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John "Gramps" Clifford is the author of "Queen's Park Rangers: The Old Days (1939-1970)" which can be purchased at qprtheolddays.com or via Amazon.com
Rodney Marsh v Stan Bowles
Rodney played the game like a lot of the people they are
talking about now but Rodney used to score a lot of goals and he also scored a
lot of goals off his own back. He would
get the ball down in the middle of a crowded defence and he would wiggle his
way through and score a goal. Players
today can’t do that – Stan Bowles could never do that. Let’s face it, Stan Bowles was a bloody good
player but as a pure footballer you’d have Rodney in your side every day in
preference to Stan Bowles. Rodney could
win a game on his own but Stan was a player who, on his day, would bring the
ball down and set other people up but with Rodney, well he didn’t need anybody
else. In my opinion Rodney was far away
ahead of Stan. I agree that people may
have other opinions but, after all, what is football – it’s all about opinions
at the end of the day.
I would have struggled in today’s game because I didn’t work
enough backwards. A lot of the players
in my day would struggle today because they were not athletic enough; today you’ve got to be an athlete because it
is a much faster game. Today the
players can tackle but they can’t hold the ball as we could. I wouldn’t mind betting that today twenty
out of every hundred passes go forwards and eighty go backwards. There’s more backward play today than there
has ever been in the game. People get
the ball up front, they seldom go past anybody and if they do go down the line
they stop and pass it backwards and it finishes up with the right back or
centre half. We are attacking in their
penalty area and the ball finishes up with our goalkeeper without the
opposition touching the ball.
Football today is very good ‘touch football’ – excellent –
but in our day we had more players with great individual skills. They would get the ball and people like
Jimmy Greaves, Johnny Haynes – well, Rooney couldn’t lace their boots up. Stanley Matthews and Tom Finney were brilliant but not players who tackled a
man. You just gave them the ball and
let them get on with it and it was the same with Rodney; you could give me the ball and let me get on
with it! I was never looking to pass
the ball back to my full back. There
was that spot in the opposition area that was eight yards wide and eight feet
high and had a net on it; my aim was to
get the ball in there or at least somewhere near there; I certainly didn’t want our goalkeeper to end
up getting it. I wanted to get the ball
and go forward.
My opinion of Rooney is that he is an average to good
player. He is definitely not world
class and despite what some may think he is not the greatest footballer we have
ever turned out.
We were given a lesson in football in 1953 and 1954 by
Hungary. We thought we were the best in
the world, we introduced the game to the world, then Hungary came over and
played the sort of football we had never seen before. I took the day off school to watch that
game. In my opinion we didn’t learn
from it. We haven’t got the individual
players now: Finney, Shackleton, Lawton,
Matthews, Mortensen. We don’t have them
today but we have different types of players – athletes – but I can’t call them
great. The goalkeeper might be the best
goalkeeper around but he couldn’t compare with the goalies we had in the
past. We were the best in the world for
goalkeepers – Banks, Swift, Parkes, Seaman, Shilton, Rangers’ own Reg Allen, Ted
Ditchburn, Sam Bartram, Ron and Peter Springett – in my view Ron Springett was
one of the best goalkeepers I ever played with and against. I will always remember Gil Merrick who
played for England. His sense of
positioning was brilliant and I have seen him go out at the beginning of a game
in clean kit and come off the pitch just as clean. His positioning and keeping was so good that
he seldom had to dive for the ball. He
took every shot cleanly.
If you had to pick a world team I can’t see that any England
players would get in – we just don’t have the skills that other countries have. I feel that our true world class players
over the years have been Gordon Banks, Bobby Moore, Jimmy Greaves but I can’t
think of too many more, even in the World Cup winning side. George Best and Denis Law might have got in
Questions from QPR Report members:
made Mark choose football over boxing and what was your weekly wage at QPR in
the 66-67 season?
Mark: Well, I didn’t
choose football – football chose me rather than boxing. I was doing the two things at the same
time. When I signed pro forms for
Leyton Orient in 1957 they stopped me boxing as an amateur and I was not
allowed to sign as a pro in the two sports.
So, as I have said, football chose me.
Had Orient not signed me then I would most probably have carried on
boxing as I wasn’t that keen on football.
I was a mad footballer as a kid and I got a lot of recognition as a
schoolboy but boxing was my real love.
