The following article was written by John Anthony and appeared in a football monthly, dated September 1968:
‘Fifteen minutes after Queen’s Park Rangers had won the match which put them in the First Division, I met Jim Gregory in a tiny corridor behind the main stand at Villa Park.
I offered him the clumsy congratulations usual on such occasions and he mumbled his thanks. I asked him the clumsy, obvious questions about how he felt at “making” Division One and he searched frantically for words which wouldn’t come.
It was like asking a Pools winner how he intended to spend the money – you have to put the question but you don’t really expect an answer.
A few days later, I met Mr Gregory again, and he smothered me with apologies for his vagueness at Villa Park. “I was carried away, I didn’t know what was happening, I didn’t mean to be rude.”
There are some chairmen of Football League clubs who accept promotion with as much enthusiasm as they’d accept an after-dinner brandy. Jim Gregory’s not like that. There are also a few chairmen whose dignity wouldn’t allow them to speak, much less apologise, to a reporter. Gregory’s not like that either.
He’s a bland, hospitable, good-humoured man who allows his good humour to conceal a streak of diamond-hard professionalism. His friends say that if a club called Queen’s Park Rangers hadn’t existed he’d have invented it – just so as he could become chairman. His friends are probably right.
He talks about the club’s achievements with the spontaneous superlatives of a hero-worshipping fan; and he analyses the reasons for Rangers’ success with the cold calculation he has employed through a brilliant business career, which has made him a millionaire.
“I suppose there are some people who’d like to become chairman of a football club for social reasons,” says Gregory. “I don’t go along with that. I came into football because I wanted to be part of the game. I was never a good player, so my only chance to get involved was on the administrative side.”
“I became a Rangers director in November 1964. I could see things I wanted to do, but I realised that only a chairman could do these things my way. So I wanted to become chairman.” That particular Gregory ambition was realised within six months.
A lot of people are openly contemptuous about the role of the businessman in football. They have a vision of directors and chairmen as a bunch of status-seeking grocers, hampering the manager, picking teams with the aid of their wives and their milkmen and running down the players while pouring down the boardroom gin. Gregory is instructive on the subject.
“I hear people say that football is a business”, he says. “It’s not. A business is something in which a man makes an investment and does his best to ensure that the company is well run in order to collect a profit on their investment.”
“There’s no profit in football. People like me who put money into a club are pleased and surprised if they get their money back. Imagine a businessman spending ¬£100,000 on a centre-forward, knowing he could break his leg and finish his career inside two minutes. He’d be mad!”
“Yet football clubs must be run on business lines, and that means they must be run by businessmen. They’re the people able to finance vital investments; they’re the ones who know who to contact when money is needed for ground improvements or new players; they’re the ones who bear the loss when things don’t work out.”
“So they have to walk this unenviable tightrope whereby they use their business training for the good of the club but suppress their natural business instincts when it comes to making a profit.”
Gregory’s business training, as applied to the problems of Queen’s Park Rangers, has produced staggering results. Knowing his objectives and giving the right men – general manager Alec Stock and former coach, now team manager Bill Dodgin – the licence to achieve them, has brought Rangers from Division Three to Division One in successive seasons, with a League Cup victory en route.
The players, need I say, have had quite a bit to do with it as well! Gifted individuals like Rodney Marsh – secured from Fulham at a bargain-basement fee which still makes Craven Cottage directors cry themselves to sleep – talented youngsters like the Morgan twins, Roger and Ian, and efficient team men like skipper Mike Keen, Keith Sanderson and the invaluable Les Allen.
But it wasn’t all a calculated, pre-destined, drawing board affair. “We had a lot of luck on the way,” smiles Gregory. “We couldn’t have done half as much without it. I met a Fourth Division chairman once who asked how his club could ‘do a Rangers’. I told him to go out and get some luck. ‘But where do I buy it?’ he said. That fellow put his finger on it. You can’t.”
Now that his Rangers inhabit the land where the Busby’s and Shankly’s and Revie’s dwell. Jim Gregory is allowing himself some nostalgia about the last couple of seasons.
“You look back at some of the great days and you realise how differently you’d do things if you could do them all over again,” he says. “That League Cup win for instance. On the day we went to Wembley and we played a game and we won and it was all very pleasant.”
“But when I look back I think: ‘We were in the Third Division. What the hell were we doing at Wembley?’ And I think of things I could have arranged to make the day more memorable for the lads.”
“Some people who have done well in business go off and buy yachts or houses in Bermuda,” muses Gregory. “I don’t envy them. I’ve got my football.”
Queen’s Park Rangers have reason to be grateful that Jim Gregory has never hankered after the open sea – or a Bermudan suntan.’
Initially, Jim Gregory had tried to buy into Fulham, but apparently Tommy Trinder decided to reject his offer. Something else they missed out on!
Quite a rare interview, I don’t recall many of them over the years.