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Great Stan Bowles Interview..

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  • Great Stan Bowles Interview..


    One of the genuine characters of English football was back at Wembley at the weekend, the scene of an incident [at the old stadium] that curtailed his international career. Joe Mercer’s avuncular image cut no ice with Stan Bowles, who told him where to stick his England team after being substituted in favour of that other celebrated maverick Frank Worthington back in 1974. As a result, the living legend of Loftus Road gained just five caps for his country, when his talent merited 50.

    Walking out on England after that match against Northern Ireland was, and still is, nothing to one of the game’s great entertainers, who did the same to Brian Clough and Nottingham Forest on the eve of the 1980 European Cup Final. Regrets? “Nah”, the old Manc says in his adopted cockney accent. “I had a good time and a good career.”

    Typically unimpressed by names and reputations, Bowles chose to watch two of his old clubs, Carlisle and Brentford, in the Johnsons Paint Trophy, rather than travel to Cardiff for Wales v England. He doesn’t drive these days, and anyway he wouldn’t cross the road to see today’s overpaid “stars” who are reduced to “running the channels”, unable to dribble their way through defences as was his custom.

    Now 62, and in what are euphemistically described as reduced circumstances, the old boy is still engaging company and a riveting raconteur, well worth the trouble always entailed in finding him. When we arranged to meet to renew old acquaintance, he told me: “Come over to Brentford and give me a bell from there.” On arrival at Griffin Park I dialled his mobile, only to find it was not receiving calls. Accustomed to such things from my days writing George Best’s authorized biography, I made for the pub on the corner and met Stan on the way out. Why hadn’t he answered his phone? The credit had run out. That hiccough aside, the chat that followed over a couple of pints was time well spent.

    This was the man who once wore odd boots in an England game [Nike and Puma] when he signed up with one manufacturer for 250 and discovered the other paid more. Stan was always short of a few bob and found unusual ways of supplementing his wages. Terry Venables, who played with him at Queen’s Park Rangers, says: “Stan was game for a wind-up and formed a double act with Don Shanks which was different class. They never had any money and they always used to be borrowing or wanting an advance from the club secretary, Ron Phillips.

    “Stan and Don did pretty well out of a slick operator called “The Colonel”, who put on bets for the top punters, like Arab sheikhs. “The Colonel”, Stan and Don used to play cards on a Friday night and Stan and Don used to lose every time. They were convinced “The Colonel” was up to something and came up with a scheme to get their own back. If Don needed a five to make up a winning hand, he’d say: “Frank McLintock must be one of the best centre-halves in the game”, and since Frank was always No 5, Stan knew that Don wanted him to discard a five if he had one. Stan would then say something like: “Yes, but Ian Gillard [no 3] was a good left-back”, and Don would chuck in a three. They ended up taking “The Colonel” to the cleaners.”

    Horses, rather than cards, were Bowles’ financial undoing, moving one of his club managers to declare that if he could pass a betting shop as easily as he passed a ball he’d be made for life. Undoubtedly true, as the man himself freely admits but, skint or not, he still found time to delight those of us of a certain age.

    If George Best, a mutual friend, was ultimately laid low by birds and booze, Stan was undermined by nags and fags [he has long been a 60-a-day man], but he is quick to point out that he played League football for 18 years, “not just the seven I had at QPR, as a lot of people seem to think.”

    It all began in his native Manchester, where he joined City from school. “I started gambling as a kid and I’ve never stopped”, he says. “I used to run bets across Manchester when I was 15. That was for a firm called The Quality Street Gang, who used to run the town then. They were into all sorts – gambling, robbery and violence – and I used to get more money from them than I was getting from football. My first wage at Man City was seven quid. My mum kept that pay slip until the day she died. The trouble was, anything I earned as a bookies’ runner I spent on the horses myself!”

    Young Stan was as precocious on the field as he was off it, but Mercer and Malcolm Allison, managerial partners at Maine Road, were aware of his extra-curricular activities and strongly disapproved. As a result, the most gifted young player at the club found his first team opportunities limited. “I played only 17 games in four seasons”, he says. “I scored twice in one game, but that wasn’t good enough for them. My problem was Allison, who said I was a playboy. Talk about pot and kettle! He was telling me this in a club in Manchester with a big cigar on. He was the biggest, flashest playboy of the lot.”

    Mercer sold him to Crewe, when he was 21. “That was the worst”, he says, grimacing at the memory. “Dennis Viollet, the old Manchester United player, was the manager and a real nice fella, but what a dump! I was there for a year and couldn’t wait to get out.”

