QPR’s number 10 tradition deserves more recognition

Manchester United and Liverpool’s number 7 shirts are rightfully regarded as two of English football’s most fabled jerseys, worn with distinction by the likes of Kenny Dalglish, Kevin Keegan, Luis Suarez, Cristiano Ronaldo, Eric Cantona and David Beckham.

The Newcastle United number 9 is also held in similar reverence, with luminaries such as Jackie Milburn, Malcolm Macdonald, Alan Shearer and Les Ferdinand plundering almost 600 goals between them with it on their backs.

But has there been a more productive but unheralded club when it comes to maverick and gifted number 10s than QPR?

In the 1970s, an era where muddy pitches, tough-tackling defenders and powerful centre-forwards were 10-a-penny in what was a lean period for an England team that failed to qualify for two World Cups, the entertainers – worshipped on the terraces but largely ignored by their country – were few and far between.

Rob Steen’s excellent book The Mavericks – English Football When Flair Wore Flares – tells the story of seven of the men that lit up the football gloom of the 70s: Stan Bowles, Tony Currie, Charlie George, Alan Hudson, Rodney Marsh, Peter Osgood and Frank Worthington.

The fact that three of seven played for QPR during that era was not lost of veteran BBC commentator John Motson, who in a Match of The Day video entitled The Entertainers noted: “There was something catching about the number 10 shirt at Queens Park Rangers.

“How do you follow Rodney Marsh? Easy, you send for Stan Bowles.”

Although born in Edgware, Currie enjoyed the best spells of his career in Yorkshire first at Sheffield United then Leeds before returning to London in 1979 to link up briefly with Bowles, who moved to Nottingham Forest later that season after a fall out with manager Tommy Docherty.

He announced himself to the Rangers crowd in style with a 30-yard volley in a 3-0 win over Fulham on his home debut after being teed up by Bowles, and went on to skipper the side in the replay of the 1982 FA Cup final against Spurs in what was his last appearance for the club.

Although on-field success has been largely thin on the ground for Rangers over the last 30 years, the conveyor belt of gifted playmakers has continued to be be productive.

After Marsh, Bowles and Currie came Simon Stainrod, John Byrne, Roy Wegerle and latterly Adel Taarabt and Ebere Eze, one of the most gifted young players in the Premier League, who have all lit up Loftus Road in the number 10 shirt.

Flowing locks, languid, capable of the audacious, temperamental, off the cuff, between them this group had the lot.

Then there was also Akos Buzsaky and, albeit briefly, Tjaronn Chery, who both demonstrated a penchant for the spectacular during their spells at the club, as has current incumbent Iias Chair, who keeps alive a tradition that dates back to 1966 when Marsh became the first recognised Rangers No.10 after joining for £15,000 from Fulham in March 1965.

“In 1972 when Rodney left, Stan came in and that took us up to ’79 when we then signed Tony Currie and the baton was passed on to Stainrod, then Byrne,” said QPR official historian Chris Guy.

“It is quite amazing that there was never really a lengthy gap between 1966 from when Rodney joined, up until when Wegerle left in 1991 that Rangers didn’t have an iconic number 10.

“We’ve got back to that in the recent years with Taarabt, Buzsaky, Eze and now Ilias Chair, who’ve all continued to carry that baton forward in the current era.”

Wegerle, who became QPR’s first million pound player when he moved from Luton in December 1989, grew up in South Africa but arrived in Shepherd’s Bush via the United States, where he had been mentored by Marsh at the Tampa Bay Rowdies.

He was initially signed by Chelsea, but he struggled for game time in a poor Blues side that was eventually relegated from the top flight at the end of the of 1987/88 season and offloaded to Luton for just £70,000.

He enjoyed a successful spell with the Hatters, who he helped to the 1989 League Cup final, before Don Howe lured him back to west London with the promise of the Rangers number 10 shirt.

Having heard all about its traditions from the man who made it famous, Wegerle had no hesitation in wearing it on his debut in a 1-1 draw with Coventry on Boxing Day.

