Thursday, 17 May 2012

Space Mountain

Manchester City 3 Queens Park Rangers 2

At the end of my last blog post, I said you couldn't have made up our crazy season. And true to form, last Sunday's match delivered on that thought. Everything about the match represented all the highs and lows we have been through as a club: from the agony of a potential loss, to the ecstasy of salvation through the misfortune of another, through to the disappointment at the antics of a captain we just can't fathom. It really had to be us who played in the match that would define the most dramatic change in the history of the Premier League since it began. Some fans have argued that the passion with which we played the match was overshadowed by what was the media hype surrounding the immature and unwarranted behaviour of Joey Barton. However, regardless of his sending off and the controversy surrounding it the focus was always going to be on City's win. If we had won the match it may have been another story - papers would have been strewn with stories of City's inability to penetrate a QPR team that was already being compared by the 90th minute with Chelsea and how they had battled with Barcelona only a few weeks before. Forgive me if I dislike the comparison...but there it is. The final result meant we are now free, thankfully, from that comparison.

So, while we can't really make sense of how and why things happened the way they did this season, there was some consistency in our record of LWLWLWLWLWL for the last 11 games. This record is represents exactly what it's like to be a QPR supporter: it's a fr***** roller-coaster ride. And for me reminiscent of the feeling that I got when I rode Disney Land's Space Mountain (albeit much more prolonged and worse for my health).

When I rode Space Mountain for the first time, I was sat next to my 'wimpy' younger brother and it must have been over 25 years ago. And I vividly recall him saying his prayers while I revelled at the craziness and sang 'Upside Down' by Diana Ross throughout the ride. Perhaps it was the early stage of masochistic behaviour that was soon to be fed by an obsession with Queens Park Rangers FC.

And what an obsession it has proved to be. It has been a great season back in the Premier League, and as a fan a great experience writing this new blog and making new friends in my travels away as well as on twitter.

Writing the blog has brought me real joy, and made me feel somewhat 'rejuvinated' as a person. Call it corny, but has made me really proud to be here in London, supporting such a great club with such fantastic fans. Even as a wrote the post on the Stoke match from a hilltop in Boracay, Philippines I was missing home and imagining the atmosphere back at Loftus Road.

I booked the holiday in December, perhaps stupidly not thinking that we'd be fighting for survival right to the last day. And my flight arrived just around the half-way point of our final match. Usually the flights in to Heathrow delay themselves as we circle around London hoping for a time spot to land. But to my joy we landed 30 minutes early, and so when the pilot told the cabin crew to take their seats I made sure I grabbed my iphone ready to switch on twitter & Sky Go so I could catch up with the match quickly. 

From there it was a roller-coaster of a ride home. As I made my way to customs and immigration, I could feel the nerves of the #qprtwitfam as we were still 0-0 and Stoke were winning. But it wasn't long before Bolton fought back. And by that point having rushed through to pick up my suitcase, I could hear the Sky Go commentary telling me that City had scored. At half time, I was in this mad rush to get home as quickly as possible and perhaps catch some of the match...but not before picking up some food at M&S. Once I came out in to arrivals,  I rushed in to M&S, grabbed some chicken and then I heard it - Cisse had scored. And I screamed in excitement. People were staring at me in there like I was a loon. I suppose that if they had any interest in football they would not be hanging around at the airport M&S, but I didn't care. I ran up to meet the car that was picking me up. And lucky for me the lovely chap was excitedly listening to the football on the radio. Bless him, he was a Tottenham supporter and I have no idea why he was routing for the Rs, but he was. It was all so exciting, and when we heard about Barton being sent off, I just couldn't believe sounded awful on the radio - and it was embarrassing. And then...the commentator said that 'Taarabt' was making a run down the left hand side and flicked the ball on to Mackie who scored that incredible goal. The guy turned round to me and said 'is Taarabt playing? I had no idea'. Having only just landed I wasn't sure who was in the team or on the bench..and only realised later that this was a mistake. It was screams and shouts in that car all the way down the A312, A40 and A406...and as I paid for my ride, around 90 minutes in to the match I knew that Bolton had only managed to draw and we were safe. As I came through the door in to my home, where my temporary flat mate was watching the game, I thought 'we're gonna do it' and win this one. We were going to cause one of the biggest upsets in Premier League history.

Well, the rest IS history.

And what a welcome home.  We could say that it's a shame that City's win overshadowed a fantastic performance by QPR. Or we could say it's a shame that Barton's antics overshadowed the football press in the following days. But then life would be utterly dull for us if we didn't have something to moan about or fight for, wouldn't it?

And so while I have proclaimed a hope for 'mid table mediocrity' next season, and admittedly looked at Swansea and Norwich with envy at times, there is a big part of me that hopes for another season of excitement. Call me nuts, but this stuff is addictive.

