Monday, 30 April 2012

Breaking my heart

Chelsea  6 Queens Park Rangers  1

From the off yesterday was filled with gloom. Having spent the previous 24 hours mostly in bed trying to recover from then dreaded flu and praying for the persistent rain to stop, it was with a great sense of gloom and misery that my Dad and I made it to Fulham Road. We tried to find a place for a coffee with the howling wind and driving rain splattering us menacingly and we struggled to both open and/or close our umbrella (you know that feeling?). All we could find were a few restaurants serving, naturally, Chelsea fans. Having decided not to join friends at Earl’s Court, everything from a QPR perspective felt incredibly desolate. We found solace quickly inside the ground where we could at least find shelter from the rain, although what then befell us over the next two hours was something, even as a QPR fan used to losing, I did not expect.

I was hoping for - at best - a spirited and passionate performance from the Rangers, reflective of the the commitment they have been showing at home games, but statistics prevailed and we added to the list of away losses - a record in this season's Premier League. Not just a loss, however, but an annihilation of pretty epic proportions.

I'm not going to dwell on the match. Not going to dwell on the rain-sodden slippery pitch, nor the team formation which played Cisse on the left where he looked extremely uncomfortable, nor the frustrated antics of Joey Barton (hardly befitting a team captain), nor the complete lack of pace or sense of urgency that left us completely exposed to a team that outplayed from start to finish. I'm also not going to dwell on the fact that all we could think to do was sing songs about how Christine Bleakley looks like a horse, and how we had to listen to the crazed antics of fans so upset and incensed with the poor performance the number of times the word f*** was used  by them could fill a book describing the various ways in which you could use the word f***. I'm also not going to think too much about that irritating emcee who should lose his job for inciting away fans by responding to chants of 'who are ya'' with 'you'll soon find out'. And over 24 hours later, I'm trying not to think about some very strange things going on in twitter land where some fans are unhappy with the #qprtwitfam flag (a sort of twisted reaction and continuing bitterness linked to yesterday's result?) Is this no longer a free land where fans can show unity and support for their teams so long as they do not harm others? *Confusing*

The song that kept echoing through my head after the match, was the Everything But the Girl version of I don't want to talk about it. I felt as if QPR broken my heart again. Much like a bad boyfriend who I keep running back to even though everybody tells me he's no good for me.

And when I came in to the office this morning, still worse for wear with the remnants of the flu still apparent, people around me were extremely diplomatic in the same way that people are when you have broken up with a boyfriend. Basically, they didn't say anything at all. It was almost deafening not to be able to talk about it, the way that girls like to, that by the end of the day I turned round and said, 'thanks...for not mentioning the match yesterday guys'. To which they responded 'what match?', in the way that good friends should.

And now I sit watching the Manchester derby. Currently City are ahead by a goal. If it is the final score it will be one which most QPR fans will not be happy with because it will mean the title race is not yet wrapped up by the time we play them on the 13th May. But quite honestly, I'm a bit more philosophical about it. You can't keep wishing ill of everyone else around you when you've messed something up for yourself. And while I feel a little bit single and lonely, and yes maybe a jealous,  I know that time will slowly help and my heart will soon be on the mend no matter what the future holds for our club.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

'It was the best of times

Queens Park Rangers 1 Tottenham Hotspur 0 was the worst of times'. Kept echoing through my head throughout the match today, even before Taarabt scored from a fantastic free kick. The match itself was filled with everything that a QPR match is expected to bring these days to Loftus Road: agony, ecstasy, pleasure and pain - all in one go. As I've said before I am quite sure that plenty of people suffer increased blood pressure during matches, and there were several 'shrieks' from the crowd when we thought for a millisecond that perhaps we were done for as Tottenham came so close to scoring.