    Carlisle provided the kick-start his career needed. Stan says: “The manager there, Ernie Tagg, told me: “If you get your head together, you’ll play for England.” He was right, of course, but I don’t think I ever got my head together in the way he meant. I have to say Carlisle wasn’t a very pleasant place in those days. There was nothing there, only sheep. It’s normal now, but to me it wasn’t then. When it snowed it was four feet deep. It felt like training in the alps. It was a hell of a change for a city kid from Manchester, but I got used to it, and we had a decent side. John Gorman, who became England’s assistant manager under Glenn Hoddle, was a good left-back and Chris Balderstone, who was a nice player, was in midfield. I was up front with Bobby Owen and we did OK, finishing tenth in the old Second Division. A couple of years after I left, they were promoted to the top division, the First.

    “It was Ernie Tagg who made that crack about my ability to pass a betting shop. It was a bit rich, coming from him. Ernie had a pub [The Vine], and I remember him staying there for a darts match instead of watching a game once. At least I used to turn up!”

    Fourteen goals in 33 Second Division appearances for Carlisle brought a 110,000 transfer to QPR, and the big time in 1972. “I loved the place – still do”, Bowles said. “We had a great team – ten international players.” Reeling them off, he said: “There was Phil Parkes in goal, Dave Clement and Ian Gillard at full-back, the centre-halves were Frank McLintock and Terry Mancini, in midfield it was Terry Venables, Gerry Francis and Dave Thomas, and up front me and Don Givens. I used to hit the ball miles in front of Dave Thomas and knew he would always catch it, he had such pace on the wing. A smashing player, genuinely two-footed. Don Givens was a good striker. I didn’t get on with him, but we worked well together on the field. He tried to tell me to stop hanging around with gangsters and to stop drinking. I said: “What the hell has it got to do with you? ” I suppose he meant well but I didn’t want to hear it.”

    Of Bowles’ ability, Venables says: “Stan was quite a footballer. He and Gerry Francis were an unbelievable combination. People say players take a long time to settle into a team, but Gerry and Stan had an incredible rapport from the first six-a-side on the very first day. They were so good at playing one-twos, it was as if they had radar. It was uncanny, they just connected somehow. Even though Gerry did become captain of England, neither of them was really given the recognition their talent merited – except at Loftus Road, where they were idolised.”

    Bowles was bought to replace another QPR crowd pleaser, Rodney Marsh, an Allison favourite who moved in the opposite direction. Marsh enjoys the higher profile but Tony Gale, who won the Premier League with Blackburn, played against both of them and says: “Stan was the better player, I couldn’t get anywhere near him. His skill – his close control and dribbling – would put him right up there with the best today.”

    Bowles’ England debut came in Sir Alf Ramsey’s last match in charge, against Portugal in Lisbon in April 1974, when his teammates included Mel Pejic [“the ugliest footballer I ever saw”] and Malcolm Macdonald. “I couldn’t stand him, calling himself “Supermac” and all that crap”, Stan says. “He was supposed to have found God later in life – perhaps that taught him a bit of humility. My mate Bernard Manning used to take the **** out of him all the time. Mind you, Bernard slaughtered everyone.”

    Trevor Brooking was in midfield in Lisbon. “I didn’t rate him either. QPR played West Ham and beat them 6-0 and it caused a bit of trouble afterwards when I said “All he does is drop his shoulder and cross to the near post all the time.” Gerry Francis, who played with Brooking so often for England, had warned me beforehand that it was what he would do. I said: “Is that it? Is that all he’s got?”

    When Mercer replaced Ramsey as England’s manager Stan feared the worst, but he was retained in the team for the old Home Internationals and scored against Wales in Cardiff. “A tap-in”, he says, dismissively. “Not worth talking about.” Four days later it was crisis time. Mercer substituted him against Northern Ireland and Bowles stormed out of Wembley and out of the England squad. “Mercer pulled me off and put Frank Worthington on, which gave me the raving hump”, he says. “I’d overheard a conversation Mercer had with one of his backroom staff before the game, when he said he was going to bring me off ten minutes into the second half, whatever happened, and I thought that was unfair, so I walked out and told them to stuff the next game, against Scotland.” In Glasgow, Worthington started in his place.

    Back at QPR, it was panic stations. Stan explains: “Gordon Jago, the manager who had bought me from Carlisle, was a good bloke, but he lived on his nerves. He said he was OK until I turned up! He used to come out in this big rash, trying to keep me on the straight and narrow, and when I walked out on England I found him nearly crying over it. He said: “How the hell are we going to get you out of this?” The club couldn’t, of course, and it took another change of management for Bowles to play for his country again.

