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Thursday, June 28, 2012

QPR's 1967 Hero and Legend Mark Lazarus Interviewed Speaks About QPR, QPR Legends and Football in General Yesterday and Today - By John "Gramps" Clifford

Chatting with Mark Lazarus – 27th June 2012

By John Clifford "Gramps" 

 John "Gramps" Clifford is the author of "Queen's Park Rangers: The Old Days (1939-1970)" which can be purchased at qprtheolddays.com or 
via Amazon.com


Rodney Marsh v Stan Bowles

Rodney played the game like a lot of the people they are talking about now but Rodney used to score a lot of goals and he also scored a lot of goals off his own back.   He would get the ball down in the middle of a crowded defence and he would wiggle his way through and score a goal.   Players today can’t do that – Stan Bowles could never do that.   Let’s face it, Stan Bowles was a bloody good player but as a pure footballer you’d have Rodney in your side every day in preference to Stan Bowles.   Rodney could win a game on his own but Stan was a player who, on his day, would bring the ball down and set other people up but with Rodney, well he didn’t need anybody else.   In my opinion Rodney was far away ahead of Stan.   I agree that people may have other opinions but, after all, what is football – it’s all about opinions at the end of the day.

I would have struggled in today’s game because I didn’t work enough backwards.   A lot of the players in my day would struggle today because they were not athletic enough;  today you’ve got to be an athlete because it is a much faster game.   Today the players can tackle but they can’t hold the ball as we could.   I wouldn’t mind betting that today twenty out of every hundred passes go forwards and eighty go backwards.   There’s more backward play today than there has ever been in the game.   People get the ball up front, they seldom go past anybody and if they do go down the line they stop and pass it backwards and it finishes up with the right back or centre half.   We are attacking in their penalty area and the ball finishes up with our goalkeeper without the opposition touching the ball.

Football today is very good ‘touch football’ – excellent – but in our day we had more players with great individual skills.   They would get the ball and people like Jimmy Greaves, Johnny Haynes – well, Rooney couldn’t lace their boots up.   Stanley Matthews and Tom Finney  were brilliant but not players who tackled a man.   You just gave them the ball and let them get on with it and it was the same with Rodney;   you could give me the ball and let me get on with it!   I was never looking to pass the ball back to my full back.   There was that spot in the opposition area that was eight yards wide and eight feet high and had a net on it;   my aim was to get the ball in there or at least somewhere near there;  I certainly didn’t want our goalkeeper to end up getting it.   I wanted to get the ball and go forward.

My opinion of Rooney is that he is an average to good player.   He is definitely not world class and despite what some may think he is not the greatest footballer we have ever turned out.

We were given a lesson in football in 1953 and 1954 by Hungary.   We thought we were the best in the world, we introduced the game to the world, then Hungary came over and played the sort of football we had never seen before.   I took the day off school to watch that game.   In my opinion we didn’t learn from it.   We haven’t got the individual players now:  Finney, Shackleton, Lawton, Matthews, Mortensen.   We don’t have them today but we have different types of players – athletes – but I can’t call them great.   The goalkeeper might be the best goalkeeper around but he couldn’t compare with the goalies we had in the past.   We were the best in the world for goalkeepers – Banks, Swift, Parkes, Seaman, Shilton, Rangers’ own Reg Allen, Ted Ditchburn, Sam Bartram, Ron and Peter Springett – in my view Ron Springett was one of the best goalkeepers I ever played with and against.   I will always remember Gil Merrick who played for England.   His sense of positioning was brilliant and I have seen him go out at the beginning of a game in clean kit and come off the pitch just as clean.   His positioning and keeping was so good that he seldom had to dive for the ball.   He took every shot cleanly.

If you had to pick a world team I can’t see that any England players would get in – we just don’t have the skills that other countries have.   I feel that our true world class players over the years have been Gordon Banks, Bobby Moore, Jimmy Greaves but I can’t think of too many more, even in the World Cup winning side.   George Best and Denis Law might have got in there.

Questions from QPR Report members:

1        What made Mark choose football over boxing and what was your weekly wage at QPR in the 66-67 season?

Mark:  Well, I didn’t choose football – football chose me rather than boxing.   I was doing the two things at the same time.   When I signed pro forms for Leyton Orient in 1957 they stopped me boxing as an amateur and I was not allowed to sign as a pro in the two sports.   So, as I have said, football chose me.   Had Orient not signed me then I would most probably have carried on boxing as I wasn’t that keen on football.   I was a mad footballer as a kid and I got a lot of recognition as a schoolboy but boxing was my real love.

