Mark Lazarus 50 years on – Interview
Sunday, 26th Feb 2017 17:40 by Clive Whittingham
To mark 50 years since QPR’s League Cup win, and the launch of a commemorative kit for nexy weekend’s game with Cardiff, LFW spoke with Mark Lazarus who scored the winner at Wembley.
Can you believe it’s been 50 years?
ML: Not at all. It feels like it was only a few years ago. Time goes so quickly. Fifty years is a big milestone.
The victory over Leicester in that run, with Gordan Banks in goal, that was, in many ways, the big performance of that run. Is that how you remember it?
ML: No, in a word. The Leicester game was the start of it all, but our best performance was Birmingham away in the semi-final. That was where we achieved going to Wembley. We could have got beaten by Swansea or Carlisle in any other season. When we played Leicester, they were a top side, and nobody ever thought we’d beat them, we came from 2-1 down at half time and beat them 4-2. That was the start of us believing we could do something. But the actual game we really excelled in was the game at Birmingham.
Birmingham had spent some big money, relative to what’s spent now of course but quite big hitters…
ML: Yeh they were a very good, big team. Once again we came from 1-0 down at half time and went out there and beat them 4-1 at a canter, with ease. That was, for me personally, our best performance of the whole campaign.
Was it belief and/or arrogance that you kept coming from behind, it didn’t matter that you were 1-0 down you’d still win?
ML: We used to put a map up in the dressing room beforehand and say ‘right we’ll come in at half time 1-0 down and then start playing’. It's just how it went. Nobody wants to be losing at any point of the game, unfortunately that’s how it went. We were getting beaten by Leicester, by Birmingham and then in the final itself by West Brom. I suppose you could say we were a second half team.
What was the half time team talk like then? Come on let’s get our act together now…
ML: There were a few rucks leading up to Wembley. But when we were at Wembley and came in 2-0 down there was no problem. Our actual goal was getting there. Alec Stock just said go out there and perform, you know you can, and enjoy it. That’s exactly what we did. The difference was, we were a young side apart from myself and Les Allen and Jimmy Langley, and I think the younger boys were a bit nervous and the occasion took over. Once we went out in the second half, calmed down a bit, we started to show what we could do.
There are all sorts of stories about drinking in the hotel rooms until the early hours the night before, is that the sort of folklore that just grows up and gets exaggerated over time?
ML: I can’t talk for the other people. We were a young side. I’m a tee-totaller, never drank, I just don’t like the taste. So I wasn’t out. I don’t know about the other boys. Jimmy Langley was a married man, he wasn’t a party goer, Mike Keen wasn’t, Les wasn’t that way inclined.
Were you surprised we won? We were a good side obviously, but two down against a First Division side…
ML: Oh yes. Very surprised that we beat West Brom from two nil down, very surprised. But once we scored the first goal and the way we were playing, Rodney got into his stride and scored the second goal I thought we would win from that moment on. I think they started to realise they had to be careful with us, that they could get beaten, in my opinion that’s what they started thinking. When I scored my goal the crowd started believing in it and I can still hear them now shouting out ‘let’s have four’ and we’d already scored three.
You hit the post late on as well…
ML: I hit the post. I had a volley cleared away off the line. I could have scored a hat trick at Wembley. I hit the post with another break away shot. The crowd wanted more goals. They were used to more goals from us. I can hear them now shouting ‘we want four, we want four’.
What do you remember about your goal, because there was a clash between Ron Hunt and the goalkeeper which West Brom thought might be a foul…
ML: I remember every single thing about the goals. Not just mine, I can remember the others, I can remember the whole game in fact. I remember Peter Springett saving a super strike from West Brom that probably would have won it for them. I think it was Jeff Astle or someone like that, went through and had a shot on goal and Peter pulled off a brilliant save. Our first goal, I got the ball and went past Williams who fouled me. Les Allen took the free kick, Roger Morgan headed it into the net. The second goal was all down to Rodney, he collected the ball off Mike Keen, looking for someone to play through, he had to do it himself and that hit the post and went in.
