Queens Park Rangers
From the days of competing in the depths of Division Three South to battling it out against the big guns of Manchester United, Newcastle United and Liverpool in the Premier League, fans of Queens Park Rangers have seen turbulent times over the years. Founded in 1882, the club has seen recent restructuring of its ownership, and now aims to get out of the doldrums of the Championship, and back to the Premier League big-time, where the club’s fans believe it belongs.
Queens Park Rangers was founded in 1882 by the old boys of Droop Street Board School. They didn’t go by the name of Queens Park Rangers until four years later though. Up until 1886, the club was called St. Judes, with all the old boys representing the members of the St Jude’s Institute. This was also used as the club’s main location. The name Queens Park Rangers first came about when St Judes joined forces with a local team called Christchurch Rangers. Given all the old boys resided in the Queens Park district of northwest London, the name was the obvious choice.
For the first ten years after their formation, QPR just played friendly matches, against other London teams, namely Tottenham Hotspur, Fulham and a little known team called Stanley. Such was the primitive state of the club though that, in those days, the club astonishingly possessed only four posts and two lengths of tape for the crossbar. That was it.
QPR hold the unusual record for playing at the highest number of grounds, 20 in total. QPR’s early years were as unsettled as a football club’s can be, not in terms of success or finances, but in terms of a permanent home.
The club first played its matches on a patch of wasteland near Kensal Rise Athletic Ground. The club weren’t here for long though, as it moved to Welfords Fields shortly after, at a rent of £8 per year. In 1888, QPR moved again, this time to the London Scottish ground at Brondesbury, at a cost of £20 per year. To cover the increased rent it was paying, QPR first started charging for admission prices. However, in 1888-89, the Brondesbury became pitch became unfit for football matches, and in the period between 1890 and 1892 they played football at no fewer than four grounds. These were Home Park, Kensal Rise Green, The Gun Club at Wormwood Scrubs and Kilburn Cricket Ground.
Although they started out playing in blue and white, and continue to do so today, there was a time when they played in green and white hoops. This coincided with them joining the West London League in 1892. Soon after, they picked up their very first trophy, beating Fulham 3-2 in the final of the West London Observer Cup. They then retained the crown for the following two years, ensuring a successful end to the start of their second decade in existence. The success didn’t stop there either, and at the end of the 1894-95 season they entered the FA Cup for the first time, after triumphing in the London Cup. WIth plenty of trophies under their belts, QPR returned to the Kensal Rise Athletic ground in 1896, charging an admission price of 6d for adults.
Until moving into their current Loftus Road home, QPR played at another five venues. Due to the First World War and a coal strike, QPR played (albeit briefly) at St. Quintin’s Avenue (1901), the Royal Agricultural Society Ground (1904-05), a Park Royal venue (1907-08), White City (1912) and Harvist Road (1914-1917). Both the RAS Ground and the Park Royal ground had impressive capacities, holding 40,000 and 60,000 respectively. QPR eventually moved into Loftus Road for good in 1917, despite playing for a short time at White City between 1931-3 and 1962-63 to try and attract bigger crowds.
QPR left their amateur status behind on December 28th 1898 in order to stop their players joining other clubs. After competing in the West London League for six seasons, they applied to join the Southern League. Their first professional league match was played on 9th September – they lost 1-0 away to Spurs. Their first win came exactly a week later, when they defeated New Brompton. They finished eighth that season, and reached the second round of the FA Cup.
In 1905-06, QPR were victorious in the Western League Cup, but didn’t enjoy the same success in the Southern League that season, finishing a lowly 18th out of 20. In the 1911-12 season, they won their first Southern League crown, and were rewarded with a Charity Shield tie against Manchester United. Having won the Southern League, QPR prepared for life in Division Two, only to see Spurs (eighth-placed that season) elected instead. They were admitted in the end, but were forced to play every fixture in midweek due to joining the league after the finalisation of the fixture list. Nevertheless, in 1911-12, QPR won the Southern League for the second time, before scoring an incredible 40 goals in eight matches on a tour of the Europe.
