Monday, December 10, 2018

The Morgan Twins Interview

We were delighted when Rangers legends the Morgan twins agreed to talk to about their time at the club through the 60's and 70's. Roger and Ian tell us their memories of that great side and the people that helped build it. Are you both still involved in football now?

Roger: I’ve been working at West Ham for the last thirteen years. When I joined I was tasked with starting up the football in the community scheme. We look at kids from all walks of life and age groups and over the years the department has grown rapidly and now we work with over 125,000 kids across London, Hertfordshire and Essex.

We deal both with kids with problems or those who just want to enjoy football. Some will go on to the centre of excellence and some will just play for the love of the game so we deal with children of all abilities. There are so many people who just want to play football and to have professionals help them along is very enjoyable for them.

I’ve got ten full time staff and about sixty part time staff now. It’s very rewarding and I love doing it. It’s great to give something back to kids, not only on the football side but educationally as well. I consider myself very lucky to have a job that I love doing. 

Ian: I’m a sports consultant; it’s a great job because I can pick and choose what I want to do. I do some coaching at West Ham with Roger which is great. I do a lot of tennis coaching, I run a program in the Borough of Hackney and I do a lot of work abroad. I was in Singapore at Christmas coaching for their FA and I’m going back this year. It’s nice to be able to take on work that I want to and leave the stuff that doesn’t interest me. What was it like to be an apprentice in the 60’s, how do you think it differs to today?

Roger: These days every kid is known and chased by every club, back then if one professional club came in you went for it. QPR gave us that opportunity and as it happens it probably gave us a better chance of breaking into the first team than if we’d gone to somewhere like Spurs. We didn’t think about that at the time though, we just wanted to play football.

We were extremely lucky though, we came from a successful youth side under the Walthamstow district side. There were five or six of us that got spotted and picked up by Rangers and all of us ended up signing apprentice forms

It was a great time for us to be there, the QPR first team was struggling but the youth team was doing very well so we ended up almost taking over the first team. Frank Sibley made his debut at fifteen and both Ian and I played at seventeen. The club took a chance on us and threw us in and it worked. I can only relate it to the Man Utd youth side with Butt, Beckham, Scholes, Neville etc all breaking through at the same time.

Ian: I don’t think it’s any easier but things have changed. Obviously the rewards are far greater but I think the pressure to be successful is much higher. You have to work so much harder and from my experience working with kids and I don’t think they always realise how much effort they have to put in. The game is so technical now and you have to have those skills to succeed, if you’re first touch is not good you get exposed.

Roger: I think today though the footballer is not a normal person, they have agents and so much money. They’re pretty much a business in their own right. They’re superstars and they can be a millionaire in a season. We did it because we loved the game, I’m sure today’s top players love it too I’m just not sure it’s for the same reasons. Being brothers was it harder competing for a place with each other than it would have been with any other player?

Ian: No not really, we were so close, we always have been. I didn’t find it a problem. It was good to be able to ask Roger how I did and what I could improve on. It was great to talk to someone who was going to be honest with you. Every game Roger and I played together we’d walk off the pitch saying we could do this better or that better. It helped me tremendously and I’m sure it helped Roger too. We played together from kid’s right through to the QPR first team so I never had a problem with it.

Roger: I think that made us to be honest. It was good for us being twins, the press really played on it. We’ve got the same choice in clothes and cars we both married blonde hairdressers but that’s something that happens with twins. Individually we hated it because we had our own identities but it was good publicity for us and it helped us along our careers I think. You played most of your career at QPR under one manager – Alec Stock. What was he like as a man and a manager?

Ian: He was like a mentor to us; he was such a nice bloke. To introduce so many young players to the first team so early must have been quite a risk but it worked for him. Personally I think if you’re good enough you’re old enough, Alec was fortunate that the youth side we had at QPR was full of good young players and we’d all played regularly in the reserve matches so the step up the first team didn’t seem so great. At the time Alec wanted enthusiasm in the side so he turned to the youngsters give him that.

Roger: He was perfect for me as a young player growing up. I thought he was excellent as a manager. I remember going on a journey just a few years back and I stopped at the services to get something to eat and blow me Alec Stock was in there! I walked up to him and said “Hello boss”. I still called him boss after all those years. I had so much respect for him.

Ian: I think the younger players coming through like that set the club up for years to come. It wasn’t just one or two of us it was seven or eight, it was probably unheard of at the time. I went out to coach in Norway for a few years after I retired and I did things like Alec had, I bought in five or six youngsters and we started winning games too.

