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Thursday, February 05, 2009

QPR's Stan Bowles, Gambler! Profile and Interview (Just Found, Not New Article)...Tomassi to China?

- Visit the "Boutique" QPR Report Messageboard: A board that aspires to be different (as suggested by the Messageboard's Honorary Moderators) and with a focus solely on QPR and football. The board includes a daily smattering of ("Macmoish-style")posting of articles of QPR and general football interest. Among items posted today:
- Ian Holloway Does NOT Get The Orient Manager Job
- Four QPR Goalies in "Best 50 Goalkeepers List"
- Today's video snippet: Terry Venables' QPR vs Manchester United

- Powerade Football League's Player of The Month Nominations
- Bristol City's 2009/2010 Season Ticket Approach


A just-come-across article re and interview with Stan Bowles from '06 not previously-posted!

Inside Poker/Alex Narey - May 2006 - The Players - Stan Bowles
Booze, birds, bust-ups and betting have made 'Stan Bowles' one of football’s true characters.

Best was telling me about the statue of him in Belfast. I told him there was one of me outside Ladbrokes

It’s January 1992, I’m 16 years old, and my dad puts on a video called Football’s Great Entertainers. Gascoigne, Best, Barnes and Waddle are all there, but there’s a shaggy-locked, mischievous face from way before my time who I don’t recognise. What’s he doing with football’s greatest entertainers? Some 14 years on, and here I am buying that same player a drink at one of his old haunts in Shepherd’s Bush. I relay the video story. The reply that comes is pure Stanley Bowles: ‘So what the fuck were you doing until you were 16? You must have been on a different planet if you hadn’t heard of me, mate.’

He’s as sharp as a dart – quick with the one-liners, but a thoughtful sort of bloke with it all. Through the smoke from Bowles’ B&H I can see Loftus Road, home to Queen’s Park Rangers. As Bowles crosses the room of the Springbok pub, just yards from the ground where many of our fellow drinkers marvelled at his talents back in the 1970s, I’m left in no doubt that this is still very much his manor. ‘They reckon I’m a protected species here,’ shouts Bowles from the bar. ‘No one’s allowed to have a go at me. All the bookies know me an’ all. That’s how I get around – via betting shops. If I’m lost, I just think, “Hang on, there’s a bookies round here somewhere,” and I soon find my bearings.’

If any further introduction is needed, Bowles was one of the finest attacking players in a generation that was blessed with them. Playing for a host of top clubs, the Manchesterborn striker was a tearaway on the football pitch. Boundless energy complemented his lightning pace. The deftest of touches was usually followed by a deadly finish in front of goal. A tireless worker on either flank, he was both quick to anger, and quick to smile.

These days, though, it’s as much for his legendary mug punting as for his football skills that Bowles is fondly regarded. A compulsive gambler, he was placing bets before he was scoring goals. Naturally, there’s only one way to start: ‘So, Stan, when did you have your last punt?’

‘Yesterday,’ he replies without batting an eyelid, supping a pint of John Smith’s between long draws on his ciggy. ‘Don’t ask me what the horse was called – I couldn’t tell you. I haven’t backed a winner since the old King died.’

The gambling has always been there and ran hand-inhand with Bowles’ profession – the football was fun but the real buzz came from the bookies, and it was only a matter of time before the two passions clashed.

The road to ruin
Bowles placed his first bet when he was just 15 and already had an appetite for punting before catching his first break in football. ‘I was working in a raincoat factory in Manchester. The bloke I worked for gave me a tip one day and it won. About £40 came in, which, without sounding like an old bugger, was a lot of money in those days. I thought, “Fucking hell, this is the game to be in.” Boy, did I get it wrong. Now I can’t walk past a betting shop without going in. You get immune to losing, and money becomes valueless.

‘I’ve never tried to stop the gambling. It’s part of me and has been pretty much all of my adult life. When I was an apprentice at City, I was earning £7 a week, but I’d run the bets across town for a Manchester gang, from pub to pub when it was illegal to do that. I was earning more doing that than I was from football. That’s how I got myself into trouble at City – because I wasn’t turning up for training.’

With his days in Manchester numbered, the release forms were soon to arrive. Short spells at Bury and Carlisle followed, before London and QPR came calling in 1972. The glory years were about to begin. Bowles spent nearly eight seasons with Rangers, and was an integral part of Dave Sexton’s side that finished second in the First Division in 1976, losing the championship to Liverpool on the final day of the season.

‘Yeah, but it wasn’t the final day of the season,’ claims Bowles. ‘Liverpool had to play Wolves, but because they were in the UEFA Cup, the game was played two weeks after the season had ended. Wolves were 1-0 up with ten minutes to go, but Liverpool ran out 3-1 winners. I had six grand riding on that game – just my fucking luck!’