As far as the second part of the question goes, it is
difficult to remember but I’ll try to get my facts right. As I recall, we were all on £30 - £35 a
week. You have to remember that we were
a Third Division side at that time and I knew players at Fulham who were on less wages than that. In those days this was quite a good
deal. Remember that in those days we didn’t
have agents so players had to negotiate their own contracts. When I signed for Rangers from Brentford I
negotiated £35 a week plus bonuses so with a good result I could get £60 in a
week which was really good money in those days. When I moved on to Crystal Palace I
negotiated £60 a week basic plus bonuses and a signing on fee. Generally, though, players’ pay was about
£35 a week.
At this point I asked Mark if he knew that he held an all
time football record as the only player to be signed three times by the same
club. He admitted that he didn’t know
this but then pointed out that he held another record in that he is the only
player to have played for three teams (1967 to 1970) who were promoted in four
successive seasons. 1966/7, promotion
with QPR; 1967/8, promotion again with
QPR; 1968/9, promotion with Crystal
Palace; 1969/70, promotion with Leyton
Orient. He said the word was going
round that if you wanted to get promotion then you signed Mark Lazarus.
from those he has played with, which other players, past or present, would he
have liked to play with?
Mark: That is a very
hard question to answer. I once played
a friendly match with George Eastham and of all the players I have played with
over the years George gave me the ball more than anybody else. In the formations of the old days, if you
were a winger or inside forward on the same side of the field you had to know
and understand each other very well.
George “had my number” and seemed to instinctively know where I was at
any one time. I have never played with
him since but I guess, based on that one game, he would be the one with whom I
would be happy to strike up a long-term partnership.
I played with Jimmy Greaves as a schoolboy and he is a good
friend but we never played together professionally and I don’t know how we
would have got on together. I also
enjoyed playing with Jimmy Bloomfield.
I have played with some great inside forwards but it is always difficult
to answer a question like this if you have not actually been on the field with
a player. In saying this, I think that
Paul Scholes is somebody I would have enjoyed playing with; he is a bit more ‘old school’ in his style of
play. Now I think about it, Johnny
Haynes would also have been a good player to work with.
does it feel to still be a Rangers legend after over 40 years?
Mark (slightly embarrassed laughter): Well, it really is an honour . I wouldn’t know how many legends there are
at QPR but I don’t want to appear too immodest when I say that I think Rodney
and myself are two who can claim that sort of title. What you have to remember is that Rodney and
I did a lot of the hard work to get QPR out of the Third Division. When I first joined the club in 1960 we
often played in front of crowds of only three or four thousand and by the time
I finally left, our successes had dramatically increased this.
When I was sold to Wolves for £27,500 this was a record
fee. I didn’t want to go and Alec Stock
didn’t want to sell me but the club was in financial difficulty and I was
mainly sold to help keep their head above water. This
was something that Alec Stock was good at and he kept clubs afloat by his
financial dealing. I believe that by
going to Wolves I saved QPR at that time.
Rangers have had some really class players in people like
Les Ferdinand, Terry Venables, John Hollins.
It is difficult, in my view, to classify these players as ‘legends’
because in effect they jumped on the successful bandwagon. Of course the club had to strengthen their
squad to cope with a higher division but these players had done nothing to
create that bandwagon in the first place and it is easy to forget those who
were with the club in the thin times.
This is exactly what the club has to do, and is doing, this year to
strengthen their squad which will also herald the departure of one or two who
have worked loyally and been through the hard graft of getting them into the
Probably others who could claim legendary status would be
Mike Keen, Tony Ingham, Dave Clement, Ian Gillard. I am not decrying the club and supporters
when they talk of legends, and don’t deny that there were great players along
with many others, but sometimes the title is given too easily. Gerry Francis is a true legend. He started with the club as an apprentice,
gave loyal service for more than ten years, was a first class player and
captained England. What could get
better than that? There are others from
before my time who could probably also claim that title: Reg Allen, George Goddard and others but very
few supporters from those days are around now so they tend to be
forgotten. A legend has to be an old
player. I don’t believe you can be a
legend while you are still playing the game.
I know and have a lot of respect for Les Ferdinand. A good player who has helped his clubs by scoring
a lot of goals but I would have difficulty in classifying him as legendary on
that basis alone.
At this point I would like to say how much I loved QPR. I never once wanted to leave them. I was forced to leave for the club’s
financial reasons but they were always the only club for me. The fans there were absolutely brilliant and
I loved every one of them – they were my non-playing mates.
4 How do you
rate the managers from your time to the managers of today?
Mark: I really don’t
think I can answer that question. I
haven’t played football for over 40 years.
A few of today’s managers I have played against and played with but it
is very difficult to generalise about people you have not played for. I think you have to judge managers today on
their ability to buy and sell players.
