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.

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