Please log in or register. Registered visitors get fewer ads.
Stan Bowles – 1948-2024
Sunday, 25th Feb 2024 11:43 by Simon Dorset

Stan Bowles, widely seen as QPR’s greatest ever player, passed away on Saturday aged 75. Simon Dorset pays tribute...

No one man is more inextricably linked with Queens Park Rangers Football Club than Stan Bowles. Born in Collyhurst, Manchester on Christmas Eve 1948, Stan arrived at Loftus Road in September 1972 in severe danger of failing to realise his undoubted talent; when he left seven years later it was as QPR’s greatest ever player. Over 40 years since he last pulled on the blue and white hoops, he still embodied the spirit, the hopes and the dreams of the club.

Stan was very much an archetypal product of his era. His resulting inability to follow rules or convention led to him being cast aside by Manchester City despite a very promising start to his career and continued to dog him on his subsequent pilgrimage through northern outposts where he left a trail of thrilled supporters and frustrated managers in his wake. Snatched by Gordon Jago from under the noses of Crystal Palace, at QPR he found a manager willing to encourage his talent and a chairman willing to turn a blind eye to his many weaknesses. In fact, in Jim Gregory, he found the perfect ally who shared his aversion to imposed authority and, in return, Gregory treated him like a favourite son.

Stan was signed to fill the gapping void left by Rodney Marsh. Undaunted by the hero status still afforded to his predecessor by huge swathes of the club’s supporters and the derision they meted out to those unfortunately enough to follow immediately in his footsteps, Stan grabbed the No 10 shirt and made it his own and, in the process, turned it into the club’s most sacred icon. He, and fellow new signings Don Givens and Dave Thomas, blended seamlessly into a nucleus of home-grown talent, brilliantly marshalled by Terry Venables, and clinched promotion to the top flight at the first time of asking with four matches to spare.

Initially under Jago, and then to an even greater degree under Dave Sexton, Stan became the star in a team which was now brimming with internationals. When QPR were on Match of the Day the pubs would empty early as Rangers set new standards in style and entertainment. QPR became every football lover’s second team, Stan Bowles their favourite other player. Stories of Stan placing bets in the bookies 15 minutes before kick off with an overcoat covering his kit were aplenty, anecdotes of him soliciting horse racing results during the match from supporters with radios commonplace, pictures of him and Don Shanks, his chief accomplice, reading the Sporting Life during a match widely printed. Whether with half a mind on the 3:30 at Haddock Park or suffering from the aftermath of a late-night spiel, nothing affected his performance on the field; in a league rich with outrageously talented players, Stan was the best.

In the 1975/76 season QPR played some of the finest football ever witnessed in this country. Dave Sexton’s incredibly talented squad fully embraced his quest for an anglicised version of Dutch “Total Football”. Bowles thrived on the freedom it permitted him, he appeared all over the field taunting and teasing the opposition. His immaculate ball control, teasing twists and turns and deceptive change of pace left defenders chasing shadows and his almost telepathic understanding with Gerry Francis produced some sublime one-touch moves.

A delicious first-time flick through his legs to release Francis in the opening fixture against Liverpool perfectly set the tone for that spellbinding season. The following weekend his outstanding hat trick shattered reigning champions Derby County on their own ground, as Stan and Rangers announced their assault on the league title in style. The Loftus Road faithful were royally entertained as Rangers treated them to 17 victories in an unbeaten home season and, in the process, wrote themselves into QPR folklore. Stan, at times, was virtually unstoppable in an era when referees offered scant protection to skilful players.

The end of that season has been exhaustively documented. Rangers lost out by a single point to a thoroughly professional Liverpool side which went on to dominate European football over the next few years; the prospect of QPR’s first venture into European competition did nothing to ease the heartbreak. Bowles, who had previously excelled playing for Carlisle in the Anglo-Italian Cup, immediately set about laying waste to European defences scoring a hat-trick in each leg of Rangers’ first round tie. Typically, the campaign ended in agonising circumstances with a penalty shoot-out defeat, but not before Stan had broken the record goals tally for a season by an individual player in an English team making a mockery of England’s reluctance to play him - he finished with just five caps, and one goal against Wales in Cardiff.

Any attempt to try to describe Bowles’ impact at QPR through that or any other statistic, impressive as they are, only serves to denigrate his importance to the club, his legacy at Loftus Road transcends mere numbers. To this day, many supporters cite Stan as not only their favourite ever footballer but the reason they support the club. Despite the team proudly boasting the England captain, the Republic of Ireland’s all-time record goal scorer and the player once hailed by Don Revie as the finest young player in Europe, Stan Bowles was the main attraction.

