wilkinson, I don’t know. Robson, Keegan and that lot don’t want to know. Gerry could have had it before you know, but didn’t want it. One thing you’ve got to remember, it’s not an easy job.
PD: Do you think referees are any worse nowadays?
SB: Absolutely, a lot worse. They pull the players up for such petty things nowadays and book them for things like tugging at shirts. In my day they were definitely better referees, you could talk to most of them, but today it’s so different.
PD: Should they be professional?
SB: If they used ex-players then yes. They would know all the tricks that the players try to pull, it’s a shame that they don’t use more of them. They should have been using ex-players for years, wouldn’t fancy it myself though.
PD: Should they use modern technology like replays to help?
SB: No I don’t think so. Maybe for whether the ball has crossed the goal-line or not, but not for other things. There are enough delays in the game as it is; it would only slow it down even more.
PD: What do you think about the overwhelming amount of foreign players at the top level?
SB: There are far too many of them, they are stopping the good young English kids coming through. Surely Chelsea fans for example can’t really like seeing eleven foreigners line up for them, not really. It’s good having the very top players here now, but there are just too many mediocre ones.
PD: Do you think Sky are good or bad for the game?
SB: Overall I suppose good. The amount of money they have put in is amazing. Their coverage is so much better as well, but on the other hand it is mainly because of them that there are so many foreigners here now.
PD: Do you watch football on Sky?
SB: Occasionally, the big games mainly. I’ve got Sky indoors but to be honest there is so much football on it now that it gets a bit overwhelming at times. You get fed up with it.
PD: If you were playing now, how much do you think you would be worth a week?
SB: About 50 grand I’d say what with what they are earning now.
PD: Gerry Francis says you are the best player he has ever played with. Who’s the best player you ever played with?
SB: Gerry Francis probably, and Terry Venables, I learned a lot from him. Some of it was about football too.
PD: What was the best game you played for the Rangers?
SB: Cologne probably in the UEFA Cup at Loftus Road. They were packed out with German internationals and we beat them easy; 3-0 I think. I really played well that night.
PD: Who’s the best player you ever played against?
SB: I suppose it has to be George (Best), he was marvellous. He played his last ever game for United at Loftus Road and we beat them 3-0. I remember I got two of them. George just stayed out on the wing. He was so overweight and unfit it was sad.
PD: Who was the worst player at the Rangers when you were there?
SB: Easy, we got a midfielder from Swindon or somewhere called Brian Williams. God he was terrible. The worst player we ever had. Terry Mancini was a better player than him. He used to come up to me and Gerry and ask why we never passed to him. We used to tell him to piss off. When he asked why, I told him it was because he was so bloody hopeless.
Me and Gerry used to take the piss out of Jim Gregory about why he signed him. Jim used to deny all knowledge and said it wasn’t his idea, but it was, he handled all the transfers. Mind you, that Kevin Francis of Oxford plays like a donkey. He looks like he’s got both his legs tied together with string.
PD: Who was the hardest player you played against?
SB: Tommy Smith at Liverpool, he was a hard man. And John McGrath of Newcastle when I was at Man City. He was hard and he looked hard. Always had his sleeves rolled up to his shoulders and his shorts pulled up as far as he could. He looked frightening to play against and he was.
PD: Who would you pay to watch nowadays, if anyone?
SB: Dennis Bergkamp definitely and probably David Ginola, I’d like to see him.
PD: What do you think of players getting stress counselling and not turning up for games because they are not mentally prepared properly?
(I can’t actually write exactly what Stan said in answer to this question, due to the obscenity laws in this country, but it went something like this):
SB: I cannot believe it. I have never heard of such a thing. What do these players nowadays know about pressure when they are earning what they are? Pressure is when you have to find three grand by next week. That’s pressure. Football was always an escape from the pressure, not the cause of it. That Stan Collymore, now he really has got a few problems, he must be crazy.
PD: Who was the biggest “diver” in your time?
SB: Me probably. And Rodney Marsh, he was good. And Francis Lee at Man City. Me and Rodney both had a great way of tripping ourselves up. At the Rangers, we all used to be told to take a dive if it was in the area. So was everyone else at every other club. Even Dave Sexton who in my opinion is one of the most honest men there has ever been in the game, told us to take a dive if it would get us a penalty. Anything we could do to get a penalty was ok. People say it’s cheating, but it’s no worse than a lot of what else goes on in the game.
