A friend of mine gave me a book called The Original Stan the Man, the autobiography of Stan Bowles.
Their period was the 197os and featured Bowles, Frank Worthington, Peter Osgood, Alan Hudson, Tony Currie and Charlie George. They were supremely gifted but quite unmanageable – always late for training, in fights and gambling, womanizing or drinking. They were very popular with fans but certainly not the gaffer.
George Best came along earlier, Paul Gascogne later but they were of the same ilk. Although England failed to qualify for the 1974 or 1978 World Cup they all won few caps.
Mike Channon, Keven Keegan, Trevor Brooking and Francis Lee were regarded as far more reliable as indeed they were.
He won nothing in the game. Yet his Rangers side is so indelibly fixed in my mind that it is one of the few that I can recall every player: Parkes; Clement, McLintock, Webb, Gillard; Venables, Francis, Masson: Thomas, Givens, Bowles. Bowles would drop into midfield as Peter Beardsley and Wayne Rooney did so effectively later. The team produced under Gordon Jago and Dave Sexton the nearest to the total football of the great Dutch side of Johan Cruyff. Off the pitch Bowles did not exhibit much intelligence but on it he was tactically aware , had a superb first touch and combined effectively right from the outset of his Rangers career with Gerry Francis.
The betting escapades were pretty dull stuff. They might enliven a Legends Lounge at Loftus Road but this reader was left bored.
Yet these mavericks were worth paying your admission money as they could produce something which made the the ordinary fan gasp.
Let us not forget too that back then every team had a hard man, a Norman Hunter, Tommy Smith, Mike Pejic of Stoke who would kick lumps out of them, the pitches were terrible and the refs afforded them little protection.
Social media and the ever-present camera would do for them now. Devices like pro zone would identify any lowering of fitness levels through body abuse.
Also managers like Alex Ferguson would sort them out. Either they towed the line or they would be discarded.
I miss them.