Stan Bowles, Chopper Harris and Charlie George on the Glory Days, Part 2

Part two of this 1995 classic sees the lads chat turn to drugs, women, playing abroad and why Brian Clough was a grade one lunatic.
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Part two of this 1995 classic sees the lads chat turn to drugs, women, playing abroad and why Brian Clough was a grade one lunatic.

THE SOCCER/POP CONNECTION

Charlie: I suppose the footballers of the 70s were a bit like pop stars, what with the fancy haircuts and all that. The only difference was that the pop stars got all the tasty birds. Footballers got the leftovers. Not that I was complaining. Some bloke came up to me one time and said, “You could be a pop star, Charlie. Like Marc Bolan or one of that lot. Let’s make a record.” So we did. It was called A Love Song For My Lady. Bit of a romantic number you might say. They were going to bill me as Gorgeous Charlie but I drew the line at that. I said, “What do you take me for? A shirtlifter?” We did do these publicity photos though. They had me dressed up like Gary Glitter with all the clobber – stack heels, make-up, the works. I looked like a right poof. The record never came out in the end. Just as well. It was fucking horrible. I ain’t no singer. A fucking seal could hold a note better than me.

Stan: They used to say that I looked like one of The Faces, y’know, Rod Stewart, Ronnie Wood and all that lot. Never saw it myself. But I was friendly with Paul Cook from the Sex Pistols. He was a White City boy and he liked a drink. He said to me once, “What d’you reckon to the Sex Pistols then?” I said, “I haven’t got a fucking clue what you’re on about, mate. Anarchy In The UK? Never heard of it. What’s that all about?” Punk rock meant nothing to me. Another one was Philip Lynott from Thin Lizzy. We practically grew up together so we’d always get together for a few beers. He was a good bloke, Philip. Biggest bird bandit I ever met. He was a champion crumpeteer, Phil. But the drugs stitched him up in the end. He didn’t know when to stop, that was his problem. I steered clear of all that, mostly. I’d spliff up once in a while but that’s fuck all, innit? Everyone enjoys a spliff once in a while. Makes you nice and relaxed.

ENGLAND

Charlie: My one regret is not being given more than one chance to prove myself at international level. The one time I did pull on an England shirt, that cunt Revie made me play out of position. He said, “I’m telling you that you’re playing on the left wing.” I said, “You’re ‘aving a laugh, Don. I ain’t no left-winger.” Then he took me off after sixty minutes. As I came off he went to shake my hand but I turned to him and said, “Go fuck yourself.” After that they wanted me to play for England reserves. It was an insult to my talent. I was the best forward in England at the time. I should have been a regular. Anyway, I told them where they could stick their fucking reserves. And that was that.

Stan: What I hated most was those England get-togethers. They’d all sit there staring at a bleedin’ blackboard and I’d nip out for a crafty fag at the back. It was a load of crap. You’d get the Derby contingent – Nish, MacFarland and Todd – and they’d all wear the same jumpers with little rams sewn in. Cloughie made ‘em wear these togs I reckon, to make a point. I’d say to them, “What’s with the fucking jumpers then?” Then they’d shrug and walk off together. Weird if you ask me.

The drugs stitched Phil (Lynott) up in the end. He didn’t know when to stop, that was his problem. I steered clear of all that, mostly. I’d spliff up once in a while but that’s fuck all, innit? Everyone enjoys a spliff once in a while. Makes you nice and relaxed.

THE LADIES

Charlie: I didn’t get too many women running after me. It was their husbands who’d be after me. It was like that film, Confessions Of A Window Cleaner. The thing with sex is that is was always there if you fancied a bit of it. One of the perks of the job you might say. All the players would congregate in the pub after a game and the birds would swarm around like wasps. There’s a certain type of woman who fancies having a footballer in bed. They probably just want to brag to their mates at work on a Monday morning. “Here, I had if off with Charlie George on Saturday night.” It didn’t really matter to them what they player looked like. I mean, Nobby Stiles was no oil painting but I bet even he must have had a few offers in his time.

