Dennis Signy OBE speaks to Vital QPR once more, about his time within Brentford and the possible take-over by Queens Park Rangers in 1967.
Signy who previous spoke to Vital QPR concerning his time under Jim Gregory and Alec Stock, now moves to speak about Rangers potential acquisition of Brentford in 1967 as well as John Lyall agreeing to manage Rangers.
The biggest story of my career over 60 years in newspapers and football came in 1967 … the QPR bid to take over Brentford.
The headline story went round the world yet, strangely for me, I did not write a word on the subject. I was general manager of Brentford at the time – in fact, I started the whole saga.
It was a chance remark I made to Jim Gregory that sparked off the soccer sensation of 1967. Billy Gray was my team manager at Brentford – having turned down an offer from Alec Stock to join him with Rangers – and he and I were standing in Ellerslie Road waiting for my wife to arrive for a game against Carlisle United, when we saw Jim.
The previous Saturday Bernard Joy, the famous ex-centre half who wrote so authoratively over the years for the Evening Standard, had produced a feature on the old theme of ground sharing and had linked Brentford and QPR as logical clubs to tie up.
Jim asked: ‘How many do you think we’ll get tonight?’
I told him: ‘I don’t know – about 18,000. If you were playing at Griffin Park you’d get 30,000’ (in actual fact the gate was 19,146).
From that casual remark we progressed to a discussion on Joy’s ground-sharing theme and, when Jim Gregory said that he might be interested in pursuing this further I said I would mention it to my chairman, Jack Dunnett, Brentford’s MP chairman.
I did – and that started the train of events that led to the eventual take-over bid. The two chairmen went into the appeals of ground-sharing but moved on to discuss the possibility of Rangers buying the Brentford ground – capacity at the time 38,000.
Various idea were thrashed around by the two wealthy chairman, including Brentford using Griffin Park on alternate weeks as tenants of Rangers.
Homely Loftus Road, as I recorded at the time, was Rangers’ 16th home and I dubbed them as veritable gypsies of the soccer scene in historical parlance – the happy wanderers.
I remember sitting in on some of the preliminary discussions as a modestly paid journalist who had moved into football management and knew more about headlines than balance sheets. I did understand, though, that both clubs were losing money heavily.
I was fascinated hearing sums of thousands and hundreds of thousands of pounds being bandied about between the Mayfair solicitor who was my chairman and the self-made millionaire from Rangers.
It was like Monopoly – with real money. I used to smile at being asked to intervene with important decisions.
The discussions evolved into this: – Rangers were to buy Griffin Park for £220,000 and were to sell Loftus Road to he council for £310,000. The £90,000 surplus was intended to be used to improve Griffin Park. I was to be in publicity and fund-raising projects.
What was not known even when the story broke in the newspapers and on radio and television was that the two clubs were UNDER CONTRACT. After he breakdown of the merger talks Jim Gregory had proposed to Jack Dunnett: ‘We’ll buy you out, shares, ground, the players, the lot’.
The deal was announced on Jim’s 39th birthday. Alec Stock was to be overall manager and Billy Gray and Bill Dodgin the coaches. I, the ideas man of the project, was bombarded by telephone.
The Daily Mail headlined: ‘Fans call it a sell -out’. The Daily Mirror: ‘Goodbye, Brentford’ .
The next crowd at Griffin Park was a best-of-season 10, 650 and the fans left us in no doubt what they thought of the idea. ‘Who done it? Dunnett dunnit’ was the poster I remember.
To cut it short, it never went through and I resigned some weeks later and Billy Gray followed me out of Griffin Park when Dunnett handed over to new chairman Ron Blindell.
Would it have been such a bad thing? I recall Alec Stock’s words: ‘This would be a great thing for us. If agreement is reached it will mean that we have a first-class ground for what is already a first-class team’. Jim Gregory said: ‘Economically it was a good proposition for Rangers’.
Ironically, when I joined Rangers as chief executive alongside manager Jim Smith in the Eighties, another take-over propelled Jim Gregory and the club into the headlines. I was not involved in the talks between Jim and Fulham chairman David Bulstrode that led to the infamous Fulham Park Rangers proposition.
I was not part of that plan and I left Rangers when David Bulstrode, with whom I got on well, took over as chairman.
Unfortunately that episode ended my long association with Jim Gregory. Despite the eventual acrimony I have outstanding memories of our years together.
One, which I can’t remember if it ever made the headlines, was when I persuaded Jim that John Lyall, the West Ham United manager and one of my closest friends in football, should fill a managerial vacancy with Rangers.
To cut it short, I joined John, his assistant, Mick McGiven, and former Spurs assistant Eddie Bailey at Jim’s home on Wimbledon Common. After hours of negotiations, with John even being told that he could have a lake to fish in at a home Rangers would find for him in the Marlow area, we all drank champagne to celebrate the appointment of the trio.
The next day the West Ham chairman, who had given Rangers permission to talk to John, refused to let him go.
Ah well, you can’t win ’em all!
Vital QPR would like to thank Dennis once again
If you would like to read part one concerning Signy’s association with Jim Gregory and former R’s boss Alex Stock click here.
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