PD: How would you all compare with Ginola?
SB: He’s a great player but he over does it a bit, it’s ridiculous. They say he is very finely balanced, but I don’t know. Those four attempts he made against Tottenham the other week showed him up for what he is. Mind you he’s still one of the most talented players in the game today.
PD: Who was your favourite manager?
SB: Ian MacFarlane at Carlisle, Ernie Tagg at Crewe and, of course, Dave Sexton at the Rangers. They were all great managers.
PD: Who was your least favourite manager?
SB: Brian Clough. Enough said.
PD: Do you argue a lot with the other players?
SB: All the time. I used to row with Gerry Francis and he is my best mate. Don Givens, all of them really when things didn’t go right. I used to shout a lot at Dave Thomas too and he made a hell a lot of my goals, but he just used to ignore me. I was always rowing with Don Masson but he was just so bloody obnoxious.
PD: Did you have any superstitions when you played?
SB: Not really, I always used to be the last out onto the pitch, but that was usually because I had only been in the ground for about ten minutes. I’d be sitting in the pub writing out my betting slips till gone half past two. Some players used to sit in the dressing room for an hour and a half. Not me. I told Dave Sexton once, it only takes me about five minutes to change, so why should I sit around waiting.
Frank McLintock couldn’t believe I was so casual about it. He used to be physically sick before games, he was so wound up. He used to go round trying to gee everybody up. I used to tell him to keep the noise down as I was trying to get the racing results.
PD: Had you really never heard of Rodney Marsh when you joined QPR?
SB: Yes really. You have to remember that I was in Carlisle then, right out in the sticks. Rodney might have been famous all over England, even in Scotland, but it hadn’t spread to Carlisle. Wearing the number 10 shirt never bothered me at all.
PD: He flew over from the States especially for your benefit match in 1987; do you still keep in touch?
SB: Yes, although he lives in Wimbledon now and mixes in a different crowd, more upper class. I prefer to go out with George (Best) a lot now, he lives in Chelsea, but I still see Rodney occasionally. He signed a photo of the two of us taken at my benefit game. He put “the real number 10”, bloody cheek. I refused to sign it. I’ve still got it hanging up indoors.
PD: Do you still keep in touch with any of the others from the 70’s?
SB: Frank McLintock I see occasionally and Ian Gillard, and Don Givens still keep in touch. And Dave Thomas of course. He still coaches some kids down near Portsmouth somewhere. The only one I don’t particularly want to see is Don Masson.
We never got on. I’m not sure anyone got on with Don Masson. Thought he was ‘it’ because he got made captain of Scotland. Real arrogant sod he was. He used to come up to me and Gerry when he was practising free kicks and say that we should take them differently to the way we were doing it. I used to tell him to piss off. He wasn’t even supposed to talk to me, in case we had a row. Mind you, he was a bloody good player.
PD: You won your only senior football medal in the Nou Camp, Barcelona in 1980. Is this the best stadium you ever played in?
SB: Definitely. I played in the Olympic Stadium in Rome once, that was nice, but Barcelona was something else. There were about 120,000 there that night. I got the chance to have a good look around the place. Inside the trophy room and even the church they have inside the ground, it’s an unbelievable place.
PD: What was the worst stadium you ever played in?
SB: I don’t know really. Some of those northern ones like Scunthorpe or Darlington were a bit rough in the seventies, but even they have changed now.
PD: Finally, how do you enjoy being a Grandfather?
SB: It’s great. I can hardly believe it at times, but yes, I really am a Grandad. Twice over in fact, although I still feel like I’m twenty, I think that’s what keeps me going. Life’s good at the moment, I really enjoy being back at Rangers again, it really is a great little club. About twenty-eight years ago I went there and I’m still there, that’s really something.
(This interview first appeared in Howard Prossers’ fanzine, ‘In The Loft’. My thanks to Paul for sending it to me and also for giving me permission to include it on the Indy’s Home Page – Steve Russell)