Chopper: It’s like anything else. If you’re in the public eye, you’re gonna get that sort of attention. In my younger days, I’d open my mailbag and there’d be these pictures of birds in skimpy bikinis, offering their services if you like. When you’re young and virile, you might take advantage of it occasionally. Usually I just stuck them in the bin and forgot about them.

THE CHARACTERS

Stan: Everyone talks about George Best and Rodney Marsh. They were characters, all right. But they weren’t the only ones. Back in the 70s, there’d be a few characters in every team. At QPR we had Don Shanks, a very decent full-back who’d do just about anything for a laugh. One time we were out in Belgium, playing an exhibition match. We won the game and were having a drink or two in the bar. Shanksy decided it would be a good idea to pretend he was having an epileptic fit.

So he starts rolling about on the floor, giving it some froth at the mouth and all that. But the owner didn’t see the funny side and called the police. We got locked up for the night. It’s quite cosy in those Belgian jails. Best night’s sleep I ever had. They serve a lovely hot breakfast too. I’d recommend it to anyone. Yeah, the game was full of characters in those days. But it didn’t work out well for everyone. I played with Dave Clement at QPR. He had a good sense of humour, Dave. But he ended up killing himself after drinking weedkiller. Funny way to go, I always thought.

CLOUGHIE

Stan: Brian Clough was a complete one-off. He signed me for Forest in 1979. I knew fuck all about it until I got a call at a gambling club in Shepherd’s Bush. I was happy at QPR but Forest were European champions. Also the dosh was good, much better than I was used to. So I went up to see Cloughie. He was four hours late which told me he wasn’t the sort of geezer who rushed about. The Forest chairman knew nothing about them signing me. When Clough finally arrived and announced it, the chairman started banging his head against the wall. I thought the poor cunt was going to faint. It never really worked between me and Clough. Pretty quick I realized that he’d signed me so I could run about and give John Robertson the ball.

When we get to the hotel, soaking wet, there’s Cloughie, watching Crossroads in the lounge and ordering himself a triple brandy. “A good walk,” he said, “it does you good.” Well, maybe he had a point because he won two European cups pulling lunatic stunts like that.

I was used to players running about and giving me the ball. I was basically the monkey to Robertson’s organ grinder and I wasn’t too chuffed about that. I played under Clough for eleven months and we didn’t speak to each other for three of them. We used to communicate by rumour. I never forgave him for calling me a Cockney. I said to him, “I ain’t no Cockney, I’m a Manchester lad.”

I never went out to rub Cloughie up the wrong way. But I called him Big Head once and went out and bought him a hat. He didn’t see the funny side. I couldn’t work the bloke out. He used to get his son Nigel to come on the team bus and hand out bars of chocolate to all the players. Twix it was. I fucking hated Twix. Give me a Crunchie any time. Anyway, it didn’t matter to Cloughie that you didn’t like Twix. You had to have one ‘cos he said so. I used to hide mine down the back of the seat and hope he wouldn’t find it.

Charlie: I went on loan to Forest in 1980. I only played a couple of games for them. I found Clough to be extremely unorthodox. He didn’t really do tactics. You wouldn’t see him all week. Then he’d turn up ten minutes before a game and say, “Tear into the cunts. Don’t let these wankers get the better of you. Now go out there and beat them. Otherwise I’ll kick your bollocks into touch.” That was the full extent of the team talk. Then he’d go off in search of a bottle of brandy.

He had a funny way of dealing with players. Like he bought Kenny Burns from Birmingham. Now Kenny was a tough bastard. When he spoke it sounded like someone chewing a bag of nails. Kenny was the kind of bloke who’d have kicked his grandmother in the cunt if you gave him the slightest excuse. But Cloughie insisted on calling him “Kenneth”. I could never understand that. It was Kenneth this and Kenneth that. Well, he was many things but he was never a Kenneth. He was a fucking animal to be fair. But Cloughie spoke to him like he was the local vicar who’d come round for a cucumber sandwich to talk about the church roof. Very odd.