    Don Revie was not everybody’s cup of Yorkshire tea, but Stan will not have a word said against him. He says: “It was Revie who brought me back into the England team, against Italy in Rome in November 1976, when we lost 2-0. I played with Keegan and Channon again. I liked Revie, he got us more money for playing for England. The players had a meeting with the staff and Emlyn Hughes got up and gave this awful spiel about playing for the three lions on the shirt. I told him: “If you don’t want the money, I’ll have yours.” We were away and nobody spoke to me for thee days after that. I did play again, though. My last game for England was against Holland at Wembley in February 1977. I played up front with Keegan and Trevor Francis and we lost 2-0. That was it. My international career was over at 28.”

    Meanwhile, QPR finished runners-up in the League under Dave Sexton in 1976. “Great times”, Stan says. “Sexton signed Don Shanks from Luton to keep me happy. He was my best mate – and a bigger gambler than me! Dave was a good coach, but I wasn’t into a lot of his methods. We’d have 200 cones out on the training ground, and sometimes we didn’t have a ball. Without a ball, there was no point to anything for me. We’d have to pretend one was there, or pretend other players were there. I couldn’t get my head round all that.”

    The happy days ended when Sexton went to Manchester United. Tommy Docherty took over at Loftus Road three years later, Stan fell out with “The Doc” and was sold to Forest, where things went from bad to worse. Clough and Bowles were chalk and cheese, and when Stan was refused permission to play in John Robertson’s testimonial match he told Old Big ‘Ead he wouldn’t play in the European Cup Final either. He explained: “Charlie George was with me at Forest in 1980. He was a good lad and I still see him quite a lot. He meets and greets corporate guests at Arsenal now, and does quite well out of it. Anyway, neither of us got on with Clough. Going to play for him was a big mistake for both of us. I was paid 50 grand as a signing on fee and wanted to give it back after two weeks. That big ‘eaded ******* drove me mad, he was always poking his finger in my chest when he spoke to me. And he only wanted to play me in the home games, I don’t know why.

    “John Robertson was my best mate at Forest and when Clough wouldn’t let me play in his testimonial, that was it as far as me and him were concerned. I told him if he wanted to be like that, I wouldn’t play in the European Cup Final either, and I walked out. He apologised, but I wasn’t having it. I had a right go at him – nowadays I’d get 25 grand from the papers for what I said.

    “Clough obviously had something about him, but I don’t know what it was. He was always pissed and he never took any of the training. He’d walk around with his dog, or with Peter Taylor, and let his coaches run it all.”

    There could be only one winner in this personal battle, and after 19 games in eight miserable months Stan was sold to Orient for 100,000 in July 1980. “It was a bit of a come down, but it was good just to be back in London”, he says. “The football was all right, but we were a mid-table Second Division team, never going to go anywhere. We had three managers in a short space of time – Jimmy Bloomfield first, then Paul Went, who I got on really well with, and finally Ken Knighton, who I didn’t like. There were a lot of people in the game I didn’t get on with. I don’t know how I got away with it really!

    ”After Orient, I finished up at Brentford, joining them when I was 32. I was just finishing off and my heart wasn’t in it. My best mate there was Terry Hurlock. We also had Chris Kamara and “Chopper” Harris for a while. Frank McLintock was the manager when I finished, after three seasons. I could have stayed on, but I knew my legs had gone, and the game was getting on my nerves anyway. It wasn’t football – not as I knew it.

    “Nowadays I do bits and pieces with the corporate guests at QPR, but I’m sure half of them don’t even know who I am. I’ve done some work for Sky, but I only watch games on the telly if I’ve had a bet on them. I don’t really mix with ex-footballers. Mind you, I never used to hang around with the other players much when I played. I was always happier around The Mob. They are all still there in Manchester and look after me whenever I go up. Do you remember John Stalker [formerly deputy chief constable of Greater Manchester police]? He said the Quality Street Gang didn’t exist, but anyone up there will tell you different. ”

    Of course Quality existed – old Stan is living testimony to that.

    Final Version - Hope you like it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d1z0UQ0eqRM

    Follow Me On Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/QPRGoddard

  • #2
    Very funny
    Kept the faith!


    • #3
      I posted that up earlier in the week.
      First game: Arsenal vs Queen's Park Rangers at Highbury, Saturday 17th November 1984.


      • #4
        Originally posted by HammersmithR View Post
        I posted that up earlier in the week.

        Oh well.
        Still... probably worth reading twice.

        Unlike most of the repetitive old gash posted on here. Which is often a load of old pony the first time around.

        Final Version - Hope you like it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d1z0UQ0eqRM

        Follow Me On Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/QPRGoddard