My goal, I don’t know why Ronny Hunt had the ball, but he had the ball on the edge of the circle and played the ball into me and played me a bit short. As it was coming to me he kept running, playing a one two off me, but it was a bit short and the defender was right next to me so all I could do was flick it round, I couldn’t pass it. The ball went up in the air in an oval shape, it looked like a rugby ball it had that much spin on it off the outside of my foot. It landed between a couple of defenders but the spin beat them both and carried on through to the keeper. It was still spinning and Ronny carried on running, he was well entitled to go for the ball it was a 50/50 chance it wasn’t as if the keeper had it in his arms and Ronny knocked it out, they clashed with the ball. I’d turned round and carried on running, following the ball, the ball ran out as they clashed and ran to me and I just stuck it in the back of the net with my left foot.
I personally think it was all very legal. Today it most probably wouldn’t have counted. In our day we were allowed a bit. There wasn’t the feather touch and people falling over, nothing like that. People would tackle hard and defend hard and I thought it was a legal goal.
When people in the modern game talk about ‘there was contact so he was entitled to go down’ I’m sensing it’s not your thing?
ML: No. No. No. It’s a contact sport as far as I’m concerned. People used to kick me left, right and centre and I used to give it back. There were people I knew who would go out with books stuffed down the back of their socks as pads. You never had pads at the front, just down the back.
But yeh, I remember the whole game. I remember specifically how the goals went in. That will never, ever leave me.
The other amazing thing about you was that you kept leaving QPR and coming back, three separate stints and Alec Stock signed you four times in your career, how did that keep happening?
ML: I was only talking about this with my friend today. I never once asked for a transfer, from any of the clubs I was at. When I came to QPR in the first place, Alec Stock came over and got me, I never asked Orient for a transfer but Alec Stock wanted me to come down here to Rangers which I accepted. Then Wolves came in for me when I was here, I never asked for a transfer but Man City were here, West Brom, Tottenham, West Ham and Wolves were all fighting for my signature at that time. The money was the problem, Alec Stock wanted the most he could get so I signed for Wolves who offered QPR the most.
Wolverhampton Wanderers is the only place I ever asked for a move. I was promised a few things there that never materialised. I was supposed to live and train in London, live where I was and still train with QPR during the week then travel up to Wolves for the game at the weekend. All that was discussed with Wolves manager Stan Cullis before I signed and he was fine with that, then as soon as I signed he was on about coming up to Wolverhampton, come and have a look at this house, come and have a look at that house. He accepted the fact before he signed me that this was what I wanted, but he was a bit of sergeant major. I actually don’t know how he achieved what he achieved with his personality, I never heard him say ‘hello’ or ‘how are you?’ or ‘how are things getting on?’. The rest of the players in the side wouldn’t say a word back to him. I was sitting in a dressing room with people like Eddie Clamp, Bill Slater, Ron Flowers who all had flat noses and muscles on their ear holes and he used to talk to them like shit. They never answered him back. Even the chairman, they ate and drank what he said. He was definitely in charge.
I couldn’t wait to get away let’s put it that way. I was on my way to Leyton Orient, Johnny Carey the manager at Orient wanted me to go there from Wolves. Alec got in first and even though I was going from the First Division back down to the Third Division, the love of the club that I had I couldn’t wait to get back.
While I was here after a couple of years Brentford came in for me. Now I never asked for a move from here to Brentford but they offered George McLeod, who was a rated outside left at Brentford, and £10,000 for me so off I went. I had a few problems at Brentford, but never asked for a transfer, and the next thing I knew Alec Stock is back on the scene so I came back to QPR. Then while I was here a third time, Crystal Palace came in for me and it was the same again. I never asked for a transfer from any club, they all wanted me. It’s a wonderful feeling when clubs want you. That’s how it happened.
At the end of the day Jimmy Bloomfield, then the manager at Orient, came in for me while I was at Crystal Palace and wanted me to go there so that's what I did.
I sense you’re not a fan of the modern game…
ML: No. Not at all…
…so is that the money, the lack of contact, what is it?