After Dave Sexton moved on to Manchester United the sparkle at QPR faded. Stan, banished to train with the reserves, was forced out by Tommy Docherty and neither the club nor the player ever reached the same heights again. Nottingham Forest, the reigning European Champions, seemed an unlikely haven for Stan to escape to, and so it proved. Clearly his talents were worthy of the highest stage, but Forest’s manager, Brian Clough, was the embodiment of exactly the type of authoritarian that Stan has spent his life rebelling against. Despite all the bad omens, Stan’s first match for Nottingham Forest provided him with the only medal of his career. It was at the Camp Nou against Barcelona in the UEFA Super Cup. Forest had won the first leg at the City Ground 1- 0, so their 1 – 1 draw in Spain secured them the trophy.

However, less than a year later, Stan’s career at Forest was over in a manner offering considerable insight into the values that Stan held dear and the principles by which he lived his life. Angry at not being selected by Clough to play in John Robertson’s end of season testimonial match, Stan refused to go to Madrid to play in what would have been the biggest match of his career, the European Cup Final. To Stan, repaying the friendship that Robertson had shown him when he first arrived in Nottingham far outweighed any personal glory.

Predictably Clough didn’t see matters that way and Stan was sent swiftly on his way. A season at Orient was followed by a renaissance at Brentford whose supporters, despite his incomparable standing in QPR folklore, also welcomed him into their hearts. Such was his impact in his couple of seasons at Griffin Park that Brentford’s supporters also voted Stan as the best player in their history in a PFA poll making him, along with Sir Stanley Matthews and Alan Shearer, one of only three players to be chosen by the supporters of two different clubs.

Outside of football, Stan’s irrepressible lifestyle ensured that he was never far from the headlines. Of all his vices, it was his love of gambling that offered Stan the greatest adrenaline rush, forged most of his friendships and charted his course through life. Ernie Tagg, Stan’s manager at Crewe, famously once said about him “If he could pass a bookies as well as he passes a football he’d be a rich man”. Tagg, in an attempt to stop him squandering all his money, resorted to paying Stan’s wages directly to his wife; Shelia Marson adopted a similar approach when Stan was at QPR. When one of many long-suffering landlords arrived at Stan’s digs saying “I’m here looking for the rent”, Stan replied “well come in, we can look for it together”.

For all that gambling cost Stan, it did cement his relationship with the man who would ultimately prove to be the best friend he could wish for. Introduced to him by Gerry Francis just days after his arrival from Carlisle, Don Shanks immediately became Stan’s “partner-in-crime”. Briefly flatmates, Stan and “Mr Donald” habitually frequented greyhound tracks, bookies and late-night spiels together and, inevitably, got arrested together. Stan, having grown up in the midst of the Quality Street Gang in Manchester, was comfortable in the company of fringe underworld characters and thought nothing of borrowing a Transit van from one such acquaintance from his time in Carlisle. Unknown to him, it had been used in two armed robberies; unfortunately for Stan, the police were better informed regarding the history of the van. Despite their highly publicised arrest, the case was eventually thrown out but only after it had reached the Old Bailey.

Thanks to his gambling Stan was permanently broke and continually hounded QPR’s secretary, Ron Phillips, for an advance on his wages. From the first time they met, when Phillips greeted him off the train from Carlisle, to the day when Phillips drove him through a blizzard up to Nottingham seven years later, Stan was endlessly asking for a sub. Phillips’ problems intensified when QPR signed Don Shanks as the pair of them perfected a pincer style attack on his office. On one occasion, rather than try to rebuff their charm offensive to relieve him of a little more money, Phillips climbed out of the window to his office and negotiated at precarious 20-foot climb down the outside of Loftus Road into South Africa Road before beating a hasty escape.

In his retirement, Stan turned to a number of different avenues to fund his favourite pastime. Amongst others, he did some coaching at Brentford under David Webb, the almost obligatory media work, wrote a betting column in the national press, joined the after dinner speaking circuit, enjoyed some hospitality work at QPR and released an autobiography. Stan didn’t ever desire to be rich, he was just trying to earn enough to while away his time at the bookies. He once said that his only regret about not playing in that European Cup Final for Nottingham Forest was that he could have sold his medal for a tidy sum.

Shortly after the news broke in June 2015 that Stan had been diagnosed with a form of Alzheimer’s QPR selected their home match against Rotherham early the following season to be in his honour. Subsequently they launched the QPR No 10 Foundation to help fund his needs along with others suffering from similar plights and then gave us a chance to say a fond farewell to the King of Loftus Road in the pre-season friendly against Bournemouth. Watched by his daughters Andria and Tracy, his son Carl and Stan’s grandchildren, he was gently steered around the pitch by the tireless Don Shanks and Gerry Francis; Stan positively revelled in the fervent adulation which welcomed him at every turn. Despite being trapped in the clutches of the most heartless of diseases, as the endless chants of “Stanley, Stanley” filled the air for one last time, he must have known how loved he was.

