Friday, August 18, 2017

The Brian Bedford Interview

Our latest interview is with one of Rangers' greatest ever goal scorers, Brian Bedford. In six years at QPR he never failed to score less than 20 goals a season and netted a total of 180 goals in 283 appearances. He returned to Rangers and worked behind the scenes at Loftus Road until 1992 and is now happily retired and living in Wales. Here's what he had to say.

QPRnet.com: You started your career with Reading and Southampton, before moving onto Bournemouth. You had a good start there scoring 32 in 75 games, what made the move to Rangers interesting for you?

BB: When I joined Bournemouth the old Arsenal winger, Freddy Cox was the manager and he took us on that great cup run in 1957 when we went out to Manchester United in the sixth round. Things were good for me, the club was doing well on the pitch and off it I was quite happy. I’d met and married my wife in Bournemouth and I liked the town very much but then they changed the manager and employed an idiot called Don Welsh from Charlton. Let’s just say his method of management wasn’t something I enjoyed so I requested a transfer.

Alec Stock had seen me play for The Cherries against his Leyton Orient side a few years before he went to QPR, I think I impressed him and he remembered me. So that summer when he heard I was transfer listed he came in with a bid and I became one of his first signings at Rangers. I went up to London to meet him and ended up signing on the same day. He was a really good talker Alec!

I cost QPR the princely sum of one thousand pounds, the deal was seven hundred and fifty pounds up front then two hundred and fifty more once I’d played twenty odd games. I hope I justified the fee in the long run.

QPRnet.com: Alec Stock is a legend at Loftus Road, what was he like as a man and a manager?

BB: He wasn’t a great football technician; he wasn’t one of those who could talk tactics all day. His big strength was he was a great psychologist; he was very passionate about the game and knew how to get the best out of his players. He told me the day he signed me that I’d score twenty goals a season for him and I did.

QPRnet.com: You were obviously a striker but how would you describe yourself as a player, is there a modern day comparison?

BB: I was simply an out and out striker; probably the most similar player to me right now is the boy Andy Johnson at Crystal Palace. Alec used to tell me not to get too involved in the game, I was told to just lay it off, get in the penalty area and score goals and that’s what I did. In those days of course you had those old fashioned things called wingers, strikers always want crosses and if I got a good one I’d score. It’s a simple game really!

QPRnet.com: You never failed to score less than 20 goals each season for the six years you were at QPR and you barely missed a game. How did you keep up that level of consistency?

BB: I was lucky I suppose, playing upfront in those days meant I took my fair share of kicks and knocks but I think the longest I was ever out was for two weeks. I remember cutting open both eyes one week and then playing the next game, we weren’t softies back in those days and we weren’t molly coddled like they are now.

I remember we were due to play Scunthorpe United one week and I’d twisted my ankle in the week. I had a fitness test before the game and I had to go to Alec and says ‘sorry Alec I can’t play, I can’t even kick a ball’ so he said he’d leave me out.

I turned up before the game and wished the players good luck then settled in at the bar, I ordered a beer and I was just raising it to my lips when I heard Alec’s voice scream out “no don’t”! I turned round and asked him what was wrong and he said ‘you’re playing’. I couldn’t even kick a ball but he was short of strikers so I had to put the beer down and get changed. First tackle I got was on my ankle so I didn’t have the best game!

QPRnet.com: Do you think the game was significantly harder then than it is now?

BB: In some respects yes, tackles from behind were allowed so centre halves were always coming through you. I think players are probably fitter now and they’re much better looked after than we were but they have to be.

I think the game is harder to play now because defensive players are much better than they were and the game has become much narrower. That said players are much better technically now and I think that’s as a result of being coached better. Coaches and managers now have a much wider knowledge of the game than people ever had when I was playing.

QPRnet.com: Were there any centre backs around that you used to hate going up against?

BB: Oh Christ yes! There was a fella called Jim Steele, he was made out of Scottish granite. I was taller than him but he was really broad and barrel chested and he would kick his Grandmother if she upset him. The first time I played against him was for Southampton reserves, the trainer at the time warned me to watch him but I was only a young man and I thought I wasn’t scared of anyone. The next thing I remember is lying flat out of the touchline wondering what the hell had hit me. Jim Steele, what a great name for a hard centre half.

QPRnet.com: What games really stand out in your memory from that era?

BB: I remember when we scored nine against Tranmere, I think that’s QPR’s record win actually, we were trying like stink to get ten but it wouldn’t go in. The other games that stood out for me personally were the ones when I got four. I did that twice, once against Halifax in 1961 and again the next season against Southend. Plus another good one for me was a game against Bury up at their place, we were a goal down with ten minutes to go and we won 3-1 and I got them all.

QPRnet.com: You played with QPR away from Loftus Road at the old White City Stadium. What was it like playing there and how did it compare to Loftus Road?