Roger: I guess it’s one of those things thought that depends on the situation you’re in at the time. Some old player’s talk fondly of Bill Nicholson but when I went to Spurs he always seemed to have it in for me. Jim Gregory was beginning the clubs renaissance, what was it like to work for him?

Roger: I found him hard to get on with first of all but as you got to know him he was a very nice guy. When I went to Spurs I would be lucky if I met the chairman in the corridor, Jim would be in the dressing room after the games. He was very supportive to the club and made QPR what it was.

Ian: I found him a very sociable man, he was very approachable. I really liked the guy. OK he was the man with the millions but you could always go and have a chat with him.

Roger: I remember buying a car off him at his garage; it was a Morris 1100 I paid £540 for it, funny the things you remember! He was really nice about it and there’s no doubt he was a great chairman and brilliant for QPR. Rangers was such a family club though, when I got married one of the directors baked our cake and Alec Stock bought us a kettle. You wouldn’t get that these days! It was such a nice club to be at, so close knit and you miss that when you move away. Your debuts came very close together in 1964, what can you remember of that time?

Ian: Alec called me in to a meeting, I remember wondering what he was going to say and he told me I had my debut. I didn’t have any doubts or worries about it because Alec told me I was good enough and when someone like that says so you know it’s true. It was against Hull and we ended up winning 2-1. I actually set up one of the goals too!

Roger: Not too much now! I remember mine was away to Gillingham, I think we drew. Ian had made his debut a couple of weeks before me. The thing that I remember from that period of time is I’d been taken out of the youth side and put in the reserves. You’d think that was progress but because our youth team was so good being put in the reserves was like being dropped!

Ian: For both myself and Roger to make our debuts within the space of a week or so was fantastic and I thoroughly enjoyed it, at seventeen years old it was a fantastic experience.  We both scored our first league goals fairly on in our careers too, when we played school football we were seen as big goal scorers so I think everyone thought we would be prolific at pro level, we didn’t score a mountain but I think we did OK! These days even lower league teams don’t seem to care about the league cup and the big sides definitely don’t. What was the attitude towards it in the 60’s?

Ian: It was a massive competition, it was as big as the FA Cup. Once you’re in it you want to win it. When you think about the teams we played against it got harder and harder and we did really well to get to the final and we played so well to win it. It wasn’t West Brom throwing it away, the best team won that day.

Roger: I would never devalue it, any cup is a fantastic competition to win and to play in a final at Wembley is the greatest honour you can achieve. The record books should look back and see what a fantastic achievement that was for a third division side.

Ian: And we took that confidence into the next season to and got promoted again. If I remember rightly we went about twelve games unbeaten. The confidence from the previous year just carried on through. We had a team that had played together for so long that everyone knew each other inside out and we added a couple of experienced players too so the mix was just about perfect. As a 2nd division side did Rangers go into the League Cup to win it or just take each game as it came?

Roger: I think we were on a roll and if you keep winning games you start to believe you’ll never lose. We went up to Birmingham in the semi final and never thought for a second they’d beat us. We played so well and it was obvious to us that were going to go through.

Ian: We seemed to be impregnable, we went on a fantastic run and people looked at us as being unbeatable. Confidence breeds confidence I guess, when you win five or six on the trot everything seems to go your way.

Roger: When we got to the final, even when we two down at half time I still believed we could turn it around. We went out there to show 100,000 people what we could do. If we got beat everyone would have thought nothing of it because it was a third division side against a first division side so in a way we had nothing to lose. As soon as we got one goal back in the second half I knew we would get more, it was just a matter of time before it happened. The day must have been full of mixed emotions for you both, Roger’s goal must have been a very proud moment but Ian didn’t get to play.

Ian: For me I was so thrilled that Roger scored and I was delighted to be on the sidelines as a part of the team but at the same time I was so disappointed not to get on. This is a terrible thing to say but I was waiting for someone to get injured but it didn’t happen but I was so thrilled that we won at the same time. Nowadays you put three subs out and they all play but that didn’t happen then. I can’t complain the best eleven started the game.

Roger: I’ve had so much stick over the years from people saying the ball hit me on the head and went in but at the end of the day it was fantastic. I was actually disappointed when Mark Lazarus scored the third because I was just behind him and I could’ve knocked that in!

Ian: When they gave out the medals the first eleven went up Wembley walk but I had to wait down the bottom, I couldn’t go and collect my medal. I don’t know they did it and I was really disappointed by that. At the end of the day it’s one of those things and I was still involved in a great occasion. The star of the show was Rodney Marsh, we all see him on TV now but what was he like as a young man?