As far as the second part of the question goes, it is difficult to remember but I’ll try to get my facts right.   As I recall, we were all on £30 - £35 a week.   You have to remember that we were a Third Division side at that time and I knew players at Fulham who were on less wages than that.   In those days this was quite a good deal.   Remember that in those days we didn’t have agents so players had to negotiate their own contracts.   When I signed for Rangers from Brentford I negotiated £35 a week plus bonuses so with a good result I could get £60 in a week which was really good money in those days.   When I moved on to Crystal Palace I negotiated £60 a week basic plus bonuses and a signing on fee.   Generally, though, players’ pay was about £35 a week.

At this point I asked Mark if he knew that he held an all time football record as the only player to be signed three times by the same club.   He admitted that he didn’t know this but then pointed out that he held another record in that he is the only player to have played for three teams (1967 to 1970) who were promoted in four successive seasons.   1966/7, promotion with QPR;  1967/8, promotion again with QPR;  1968/9, promotion with Crystal Palace;  1969/70, promotion with Leyton Orient.   He said the word was going round that if you wanted to get promotion then you signed Mark Lazarus.

2        Apart from those he has played with, which other players, past or present, would he have liked to play with?

Mark:  That is a very hard question to answer.   I once played a friendly match with George Eastham and of all the players I have played with over the years George gave me the ball more than anybody else.   In the formations of the old days, if you were a winger or inside forward on the same side of the field you had to know and understand each other very well.   George “had my number” and seemed to instinctively know where I was at any one time.   I have never played with him since but I guess, based on that one game, he would be the one with whom I would be happy to strike up a long-term partnership. 

I played with Jimmy Greaves as a schoolboy and he is a good friend but we never played together professionally and I don’t know how we would have got on together.   I also enjoyed playing with Jimmy Bloomfield.   I have played with some great inside forwards but it is always difficult to answer a question like this if you have not actually been on the field with a player.   In saying this, I think that Paul Scholes is somebody I would have enjoyed playing with;  he is a bit more ‘old school’ in his style of play.   Now I think about it, Johnny Haynes would also have been a good player to work with.

3        How does it feel to still be a Rangers legend after over 40 years?

Mark (slightly embarrassed laughter):  Well, it really is an honour .   I wouldn’t know how many legends there are at QPR but I don’t want to appear too immodest when I say that I think Rodney and myself are two who can claim that sort of title.   What you have to remember is that Rodney and I did a lot of the hard work to get QPR out of the Third Division.   When I first joined the club in 1960 we often played in front of crowds of only three or four thousand and by the time I finally left, our successes had dramatically increased this.

When I was sold to Wolves for £27,500 this was a record fee.   I didn’t want to go and Alec Stock didn’t want to sell me but the club was in financial difficulty and I was mainly sold to help keep their head above water.   This was something that Alec Stock was good at and he kept clubs afloat by his financial dealing.    I believe that by going to Wolves I saved QPR at that time.

Rangers have had some really class players in people like Les Ferdinand, Terry Venables, John Hollins.   It is difficult, in my view, to classify these players as ‘legends’ because in effect they jumped on the successful bandwagon.   Of course the club had to strengthen their squad to cope with a higher division but these players had done nothing to create that bandwagon in the first place and it is easy to forget those who were with the club in the thin times.   This is exactly what the club has to do, and is doing, this year to strengthen their squad which will also herald the departure of one or two who have worked loyally and been through the hard graft of getting them into the Premier League.   

Probably others who could claim legendary status would be Mike Keen, Tony Ingham, Dave Clement, Ian Gillard.   I am not decrying the club and supporters when they talk of legends, and don’t deny that there were great players along with many others, but sometimes the title is given too easily.   Gerry Francis is a true legend.   He started with the club as an apprentice, gave loyal service for more than ten years, was a first class player and captained England.   What could get better than that?   There are others from before my time who could probably also claim that title:  Reg Allen, George Goddard and others but very few supporters from those days are around now so they tend to be forgotten.      A legend has to be an old player.   I don’t believe you can be a legend while you are still playing the game.   I know and have a lot of respect for Les Ferdinand.   A good player who has helped his clubs by scoring a lot of goals but I would have difficulty in classifying him as legendary on that basis alone.  

At this point I would like to say how much I loved QPR.   I never once wanted to leave them.   I was forced to leave for the club’s financial reasons but they were always the only club for me.   The fans there were absolutely brilliant and I loved every one of them – they were my non-playing mates.  

