QPR, Southend United and me - part 1 - 1967/68
My club and my local team part 1.
I have supported Queens Park Rangers since 1967. I was only 11 when that life time obsession began and, to be honest, with information availability limited to an adolescent in the pre-internet age, this game passed me by.
Why support QPR and not Southend? At a different time this might appear as glory hunting but in early 1967 as a football supporter only aware of the bigger clubs I was invited by a neighbour, along with another boy, to go the 1967 League Cup Final at Wembley as he had got free tickets from his work.
On the train to London from Rayleigh (near Southend for those who can't be asked to click Google maps) we were asked who we would be supporting at a game I had no idea of the significance of! The other boy asked who was playing and when told WBA and QPR selected West Brom. I often wonder how different my life would have turned out if he'd said QPR as I have always been belligerent and automatically chose the opposite. I'd never heard of Rangers at the time as they were in Division 3 at the time and, despite being top of it at the time, had done little to attract attention outside of London.
As some of you will know this game was the 1st League Cup Final played at Wembley (previously they's be 2-leg affairs). W.B.A were a top division side and Q.P.R huge underdogs. Perhaps they underestimated Rangers, especially after going 2 up by half-time. Perhaps the rumours of unrest in the West Brom dressing room, and a half time bust up, were true. who knows. The turnaround in the 2nd half, and the amazing unknown atmosphere that that engendered, was enough to hook me. Once I found QPR were from London - an achievable distance once I'd got older - they had to be my team!
But I was too young to go to London, of course, and with my Dad never interested in football there was no chance of being taken up there. So, besides begging for access to any matches shown on TV, which were very few and far between in 1967, the only potential matches to see live were at Southend United.
In those days kids of that age swanning around the local area on foot, on a bus or even a bike was normal. Parents could keep tabs on where they were but life seemed so safe (perhaps not in the world as a whole, but certainly in local community terms). It was accepted as normal for me and my mates to get on a bike early Saturday and cycle anywhere we chose for as long as we wanted, as long as we were back in time for tea. So catching the 24B into Southend (or Prittlewell more accurately) was not something my parents batted an eyelid at.
I remember the first trip a few of made to watch Southend United. The opposition was Chesterfield United and remember getting a player from each team to sign the programme. But the real eye-opener occurred at half time. Southend were, in my memory, 1 down and as the teams went down the tunnel which was close to where we were standing, a disgruntled fan from the stands shouted at the Southend United manager, Alvin Williams, 'Sort that shit out, Williams!'. All illusions about football disappeared with the 'Fuck off, you fucking bastard' reply.
But I've wandered off topic to a degree and so I'll return to the match at hand.
Ernie Shepherd, the Southend manager, had been a Rangers player for 6 years and obviously had some affection for the club, as can be seen in his brief 'From the Manager's Office'
The game itself seems to have been a very competitive one with a limited number of substitutes - relevant in the day when the bench was only warmed by one - with QPR squeezing out a win by the odd goal in five.
Background interests lie in a significant player from each club. Ernie Shepherd
mentions in his club notes ' another player in the Chisnall mould' and Phil Chisnall joined Southend United with an excellent pedigree from Manchester United and Liverpool but it is fair to say that the only meaningful period of his professional career was at United where he notched up 142 appearances and scored 28 times. He scored one of the home team's goals on this occasion.
The second player is mentioned in the away team's Pen Pictures but doesn't take part in the game. That was Rodney Marsh and we will see in part 2 of this blog post that Marsh had a more important and unusual interaction with Southend United not long afterward.
We'll return to this personal relationship between QPR and Southend United soon.
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