Roger: Marshy was an absolute fruitcake. He was a good artist, he played the guitar, and he could sing he could do it all. He was a great entertainer; he would beat the same guy about five times. At home he was great but sometimes you had to motivate him away from home. I’m not knocking the guy because he had fantastic skills. I think the biggest problem was most of us didn’t know what he was going to do. You’d think the ball was coming to you and it never seemed to! The crowd loved him and that’s the kind of icon the club needed. You can’t knock him he scored goals continually through his career, he had a bit of a rough time at City but I’d have him in my team any day.

Ian: Rodney was great, I never had any problems with him at all. He was a great player and a tremendous asset to the club. The supporters idolised him and that was good for us because it took a lot of pressure away from the rest of team. He did a lot for QPR and he was a superstar, no mistake about it. The team was so strong though that if Rodney didn’t do it on the day someone else did. Going into Division One without Alec Stock seems a little sad, how did the players react to his departure?

Roger: It was very sad to see him go, especially when we’d known and worked with him for so long. I think we played Leicester at home in the first game and we were up against from day one. It was never the same. We were so lucky to have a relationship with Alec that gave us the support we needed as youngsters. When I went to Spurs as a high priced player I could’ve done with the support of someone like Alec but Spurs was a very different club to QPR.

Ian: It was a terrible shame, we were very surprised at the time and after everything he’d done for the club it was a shame that he didn’t get the chance. I idolised the fella.

Roger: I remember when Tommy Docherty came in as manager, he put his arms round us and told us he’d make us the greatest players QPR ever had. Then two weeks later he’s sacked and we’re playing his Aston Villa team and I can hear him saying “kick them Morgan’s they’re useless”! Rangers struggled big time in Division One and were relegated with only 18 points. Was the gulf in class that big or were there other problems?

Ian: We lost so many games by the odd goal was our problem. Our biggest mistake was we didn’t sign any experienced first division players. After we got relegated Terry Venables came to the club and he would have been exactly what we needed, we signed him a year too late. The club was full of enthusiastic youngsters and we really needed someone who been there and done it before, that’s why we lost so many games I think. I remember going to up to Old Trafford and we were 3-1 down with just fifteen minutes to play and we lost 8-1, we weren’t that bad and it shouldn’t have happened. There were so many games were we played well but got nothing out of them. Roger left for Spurs the next season how did you both feel about that?

Roger: Apparently I could’ve gone to Chelsea or Newcastle but Spurs was just round the corner from my house and I was a boyhood fan so it felt like a dream come true. I remember on my first days training playing one touch on the ball courts and we’d never done this at Rangers and it totally passed me by. Going there was fantastic at the time, if I hadn’t got injured then who knows how it might have turned out.

Ian: I was absolutely gutted. There was a lot of talk about us going off together to Spurs for two hundred grand, then it changed to Roger going first and me following in six months and in the end Roger went on his own. I remember when he told me he was as upset at me not coming as he was pleased that he was going. Funnily enough our next game was against Spurs and we both played. That’s life I suppose, Roger was a better player than me anyway.

Roger: Lots of players move clubs after a long period with one side and are never quite the same. I think I was seen as something of a rebel. I came from a very fashion conscious club so went I signed for Spurs I had a big kipper tie on and I was the only one at the club wearing one and I don’t think Bill liked that sort of thing much. I remember turning up to a dinner in a white suit and Bill Nicholson saying to me “we’re here to play football not for a fancy dress party”. Funnily enough I got on better with Bill after I packed in playing. Ian moved onto Watford a few years later, how did that move come about?

Ian: Mike Keen, who was the Rangers captain in the cup final, was there at the time. I’d had a spate of injuries and I’d been out for a few months. When I came back Terry Venables, Martin Busby and Gerry Francis were the midfield and I’d lost my place. I was only playing here and there and after nine years at Rangers I thought the move would give me the opportunity to play regularly. It was nice club, I went on loan initially and then they signed me. I settled down and was happy then I go and get a bad injury and my career was over at 28.

Funnily enough when I went out to manage in Norway I started to play a little bit again. I went out as manager initially but by the second year I was getting involved. Then a second division side wanted me to sign for them as a player. I turned it down because I just wouldn’t be able to do them justice so I stayed as manager of my club for six years. How do you reflect back on your careers?

Roger: We had a great time as footballers but we enjoy what we do today equally. We didn’t finish our careers able to never have to work again but we’re so thankful that we’ve moved onto something else we love equally. Not everyone is lucky enough to have enjoyed every job they’ve ever had and we’re very thankful that we can say that we have.

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