Years ago you based your managers more on success for the club. I have played under Alec Stock, Malcolm
McDonald, Tommy Kavanagh, Jimmy Bloomfield, Bert Head, Stan Cullis, George Petchey. Undoubtedly the top of that list was Alec
Stock and next would be Bert Head. Very
similar but, in stature, Alec would leave Bert behind. Bert was a real, quiet spoken west country
man – a great motivator; a very, very
nice man who always knew what was going on in his club. Alec Stock, on the other hand was a
diplomat, very smartly dressed. You
couldn’t mistake Alec for what he was – he was the Guv’nor, whereas Bert was a
bit scruffy and very laid back.
Alec was a disciplinarian.
Many a time when he was not happy with me he literally cuffed me round
the face or gave me a kick up the arse.
He wouldn’t stand for any nonsense but the very next day he would come
up and put his arm round you. Not only
was Alec a leader and motivator of men, he was also a problem solver. He would recognise signs if anybody appeared
to be worried and ask a player if everything was alright at home. He was a very caring man and if any of his
players had a problem he would go out of his way to help them in any way he
could. Alec had a lovely family. I was devastated when he died . I admit without shame that I wept at his
funeral and kissed his coffin. I had
great respect for him.
Another man I had great respect for was “Gentleman Jim”
Langley and I was deeply saddened by his death. A nice guy, really solid, tough, full back
even though he was only about five feet eight.
He was similar to Tony Ingham.
They were both players who were real gentlemen and would not kick an
opponent except by accident. There are
gentlemen in football or, at least, there were gentlemen in the game in those
days but not so much now. There were
also a lot of ****holes!
Back to the managers, however. It seems that the only measure of a good
manager today is the buying and selling of players and success. The latter comes from the skill of doing the
former. It’s a lot to do with the
coaching side of it. Years ago you
didn’t see a manager on the football pitch.
It was all about the coaches and most clubs had two or three coaches who
were all experienced footballers. Alec
Stock could not discuss tactics to save his life, even though he was a former
footballer. He just came nowhere near
the pitch during training sessions. He
was, like others of that time, strictly an administrator.
you ever consider becoming a manager or coach?
Mark: No. Definitely not. I was offered a post as coach at Colchester
by Dick Graham when I retired from active playing but I was not
interested. Not my thing. I had seventeen years of football and I had
a business. When I stopped playing I
had really had enough. When I was
playing the game I was not the best one for training and I don’t feel it would
have been right for me or I would have been suited to strutting around telling
others about the importance of training.
I had a fair idea of how to coach but I just wasn’t interested.
6 What is
your recollection of the game when you lost your shorts but carried on playing?
There are a few games that stand out in your memory bank and there was
lot that was spoken about and written about that incident. It was against Carlisle in the fifth round
of the League Cup and I split my shorts.
My shirt was covering my embarrassment and I had to take my torn shorts off
by the dugout. I threw my shorts to
Alec Farmer (trainer) and he threw me a new pair. Before I could put them on the ball came my
way. It was instinct. I was on the field of play and was not about
to let the ball go to put on a pair of shorts so I just ran down the line with
no pants on. I had a good game that day
and laid on both goals for Rodney. I
was tearing Carlisle apart at the time and, as was the case in those days I got
a cheer every time I got hold of the ball but on this occasion there was a
cheer and roars of laughter. That’s the
be all and end all of it.
your career who do you feel gave you the hardest time and contained you during
Mark: There’s plenty
of games where I haven’t been at my best but never a game where I have been
fearful of the defence against me and I truly don’t think any player of that
era can say they managed to truly contain me.
When I played against Don Megson at Hillsborough when he played for
Sheffield Wednesday I had a tough game or two but always “murdered him” at
Loftus Road. I don’t think anybody ever
gave me a hard time at Loftus Road. The
confidence and sheer “fan-power” at that time meant so much. I did
play one game at Loftus Road for Crystal Palace against the Rangers and I was
up against Dave Clement who really gave me a tough time. Probably Dave was the toughest back I have
ever faced. The away factor is
something that is always a problem. You
could play on a pitch similar to our own yet struggle. Again, this was so much down to the fans and
familiarity of your surroundings; they
give you such a lift and you feel a real buzz and want to do the business for
them. It was much the same with Clive
Clark, Rodney Marsh and Les Allen besides myself. When any of us got the ball fans were
convinced something was going to happen.
I just so loved my time at QPR. When I was on Brentford’s transfer list I
wanted to get away, more so when I knew it was Rangers and Alec Stock who
wanted me. If it had been any other
club I am not sure that I would have left.