Rise to the Top
QPR finished top of the Division 3 South pile in the 1947-48 season, but after spending four seasons in the Second Division, dropped back down to Division Three South in 1952. In the build-up to the 1959-60 season, QPR installed Alec Stock as manager, argued by many QPR fans as the club’s greatest ever manager. His second season saw QPR’s biggest win in their history, a 9-2 annihilation of Tranmere Rovers in a Division 3 match. They kicked on and duly bounced back to the Second Division in 1967, again finishing top of Division Three.
Arguably their finest 90 minutes came on Saturday March 4th 1967, when they came from 2-0 down to beat West Bromwich Albion 3-2 in the League Cup Final and became the first Third Division side to win the competition. QPR then earned back to back-to-back promotions in the 1967-98 season and therefore shot up to the top tier of English football for the first time in their history, after ending the season second in Division Two. However, they slumped straight back to the Second Division a year later with a mere 18 points, prompting Alec Stock’s resignation in November of 1968, Tommy Docherty took over for a month before Les Allen saw out the campaign.
Succession of Managers
A succession of managers then followed Stock’s departure. Tommy Docherty lasted just 28 days, and preceded Les Allen as boss. Allen didn’t last long either, with Gordon Jago replacing him in January 1971. The following season, QPR came second in Division Two, the following year they won the league and earned promotion to the first division for the second time.
Yet another new manager was appointed in 1974, with Dave Sexton taking responsibility, and he brought QPR a period of great success in the mid-70s. They finished mid-table in Division One in 1976, and the following season they came second in the First Division, finishing a mere point behind Liverpool. After this superb climax to the 1976-77 season, they were rewarded with a place in the UEFA Cup, making the quarter-finals at the first time of asking.
More Managers, More Success
The managerial merry-go-round at the club carried on in frenetic fashion toward the end of the 1970s. In July 1977, Frank Sibley became QPR manager, but was another one-termer after Rangers avoided relegation to the Second Division by a single point. Alec Stock returned to Loftus Road temporarily, before Steve Burtenshaw stepped in in August. Unfortunately, QPR ended the 1977-78 season in 20th place, and were again demoted to the Second Division.
Tommy Docherty, previously at Derby County, was drafted in for his second term at QPR for the 1980-81 campaign and lasted until October of the following campaign. That season, Terry Venables took over to become Rangers’ eighth manager in just eleven years. With the club not exactly averse to change, during the 1981-82 season, QPR became the first league club to use an artificial surface instead of grass, a season in which they played out a dramatic FA Cup final against Spurs. Agonisingly for Rangers fans, they went down 1-0 in a Cup Final replay after a 1-1 draw in the original tie.
The season after, QPR returned to the First Division and, during the 1983-84 season, they lost just two home games in the league, a highly impressive record. For the second time, QPR qualified for the UEFA Cup, but threw away their Second Round tie against Partizan Belgrade in the second leg. After a respectable fifth-placed finish in the 1984-85 season, Venables left West London for Barcelona. After his departure, Alan Mullery was quickly followed by Frank Sibley for his second spell at the club. Despite a seemingly sufficient 6-2 win at Loftus Round in the first leg, they went out on the away goals rule after losing the second leg 4-0.
Jim Smith became gaffer in July 1985, and in his first season in charge he took Rangers to the League Cup Final (then known as the Milk Cup), losing 3-0 to Oxford United. In May 1987, Jim Gregory resigned as chairman after a record 22 years in the position, but his replacement David Bulstrode sadly passed away just over a year later, with Richard Thompson stepping in to become the youngest ever chairman of a football league club. They then turned back to playing on grass, leaving the artificial playing surface behind after seven years of using the modern surface.
Start of the Premier League
Another succession of managers followed the quick turnaround of chairmen. Jim Smith left for Newcastle in 1988, with Trevor Francis becoming another player-manager after Peter Shreeve had briefly filled the gap. Unfortuntely, Francis lasted less than a year, and Don Howe was brought in under the new title of Head Coach, but in May 1991 he left the club aswell.
As a result, Gerry Francis was brought into the manager’s hotseat in 1991. A key player for Rangers in the 1970s, and after a prosperous stint in management with Bristol Rovers, Francis was billed as the man to keep Premier League stability at Loftus Road. In the 1991-92 season, QPR finished mid-table in the First Division, therefore being one of the 22 teams to be part of the launch of the modern Premier League for the 1992-93 season.