But I also thought about the fact that this was my last home game (as I'll be on holiday during the Stoke game) and wistfully looked back on my experience so far in this season which could quite easily be compartmentalised in to two halves. In January I started writing this blog, and in one of my first blogs after the first cup tie against MK Dons I asked whether this was the turning point in our season. The football we played at that game was ugly, QPR favourite Ale Faurlin got a serious injury, and I think if I remember correctly, it was Warnock who said that the last minute goal from Helguson was perhaps a turning point. Little did we know, however, that the real turning point lay in the massive changes that were to come in the form of new management and a host of new players. At that point in time, our season well and truly became a dogfight, while the previous half was about a QPR team unsure about what it stood for with a varied and less than spectacular run of results.

' was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity,'

...I then made my journey up to Newcastle not long after, taking the coach for the first time. It was the first of quite a few games where Mark Hughes spent time tinkering with the team, testing out the squad and understanding who could do what. The irony is that those who have really shone through have been our Championship players: Derry, Buzsaky, Mackie and Clint Hill have been invaluable and quite frankly up until a few games ago they were the only ones who looked as if they gave a damn. It's amazing how it appears to have taken so long for everyone else to really show some passion. It's taken so long for the penny to drop that if QPR go down it's not just the club that might suffer, but their own careers as well. It would be unfair to say that our 'shiny' new team of Premier League big boys haven't performed in more recent games, but poor behaviour and a flurry of red cards has made them (Cisse you know who you are) look foolish. But we've also had some bad luck, and Derry being sent off at Old Trafford was the icing on the cake in terms of poor referring decisions. However, it seems we're getting used to playing with ten men. When Taarabt was sent off today, there was perhaps a moment of confusion from the crowd and just a little anger, but as my neighbour said 'it's almost like we just shrug it off now we're so used to it'. By that stage though, I was honestly starting to believe we could really win this match and I remembered all the tweets coming in saying #believe all week.

' was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair,'

And speaking of tweets, I spent some time at The Green just before today's match, meeting with many people who I've been getting to know in the virtual world. The #qprtwitfam is well and truly established, and putting faces to names and seeing people 'come to life' was a great experience. Hello to everyone I met, I am so looking forward to seeing you all again soon. One of the greatest things about being a Rangers supporter has been meeting fans who are just as obsessive as me. Sadly, apart from my father, I've never had any close friends who have supported this greatest of teams, and so making new friends has been a highlight of my season. My experiences travelling away on the coach have also been a real hoot, especially given that my first coach trip meant being filmed by Sky Sports News at the ungodly hour of 4.30am at Loftus Road. There I was at the 'back of the bus' getting to know other crazy supporters. So even though I haven't yet experienced an away win this season it has been a wonderful season of light for meeting like minded individuals who share the same hopes and fears as I do. It's just like QPR to keep us hanging until the end of the season though...while we have lived through a true winter of despair, the recent home wins against the big teams have brought us a spring of hope.

'we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way'

And so we look ahead, with three games to go. And who can honestly say after these past performances that they aren't winnable? But the first one next Sunday in the hellish depths of Stamford Bridge will likely be the toughest test yet. I shall be there, arm in arm with my dear father who has chosen to grace me with his presence at an away game for the first time ever.

'- in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.'

But alas, we are so far from the end of the season as far as knowing what the future holds for Queens Park Rangers. We have left it till the dying end to save ourselves, and will likely because of this, have to suffer from another 'iron on' sponsors logo on our shirts next season whether we are up or down.  Will we be looking back on this season thinking it's much like the one we're in then? My emotions on that subject are completely contradictory. While I hope for a season in which our biggest issue in the Premier League is mid-table mediocrity, I also think it would be dead boring. And if we end up back in the Championship, will I be pining for the excitement of the Premier League?

This is life as a QPR supporter. And the only thing that I am sure of is that I love this club. And while it's been the best and the worst season I've ever lived through so far that one fact will always remain true.

You RRRsssss

Sunday, 15 April 2012


West Bromwich Albion 1 Queens Park Rangers 0

A worrying result yesterday which wasn't really reflective of the overall performance. Towards the end of the game we were hoping for that elusive goal that would salvage a precious point. But for all the effort it never came.

We were hoping that a win yesterday would mean another climb further up the table, alleviating a bit of pressure. But now as always, Queens Park Rangers does things the hard way, and I fear for the health of the fans supporting them as we begin the final month before the season closes.

