Loftus Road Stadium. South Africa Road. London. W12 7PJ. That’s the address of Queen Park Rangers, the football club residing in Shepherds Bush, in West London. It’s situated about 4 miles north of Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge and about 5 miles south of Wembley stadium. Q.P.R. was founded in the late 19th century when the existing teams of St Judes and Christchurch Rangers merged in 1882.
One of the more interesting facts about the early days of Q.P.R. is that they established the record of having the most home grounds in British football history, playing their home fixtures at over twenty football venues, of course it’s a record they still hold today.
It wasn’t long after the formation of the club that they became an all professional club, doing so only a few years after. The Q.P.R. kit is one of the most recognisable in world football, the shirt with the blue and white horizontal stripes or hoops which have long since been associated with the Loftus Road club. The first time that the players of Q.P.R. ran out onto the pitch in the blue and white horizontal striped shirt was at the beginning of the 1926 – 1927 season. Before that the club colours of Queen Park Rangers were horizontal green and white stripes, think Glasgow Celtic and you ain’t far away.
From the moment they were first established as a football club, Rangers would become something of a nomadic club. The clubs first recorded home venue was Welford’s Fields, the club was only there for a couple years, after that they were on their travels, Brondesbury, Kensal Green and Kilburn Cricket Ground being only three of the venues that Queens Park Rangers would call home amongst many. They first moved into Loftus Road in 1917 as the ground they were using for home fixtures back then, at Park Royal North West London, was acquisitioned by the military, the end of the First World War was still a good year or so away. In a bid to raise attendances at home games Q.P.R. made the decision to move to nearby White City at the start of the 1931 – 1932 season. It wouldn’t be until after the Second World War, in 1948, that the club bought the ownership rights to the ground.
With respect to Rangers, its haul of major honours down the years hasn’t been the greatest. Having said that though, it wasn’t long after the clubs formation that it began to claim silverware, winning the West London Observer Cup three times on the bounce in 1892, 1893 and 1894. A year later in 1895, they won the London Cup and entered the FA Cup for the first time. As the 20th century got underway the London club would achieve further success in the Western League, a minor league still going today. Q.P.R. also finished runners up to Manchester United in the 1909 Charity Shield. So yes, not a brilliant record of cup wins down the years by any means, however there is one entry into the record books that the club can be rightfully proud of. The ’66 – ’67 season was an excellent one for Q.P.R., winning the Division 3 title at a canter. The final standings for that season in the Third Division had Q.P.R. finishing as champions with 67 points, a full 12 points ahead of Middlesbrough in second place on 55 points.
That season they only lost 5 games in a 46 game league campaign, scoring over a hundred goals and conceding only 38, almost half what Middlesbrough conceded. So it’s fair to say they romped home to the Division 3 title. They also romped to the League Cup Final that season. Following wins over Colchester United, Aldershot, Swansea City (then known as Swansea Town). Leicester City and Carlisle United, Q.P.R. found themselves in the semifinal against Division Two side Birmingham City. The 1st leg of the semifinal took place at St Andrews, the team from Shepherd’s Bush brushed their opponents aside with ease, winning 4 – 1. A month later Q.P.R. welcomed Birmingham to West London. The game took off where the 1st leg finished, Q.P.R. again winning easily 3 – 1. So with a 7 – 2 aggregate victory Rangers were in the League Cup final, for the very first time in its history.
The 1967 League Cup final would also make history, from now on the final would be contested over the one game, at Wembley Stadium. Before then, teams reaching the League Cup final had to contest the final over two games. Q.P.R.’s opponents in the final was West Bromwich Albion. The midlands team were the holders of the League Cup, beating West Ham United over two games a year before. The final was played, as mentioned at Wembley Stadium on the 4th of March, Jimmy Hagan’s West Bromwich Albion being the hot favourites to retain the trophy.
The Q.P.R. manager at the time was one of the great names in the history of Queens Park Rangers, Alec Stock. Stock was a Somerset man, born in 1917 in Peasedown St John. He was once on the books of Q.P.R. as a player, making 30 appearances for the club as a forward. However, he made his name in football as a manager when he became the player manager of Yeovil Town in 1946, leading the tiny club to the 5th round of the FA Cup in 1949.
Good experience for Stock, experience he would later put to good use with Queens Park Rangers. Alec became the club manager of Q.P.R. in 1959, a position he would hold for 9 years. Under Alec Stock Q.P.R. would have quite a successful time in the 1960’s. One of the highlights of Alec Stock’s managerial career was leading out his Q.P.R. side out at Wembley Stadium to take on West Bromwich Albion in that League Cup final of 1967. Like I said, the Baggies were most people’s favourites to retain their trophy they lifted the year before. No surprises then that with little over half an hour into the game West Brom were 2 – 0 up, seemingly on their way to another cup final victory, both their goals scored by Yorkshireman Clive Clark. In the second half the fans of the soon to be Third Division champions were in dreamland as they saw their side come from 2 goals down to win the game 3 – 2, the goals scored by Rodney Marsh, Roger Morris and Mark Lazarus, sending the Q.P.R. fans into ecstasy.
That record I mentioned earlier? Q.P.R. became the first team from the Third Division to lift the League Cup, history would repeat itself a couple of years later when Swindon Town of the Third Division beat First Division Arsenal in the final of the League Cup. Alec Stock would lead Q.P.R. to promotion again the following season, reaching the First Division for the first time in their history. Just before I go on to talk about other matters Q.P.R., did you ever see that comedy sketch show from the 1990’s, The Fast Show? Well, you know that character that Paul Whitehouse used to do, Ron Manager, jumpers for goalposts, hmmmm, isn’t it? Well, that character was actually based on Alec Stock.