Later, Alec Stock called me into the office and asked how I
would feel about going to Crystal Palace.
I told him I didn’t want to go.
He suggested that in any event I should go and have a chat with Bert
Head. I later realised that Alec was in
a difficult position. He wanted to
bring on the Morgans and I think he was under some pressure from Ian who was more
or less a permanent sub and wanted to develop his career. I felt they wanted to get Ian into the side
as a young player but were in a difficult situation and perhaps didn’t want to
lose me. I was no youngster at the time
and Bert came up with a super offer so I thought that perhaps QPR were trying
to save me a bit of dignity. Alec
Stock, diplomat that he was, was very good at that sort of man management. Crystal Palace were a good side at the time
so I accepted the deal. I felt I would
rather play for Palace than be a substitute at QPR. As I said before, I never wanted to leave
QPR and I wish now that I hadn’t but I was obviously always trying to further
Wolverhampton Wanderers was a disaster really. Stan Cullis and I never hit it off and what
I saw as a chance to play in the big time simply did not work out. Coincidentally, Cullis told me that if he
had not signed me he would have signed Mike Summerbee who went to Manchester
City. I often think that if I had
refused to go to Wolves then that may have opened the door to Manchester City
and who knows where I could have gone from there? Maybe even a regular for England. This was one of those years where I couldn’t
do anything wrong. If I fell over my
own feet the chances were that the ball would hit my head and go in the net.
Joey Barton was your team mate, would you have punched him on the nose?
Mark (huge laughter):
I have no feelings about this really but I think he is a bit of a prat,
not only for what he did at QPR but also his former clubs – a real head
case. I just think I would not like the
man and could not get on with him as a person.
Yes, I know I was fiery but I would never have allowed myself to get
into a state like he did. I had my ups
and downs on and off the pitch but would never have done anything like
that. It was professionally shameful
and brought discredit on himself and the club.
In the old days it was the clubs who ran things and dictated
terms it now seems that the pendulum has swung the other way and it is the
players and their agents who run things.
I don’t think Barton is that good a player and with the latest
development you might as well have an injured player on your hands. The club needs to make life hard for
him. His team mates can’t possibly have
any respect for him as a captain. He
totally lost it in that game and if I had been on the pitch I would have
stepped in but not sure that I could have stopped him.
110Do you stay in touch with former players?
Mark: I don’t stay in
touch as such but I do see them at various functions from time to time. I’m not one for ringing people up and going
out for a meal or any such thing. I see
Tony Hazell from time to time. He
doesn’t miss any opportunity to see old friends. He goes to any QPR events that he can. I spoke with Ron Hunt about a year ago and
he is not very well. He lives in the
Bournemouth area and had a tragedy which he has never come to terms with when
his son hung himself. I tend to see
Frank Sibley from time to time but not that often. Nobody knows where Keith Sanderson is. The last we heard, he was in South Africa
but nobody knows exactly where. I keep
in touch with Les Allen who has been very ill.
I am also in touch with Rodney Marsh – I love the guy although I am
never quite sure what is going on with him.
I have seen Roger and Ian Morgan from time to time in recent years. The last time was at a signing session in
111Best wishes from Bill Power and wants to
know your recollection of that winning goal.
Mark: Thanks for the
good wishes. That goal! It was quite an easy goal and an easy
recollection. Probably one of the
easiest goals I have ever scored. It
came to me from the goalkeeper, I chipped it in with my left foot then went for
a chat with the crowd while they sorted the goalkeeper out – not unusual for
me! The prima donnas who are playing
today have so much money and consider themselves so very much better than the
supporters that in general they don’t want to know. Where would they be without those supporters
112Mark, where did you get your beautiful
singing voice from?
Mark (biggest laugh of the afternoon): Can’t answer that! But I’ve still got the record somewhere.
113What would he wish the club to do about its
relationships with former players?
What are other clubs doing
vis-à-vis other players that Mark knows?
Mark: I can’t really
give you a view on what other clubs are doing although I can say that Crystal
Palace run regular functions (reunions) for past players, usually with a meal
and a match. As a former Palace player
I was invited to a home match against QPR a couple of years or so ago. I made a point of walking across the pitch
to acknowledge the QPR fans as well as the Palace supporters and I received a
really great round of applause for that which was very rewarding. Palace are brilliant and do a lot for us.