We were travelling up to Leeds once and Cloughie, for no apparent reason, ordered us off the coach. We had to walk the rest of the way to the hotel. Four miles it was and it was fucking pissing it down. Half the team must have gone down with pneumonia. When we get to the hotel, soaking wet, there’s Cloughie, watching Crossroads in the lounge and ordering himself a triple brandy. “A good walk,” he said, “it does you good.” Well, maybe he had a point because he won two European cups pulling lunatic stunts like that.

THE DOC

Chopper: I played for Tommy Doc at Chelsea and the main thing I remember is that he was always throwing things. Anything from olives to pork pies. He’d just pick things up and chuck them at people. He hit me on the head with a hot Cornish pastie once. I had gravy all over my ‘ead. I said, “What did you do that for?” He said, “You weren’t paying attention.” Fair enough, I suppose.

Charlie: I worked under The Doc at Derby. I fancied a new improved contract for myself so I said, “Get the fucking chairman in here.” So the chairman comes in, this geezer called George Hardy. I said, “Listen up, you cunt, get the fucking minute book ‘cos I’m having a new contract.”

He went out and Tommy Doc says, “Steady on, you shouldn’t call the chairman a cunt, you know.” I said, “Tommy, if I want to call him a cunt, I’ll call him a cunt. And if I want to call you a cunt, I’ll call you a cunt. All right?” He said, “Fair point, Charlie, but you’re asking for more money than Martin Buchan is getting at Man United.” I said, “Well, yeah, but Buchan is not fit to wipe my arse.” After that, The Doc was sweet as a nut. He couldn’t do enough for me. All you had to do with Tommy is gently put him right on a few points.

Back in the 70s you’d tear into a tackle and the ref would have a quiet word in your ear. Ten minutes later the same thing would happen. In those days you practically had to set fire to someone to get sent off.

ABROAD

Stan: Hamburg wanted to sign me in 1976. They were offering me silly money. I met their officials at a hotel in London. 9.30 on a Sunday morning. Typical fucking Germans, right? Anyway, my chairman was supposed to come along but he couldn’t make it. I couldn’t be arsed to meet a bunch of Germans on my own so I nipped out the back way and went off to find somewhere that would serve me a pint at that hour. They signed Keegan instead. No skin off my nose. I never wanted to go to Germany in the first place. Horrible place. Their beer tastes like my nan’s piss, for starters. And I ain’t too keen on the people either. No sense of humour and their women aren’t what you’d call easy on the eye.

Charlie: In 1981 I went to play for Bulova in Hong Kong. Fuck knows why. I’d just lost a finger in a lawnmowing accident, so maybe I wasn’t thinking too straight. As soon as I got there I got a calf strain so I missed the first game. When the crowd heard I wasn’t playing a riot kicked off. They went completely nuts. A huge mob of them turned up at my hotel and started throwing stuff at my window – coins, bottles, shoes, anything they could get their hands on. I was sitting in my room, having a few drinks and wishing I was back in London with my mates. I only played seven games for them, never got a sniff of a goal. Abroad never really suited me.

THE MODERN GAME

Chopper: Let’s face it, a player like me wouldn’t last five minutes in the modern game. All the physical contact has gone out of football. If I was playing now and went into tackles like I used to I’d be sent off every game. Back in the 70s you’d tear into a tackle and the ref would have a quiet word in your ear. Ten minutes later the same thing would happen. In those days you practically had to set fire to someone to get sent off.

Stan: It’s more like fucking ballet than football these days. It’s only a matter of time before they let girls start playing with the blokes.

Charlie: Agreed, Stan. It was a man’s game twenty years ago. These days it’s a game for poofs. They’ll be carrying fucking handbags next.

LIFE BEYOND FOOTBALL

Charlie: Chopper is different from me and Stan in that he had a bit of a business head on him. He’s fucking minted now. But me and Stan never thought about tomorrow. Every week we’d get our wages and spend it on having a good time. When we left the game we were stony broke. That’s when you realize that being a famous footballer counts for nothing when your career is finished. People might say, “Charlie George, he’s a bit of a legend.” Fair enough. But it means fuck all when you can’t pay your gas bill.

Click here to read part one of Stan, Chopper and Charlie on the 70s glory days

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