I watched from home. I just couldn't afford another hundred quid to watch the Rs away so far from home having already having booked tickets for the Chelsea game. This time yesterday fans were really hopeful. What was a decent damage limitation effort at Old Trafford the week before, had given us hope that our poor form away from home would no longer be. It was perhaps wrong to use such a match as an example as nothing ever goes the way it should at that ground. But I have to say that I felt some of the comments coming in from the travelling fans on twitter made us look poorer than we were in the second half. I am sure that this is in part a natural reaction given the effort expended to travel to the Hawthorns. But West Brom showed great determination not to concede under the pressure we were putting them under and it was one of those matches where you could say we didn't actually deserve to lose (unlike most others away this season). Unfortunately, we just can't afford to have those kinds of matches now. And we've now got a frightening four left to go.

At every level, supporting this club over the this next month will be extremely tough for us all. Not just at the matches themselves, but outside them too as we do our calculations and pray that other teams are failing more miserably than we are.

I jest a little about the 'health' thing, and have never truly tested it but I am quite sure my heart rate suffers through violent ups and downs during a match, increasing significantly during moments when we need the Rs defence to simply t*** the ball out of the box. And in between matches I suspect Rs fans will be doing all sorts of things that could be construed as a little crazy such as repeatedly using the BBC Premier League Predictor assessing all possible combinations, watching or not watching MOTD depending on the result, actually supporting other teams in order to save our own, continuing our elaborate rituals and superstitions (lucky shaves, not washing clobber etc etc - see Home Sweet Home post), arguing with other fans on twitter about what's required to beat the drop thereby feeding an obsession that is likely to alienate our non-supporting friends from us further. Some of us have even started to think that Joey Barton using twitter was our very own version of Kryptonite and we were perhaps the other Kryptonians who were impacted by his pitiful display.    

How wrong could we be? In today's Observer,  Joey Barton has revealed plans to launch his own website. The link is already live although the full website is yet to follow on It seems the young man has now matured from just using 'twitter' where 140 characters is not always enough to make a point without 'being misconstrued', and feels this new site will allow people to interact more visibly (he says that on twitter  'beause of the sheer number of people it's sometimes difficult to see them'). But what exactly is he maturing into? It is obvious that Barton understands that for better or worse, he is a brand. From the perspective of building a 'website' he is also extremely fortunate in that he has an opinion on everything and therefore he will not lack for content. But the interesting part about his plans is that he expects that others will also want to interact with him and with other like-minded people on this site. He has recognised that over 1.3m people want to engage with him on twitter, and it seems that he believes that they will want to take it to another level on a site that is owned by him. I do wonder whether even the mighty Joey Barton will be able to compete against big media brands like twitter or facebook as a place for people to 'socially network' - in terms of functionality and in terms of reaching the critical mass required for it to work. He does say that this is not a money-making exercise and it will not sell advertising space but nor were twitter and facebook to begin with! So you wonder why he doesn't simply manage his social media portfolio more carefully - facebook, twitter and other social channels (some more niche than others) do allow brands and celebrities to interact with their fans in all kinds of ways. Has Barton recognised a gap in the market for a product which currently doesn't exist? Or is he simply fed up of not being able to control what people say to him? At the end of the day if he owns this 'website' he can ultimately have full moderating control. But I will be extremely impressed if this turns out to be something more sophisticated than a forum or a simple 'audience with Joey Barton' and his 'fans'. really does go on for Joey and for the rest of us off the pitch and away from the game. 

As for me, I haven't watched the highlights or read any reports yet as I am afraid to hear what they have to say. I am hoping for a small miracle and that we only only need 4 more points to stay up. Unlikely. But could we do it with just one win and one draw, or even four draws...?

Supporting a football club is like a religion. And supporting QPR, well you'd have to be mad anyway, so what's just a few more rituals to keep us going until May 13th? Given what has been a poor team performance this season we do need a bit of silliness to lift us out of the mire.

