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Page last updated at 11:53 GMT, Sunday, 27 July 2008 12:53 UK

Legend bowled over by QPR changes

By Simon Watts

Stan Bowles
Bowles remembers his time at Loftus Road fondly

Times have changed dramatically at Queens Park Rangers over the last 12 months, and from Championship relegation fodder the club's new multi-millionaire owners are now talking of Champions League football within the next five years.

Under the leadership of motor racing magnates Bernie Ecclestone, Flavio Briatore and Lakshmi Mittal, the fourth richest man in the world, "ambitious" would be something of an understatement of the club's future plans.

But while this may be unfamiliar territory to Rangers' younger generation, there are some who recall the club's halcyon days when the club were regularly crossing swords with English football's elite.

It is just 13 years since QPR finished eighth in the Premier League - a disappointing finish at the time for a side who ended the campaign previous in fifth (the highest-placed London club that season).


Relegation the following season (1996) ended their 13-year stay in the top flight, and QPR have not returned since.

But for the man who was voted the club's "Cult Hero" in a BBC vote in 2004, those kind of misty-eyed moments may not be confined to the memory bank forever.

Stan Bowles made 250 appearances for Queens Park Rangers between 1972 and 1979, scoring 70 times, and wore the famous number 10 shirt that many felt irreplaceable following Rodney Marsh's departure to Manchester City. The Mancunian began his love affair with the West London club upon his arrival from Carlisle United.

Bowles is still mobbed by fans and it was no different on the Saturday morning he spoke to BBC London 94.9, upon the opening of Rangers' new-look Loftus Road superstore: "You couldn't really buy the times I had. I left every day, played here for nine years or something and I'm happy with that. They deserve the money, they have a short career.

I didn't realise quite how good our side was. It's just when I look back, they'll be very lucky to get a team like that

Stan Bowles

"I had a long career funnily enough, people who come up to me even now and they say 'Ah yeah, you're the QPR man' but they forget I played for 17-and-a-half years. Even Nottingham Forest, the Champions League as it is now, they won twice. But people don't remember me for that, it's just QPR.

"But it's very nice, you've got to remember I've not played for getting on 27 years and the people still like me here. I got on well with the crowd and they liked me and everything. Some of the players now, as soon as they've finished, you've never heard of them again. I'm lucky."

So is life as fun for footballers nowadays?

"No I don't think so, with all the new rules and things like that. You could get away with murder in the old days. People like Ronnie Harris and Tommy Smith at Liverpool - they punched you, they kicked you. But there wasn't that many cameras there then, you got away with it. You had to sort it out after the game - not with Tommy Smith though, he knew a few faces."

Bowles' reputation as a maverick off the pitch further enhanced his popularity amongst football fans of his generation. He famously set the lowest-ever score on the popular TV series "Superstars", admitting he treated it as "a weekend out", and nearly caused a riot at Sunderland after aiming a shot, and successfully toppling the FA Cup for a bet days after the Mackems had won it at Wembley.

Stan Bowles
Bowles made 270 QPR appearances from 1972-79
But on the subject of QPR's prospects on the pitch, he cuts a more serious figure: "A lot of work's been done on the ground and a lot of money's been pumped into it. Let's hope they can get together a side as good as the one I played in.

"I didn't realise quite how good our side was. It's just when I look back, they'll be very lucky to get a team like that.

"I know Iain [Dowie] very well because I was friends with him when he worked under Gerry Francis. They'll be a very fit side, that's for sure because he's really strong on that. They're favourites to win the league this year but I've not had a bet on them anyway - they'll probably win it now.

"The ground I think is 18,000 [capacity], they're going to have to move. It's going to be a shame to lose this ground because of its history, but they're going to have to really.

"The feeling I get from the new owners, I think they will [be a top-four side] - maybe not here, but when they move on. At the end of the day there's four teams competing in the Premier League right now, it's getting like Scotland and it's going to get worse than that. It's just money, money, money. Whoever's got the money are going to get the best sides obviously.

"If you were getting 20,000 and you get offered 60,000 you're going to take 60,000, aren't you? I was getting 600 a week."

see also
Sport on BBC London
28 Feb 08 |  TV/Radio Schedule

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