The Hoops would again come to prominence during the ’75 – ’76 season when they narrowly missed out on the First Division title. They finished only a point behind Liverpool, it’s still the Londoners best ever finish in the English top flight. In 1980, former Q.P.R. player Terry Venables took over the managerial reins at Loftus Road. Whilst still in Division Two, Venables would take the club to the F.A. Cup final in ’82 for the first time in their history.
They lost narrowly to First Division side Tottenham Hotspur, after a replay. It was a bitter sweet ending for Q.P.R. that season, disappointment in the FA Cup final was lessened thanks to a domestic campaign that yielded promotion back to Division One. Venables was team boss at Q.P.R. for four years. In ’84 he left for Spain to manage Barcelona, he was replaced by Alan Mullery. Mullery’s time at Loftus Road was short but full of interesting incident, not least when he took them into Europe. In Venables final season at the helm at Loftus Road, the club had finished in 5th place in Division One, so that meant they would be entered into the following seasons U.E.F.A. Cup tournament.
In the first round they faced Knattspyrnufélag Reykjavíkur of Iceland. It was a walk in the park for the Hoops, winning the 1st leg away in Iceland 3 – 0 and 4 – 0 at Loftus Road. In the second round they were drawn against Partizan Belgrade of Yugoslavia, the first leg taking place on the 24th of October at Arsenal’s Highbury Stadium. Why Highbury? You might well ask. Well, it was because U.E.F.A. had deemed Q.P.R.’s astro turf pitch unsuitable for a U.E.F.A. Cup match, or any serious European fixture for that matter. So therefore, the Q.P.R. team bus traveled the 9 miles to Arsenal’s then home stadium Highbury for their European home tie. It was an interesting game, full of goals and a sending off. Q.P.R. took the lead over their Yugoslav opponents in the 12th minute courtesy of a goal by John Gregory.
Partizan equalised a minute later with a goal by Nikica Klinčarski, just over ten minutes later the Black-Whites took the lead with a goal from Dragan Mance. After that it was all Q.P.R., as fate would have it Partizan’s turn to be on the receiving end of a quick equalizer when Wayne Fereday put the ball in the Partizan goal to make it 2 – 2. Just before half time Simon Stainrod made it 3 – 2 in Q.P.R.’s favour. The Hoops would score another 3 goals that night, Gary Bannister scored two and Warren Neil also found the Partizan net. Unfortunately for Neil, about 25 minutes later he would be red carded for a reckless tackle, with the game finishing 6 – 2 it looked as though the Loftus Road club were sailing into the 3rd round.
About a fortnight later Rangers flew to Belgrade for their 2nd leg match with Partizan, the West London club were about to undergo one of their most disappointing games in their history. All Q.P.R. had to do was play a disciplined game and not do anything silly. Sadly for The Hoops that night, Partizan played an excellent game in Belgrade. Dragon Mance, fresh from scoring in London opened the scoring in the 5th minute to put his team 1 – 0 up. Another goal before half time by Dragan Kaličanin gave Partizan reason to believe they might actually pull this tie out of the fire. With another couple of goals from Miodrag Ješić they did indeed achieve the near impossible, it was Partizan’s night. The game ended 6 – 6 on aggregate, the Yugoslavs through on the away goals rule.
About 6 months on from taking the manager’s job at Loftus Road, Alan Mullery was sacked. In came former Q.P.R. defender Jim Sibley, a local man from nearby Uxbridge in the role as caretaker manager. Sibley was in charge of first team matters for about 12 months, replacing him was Jim Smith brought in from Oxford United. The ’85 – ’86 season would see Q.P.R. return to Wembley for another League Cup final, this time against Oxford United. For that season Q.P.R. retained Guinness as their shirt sponsor.
Unfortunately for the Loftus Road club, that impressive run of form that would see them to another League Cup final, could not be replicated in their domestic campaign in the First Division. They would finish that season mid table, in 13th. The season began well enough for them with a 1 – 0 home victory, against Ipswich Town. It was a season that saw Q.P.R. unable to string a series of wins together, “yoyo – ing” from victory to defeat. However, they did record an impressive home win against eventual First Division title winner’s, Liverpool. Liverpool would again taste defeat against Rangers later on in the season. The period from late November to the New Year saw Q.P.R. go on a losing streak of 5 games, starting with a 2 – 0 home defeat to Coventry City. Later in the season they would enjoy a 1 – 0 home win against Ron Atkinson’s Manchester United. At the end of the season they recorded an impressive away win at Filbert Street, beating Leicester City 4 – 1. After wins in the League Cup against Hull City, Watford, Nottingham Forest and Chelsea, Q.P.R. found themselves in the two legged semifinal against Liverpool.
The first leg took place at Loftus Road. In front of just over 15,000 fans, Rangers came away the winners thanks to a solitary goal scored by Terry Fenwick. The second leg played at Anfield was an unusual game to say the least, it was a semifinal that saw Liverpool score two own goals in front of their own fans, the Hoops didn’t have to score, their opponents did all the work for them. Gary Gillespie and Ronnie Whelan scored an own goal each to give QPR a 3 – 1 aggregate win, the team from Loftus Road were once again going to Wembley. Awaiting them in the League Cup final was Oxford United, managed by Maurice Evans. The match was played on the 20th of April in front of over 90,000 fans, unfortunately for QPR, it wasn’t to be their day. Oxford won the game 3 – 0 with goals from Trevor Hebbard, Ray Houghton and Jeremy Charles, therefore giving Oxford United its first and as yet only major trophy.