The gambling continued at QPR, and Bowles would regularly be found still punting away just before kick-off at a William Hill right outside the ground. ‘I used to go in that betting shop every Saturday and walk in the ground 15 minutes before kick-off. Dave [Sexton] used to go mad, but all you had to do was get your fucking kit on and away you go. It was like Sunday morning football to me.

‘Dave’s argument was that if I was in the betting shop until 2.45pm on a Saturday afternoon, it would put me off my game. Standing around for hours in the dressing room wasn’t for me. I guess I wouldn’t survive in the game today.’

Perhaps, but in his day Bowles was in good company: this was an era when footballers knew how to play hard on the pitch and how to have a good time off it.

‘We had a good craic,’ says Bowles. ‘I used to enjoy a drink with George Best. He was telling me one day about the statue of him they had put up in Belfast. I told him there was one of me outside Ladbrokes.’

Despite his success and legendary status, after turning 30 in 1978, Bowles’ time in west London was coming to an end, and when European Champions Nottingham Forest came calling a year later, a £15,000 golden handshake from QPR was greeted with another £15,000 welcome from his new employers. Bowles describes this as ‘the greatest day of my career’.

However, storm clouds were gathering. ‘Me and [Brian] Clough got off on the wrong foot,’ explains Bowles. ‘He called me a cockney one day, which I’m obviously not. I then told him I had a load of A-Levels, which I obviously don’t. That really pissed him off. I just wouldn’t stand for his bollocks.

‘My biggest row with him came when I stormed out of the European Cup final [in 1980 against Hamburg] because he wouldn’t select me for John Robertson’s testimonial. John was a big pal of mine, and Clough said: “You’re turning down a European Cup medal for that.” “Yeah, fucking poke it,” I fumed. We never spoke again. Forest were a good side and the money was great, but I was 32 and, to be honest, I didn’t give a fuck about the football anymore.

‘Tommy Docherty [QPR manager before Bowles’ Forest move] was the worst manager I ever played under, though. Bestie once told me that if Docherty said it was raining, you should always check the weather before going outside. He came back to QPR in 1979 as manager, and he said to me: “You can trust me, Stan.” I told him I would rather trust my chickens with Colonel Sanders. He dropped me into the reserves for six months!’

Taking the piss
Bowles’ career fizzled out after just one season at the City ground in 1981, and he finished with short spells at Leyton Orient and Brentford before retiring in 1984. These days, he’s doing after-dinner-speaker gigs and the odd punditry appearances on Sky Sports.

And what of playing for England? Bowles doesn’t seem too interested in either the past or the future. He won five caps for his country back in the 1970s, but perhaps should have won more. There’s nothing in his eyes that suggests it bothers him that much, though. ‘Playing for England was just a bonus. I used to try and take the piss in training and it didn’t go down well. That never bothered me, though: I used to like winding people up,’ he says.

‘I don’t really watch much football. The England side going to Germany isn’t bad, but I don’t think Eriksson knows what he’s on about. Some of the players are playing on reputation, like David Beckham.’

As we finish our drinks, I ask him what gambling has really cost him, and he jokes: ‘Well, a shitload of money and three marriages – but apart from that, nothing!’

It seems my dad’s old video was right after all: Stan Bowles is one of football’s great entertainers. But amid the banter, it’s clear from his parting shot that he’s also still earnest about at least one thing to do with the game: ‘Listen, the greatest achievement in my life was being named QPR’s alltime best player by the fans. I was chuffed to bits, as they’re the ones who count. Everybody can’t be wrong, can they?’

Stan-d up comedian
Wit and wisdom from the king of the one-liners

On today’s stars: ‘Wayne Rooney may have a weight problem. His head must weigh three stone.’

On Sven: ‘How does Sven Goran Eriksson have the time to shag those birds of his? He’s always at the football.’

On the 1966 heroes: ‘Sir Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters were always together. Boring as fuck they were: would send you to sleep.’

On playing the game: ‘I used to trip myself up in the penalty area. Rodney Marsh showed me how to do it.’

Inside Poker

TOMMASI UPDATE: Goal.com - Ex-Roma Midfielder Damiano Tommasi Ponders Move To China

After annulling his contract with QPR, Tommasi is training with his former club at Trigoria and is weighing up an offer from Chinese outfit Tianjin Teda.
- Midfielder Damiano Tommasi signed a one-year contract with English club Queens Park Rangers last September, but the deal was rescinded by mutual consent in January.
And LaRoma24.it reports that the 34-year-old was approached by China-based club Tianjin Teda at the beginning of last month with a view to a move to the Far East. The former Levante player looks set to fly out to Asia over the next few days to get acquainted with the surroundings, and possibly sign a contract.
Tianjin is the third largest city in China and the football club is owned by the TEDA group.
“It would be a great experience on a personal level, we’ll see…” Tommasi is quoted as saying in LaRoma24.it.
Meanwhile, the midfielder is trying to keep fit and has joined his former Roma team-mates this morning for a training session at the Fulvio Bernardini complex.
Vince Masiello, Goal.com

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