Thank you QPR for driving me crazy.

You Rssss.

Space Mountain (

Monday, 7 May 2012

Intermittent access

Queens Park Rangers 1 Stoke City 0

I write this from the Far East mid way through a relaxing holiday that is just what the doctor ordered. I promised myself I'd write a blog and haven't missed doing so since I started in January of this year. But this could be my toughest task yet given that it took forty of minutes of the first half to finally get a connection to the game online, and the second half consisted of stuttering access...we could just about get running TV commentary but I saw very little passing or movement, and I missed the goal on the 88th minute when the connection pretty much ground to a halt. So no different from your recent average QPR match then?

So I am so not going to pretend that I know anything about how the boys played. Apart from being able to read the reports online (eventually), and also seeing a few highlights from an NZ website (which showed Barton in a very good light) including the player's prostrations of relief at the final whistle, I really haven't a clue from a personal level what happened.

I had lovely day though, all in all. It started with getting to know the chaps who work here at the resort I'm staying in. At breakfast, they suggested a new beach for me to visit on the island and said they'd take me over at sunset. I was happy to go along, but warned them I needed to be back in time for the big match. Football is not a massive sport here in the Philippines. Ironically despite the average height of the Filipino, basketball is. But football or 'soccer' has grown in popularity with the help of the Premier League and the Champions League brands and the growth of Cable TV sports offering Premier League matches every weekend. So it was with some excitement but very little knowledge that the boys started to talk to me about football. They had no idea who 'Quinn Park Ranger' were, but were hungry to understand what it was all about - how fans spend copious amounts of money watching their teams play, and whether we had anything to do with Barcelona or Real Madrid (one day young Paduwan, one day).  'Greg'  met me at 3pm to make our way over to this new beach. He was wearing a yellow Chelsea shirt. This was far from ideal as you can imagine. And I quickly told him in no uncertain terms that this had to change soon. I was keen to make sure that he understood the implications of wearing it that day but to be honest I pretty much got a blank face until the point at which I said, please don't wear that this evening when we all sit down around the computer to watch the game together. Message received, loud and clear.

So as night fell, and we drew close to kick off, a group of us sat around the computer in the middle of a 'jungle hilltop tent' and I had all my links ready to go just in case some worked better than others. It was a hot & sticky night, and there were a few mosquitoes around. But wifi was working, and we had pizza and fried chicken at the ready, and the stage was set for the big showdown.

Or not.

The build up to the match was all excitement and nerves. And then. No streaming video. I tried QPR Player and managed SOME radio coverage but this was fairly intermittent too. So I relied on twitter to keep me in the loop. We did get some pictures by the second half, albeit literally 'screenshots'...But by the 80th minute, I have to say I had given up on  our life in the Premier League. With Bolton still winning at that point I was one of those who was tweeting 'Bye Bye Premier League'. I know there is a small army of fans who would be quite happy to see us winning games back in the Championship instead of going through what we're going through now. But really, judging by all the reactions that I am seeing online, most of us don't want to go back. Who would want to? With all this wonderful attention we are getting after 15 years our of it...NO WAY. I am loving every minute of it. So when I finally saw everyone saying Cisse had scored you can imagine my ecstatic reaction. Needless to say the group of people around me had no idea what was going on as all they could see was a video screenshot of the match that had stopped moving around 82 minutes. Bless 'em. They sat through it all patiently with me even though there was neither good football, nor any real decent streaming coverage to watch.

And then I missed Loftus Road like a big hole in my heart. I imagined all the fans running on to the pitch (exciting but slightly premature methinks), and the players relieved that Bolton had drawn at the last minute, and everyone from the #qprtwitfam having a drink at The Green afterwards. I stayed up for another 2 hours (we're 7 hours ahead here), trying to watch video highlights but I was only disappointed with what was a really poor connetion at that time of night for some odd reason.

I sit here now at breakfast, finally able to show the guys video highlights of the game and shots we made (a few potential corkers from Taarabt & Barton!!). The lads here started saying 'Gametime Hoops', and I thought - you guys have been doing your homework on QPR, only to realise they were talking about something to do with the NBA (how little I do know...). So perhaps it will be a while yet before I can fully convert them over here.

So I am now looking forward to another day in the sun but also missing home very much and feeling so nervous about this weekend.

But, at 82 minutes in yesterday, who would have thought we would still be in the mix at all? The drama that is football, and that is the Premier League is really why we love the game so much (whether we admit it or not). But did I honestly think when I started writing this blog in January that by the time I was on holiday we'd still be fighting for our lives right to the death?

You just couldn't make it up could you?

QPR in the Philippines