ML: I’m not concerned with people’s money, though I do think it’s obscene. If I go to watch a game of football I like to see a game of football. Today, it’s the football that I can’t handle. I can’t handle people passing the ball backwards. When we were 2-0 down at Wembley, we were going forwards. We’re 2-0 down, we’re not going to score goals passing the ball back to our goalkeeper. In today’s game there are more passes going backwards than there is going forwards, whether you’re winning or losing.
Possession for possession’s sake?
…which is as good as giving it away…
ML: …I mean why couldn’t any of the other three players, in the first place, kick the ball forwards. I just can’t handle it.
You’re a man after my own heart with this. Your family has a big boxing background so do you watch modern boxing, all the over-hyped, pay-per-view stuff, and have similar thoughts about that?
ML: I do like to watch the boxing, but again I do feel that’s come down a bit as well. In my day I think the boxers were much better than the boxers are today. It’s a one on one situation, like snooker I’m a great snooker man as well, I think the yesteryear players were a lot better than the players are today. The players of yesteryear often say the players of today are better but I don’t believe that.
You’d fancy yourself in modern football?
ML: I would love to be able to play in today’s football where they don’t allow you to be tackled. That was the one fear that every forward line went out to play against – how they tackled you. I’ve come off with blood coming down my knees, my shins, people with busted eyes. You just don’t get that now. I don’t know what to say about the game today, I personally think it’s such an easy game to play. You haven’t got to have one eye on your defender as the ball arrives, and the pitches they play on… everything about the game today I cannot see how I wouldn’t have fitted in. The only thing is I wasn’t a workhorse like these players are today, they are athletes. The skill factor has gone, but the workrate is top notch. You get really good players who are tracking back and tackling, I was the worst tackler in the world. In actual fact when I was playing the defenders would tell me to f-off up the pitch. I’d have been able to play today, easy.
Is there a winger you do see today that you do like?
ML: No. I don’t think there are any wingers today… I used to think Gareth Bale was a typical winger. Funnily enough, one of the best wingers I’ve seen here was on loan from Tottenham, Andros Townsend. To me, he was the best winger I’ve seen here recently, because he was direct and straight to goal. People that take people on I’ve always admired. Beat people and gaps will open up, nowadays you get them coming backwards and sideways and nothing happens. Nothing happens up front because it’s too slow to get there. The winger gets the ball, he don’t want to cross it, because there’s nobody in there to cross it to, so he passes it back, then that guy passes it this side… by which time the defence is back in position. Nobody beats anybody. You’ve got to remember if you beat a defender that defender is out and other defenders have got to come across and cover for him. It leaves spaces. They don’t do that today, the defender thinks 'he’s going to pass this back so as long as I’ve got him here' that’s how it is.
The money that they’re on as well… sigh. When I think about it we were on £20 or £30 a week, the most I ever got was just over £100 a week. I’m not decrying these players, but I am saying that there are people who can’t play who are on fortunes. People who wouldn’t get in my reserve team are on fortunes going out there and playing today. I’m not singling out anybody but the game to me today is in a terrible state.
It’s unfortunate for QPR at the moment as well. This used to be a den, a really difficult place to come and get a result. I think there’s been four wins here this season? We never used to lose a game at home. At the most, out of 22 games here, if we lost two that was a big issue. Teams used to have a bad time here running out of the tunnel. The state of the pitch here and everything is so far away from what it was like when I was here.
It’s still your club though…
ML: Oh yeh it’s my club. I like to think that the supporters and the people who were around in my day still hold me in great esteem, and I do them. This has always been a great club.
LFW spoke to Mark at the launch of a special all-white kit which will be worn by the first team against Cardiff this Saturday to mark the 50th anniversary of the cup win. A limited run of the shirts, which have faded hoops containing the names of the players and key figures from the 1966/67 side, will be available for purchase from the club shop, without sponsor logos, in presentation boxes for £66.67 with a portion of the proceeds going to the Forever R's former players association. Thanks to Ian Taylor, Paul Morrissey and QPR for setting the interview up.
The Twitter/Instagram @loftforwords
Pictures – Back Page Images/QPR
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