4        How do you rate the managers from your time to the managers of today?

Mark:  I really don’t think I can answer that question.   I haven’t played football for over 40 years.   A few of today’s managers I have played against and played with but it is very difficult to generalise about people you have not played for.   I think you have to judge managers today on their ability to buy and sell players.   Years ago you based your managers more on success for the club.   I have played under Alec Stock, Malcolm McDonald, Tommy Kavanagh, Jimmy Bloomfield, Bert Head, Stan Cullis, George Petchey.    Undoubtedly the top of that list was Alec Stock and next would be Bert Head.   Very similar but, in stature, Alec would leave Bert behind.   Bert was a real, quiet spoken west country man – a great motivator;  a very, very nice man who always knew what was going on in his club.   Alec Stock, on the other hand was a diplomat, very smartly dressed.   You couldn’t mistake Alec for what he was – he was the Guv’nor, whereas Bert was a bit scruffy and very laid back.

Alec was a disciplinarian.   Many a time when he was not happy with me he literally cuffed me round the face or gave me a kick up the arse.   He wouldn’t stand for any nonsense but the very next day he would come up and put his arm round you.   Not only was Alec a leader and motivator of men, he was also a problem solver.   He would recognise signs if anybody appeared to be worried and ask a player if everything was alright at home.   He was a very caring man and if any of his players had a problem he would go out of his way to help them in any way he could.   Alec had a lovely family.   I was devastated when he died .   I admit without shame that I wept at his funeral and kissed his coffin.   I had great respect for him.

Another man I had great respect for was “Gentleman Jim” Langley and I was deeply saddened by his death.   A nice guy, really solid, tough, full back even though he was only about five feet eight.   He was similar to Tony Ingham.   They were both players who were real gentlemen and would not kick an opponent except by accident.   There are gentlemen in football or, at least, there were gentlemen in the game in those days but not so much now.   There were also a lot of ****holes!

Back to the managers, however.   It seems that the only measure of a good manager today is the buying and selling of players and success.   The latter comes from the skill of doing the former.   It’s a lot to do with the coaching side of it.   Years ago you didn’t see a manager on the football pitch.   It was all about the coaches and most clubs had two or three coaches who were all experienced footballers.   Alec Stock could not discuss tactics to save his life, even though he was a former footballer.   He just came nowhere near the pitch during training sessions.   He was, like others of that time, strictly an administrator.

5        Did you ever consider becoming a manager or coach?

Mark:  No.   Definitely not.   I was offered a post as coach at Colchester by Dick Graham when I retired from active playing but I was not interested.   Not my thing.   I had seventeen years of football and I had a business.   When I stopped playing I had really had enough.   When I was playing the game I was not the best one for training and I don’t feel it would have been right for me or I would have been suited to strutting around telling others about the importance of training.   I had a fair idea of how to coach but I just wasn’t interested.

6        What is your recollection of the game when you lost your shorts but carried on playing?

Mark (Laughter):   There are a few games that stand out in your memory bank and there was lot that was spoken about and written about that incident.   It was against Carlisle in the fifth round of the League Cup and I split my shorts.   My shirt was covering my embarrassment and I had to take my torn shorts off by the dugout.   I threw my shorts to Alec Farmer (trainer) and he threw me a new pair.   Before I could put them on the ball came my way.   It was instinct.   I was on the field of play and was not about to let the ball go to put on a pair of shorts so I just ran down the line with no pants on.   I had a good game that day and laid on both goals for Rodney.   I was tearing Carlisle apart at the time and, as was the case in those days I got a cheer every time I got hold of the ball but on this occasion there was a cheer and roars of laughter.   That’s the be all and end all of it.

7        In all your career who do you feel gave you the hardest time and contained you during a game?

Mark:  There’s plenty of games where I haven’t been at my best but never a game where I have been fearful of the defence against me and I truly don’t think any player of that era can say they managed to truly contain me.   When I played against Don Megson at Hillsborough when he played for Sheffield Wednesday I had a tough game or two but always “murdered him” at Loftus Road.   I don’t think anybody ever gave me a hard time at Loftus Road.   The confidence and sheer “fan-power” at that time meant so much.   I did play one game at Loftus Road for Crystal Palace against the Rangers and I was up against Dave Clement who really gave me a tough time.   Probably Dave was the toughest back I have ever faced.   The away factor is something that is always a problem.   You could play on a pitch similar to our own yet struggle.   Again, this was so much down to the fans and familiarity of your surroundings;  they give you such a lift and you feel a real buzz and want to do the business for them.   It was much the same with Clive Clark, Rodney Marsh and Les Allen besides myself.   When any of us got the ball fans were convinced something was going to happen.  

