Sunday 25 February 2024

The Sunday Reflection #6 - Should we all be a bit more Stan Bowles?

Stan Bowles at Manchester City in 1969

Yesterday, former QPR legend (and ex Man City player), Stan Bowles passed away, aged 75, from alzheimers disease yesterday. I must confess, I shed a tear as I listened to Robert Elms eulogy for Stan on his show on BBC Radio London this morning, whilst reading Martin Samuels piece in the Sunday Times (which quoted Robert, who is a huge QPR fan and knew Stan). 

I love this picture of Stan from 1969. He looks like a member of Oasis and for many of us, players like Stan were as important as the rock and rollers of the day >>>>>

For football fans of my generation, Bowles was one of a generation of maverick players, who were brilliant, but were almost never picked for the national team, never got to play for the big clubs and didn't really get the silverware their talent deserved. They were seen as 'loose canons' who couldn't be trusted to put in a shift by the rigid, unimaginative managers of the day. Others on the list include Frank Worthington, Tony Curry, Charlie George and Rodney Marsh. England could have built a World Cup winning team around such talents, but they were discarded by the national team and England failed to even qualify for the World Cup in 1974 and 1978 as dull, reliable players huffed and puffed to little avail, as elsewhere, teams such as Holland, Brazil and Argentina thrived with maverick geniuses bamboozling flat footed defenders. 

In the 1970's, I was lucky enough to see Stan Bowles play. He was worth the admission money. He had a  deep spiritual connection with the Loftus Road fans. He was a player who would deliberately do things just to get the crowd going and they loved them for it. He nearly started a riot at Sunderland, knocking the FA Cup, which they'd won the season before and was on display at the ground, off its plinth. 

Last night I had an interesting debate with several football fans about Bowles. There are two distinct schools of thought. There are the 'He should have got his head down and concentrated on football' type of fans, who see the gambling, girls and boozing as a horrific distraction, leading to a 'wasted career' and then there are those who, like me, celebrate the maverick. It was clear to me that Bowles, above all, loved playing football and did it as much for the joy as for the pay check. Bowles left Manchester City, in 1970, when the team were arguably the best in the country, following a punch up involving Malcolm Allison in a night club. 

Some of the more serious fans I know, feel that players like Bowles let the side down, not training properly, getting drunk the night before games, etc. Then there are those of us who see the fact that Bowles was having a blast. Whatever Bowles did or didn't, he had a huge lust for life and enjoyed himself. I can totally get this. In my own life as a musician, I have at times chosen to play music I enjoy in a way I enjoy, when there were offers that would have delivered hard cash. All I had to do was knuckle down and be bland. No thanks.

The world is a far better place for the mavericks. The people who put having a life above conforming and following the rules. I'm now 61 and what is starting to be become apparant is that my old mates who were sensible and did the boring sensible things, like me are starting to realise we are running out of road. I may have 10-15 years of fully active life if I'm lucky before things like travel etc start becoming too much hassle. When my Mum was 81 and housebound, following a stroke, I asked her if she had any regrets. She said "No, I always made sure I did the things I wanted to do, I have friends who didn't and they are sitting at home looking back on a miserable life, don't do that".

I'm with Stan Bowles. I've enjoyed my life, as did Stan, before he couldn't. My advice to anyone is to "Be more Stan". DO what you have to but have some fun. The thing about Stan was, had he not been a maverick, he may or may not have had a better career, one tackle can end it, but he definitely would not have had as much fun or be remembered with such love

RIP Sir Stanley Bowles

No comments: