Saturday, 28 January 2012

To sing or not to sing...

...felt like the question today for most of us fans that weren't busy booing Chelsea players John Terry and Daniel Sturridge. I 'ummd' and 'aahd' about whether to write about all the events surrounding the game which were happening off the pitch. I wondered whether it was right to talk about things other than the match itself. But to be fair the reason why I write this blog and am so obsessed with the game is much more complex than just to say I love to watch a game of football.

It's not just the game, it's the personalities, the politics, the money, drama and the gossip and rumours (which I fully admit I am partial to), that all add to the theatre that is the world of football. And this has been the case for me being a Queens Park Rangers supporter throughout the past twenty-odd years. Maybe it's because, as fans of this club, we have seriously been through it: from boardroom hold-ups, to collections outside Loftus a billionaire buyout. It's been such an incredible few years that one would be naive in my opinion to try to ignore all of it. 

So I come to today's FA Cup fixture, and all the controversy surrounding the game. I am sure I speak for most of us QPR fans in condemning racism and all the terrible behaviour in the run up to today. I mean, a bullet in the post?? Why? It's just incomprehensible. Without wanting to disrespect the gravity of the situation and the charges that have been brought to John Terry it seems that what happened as a result of all the 'off the pitch' tension, impacted more on the fans than it did the players today.

We were all asked to arrive at Loftus Road early today, due to heightened security and the fact that we were all being searched. Statements were released by chairmen of both clubs. Twitter was awash with all sorts of questions about whether Anton Ferdinand would shake John Terry's hand or not.

On the other hand, Joey Barton's tweets on Friday afternoon spoke of a seemingly upbeat team, sitting around having coffee together. Sounded like they were simply looking forward to a game of football where there was really no pressure to win. Let's face it, this cup tie was always going to be tough, but also much more important for Chelsea, than for us.

And so as I arrived at Loftus Road at 10.30am this morning, in hindsight, it was no surprise that there was a somewhat muted atmosphere around the ground. With the increased police presence, it almost felt as if we were the ones being persecuted...the act of so few ruining it for everyone else. And whilst we were quite vociferous for the first five minutes of the game, for the rest of the match we barely made a noise. The atmosphere was nowhere near as electric as it was the last time we played Chelsea at home in October. And I was saddened that many of us spent our time booing the opposition as opposed to cheering our own team. I remember last October I was one of those booing John Terry, but at least at that match, it was balanced out by the amount of singing we were doing to cheer on the Rs.

I actually thought the lads played really well today. Given the circumstances: the injuries we have, and the missing players, we played with confidence and Chelsea quite frankly did not look threatening up front. Let's remember that they didn't score that goal from open play. I think we can be proud of that.

So given that the lads really gave today a good go, and didn't let us down in terms of effort...why didn't we sing? I think it must have been our own nerves. We were so wrapped up in everything else around the game, we didn't stop to enjoy what was some great end to end football right in front of our eyes. And while the team came out making no fuss about 'that handshake' by not following the ceremony at all, we couldn't help but chant about Terry's mother!

I am not here to criticise ourselves. I am guilty of all of this. But it did make me wonder about human psychology. I was reading the programme on the way home and both Hughes and Barton praised the fans for the great support shown last week at the Wigan game, even at the point at which Wigan had scored. I am not a footballer. I don't know what it's like to be out there, playing in front of thousands of people every week. But I have to believe them when they say that when we sing for them, when we get behind them through positive cheering, it really makes a difference to how they play. And I can't help but think maybe if we'd been a bit more positive today as fans, we might have had a better result...As I sat on the Central line from White City, I sort of imagined the lads telling some of the new players that it was a great atmosphere last time, and then feeling a bit disappointed when it wasn't quite how everyone had imagined.

Well, today's post seems much more serious than my last few...but I am told a writer of blogs shouldn't try too hard to be one thing or another. And though there is a lot of fun, laughter and joy in being a football fan, there are also those moments when I am truly confused about how events do finally unfold, and how atmospheres can change at the drop of a hat.

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