QPR’s Alec Stock Day a belated recognition of wider question for clubs | Simon Burnton

QPR will finally honour the memory of arguably their greatest manager against Yeovil – but how many such figures at other clubs, from a more penurious age, remain neglected?

What kind of debt do clubs owe to their most distinguished players and managers once their careers come to an end? At the highest level they may now be so well paid as to make the question irrelevant but there remains a generation of former footballers for whom the game was only figuratively enriching, and who then found themselves swiftly forgotten. Perhaps the greatest example was the great Tottenham Hotspur manager Bill Nicholson, who after 33 years in which they won the Double and most other prizes worth winning was forced out in 1974, and on to the dole.

Nicholson's fame was such that he was not ignored for long but others, perhaps less well known, have been forced to wait considerably longer or are waiting still. As it happens one great fan and contemporary of Nicholson will have his own success acknowledged this weekend, although in this case it has come 13 years after his death.

The life and career of Alec Stock, perhaps Queens Park Rangers' greatest ever manager but for so long after his departure in 1968 virtually ignored, will be celebrated on Saturday as Yeovil Town, the team who introduced him to management, visit Loftus Road for the first time in their history.

Alec Stock Day is QPR's response to a fan-led campaign for his contribution to be recognised, itself prompted by an article published on the Guardian's website last year. It may come too late to be enjoyed by the man himself, who died in 2001 at the age of 84, but will be attended by members of his family as well as staff and players who were at QPR during his nine-year tenure, which featured victory in the 1967 League Cup final as a third-tier team and back-to-back promotions that took them, for the first time in their history, into the top flight.

"Dad would have loved this," his daughter, Sarah, said when it was announced. "He had such a great affiliation with both QPR and Yeovil so this is a fitting fixture for such a day to be held."

One of the players who will be on the pitch at half-time is Mark Lazarus, who was signed by Stock on four occasions – once at Leyton Orient, thrice for Rangers – and scored the winning goal in the 1967 League Cup final victory against West Bromwich Albion. "I was a bit surprised when I heard about it," Lazarus says. "It should have been done years ago. They should have had a match for him. I don't know his financial situation, but they could have done something for him while he was alive."

In fact Yeovil organised a testimonial to help fund Stock's care towards the end of his life but QPR turned down the chance to be involved and instead the Glovers played one of his other former clubs, Fulham.

"QPR have been like that for the last few years – not looking after the old players," says Lazarus. "The last few times I've been I haven't been treated very well, and I'm only going this time for Alec Stock. Sometimes they ring me up and invite me to games, and of late I've just been refusing. My other clubs, they make such a fuss of you when you go there. I don't know what's up with them at QPR."

Sadly Lazarus's experience is not unique, but Alec Stock Day is the latest of several recent initiatives at Loftus Road aimed at involving former players and thawing relationships that the club recognise had become unhealthily frosty. There will be a minute's applause before kick-off, a presentation at half-time and events around the ground before and after the game.

Though Stock's period as Rangers' manager ended controversially – the then chairman, Jim Gregory, falsely insisted that his asthma had made him unemployable – he is remembered with great fondness by those who worked with him. "He was a gentleman, a man's man," says Lazarus. "He was a leader of men. He'd been a captain in the army, and when he walked into a room you knew he was in charge. He had everything in my opinion. He wasn't a great tactician, but you listened to him. I've sat in other dressing rooms and listened to the manager talk and I've shook my head, not believing what they're saying, but Alec commanded your attention. And players could go to Alec with problems off the pitch and he'd sit there and listen and he'd try to help. He was a stunning man."

In his autobiography Stock wrote of his "good partnership" with Lazarus. "There will always be a place in my heart for Mark Lazarus," he wrote. "He would run through a wall for me, and often did! He was a smashing bloke to have around. Very good for morale. He was grateful to me and I was delighted with the mileage I clocked out of him."

Lazarus describes is as "like a father-son relationship" but insists: "I wasn't his favourite player … He kept selling me,. He made a profit every time, and then he bought me back like a used car. And he used to tell me off many times, you know. If we got beat, if it was at all possible, he'd say it was my fault. I did think it was unfair, but you get used to it, and it was a compliment in a way – if I didn't play well enough the team got beat, and if I did play well, we won. Anyway, with Alec he'd tell you off and then the next day, or the next hour, he'd have an arm around your shoulder, having a laugh."

Coincidentally, Stock ended his career as manager and then director at Bournemouth, where he took under his wing a 35-year-old player and aspiring manager by the name of Harry Redknapp. "Alec Stock was one of the greatest managers that ever lived," Redknapp, now QPR's manager, later wrote.

It could be argued that a minute's applause and a souvenir match programme is not enough to reflect his achievements – and it may be that this is not the last time his family is invited to QPR – but at least Stock's story is forgotten no more. Two questions, however, remain: how many others remain undiscovered? And how much, in the end, should we care? © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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