Superman & Kryptonite (Action/DC Comics)

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Home sweet home

Queens Park Rangers 3 Swansea 0

I have to say it's a little bit weird writing a blog after the third home win on the trot. I am so used to writing fairly miserable content that it's hard to know what to say when I'm cheerful.

While Swansea dominated possession-wise in the first half through the 'respected' passing strategy, it was good to see QPR eventually break this down. It was almost inevitable that Swansea couldn't continue in that style and who better than Joey Barton to break the deadlock at the end of the first half with what has already been described by fans as a redemptive goal?

Man of the match? Well, who do I pick? When we got to the second half the game really opened up, and Diakite stood out for me dribbling the ball with ease and finding plenty of space. Mackie continued to show great energy and spirit which is always wonderful to watch as a fan. We all know though, that it was a team effort and perhaps we can start to feel confident that all of Hughes' meticulous preparation is finally paying off so many games down the line.

As it is a school night it's not a night to ponder over the philosophies of football or being a fan. But as promised, I thought I'd give you some tracks or songs that Rs fans on twitter said they'd like to listen to in the run up to that tough game at Old Trafford:

Eye of the tiger
We are the champions
The boys are back in town
Through the fire and the flames (Dragon Force)
'Champions your having a laugh'
'WE are the (championship) champions'
Tales from the doombox (Sub Source)
The Great Escape (theme tune)
Theme from Top Gun
Sunday bloody Sunday
Living on a prayer
Don’t stop believin'
The only way is up

My personal favourite from this eclectic selection is Tales from the Doombox, recommended by  @mrs_ajams. This band is apparently about to make it big, so look out for them. I believe you can find this track if you search youtube. It is best played very loudly and for me represents the relentless pressure of the Premier League and the drive the the QPR players need to have to play well and keep us up. Have a listen...

And as for lucky charms and our acts to bring QPR luck: well my shirt is still not washed and will not be till the end of the season. And please forgive me #qprtwitfam for forgetting all the names of entrants, but here they are:

Painting toe nails with the opposing team's colour (@mrs_ajams)
Having a 'lucky shave'
@sandyhoops is also not washing clothes and wearing same clobber for West Brom game
@kevinnwese keeps at least one can of beer in the fridge during a match

I am sure people do much more crazy stuff than the above, so feel free to send me your thoughts via twitter as always.

And here ends what is the most frivolous blog I have written yet.

Besides, I'm still only 22 minutes in to tonight's coverage of the match on my Sky Player, and I've got to savour the moment.

You Rrsssssss

Monday, 9 April 2012

Home and Away

Manchester Utd 2 Queens Park Rangers 0

I have just woken up after an extremely long and tiring day on the coach up to Old Trafford and back. And with a slightly fuzzy mind I begin to write my latest blog.

As you know I'm not one to ponder hugely on specific tactics because this blog is not about match reporting (there are plenty of those around). But it seems right to start on that note given what were openly and obviously made decisions to drop some players from the team and play other less likely choices in order to focus on a more likely win on Wednesday night. The first sliver of news we received was on the coach journey up: a few hours before kick off twitter rumours started to suggest Zamora may be out due to injury or illness. And once we got to the ground we heard Barton wasn't in the team at all and that Buzsaky and Bothroyd were starting. They were big decisions made against a huge side like Manchester Utd,  and after digesting the mild shock I realised why they were made after hearing from the #qprtwitfam (based on Mark Hughes' earlier interview). It made sense due to illness and due to the risk of suspension that we couldn't take any chances. To be honest I was happy with that, because none of us expected a win that afternoon and while we know we step up against the bigger teams the next game against Swansea was going to be one that would be easier to win at home.

