A VERY special guest of the club this weekend is Gordon Jago, who laid the early foundations for the greatest team in the history of Queens Park Rangers FC. Jago was manager at Loftus Road from 1971 to 1974. In that time, he built a side which eventually went on to compete with the very best in the land.
Looking back, Jago said: “It was the happiest period of my career. I took great pleasure from working with the QPR players and I always really enjoyed the quality of their play.
“The key to our advancement was the sale of Rodney Marsh in March 1972. We certainly didn’t want him to leave Shepherd’s Bush, but it was Rodney’s choice and he wished to join Manchester City. Fortunately, my chairman Jim Gregory negotiated a marvellous transfer deal and we got £200,000 clear, which was a large sum of money to rebuild with back in those days.
“There was a certain kind of player that was attractive to me. I always went for skilful technique. I didn’t favour the old fashioned, big centre-forward down the middle and crashing the ball up to him. I definitely liked to play good passing football.
“Just after Rodney left, we faced Carlisle United at Loftus Road. Stan Bowles was in their team and he played magnificently against us. I thought he would be ideal for me. A very similar type of striker to Marsh - extremely talented, able to beat people and a cute passer of the ball. Stan had a different type of personality, but it was still similar to Rodney’s. They were both very flamboyant and I loved that.
“I had also watched Don Givens at Luton Town and Burnley’s Dave Thomas. So the money we got for Rodney was used to buy Bowles, Givens and Thomas, who were three top class forwards. We didn’t need a lot of new faces at the time as we had some really promising youngsters coming through in Gerry Francis, Dave Clement and Ian Gillard.
“And when I got my final X1 together, from Clement at right-back all the way over to Thomas at outside-left, they could each play passing football. They were all happy with the ball and had good touch in possession. There were some great characters throughout the squad and we won promotion to the top flight in 1972/73.”
Jago eventually left the R’s in October 1974 after a disagreement behind the scenes. But he took immense pride as the Rangers success story continued with Dave Sexton in charge.
“You didn’t have to be too clever to work out that we had assembled a very good squad,” said Jago.
“In my first year up in the First Division, we did very well and finished eighth. We matched all the big boys and beat Arsenal and Chelsea for the first time in our history.
“We had a nice blend of experience - like Frank McLintock and Terry Venables - along with the younger element. So it was a perfect position for me to be in as a manager. I felt that the next stage would be pushing for the upper echelons of the table and perhaps qualifying for European football.
“Then unfortunately I fell out with Jim Gregory. It was the most disappointing day of my life when I resigned at Loftus Road. It was a hellish decision for me to make.
“So when I walked away, I realised that I was not going to have the opportunity to fulfil my dream for Queens Park Rangers. We had started something, we had built an excellent team and we had gone a long way towards where we were aiming.
“I always knew that the R’s were going to be a top side. Of course the season after I departed, they finished runners-up in the League by a point to Liverpool and then went on a superb UEFA Cup run the following campaign.
“Years afterwards as QPR sustained their status at the highest level, I was able to quietly say to myself ‘I had a little bit to do with that.’ It was nice to see the Rangers become firmly established as a strong club.”
Jago has since had a long coaching career in the USA. And despite being old enough to draw his pension, he still reports for work every day
“I went out to the States in 1978 and so I have been there for more than 30 years. I had six seasons as coach of Tampa Bay Rowdies before joining the Dallas Sidekicks, where I stayed in charge for 18 years. After that, I became Commissioner of the World Indoor Soccer League for three years.
“Nowadays, I am Executive Director of the Dallas Cup, which is by far the most prestigious youth soccer tournament in the whole world. Tournament Manager Randy Jones and I bring in 180 teams from all over the globe. We have had Manchester United, Real Madrid and Chelsea participating in recent times, for example.
“I am 77 years old now and my current role has enabled me to renew a great deal of my old football friendships. Often when I put the phone down after speaking to people over in England, I am almost certain they say to themselves ‘I didn’t know he was still alive!’\
So I continue to have great fun in soccer. I have definitely been very lucky and I have enjoyed great health. My wife June has recovered from cancer so we are very blessed.
“And my blood has always been blue and white for Queens Park Rangers. It has been disappointing to see that the club has not enjoyed the best of fortune in recent years. But let us hope that the current owners can turn it around and put the Hoops where they should be back up in the Premier League.”
Gordon has flown from America (volcanic ash cloud permitting!) to attend today’s match against Newcastle United with his wife. They will be entertained in the Directors’ Box and will also be given a VIP welcome at the QPR Player Of The Year Dinner & Dance this evening.