BB: We suffered with the move to the White City because it really hurt our home record. The trouble is the fans were so far away from the pitch compared to Loftus Road and there just wasn’t the same kind of atmosphere so I was pleased when we moved back to Loftus Road.

QPRnet.com: These days footballers are heroes and household names, what was it like to be a 50’s/60’s player, what sort of attention did you get?

BB: The newspapers reported the games at the weekend the same as they do now but they basically left you in peace, they didn’t intrude into your life like they do now. It was a good thing really because if half the stories I could tell you about footballers back then were published it’d turn your hair grey.

QPRnet.com: You left QPR to join Scunthorpe in 1965, how did your departure come about?

BB: I didn’t particularly want to go but I was into my thirties then so I was getting a bit long in the tooth I suppose. The problem was Alec didn’t want to sell me to anyone local, I think selling me to Scunthorpe was his way of making sure that any criticism of letting me go was minimized because I wasn’t playing locally. It was a shame because I was settled in the area and it ruled out joining clubs like Brentford, although I eventually ended up at Griffin Park anyway.

QPRnet.com: You received a worldwide ban a little while after, can you tell us what happened there?

BB: I had one season at Scunthorpe, scored about twenty five goals and did well. I was starting to do some coaching courses and on one of the courses I made friends with Phil Woosnam, who used to play for Aston Villa. He eventually went out to America and became coach of the Atlanta Chiefs. He found himself in need of a striker but couldn’t get the two players he wanted and I was third on his list. He made me an offer and I agreed to go.

Before I left I rang up the FA to check if there would be any issues with me signing for an American club because at that stage they weren’t affiliated to FIFA. I was told by the person at the FA that it was fine and there would be no repercussions. Like an idiot I didn’t get their name and went ahead and made the move. I played for a season there, fulfilled my contract then came home.

When I got back I had an offer from Worcester who were in the Southern League at the time. I went down and met them and agreed terms and was all set to sign. Then they tried to register me with the FA and were told they couldn’t because I was banned. I phoned up to find out what was going on and I had indeed been banned for playing in a non FIFA affiliated country. I couldn’t sign for a football club or play professional football at any level until the USA joined FIFA. In total that took eighteen months out of my football life. Once they did join I only had a season left in me.

QPRnet.com: What did you do during those eighteen months?

BB: Prior to going over to America I’d been working part time at a sports club in Barnes, coaching football for the Inner London Education Authority so when I came back to England and found out I couldn’t play I started doing that again. While I was working there I made friends with the pro tennis coach, we got talking because I’d become keen on tennis when I was over in the states and it turned out that he needed an assistant, so I worked as a coach with him for a time as well and became a professional coach myself.

QPRnet.com: You returned to QPR to work behind the scenes and stayed until 1992, how did that come about?

BB: After I finished up at Barnes I was living on a teacher’s pension, I’d been out of work for a while. Tony Ingham was on the board of directors at the time and he made me an offer to become the clubs stadium manager. I’d always considered Rangers to be my club so I jumped at the chance and I loved working there. I worked there for a good few years and then I got sacked in 1992.

QPRnet.com: I thought you were made redundant?

BB: No I was sacked, that was that horrible b*st*rd Clive Berlin who did that. He sacked me and I couldn’t get a reasonable explanation as to why. I took them to an industrial tribunal and we settled out of court and that was the end of that. After that I decided to retire and I moved back home to Wales back in 1996.

QPRnet.com: When you see today’s highly paid players complaining about this and that do you have any sympathy for them?

BB: Not at all, I think they are all very well paid for doing something they love, or at least something they should love, and quite honestly most modern players’ attitudes disgust me. Players are so stupid now, I know they haven’t got a private life but they’re well paid in compensation and it’s only for a short period of their life. They know full well that when they go to a club or out and about there are people looking for them to slip up but they keep falling for it time and time again. Look at Lee Hughes, banged up for years and his career is over, Jermaine Pennant has gone down now as well and then there’s that idiot Prutton pushing referees around, it's crazy.

They really need someone to guide them but all they have is their agents. When I was around QPR agents were just starting to come into the game and I remember Jim Gregory sitting down with a player we wanted to sign and he had this other fella with him. Jim said to the player ‘who’s this’ and the player said it was his agent so Jim said ‘tell him to f**k off’ and he wouldn’t talk business until he’d gone. I don’t think agents are good for football and I don’t think they’re needed. If a player isn’t capable of negotiating his own contract then he should do what we used to do and use someone from his family.

I used to go up and see Cardiff when I was growing up as a kid but I don’t like it there now, there’s too much trouble so I don’t watch much live football now I must admit. I loved my career and look back on it with great fondness but I’m quite happy playing my golf now, it’s a much more gentlemanly sport than football is today!

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