Francis was in charge for one of QPR’s most famous wins, the 4-1 win away to Manchester United – a game screened live on Sky Sports on New Years Day 1992. Boosted by that victory, they finished the season in fifth place, before a ninth-placed finish the season after. Francis stepped down during the 1994-95 season, however, and Ray Wilkins was made player-manager, guiding them to an eighth-placed finish in the Premier League.
In July 1995, the loss of Les Ferdinand to Newcastle United for £6 million (a club record fee) was an omen for QPR. They struggled for goals the season after and, having enjoyed 13 years in the top flight, QPR sunk back down to life in Division One in May 1996. This was followed quickly by the end of Wilkins’ reign as boss.
From Bad to Worse, Worse to Tragedy
After four more managers in just two seasons, Gerry Francis returned in 1998. However, with another difficult season in 2000-01, Francis stepped down in early 2001, as former player Ian Holloway filled the vacant manager’s slot, but he failed to stop Rangers’ further demise to Division 2 (football’s third tier). In 2004, Rangers bounced back to Division One, but yet more poor results after Holloway’s sacking saw the club fail to make any serious steps forward. Gary Waddock and John Gregory then followed suit, arriving and departing as quickly as QPR’s previous managers.
Poor form on the pitch wasn’t the only problem, though. Financially the club were struggling, entering administration in 2001. After floating on the Alternative Investment Market since 1996, it was a shock to the system when the club took out a £10m emergency loan. QPR were appearing in the press for all the wrong reasons, with severe problems in the Loftus Road boardroom too. The club’s directors and shareholders became embroiled in numerous scandals, including blackmail, and things got no better when club chairman Gianni Paladini received shocking and worrying threats of violence.
The club was then left devastated in May 2006 when Youth Team footballer Kiyan Prince was stabbed to death in Edgeware, North London. Just over a year later, the club was rocked again by another tragedy, when a car crash claimed the life of Rangers striker and England youth international Ray Jones. He was just 18 at the time.
New Owners, New Lifeline
In August 2007, QPR was bought for £14m by Bernie Ecclestone and Flavio Briatore, both tycoons of the Formula One world. Not only did Briatore and Ecclestone lift the club out of the red, some £13 million of debt, they also pledged £5 million to purchase new talent. Four months later, Ecclestone and Briatore sold 20% of their ownership to steel businessman Lakshmi Mittal, a value of just £200,000. Mittal’s son-in-law was then given a place on the board of directors. Gianni Paladini has held on to his status as the club’s chairman, although chairman of QPR’s parent company (QPR Holdings) Alejandro Agag is the de facto chairman of the club.
While Mittal seems motivated purely by the interests of his son-in-law, Mittal himself is set to be a silent investor. Meanwhile, Briatore and Ecclestone have the task of slowly building the club up again, exemplified by their target of a Premier League return by 2009. They also plan to refurbish and modernise Loftus Road, at the same time boosting sponsorship revenues.
- West London Observer Cup – Winners (1892)
- Division Three (South) – Winners (1948)
- Division Three – Winners (1967)
- League Cup – Winners (1967), Runners-up (1986)
- Division Two – Winners (1983), Runners-up – (1968, 1973)
- Division One – Runners-up (1976)
- FA Cup – Finalists (1982)
- Nationwide Division Two – Runners-up (2004)
- FA Community Shield – Runners-up (1908, 1912)
- Highest attendance – 35,353 (vs Leeds United, 26 April 1974 Division 1)
- Biggest win – 9-2 (vs Tranmere Rovers, 3 December 1960 Division 3)
- Highest loss – 8-1 (vs Manchester United, 19 March 1969 Division 1)
- Most internationally capped player – Alan McDonald (Northern Ireland, 52)
- Most appearances – Tony Ingham (519, 1950-63)
- Most league goals in a season – George Goddard (37, Division 3 South (1929-30))
- Most goals in a season – Rodney Marsh (44 – 30 League, 3 FA Cup, 11 League Cup – in 1966-1967)
- Highest goalscorer – George Goddard (186, 1926-34)
- Record transfer fee received – £6,000,000 (from Newcastle United for Les Ferdinand (June 1995))
- Record transfer fee paid – £2,750,000 (to Stoke City for Mike Sheron, July 1997)