London Football Tour – Stan Bowles’ London
Often hailed as the golden era of English football, the 1970s had it all: Match of the Day in colour, long hair, bald heads, comb-overs, huge side boards, brutal tackling, riots, pitch invasions, hooliganism, dogs on the pitch, international wilderness, orange balls, muddy pitches, standing on the terraces, beatific artists, characters and entertainers galore, and let us not forget, majestic football played by footballers who passionately believed that the fans must be entertained.
If you happened to be near Queen’s Park Rangers Loftus Road stadium in West London in the 1970s, 15 minutes before kick-off, you had a very fair chance of bumping into one of English football’s most skilful players and one of the 1970s most elusive mavericks – Stanley Bowles.
‘How long does it take to pull on your kit and tie up your boot laces before going up the tunnel?’, Bowles would quip.
Throughout the 1970s, Bowles was second only to George Best for notoriety and for courting the back page and indeed front pages of the tabloid press.
Known for his love of gambling, and as much for his antics off the pitch than on it, Bowles free spirit born in the back streets of Collyhurst, Manchester, was and continues to be loved by players and fans alike. And the news that he has recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s aged 66 as done nothing to diminish the love the fans the world over have for him.
On Saturday, August 22, QPR held a #StanBowlesDay when they played Rotherham United at Loftus Road, which was attended by Stan and his family. The club has also set up a Stan Bowles Alzheimer’s Fund for fans to show their support.
As a tribute to Stanley Bowles aka “the W12 Pele” – we want to take you on a tour of London through the eyes of genuine sporting legend, so here is our top 10 Stan Bowles haunts.
1. Loftus Road Stadium, South Africa Road
Prior to retreating to the post-match player’s bar at Loftus Road, Stan would nip upstairs to the director’s bar to see the then Chairman, Jim Gregory, for £200 if he had a good game so he could go put a bet on.
2. The Springbok Pub, 121 South Africa Road
The Springbok is situated in the heart of Shepherd’s Bush, just a few yards from Loftus Road Stadium, and where Stan Bowles would frequent before and after matches. Stan can still be seen in the pub when he is down from his hometown of Manchester.
3. The Crown & Sceptre, 57 Melina Road
Stan would regularly be found in the Crown & Sceptre (always known as the June & Jim after its landlady and landlord) on Sunday, and always on Christmas Eve to celebrate his birthday, and to spend the remaining money he had left over from the dog track.
Stan would also visit a number of other pubs, such as, The Wellington Arms, Uxbridge Road, which is now a Kentucky Fried Chicken, and fittingly a gaming arcade. And the Old Bull and Bush on Askew Rd, which is now a Tesco Express.
4. The Astor Club, Berkley Square
Stan would often attend the chic and fashionable Astor Club in Mayfair in the early hours. The club was a frequent haunt of celebrity socialites, actors and actresses and more colourful characters such as the notorious Kray twins. The Astor Club is now a Starbucks just off Berkley Square.
5. Ravenscourt Arms, King Street
Stan and the actress Jane Hayden would regularly be seen in the Ravenscourt Arms, along with fellow QPR player, Don Shanks. Glen Matlock and Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols could also be seen chatting a sharing a drink with Stan.
6. ‘Spielers’, unknown
Stan would frequent spielers (illegal gambling dens) in both Notting Hill and Shepherd’s Bish, but the exact location of these places is lost to history, and for obvious reason, they had no names. Please let us know if you know where they were.
7. Windsor Racecourse, Maidenhead Rd, Windsor, West Berkshire
A 50-minute drive from Loftus Road stadium, Stan would travel to Monday’s flat racing fixture with friends.
8. White City Stadium
Family, friends, journalist and managers alike would often find Stan at the White City Stadium (The Great Stadium), betting on the greyhounds. White City Stadium closed in 1984. The stadium was demolished in 1985 to make way for the BBC White City building. Stan was also a frequent visitor of Wimbledon Greyhound Stadium (the last remaining dog track in London), the old Wembley Stadium, and Walthamstow Dogs to indulge his passion for gambling. Stan even bought a greyhound with actor Robin Askwith and called it Suzie.
9. Raffles Night Club, King’s Road
The club, more an institution, was at its peak in the 1970s and 19780s, when it was popular amongst the well-heeled and famous. Stan used to meet Mickey Droy, the Chelsea Football Club centre-half and other Chelsea players at the private members club.
10. The Bricklayers Arms, Ealing Road
Now private accommodation, but for many years this was known as Stan’s office, and where Stan would be regular seen with his glass of white wine and packet of cigarettes.
By N Bowles, published on blog.parkinn.com