Monday, 31 December 2012

No comment

Queens Park Rangers 0 Liverpool 3

Didn't take long to figure out what to write this time:

No comment.

However, please do look out for my special report on Emily's great sporting moments of 2012 which will be out soon and promises to help us forget our QPR woes for just a moment.

Before we start the new year I would like to say thanks to everyone who reads the blog, and gives me encouragement to write more. All the best and Happy New Year!

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Dear Santa

Newcastle 1 Queens Park Rangers 0

Queens Park Rangers 1 West Bromwich Albion 2

Dear Santa,

I know it's late. It's already the 29th December. You've been and gone and I didn't leave out any biscuits, milk or carrots. I just started taking you for granted because QPR started to get good results and everyone was going on and on about the 6 points in 4 games. I should have known by the time Newcastle were finished with us last week, that we are far from 'fixed' and I should have accepted there and then that we just aren't going to stay up. Look Santa, I know that mathematically we can. There's always a 'chance' that we can. But for me that's just not the point anymore. I'm looking at the team, and I'm still not seeing complete dedication. OK so Bosingwa finally got pulled up by Harry finally for being the lazy sod that he is (I do hope you did not give him anything this Christmas), but I still think there are a few more lazy sods lurking in the background trying to hide behind the 'shadows' and failing miserably. Yeah yeah yeah, everybody's putting more of a shift in, but look at Cisse: when he doesn't have the ball he is either sitting on his arse with his hands in the air complaining, or standing with his hands on his hips complaining. I've always hated players like that, love him or hate him I started watching football when players like Gary Lineker set great examples of sportsmanship. Right now, it's all handbags, and it's quire irritating for us QPR fans. Santa, I'm not asking for a team of Gary Linekers  but I am asking whether you can organise for some of these people to leave Loftus Road in January? I'm not really up for watching handbags for the remainder of the season.

Santa, thanks for granting my wish for Taarabt not to go to the Africa Cup of Nations. I know I am only writing the letter to you now but you read my mind and in many ways I can rest easy now. However, we still don't have an out and out striker that is actually fit amongst other problems (see above re: Cisse). So far buying all the 'star' players that we have in the past 12 months has brought us little or no reward. So would it be possible to simply ask for DJ Campbell to come back? OK, so maybe he isn't 'Prem' material but at least he's a QPR fan and he's scoring goals in Ipswich. Who is to say Championship players can't play in the Premier League anyway? On that note, I was wondering whether you had been taking care of Swansea and Norwich a bit more than us? Perhaps they left you more cookies, milk and carrots than QPR fans last Christmas? If so, I can make a few phone calls for quick delivery before the New Year? There are several QPR fans who work in the delivery and transport business, and I know one who rides a double-decker bus through London - we are at the ready if that's what it takes. Just say the word Santa.

This next wish Santa is a sensitive one. I'm really pleased that the club communicates with us regularly. I know that many clubs do not have such an 'open' relationship with the fans. But sometimes it's much better to say nothing at all, than to try and say words that are flippant and meaningless. I'm not naming names (for fear that you might not grant me the other wishes), but breezy comments about not winning and picking up 6 points from the next two matches, are unrealistic. They also fire up those QPR fans that are a little more, shall we say, vehement in their commentary. While I'm not one to talk about morals, I'm also not particularly keen on seeing c and f words on my twitter timeline from said vehement fans on a continuous loop immediately after a QPR loss. Could you have a word with the PR staff at QPR? I know they work hard and try (despite not being QPR fans). But I believe this is not only a lesson in PR but a lesson in how to carry oneself generally. Oh, and Santa, can you throw in some language lessons for them? I think they mixed up Spanish and Arabic the other day when they announced Taarabt wasn't going to the ACN.

Santa, my final wish is that you magic up some entertaining football at Loftus Road. Because QPR fans are by their very existence masochists, deep inside it's not even the win that we are looking for. Yes, it would be nice to finally win away, and to win a bit more (or maybe to start with: to win again), but we'd be ok with watching the players battle it out with some fight. And hopefully, if the above wishes are granted we will muster a few wins as a result anyway. It's expensive to watch our team play at Loftus Road, and to travel away too. Right now, the relationship feels a little one-sided. And while I don't agree with fans abusing players on twitter (there are much better ways to air one's views), I understand why they feel that way.

I am not going to ask you to conjure up a win for us tomorrow against Liverpool. Because I have left it so late you probably don't have time to organise it all. And to be honest, I'd be happier if you helped us focus on some of the other things to prepare for our life one division down. I don't know whether you have had the chance to visit Harry's house (I suspect they had the whole family round for Christmas day and that they left you gourmet biscuits and organic milk), but if poss can you make sure he stays with us next season? I really like the fact that he made an example of Bosingwa who is (as you know), my least favourite player of the year. I hope he does that more often.

Well that's it from me Santa. I hope you can forgive the fact that I've written this so late. And aren't hurt by my assertion that perhaps you favoured those other 'championship' teams that went up in 2011. Trust me, we are prepared to make up for it if you can help us get out of this mess: one way or another. Again, just say the word.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the weekend.