“It was a great honour to play for QPR and I knew the tradition of the number 10 and to play a part of that role and the history that it had was a real feather in my cap,” Wegerle told Ash Rose in a recent interview for the Open All R’s podcast.

“I jumped at the opportunity to wear when it was presented to me.”

Wegerle says his two-and-a-half years at QPR, where he scored a more than respectable 31 goals in 71 games were the most memorable of his career, highlighted by his stunning solo effort at Elland Road in a 3-2 win over a strong Leeds side that won the league the following season.

“I remember that goal well as Leeds were a great team then,” he said.

“Everything was a reaction from the time I picked the ball up on the touchline to the time it ended up in the back of the net as the tackles were flying in. It was just instinct and I cherish that goal.

“I don’t think I ever scored a better goal, given the players in that Leeds team. I think there were three international captains in it and had players like David Batty, Gary McAllister and Gary Speed, they were a really great side. I just wish I had scored it at Loftus Road.

“I loved playing at Loftus Road because you always had a sense of the fans wanting the team to play with a sense of flair and excitement.

“I played in a team alongside Les Ferdinand up front, we had Andy Sinton out wide and Ray Wilkins in behind, and we could always do things to entertain the fans.

“That was always the most important thing for me. I enjoyed scoring goals but more than that, I enjoyed getting fans off their seats and entertaining them.”

Lifelong fan Kevin Gallen, who was in the youth team when Wegerle was in his pomp, said the chance to train alongside him was an education and one of the reasons he wanted to make the number 10 shirt his own when the opportunity arose.

“I was aware of the significance of the shirt because I grew up supporting QPR and when I started going it was worn by Simon Stainrod, who was a great player, very skilful,” Gallen said.

“My dad would tell me all about the past players like Rodney Marsh, Stan Bowles and Tony Currie and when I was in the youth team I always liked the number 10 shirt because of that.

“John Byrne took over from Stainrod and he was another really skilful player and then Wegerle came in and what a great player he was. He was so good and if he was playing now he would easily be able to fit into Man City’s team.

“He was a real number 10; skilful, could take players on and do things out of the ordinary.”

Gallen admits his style of play was not in the mould of QPR’s maverick number 10s, but said he had no thoughts of turning it down when it was offered to him as his squad number by Ray Wilkins for the 1995/96 Premier League season.

“I was always comfortable wearing it,” he said.

“I was never a player like a Wegerle or Byrne, but I was well aware the number 10 shirt was special for QPR fans and that’s why I was always wanted it.

“My style was was more like Stainrod’s. My strengths were holding the ball up and finishing, but getting the chance to train with Wegerle as a youth team player helped me enormously.

“I only trained with him a few times but I tried to do things like he did with his turns on the ball. It was a great education for me.”

Gallen, who is currently employed by Crystal Palace as the club’s chief German scout, said the QPR number 10 jersey is recognised throughout football and said the type of players that wear it are integral part of the club’s culture.

“Akos Buzsaky was a very talented player and Taarabt on his day was as good as any of those great number 10s in terms of pure ability and doing things off the cuff,” he said.

“He was suited that shirt as much as anyone. People I speak to in football all know about the QPR and the number 10 shirt and it deserves to be held with the same high regard as the the number 9 at Newcastle and others.

“If you are football fan then you know about the QPR number 10 shirt.”

The maverick QPR number 10s in numbers:

Rodney Marsh 1966-1972
Appearances: 241 goals: 134

Stan Bowles 1972-1979
Appearances: 294 goals: 94

Tony Currie 1979-82
Appearances: 98 goals: 6

Simon Stainrod 1980-1985
Appearances: 138 goals: 49

John Byrne 1984-1987
Appearances: 116 goals: 26

Roy Wegerle 1989-1991
Appearances: 78 goals: 31

Adel Taarabt 2009-2015
Appearances: 164 goals: 34

Ebere Eze 2016–2020
Appearances: 112 goals: 20