That wasn't the only thing though. While some may think that tactics during the game put us in an even more negative light than we should have been in, even with the team we had, to be honest it was tinged with a sense of realism which I would never had understood had I not been to Old Trafford physically and seen all the action for myself. While MOTD2 and many journalists suggested that the major turning point was unfair sending off of Shaun Derry, I perhaps lugubriously think that this was already written in the stars for us given we were playing at what I felt was an extremely menacing team, ground and atmosphere. Maybe we would have had a shot at taking a point if he hadn't been sent off- and that appears to have been the way Mark Hughes thought given his expressions throughout the match. However, in these last few games as we battle for survival, we have to be tactical and while we all wish we could go out there and play an attacking team, the number one goal was to ensure we weren't completely bulldozed by a five or six nil loss and ensure we had a healthy goal difference vs the other battlers. It might have been painful to watch for some. But for me I was proud of the way our team played given the very difficult position they were in. At the end of the day we went up there knowing the pressure was not on us with all the losses by relegation teams the day before, and while we know that having no pressure can yield positive results - it was always, always a long-shot.

But why? Manchester Utd aren't an unbeatable team, and we know that. They aren't even the best in Europe and many pundits have said the standard of play in the English Premier League has dropped this season. I put it down to the power of Old Trafford. Akin to the way I feel about how Loftus Road can be on a great day, Old Trafford manages to do this pretty much all the time. So I have come away, as a QPR fan with mixed feelings about the whole thing. With a linesman who couldn't handle the pressure of the ground which eventually resulted in a red card, what else can we think but that this is a creepy place with its power over officials? We joke about the fact that it's a bit of a library but I heard a lot less noise when we played Arsenal back in January at the Emirates and hear that Anfield might be large but is also quiet. There were also QPR fans sitting at home and with friends in the home stands who said they could hear the QPR fans singing. But I know that when the Man U fans were celebrating you could barely hear a peep out of us. It just happened to be a little rare and of course, with them needing to leave early to drive back to London it made it easier for us to be heard in the dying minutes of the game. It's really no joke that these guys travel from across the country to watch their own team play - I saw with my very own eyes their stealth like move up the motorway, in cars and in specially put-on coaches. As a travelling fan you take on board that you won't have the advantage of playing at home, but it felt as if we couldn't even own being away fans either.

And while I am not a completely 'pussycat' when it comes to going to matches, There were also a number of stewards pulling people out of the away stand for doing absolutely nothing. I do not in any way condone bad behaviour or hooliganism of any kind. I could see a few fans getting wound up around me but they were causing no trouble at all...perhaps I could have pointed out MAYBE one person that might have caused trouble but they were picking anybody and everybody out like bullies and just asking them to leave. I don't know if anyone was arrested but there were plenty of police around to intimidate us and I was afraid to speak up and say something about how wrong I thought it was. I also felt intimidated running from the East stand to the coaches after the match - where a mob of Utd fans walking out completely disregarded us as if we were invisible and one tried to trip me over. It wasn't particularly pleasant and I simply ignored it desperate to leave the place and go home to London.

And on the way home, I thought about our club's ambitions for the future. Like many other Premier League teams, we have foreign owners, and most of us are thankful for the cash and in some respects the passion that Fernandes displays. So the reality is, whether we like it or not, if things do succeed for us, fans must acknowledge that there will be fans who come from far away and while I was singing 'We support our local team, we support our local team...' we might not be able to sing that in five or ten years' time. And I thought about myself and the fact that I am not a 'local' supporter in the strictest sense. I've lived in West London for most of my life in the UK and still do (in part to be close to Loftus Road), but I was born in the Philippines and have a parent from Doncaster and one from Manila. What right do I have to support a team like Queens Park Rangers? I started supporting them in 1990 but really started to go to matches in 1993 when I moved over. So does the fact that I've been going to games for nearly 20 years mean I am a real fan? And do my early years as a supporter even count? Shouldn't I be supporting the Rovers even though I've never lived there?

Well, the truth is, I choose to call West London my home. This place has given me an identity and a life that I cherish. So for that reason, I really do consider Queens Park Rangers my home team. And the truth is that everyone else will have reasons that are important to them, that justify why they support the club. However, if we stay in the Premier League and grow in stature, those reasons will become more tenuous for some fans and we are going to have to lump it.

We can't bite the hand the feeds us, but we can show much better behaviour by being welcoming to new fans coming to our ground and showing courtesy to visiting away fans.