Emily, Queen of the Park Rangers

Encl. Biscuits, Milk, Carrots and a big red double decker bus from London.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

All work and no play?

Queens Park Rangers 2  Fulham 1

Well well well, as always QPR manages to defy expectations by beating a relatively 'in form' team after disappointing results against poorer teams. I, like many other fans am so pleased to be celebrating a win (I can't believe it's been that long), and have been able to do the following:

1. Watch Match of the Day in full
2. Watch 'Match Choice'
3. Read the match programme in full

I was stunned to see the team play some sublime football in parts of the game. And I felt a little like a proud mum watching Taarabt who seems to have really found himself under the management of Redknapp (ironically). It's going to be another insane 2nd half of the season (may I point out again that my season prediction is still on course? See Welcome back/to QPR). While it will be heart and gut-wrenching for us all including our owner Tony Fernandes, it will be fantastic for the gates as every game will no doubt give us hope that we may yet again defy all odds and survive in the Premier League and we will continue to visit the temple of the Loft in droves.

I must say I've eaten a few hats since yesterday. Of particular note was the performance of club 'unfavourite' Shaun Wright-Philips who actually seemed to run with a sense of purpose instead of like a blue-arsed fly. Interestingly I'd read an interview with him in the Telegraph which suggested that Harry's approach is making the difference for him, and perhaps for many other of our players. It wasn't quite the approach I had envisaged when he initially took the reigns as manager, although admittedly I am no expert in Redknapp's management style or history with other clubs. My imagination made me think that perhaps he was going to be a bit hard on the lads, tell them their attitudes appear to stink and that they had better 'buckle up' - or else, with venom spitting out of his mouth during training and in the dressing room at half time. However, I was wrong. It appears that he is far more intelligent and clever than I had given him credit for. And he's quite simply being a proper manager: i.e. he is letting everyone play to their strengths. But more interestingly, he is doing this under the guise of the word 'enjoyment'. And somehow this (of course with a number of tactical changes), has unlocked a more attacking and creative team.

I'm not saying we're amazing, that we're great...just yet. But I am hopeful that this approach may actually provide us with a team that might be able to deliver in the medium to long term. This job cannot be easy for Harry. We still do have a bunch of overpaid and under performing players: many of who are not in any way passionate about the club, nor particularly interested in achieving much more in their careers (in all honesty, why would they come to QPR if that were the case?). But what we do have are footballers who still want to play football, and allowing them to play in positions that they want to play in, that suit the skills that they have (sounds so bloomin' simple doesn't it?), so that they ENJOY it more is a simple but potentially effective strategy.

As the year draws to a close, schools are shutting down and many of us will take time off to enjoy the season's festivities, I think about just how much has happened this year at work and in my personal life. It's been extremely busy and I can feel this tenseness in my shoulders when I stop to think and breath just for that millisecond when there is some peace. And I wonder just how I've managed to get through it all? We're all trying to survive, trying to work, make a living, raise our kids, nurture our relationships with partners and friends. Times are tough (and we're still spending our money watching the Rs!). But I am lucky enough to be able to say that I enjoy the work that I do, or at least that I've spent the last 13 years of my career trying to get to the point that I'm really doing the bit that I like. And if I didn't enjoy it by now life would quite simply be a pretty cruddy experience no matter how much money anyone paid me.

I'm not saying that it's all wonderful. And I am not saying that everybody should or can enjoy their jobs, nor that the amount one earns wouldn't impact on how much you enjoy your job. But I think most people aren't so shallow and we make all kinds of decisions that don't make rational sense. I had lunch with a friend today who was saying that things had turned around in his work place, that he was enjoying it much more with a new boss and that he was given a raise for the first time in 5 years. I said that I felt he was still under-selling himself and asked him what he would do if someone offered him the same job in town for £20K more? He immediately responded in the negative, but after I'd been to the bathroom and returned he had thought about it again and said 'Well, maybe I would move.' Perhaps he was right the first time round though? Look at our players who were perhaps attracted by the salaries. Here they are, many of them sitting on the bench and playing for a team in the dregs of the relegation zone of the Premier League. What a right bunch of idiots they might be thinking they are. Or perhaps we've just assumed it was only for the money given we've had to put up with listening to Joey Barton's hideous interviews about how he only came for the money (despite 'unfollowing' him on twitter). We know that SWP, Onuoha, Zamora et al were out of favour at their previous clubs and perhaps all they wanted to do was play some football and enjoy it.

And for us fans, well it hasn't been particularly enjoyable has it watching at home and away. With many of our fans travelling massive distances despite poor results? But we still do it because that's what being a Queens Park Rangers fan is all about. I really enjoyed the Loft For Words piece in this week's programme about just how dedicated the Rs faithful are. Many of us give up or money and precious time for cold, dark nights, losses and poor draws. Clive is absolutely spot on when he points out that all those fans who went up to Sunderland represented the club magnificently. While it could be said that there is an element of masochistic behaviour in this, and we do actually enjoy the process of supporting our team away whatever the result, it is obviously much more fun for us when we see our players playing well.