I know Rangers don’t do anything and I was a bit upset when
none of us got invited to the West Brom game last season in view of our history
with them (1967). One recollection is
of a game where QPR were playing West Ham at Loftus Road. My son is a Hammers supporter and asked if
we could go together so I rang the club and asked if I could buy two tickets
and they said that this could be arranged.
I told them who I was. When I
got there I couldn’t get a decent seat.
We were in the top corner of the South Africa Road stand with a dreadful
view and I just didn’t want to be there.
On another occasion I was invited to a QPR dinner at a big
hotel. I took a good friend with
me. I was seated at a front table along
with Ron Springett and Stan Bowles. The
compere for this was Tom Watts (formerly of Eastenders)
a self professed Rangers fan. He said
that he would like to introduce some old favourites from Loftus Road. He introduced Ron Springett and Stan Bowles
to applause then went on to a totally different subject. I was completely ignored and found this to
be insulting. It took some time for me
to calm down and get over my embarrassment.
I said to myself that I would not go to any more QPR functions in future.
Why are you not a fan of the modern game? Is it the money, speed, cheating,
ball, fans, foreigners, chairmen of just lack of technical ability of the
Well, I guess it is a bit of most of them. The questioner seems to be reading my
mind. I don’t think money should come
into it. However much you are paid you
can only do what you can do. Lack of
ability certainly comes into it.
Cheating is a big issue and something must be done about
it. I blame the referees because they
are being conned and, what’s more they know they are being conned, they are
allowing themselves to be conned and they let the players get away with
it. Players are screaming as soon as
anybody goes near them and throwing themselves on the ground and other players
are being booked – often for nothing.
The referees are useless!
Absolutely useless! I don’t know
what sort of football, if any, they have ever played but they are definitely
being conned. If they keep on letting
players get away with diving and cheating the game will be totally ruined. The players are the biggest cheats of the
lot. If they think they can get away
with things then they will carry on doing it.
I see players getting the smallest connection on a leg going down
holding their head because they know play will be stopped for an apparent head
injury. Most of the things that they go
to ground for are the sort of things that in my day we would have ignored. If we did go down we would get up and carry
straight on – and we never screamed or had agonised looks on our faces unless
it was totally genuine and serious. The
aim seems to be to do whatever you can to get a player sent off. If a player ever fouled me, I would get up
and carry on with the game. If I fouled
a player, he would do the same. There
is no way I would ever say “Sorry”. It
was all part of the game. Jimmy Langley
was different. If he made a poor
tackle, he would immediately grab his opponent’s hand, help him to his feet and
apologise but that was not for me. I
don’t want somebody to say sorry to me when they have just tried to break my
If the ref gave us a penalty we would never argue against it
even if we knew it was not a penalty but we would always argue if there was one
against us. That goes with the
territory. You give anybody an inch in
football then the players will want to take a yard.
We have all seen incidents, particularly in the Euros, where
the shirt tugging goes on. In one
incident John Terry was held back by his shirt and it was ignored by the ref
and his assistants. If it happens down
by the half way line the a free kick is awarded. By the same token that sort of holding
should be given as a penalty in the box.
This sort of behaviour should be stamped out by referees. I know that referees had me down as a marked
man before a game because they knew I was a tough player. Referees today must have a similar view on
players who are cheaters and divers like Ashley Young but they choose to ignore
the facts and let it go. I also feel
that the foreign players have a lot to do with the cheating aspects of the
I don’t like football today. It’s boring, referees are killing it,
players are killing it and silly little plastic footballs are ruining it. Some of today’s players like Ronaldo would
never be able to cope with the heavy, soaking wet leather football and soggy
mud-bath pitches that we had in our day.
One final point is that in my opinion goal-line technology is an
essential as referees are just not up to the job.
QPR Report would like to thank John "Gramps" Clifford for conducting this interview; and for granting permission to post it on the QPR Report Blog. His Book "Queen's Park Rangers: The Old Days (1939-1970) can be purchased at qprtheolddays.com or via Amazon.com
- - Correction: QPR Player Report Back for Training, Monday, July 9 (Not Friday, July 6 as previously noted) QPR Spokesman Ian Taylor: "The
QPR First Team squad will return to pre-season training on July 9th,
not the 6th as I previously tweeted!" (apologies @QPRReport) #QPRIan Taylor
January 1936: QPR Mark the Death of the Queen's Grandfather, King George V
Bushman Writes: "Queen Elizabeth II's Grandfather George V died on the 20th January 1936. His
passing was marked in the Rangers programme v Swindon Town on the 25th
January 1936. The programme, printed in black as opposed to the usual
Blue of matchday programmes for that season."