QPR technical director Chris Ramsey witnessed the momentous 12 months spanning May 1982 and May 1983 first-hand as an Albion player. Spencer Vignes spoke to the former right-back about how events unfolded in the league and FA Cup.
Chris, those months between May 1982 and May 1983 were eventful times for the Albion as well as QPR. Why do you think a side which finished 13th in the top flight in 1982 ended up getting relegated the following year?
We had some good players when you think about it with quite a few internationals such as Tony Grealish, Steve Foster, Gary Stevens, people like that. It’s like any relegation scenario though – when you get into a bad run, everything just appears to go against you. It has to be said that we were living in a bit of a party town, and I don’t think that contributed well. In those days the culture was slightly different with regards to looking after yourself. We went out and enjoyed ourselves, maybe a bit too much. But on the field, in the league at least, we ended up in this downward spiral and couldn’t pull it round. We had some good results but there was no real consistency. We couldn’t string a run of results together and that ended up with us getting relegated to Division Two, or the Championship as it is these days.
You mention the party aspect. It’s been said that the sacking of manager Mike Bailey in December 1982 and the failure to appoint a new full-time replacement until March didn’t exactly help in terms of discipline.
Yeah, I agree, I don’t think that helped at all. You’re looking for structure but we had this instability. It was a bit flaky, almost like we were kind of running things ourselves. But that didn’t stop the club from feeling like a good club, the kind of place a lot of good players were attracted to.
The logistics were in its favour and it was a place that a lot of people wanted to bring their families to. It’s a lovely area, you’re by the sea and what have you. But I don’t think that helped, no. You could say that the players had to take responsibility, and to a degree you would be right. But you need that structure, and that wasn’t really there. By the time Jimmy (Melia) was appointed I think we were in the semi-finals (of the FA Cup), so there was a long gap where no one was in overall charge.
Are you one of those who subscribe to the fact that our run to the FA Cup Final that year contributed to us getting relegated, in that we took our eye off the ball in the league?
To be honest I don’t think it had that much to do with us getting relegated. What I do think is that the Cup Final was a much bigger deal then. It was almost like if you get to the FA Cup Final then all is forgiven, a bit like the Wigan thing a couple of years ago. They won it and I don’t think their relegation really got mentioned that much.
That was even more the case back then because the Cup Final was everything. The whole country stopped for it. So that was that element, this thing about ‘We’re doing well in the Cup, so our league form can be forgiven’. And of course it couldn’t, not if we wanted to stay up.
Although Albion had been in the top flight that season, taking four points off Manchester United in the league, we were still regarded very much as the underdogs in the FA Cup Final. The same applied to QPR when they reached Wembley 12 months previously. They were a second tier club then.
Yeah, against Tottenham. Peter Hucker in goal, and Tony Currie. You had John Gregory of course, ex-Brighton, a good player. And they did alright, didn’t they? They didn’t win it, but they gave a good account of themselves. I think that’s the thing though when you go up against the very top sides, which Manchester United and Tottenham were back then. Getting a draw against them in the first game at Wembley is an achievement, but the chances of going back out there second time around and beating them are a lot less.
They’re going to be ready for you next time. That was certainly the case when we played Manchester United. There were times in that first match when we had them rattled. In fact we could, and perhaps should, have won it. They (United) weren’t going to let that happen in the replay and of course we lost heavily (4-0).
And, somewhat infamously, you missed that replay having been injured during the first game by an over-the-top tackle from United’s Norman Whiteside.
Well, yes, but as I’ve said before neither of us were exactly angels, were we? I mean you’ve only got to look at my record to see I had my moments (Chris was sent off five times during his Albion career). I saw Norman about 12 years afterwards at a PFA (Professional Footballers’ Association) do and we had a good laugh about it. He wrote on my card ‘You went in high, but I went in higher!’ He said in his book that he never intentionally went out to hurt anyone in his career, and that the only person he actually ended up hurting was me. But they were different times. The game was far more physical then and unfortunately those things did happen.