8        About those transfers………….

I just so loved my time at QPR.   When I was on Brentford’s transfer list I wanted to get away, more so when I knew it was Rangers and Alec Stock who wanted me.   If it had been any other club I am not sure that I would have left.

Later, Alec Stock called me into the office and asked how I would feel about going to Crystal Palace.   I told him I didn’t want to go.   He suggested that in any event I should go and have a chat with Bert Head.   I later realised that Alec was in a difficult position.   He wanted to bring on the Morgans and I think he was under some pressure from Ian who was more or less a permanent sub and wanted to develop his career.   I felt they wanted to get Ian into the side as a young player but were in a difficult situation and perhaps didn’t want to lose me.   I was no youngster at the time and Bert came up with a super offer so I thought that perhaps QPR were trying to save me a bit of dignity.   Alec Stock, diplomat that he was, was very good at that sort of man management.   Crystal Palace were a good side at the time so I accepted the deal.   I felt I would rather play for Palace than be a substitute at QPR.   As I said before, I never wanted to leave QPR and I wish now that I hadn’t but I was obviously always trying to further my career.

Wolverhampton Wanderers was a disaster really.   Stan Cullis and I never hit it off and what I saw as a chance to play in the big time simply did not work out.   Coincidentally, Cullis told me that if he had not signed me he would have signed Mike Summerbee who went to Manchester City.   I often think that if I had refused to go to Wolves then that may have opened the door to Manchester City and who knows where I could have gone from there?   Maybe even a regular for England.   This was one of those years where I couldn’t do anything wrong.   If I fell over my own feet the chances were that the ball would hit my head and go in the net.

9        If Joey Barton was your team mate, would you have punched him on the nose?

Mark (huge laughter):  I have no feelings about this really but I think he is a bit of a prat, not only for what he did at QPR but also his former clubs – a real head case.   I just think I would not like the man and could not get on with him as a person.   Yes, I know I was fiery but I would never have allowed myself to get into a state like he did.   I had my ups and downs on and off the pitch but would never have done anything like that.   It was professionally shameful and brought discredit on himself and the club.

In the old days it was the clubs who ran things and dictated terms it now seems that the pendulum has swung the other way and it is the players and their agents who run things.   I don’t think Barton is that good a player and with the latest development you might as well have an injured player on your hands.   The club needs to make life hard for him.   His team mates can’t possibly have any respect for him as a captain.   He totally lost it in that game and if I had been on the pitch I would have stepped in but not sure that I could have stopped him.

110    Do you stay in touch with former players?

Mark:  I don’t stay in touch as such but I do see them at various functions from time to time.   I’m not one for ringing people up and going out for a meal or any such thing.   I see Tony Hazell from time to time.   He doesn’t miss any opportunity to see old friends.   He goes to any QPR events that he can.   I spoke with Ron Hunt about a year ago and he is not very well.   He lives in the Bournemouth area and had a tragedy which he has never come to terms with when his son hung himself.   I tend to see Frank Sibley from time to time but not that often.   Nobody knows where Keith Sanderson is.   The last we heard, he was in South Africa but nobody knows exactly where.   I keep in touch with Les Allen who has been very ill.   I am also in touch with Rodney Marsh – I love the guy although I am never quite sure what is going on with him.   I have seen Roger and Ian Morgan from time to time in recent years.   The last time was at a signing session in Brentwood.

111    Best wishes from Bill Power and wants to know your recollection of that winning goal.

Mark:  Thanks for the good wishes.   That goal!   It was quite an easy goal and an easy recollection.   Probably one of the easiest goals I have ever scored.   It came to me from the goalkeeper, I chipped it in with my left foot then went for a chat with the crowd while they sorted the goalkeeper out – not unusual for me!   The prima donnas who are playing today have so much money and consider themselves so very much better than the supporters that in general they don’t want to know.   Where would they be without those supporters though?

112    Mark, where did you get your beautiful singing voice from?

Mark (biggest laugh of the afternoon):  Can’t answer that!   But I’ve still got the record somewhere.

113    What would he wish the club to do about its relationships with former players?
       What are other clubs doing vis-à-vis other players that Mark knows?

Mark:  I can’t really give you a view on what other clubs are doing although I can say that Crystal Palace run regular functions (reunions) for past players, usually with a meal and a match.   As a former Palace player I was invited to a home match against QPR a couple of years or so ago.   I made a point of walking across the pitch to acknowledge the QPR fans as well as the Palace supporters and I received a really great round of applause for that which was very rewarding.   Palace are brilliant and do a lot for us.

I know Rangers don’t do anything and I was a bit upset when none of us got invited to the West Brom game last season in view of our history with them (1967).   One recollection is of a game where QPR were playing West Ham at Loftus Road.   My son is a Hammers supporter and asked if we could go together so I rang the club and asked if I could buy two tickets and they said that this could be arranged.   I told them who I was.   When I got there I couldn’t get a decent seat.   We were in the top corner of the South Africa Road stand with a dreadful view and I just didn’t want to be there.  

On another occasion I was invited to a QPR dinner at a big hotel.   I took a good friend with me.   I was seated at a front table along with Ron Springett and Stan Bowles.   The compere for this was Tom Watts (formerly of Eastenders) a self professed Rangers fan.   He said that he would like to introduce some old favourites from Loftus Road.   He introduced Ron Springett and Stan Bowles to applause then went on to a totally different subject.   I was completely ignored and found this to be insulting.   It took some time for me to calm down and get over my embarrassment.   I said to myself that I would not go to any more QPR functions in future.

        14   Why are you not a fan of the modern game?   Is it the money, speed, cheating,
                refs, ball, fans, foreigners, chairmen of just lack of technical ability of the English

Well, I guess it is a bit of most of them.   The questioner seems to be reading my mind.   I don’t think money should come into it.   However much you are paid you can only do what you can do.   Lack of ability certainly comes into it.  

Cheating is a big issue and something must be done about it.   I blame the referees because they are being conned and, what’s more they know they are being conned, they are allowing themselves to be conned and they let the players get away with it.   Players are screaming as soon as anybody goes near them and throwing themselves on the ground and other players are being booked – often for nothing.   The referees are useless!   Absolutely useless!   I don’t know what sort of football, if any, they have ever played but they are definitely being conned.   If they keep on letting players get away with diving and cheating the game will be totally ruined.   The players are the biggest cheats of the lot.   If they think they can get away with things then they will carry on doing it.   I see players getting the smallest connection on a leg going down holding their head because they know play will be stopped for an apparent head injury.   Most of the things that they go to ground for are the sort of things that in my day we would have ignored.   If we did go down we would get up and carry straight on – and we never screamed or had agonised looks on our faces unless it was totally genuine and serious.   The aim seems to be to do whatever you can to get a player sent off.   If a player ever fouled me, I would get up and carry on with the game.   If I fouled a player, he would do the same.   There is no way I would ever say “Sorry”.   It was all part of the game.   Jimmy Langley was different.   If he made a poor tackle, he would immediately grab his opponent’s hand, help him to his feet and apologise but that was not for me.   I don’t want somebody to say sorry to me when they have just tried to break my leg.

If the ref gave us a penalty we would never argue against it even if we knew it was not a penalty but we would always argue if there was one against us.   That goes with the territory.   You give anybody an inch in football then the players will want to take a yard.
We have all seen incidents, particularly in the Euros, where the shirt tugging goes on.   In one incident John Terry was held back by his shirt and it was ignored by the ref and his assistants.   If it happens down by the half way line the a free kick is awarded.   By the same token that sort of holding should be given as a penalty in the box.   This sort of behaviour should be stamped out by referees.   I know that referees had me down as a marked man before a game because they knew I was a tough player.   Referees today must have a similar view on players who are cheaters and divers like Ashley Young but they choose to ignore the facts and let it go.   I also feel that the foreign players have a lot to do with the cheating aspects of the game.

I don’t like football today.   It’s boring, referees are killing it, players are killing it and silly little plastic footballs are ruining it.   Some of today’s players like Ronaldo would never be able to cope with the heavy, soaking wet leather football and soggy mud-bath pitches that we had in our day.   One final point is that in my opinion goal-line technology is an essential as referees are just not up to the job.

QPR Report would like to thank John "Gramps" Clifford for conducting this interview; and for granting permission to post it on the QPR Report Blog. His Book "Queen's Park Rangers: The Old Days (1939-1970) can be purchased at qprtheolddays.com or 
via Amazon.com


1 comment:

Mr Harragan said...

Tom Watt is very well known as an Arsenal fan...