The sad inevitability of Stan’s passing has done nothing to lessen the grief but, while we all relive our most treasured memories of him, we should spare a thought for his family who rallied around Stan magnificently, taking great care of him while the man they loved was slipping away in front of their eyes. Andria, Stan’s elder daughter, gave up her job so she could look after Stan for as long as possible. She spoke of how he retained his love of music and football the longest and how he was happiest either listening to Thin Lizzy – Stan was great friends with Phil Lynott back in the 70s – watching old matches on television or gently kicking a ball around in the garden with Macie, his great-granddaughter. It was in these happy moments that his eyes still twinkled as if he was still thrilling the Loftus Road crowd, cheering home a winner at White City or cooking up some mischief with Mr Donald.

The young boy who was banned from the annual fair in his home town because he kept winning every cash prize on offer at the football sideshow may not be with us any more, nor the magician who left defenders floundering in the mud, nor the entertainer who so richly deserved the acclaim enthusiastically bestowed upon him by his legions of adoring fans. But anyone who was lucky enough to be mesmerised by his immaculate ball control, teasing twist and turns and deceptive change of pace; charmed by his easy manner, supreme confidence and mischievous smile; and thrilled by his flamboyance, flair and sheer genius, will wholeheartedly agree Stan has left an indelible impression in the history of Queens Park Rangers Football Club. His legend will live for ever.

Links >>> Supporter Memories and Tributes

Pictures - Action Images, Chris Guy

Please report offensive, libellous or inappropriate posts by using the links provided.

QPRski added 11:49 - Feb 25
A great tribute to a genuine Hero.

Toast_R added 12:23 - Feb 25
Wonderful tribute to the greatest QPR player.

Paddyhoops added 12:32 - Feb 25
RIP Stan . I knew he was good mates with Phil Lynott, my musical hero.
Two legends.

francisbowles added 13:07 - Feb 25
A wonderful tribute Simon. Thank you.

Stanisgod added 13:29 - Feb 25
Thanks Simon, just made me tearful AGAIN.!

qprcmob added 14:27 - Feb 25
Superb Simon, maximum thanks

loftus77 added 14:51 - Feb 25
Beautiful tribute, Simon. Thank you so much.

joolsyp added 15:34 - Feb 25
In tears reading that - a wonderful tribute, thanks Simon.

CroydonCaptJack added 15:55 - Feb 25
Beautifully written tribute Si.

switchingcode added 17:11 - Feb 25
Wonderful tribute to a special player and person such a sad ending to his life.

barrow1975 added 21:49 - Feb 25
Thank you, Simon. My first ever game at Loftus Road in November 1975, was to witness the only goal scored by Stan. He was an absolute maestro of football in the 1970s. A shrewd signing by Gordon Jago in 1972. A magical and memorable QPR career. His name and memory will be forever with us at QPR.

062259 added 21:50 - Feb 25
I was 13 to 20 years old during Bowles’ time at QPR. Hardly missed a home game. Sort of took it all for granted. Little did I know. Thank you.

shrewranger added 21:51 - Feb 25
great tribute,thank you

Oxfordhoop added 22:43 - Feb 25
Thank you. Great memories of him.

NorthantsHoop added 05:05 - Feb 26
Lovely tribute to an absolute Loftus Road legend.

snanker added 06:15 - Feb 26
A fearless punter, a magician on the park and a professional wide boy any other day !! A joy to have seen him go around. It'll be some wake !! Cheers for the memories Stanley you were an absolute one off. I'm crying at the keyboard. Rest easy old fella

dmm added 12:19 - Feb 26
Thank you, Simon. Your tribute piece is certainly worthy of the great man. Your comment "...Stan has left an indelible impression in the history of Queens Park Rangers Football Club" made me wonder for a moment what QPR would have been like if he'd never come to us. A very different and all the poorer club that's for sure.

AgedR added 18:46 - Feb 26
I was a bit young and only saw him at the Bees. But I was old enough to see him in a few pubs in the manor.

Never shy of humouring a young devotee. And Rangers to his bones.

RsinWales added 20:37 - Feb 26
Wonderfully written, Simon. Thank you.

daveinmelbourne added 22:52 - Feb 26
Lovely tribute mate, got a tear or two welling up. ❤️

DazzaParkRangers added 15:21 - Feb 29
Great article and Stan THE man is my absolute Rangers and footballing hero!
With me having the pleasure of watching him as a young season ticket holder in the South Africa road stand. I’ll never forget the good times and those European nights.

RIP Stan

You need to login in order to post your comments

Blogs 31 bloggers

Knees-up Mother Brown #22 by wessex_exile

Queens Park Rangers Polls

About Us Contact Us Terms & Conditions Privacy Cookies Advertising
© FansNetwork 2024