What do we define as playing well though?

I don't know: I've called it playing with passion, aggression and confidence in past blogs...But if it's playing with enjoyment, so be it.  If Harry knows best and has so far provided us with 6 points in 4 games, I'm prepared to support this line of thinking if it means we'll keep on winning. No there won't be a players' Christmas party this year but why should they have one in the first place if playing football is meant to be their ultimate dream anyway?

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Trans-Pennine Adventure

Wigan Athletic 2 Queens Park Rangers 2

Last Friday my family and I went back to my father's home town Doncaster to surprise my Grandmother for her 84th birthday. Being a typical London family and with my brother and I having flown the nest several years ago, it's not easy to get all of us together at the same time. So it wasn't surprising that the train journey up was not a quiet one as we spent our time catching up with each other on our past working week and all the new music and books we were discovering. Grandma was extremely chuffed and rather speechless when we arrived at the Wentbridge Hotel Brasserie at 8pm. And it's a good thing too, because I'd pretty much spend the rest of the weekend travelling to Wigan and back to see the Rs play.

As many know, while half of my roots lie firmly in Yorkshire I didn't grow up there. So even if everyone else is still there (Aunt, Uncle, Grandparents, cousins and other offspring) and I have visited several times I always get the 'You're obviously not from 'round 'ere are you love? where are you from' from people. In fact I had that question in the cab back from Doncaster station after the match. When I told him 'I'm from everywhere' he took it as a sign that I didn't want to tell him. Little did he know that I was actually speaking the truth. It is amazing how one person can make you  feel disconcertingly like an outsider when he asks such a question so pointedly.

I booked myself on the 10.42 train from Doncaster to Manchester Piccadilly and kitted myself out with my Michelin Woman 4 layer outfit I was ready to rock n' roll. Having just discovered Ladyhawke's 'go get 'em' sounding song 'My Delirium', and being excited about recent positive performances under Harry Redknapp I was absolutely positive that QPR would win. I'd never taken a train through the Pennines before and I was in for a treat. I soon learned that reserving a seat wasn't going to get me a seat, and had a chat with some people who thought it was hilarious that I had decided to leave my family behind in Doncaster to watch a football match. (Well of course they didn't really understand the football decision, but they liked the idea of family in small doses). People came and went, stopping at various places to do Christmas shopping, and fellow supporter @loftboy63 came on board half way along. While all this was happening and I was chucked out of my seat I was exposed to some of the prettiest landscape that England has to offer. Rolling hills, snow capped peaks, under bright sunshine on a crisp cold day. Nothing like it. I really did feel like if there ever was going to be a day to win, this would be the one.

Bright skies and rolling hills...

Can you see the snow topped hills? Crap photo really..

So, what of the actual football match? Well I can't say it was good football. I think everyone knows too keenly that our biggest problem is a horrific defence. I have that image from last night's Match of the Day literally engraved in my mind of five defenders (circled in red) surrounding that Wigan player in front of goal and losing our lead after three  minutes. It was painful for us fans. I was stood at the back with many of the singers, and it was text book mistake after mistake. Not only that, but when we did manage to hold the ball for any period of time, it looked as if there was some sort of anti-magnetic field that stopped anyone from coming forward and scoring a goal. I've been banging on these last few weeks about wanting a team that at least plays with some pride and passion. but without any confidence it doesn't matter how much pride and passion you've got. And this, I'm afraid is why we are now in this vicious cycle of a lack of confidence due to  a lack of wins, which will in turn lower our sense of pride again the next time around..

What does this mean for me personally? Well, I'm trying to erase the painful memories of Mark Hughes's reign from memory. I know that a psychiatrist will say burying such pain isn't healthy and that one day it bubble over and it might just tip me over the edge. But right now, I've got to think of my short term health and I have to believe the our boys need as much support as possible. This would be an extremely difficult task if I remind myself of the fact that we're probably going down. So the plan is to take every game as it comes and enjoy each one 'game by game'. Never mind survival, never mind a potential Championship season next year. We've now got 'arry and Fernandes is still around - and I think they'll stay come what may. If you'd asked me ten years ago whether we'd be here I'd have laughed in your face, and would have said I'd take a season in the Premiership even if it meant we'd go down the next season. So come on everybody, let's make this a festival of ultimate fan support and enjoy not just the football but all the ancillary activities around it.

Speaking of ancillary. I would like to congratulate Wigan for creating the best pie I have eaten in a long time.I had a great pie at the DW Stadium. And may I also recommend the meat pie at local bakers Galloway which is situated just across the road from Wigan Wallgate station (this I did not eat myself but am told by @loftboy63 was very good). I was unaware until that day that I was heading for an area which is quite famous for pies. And given my proclivity for pies, this was extremely exciting. For anyone reading this blog, pie recommendations from the various football grounds around the country (Championship included in case I need to know for next year), would be most welcome.
A miserable evening in Wigan (Galloway Bakers on the left)

Above, you will see a photograph of Wigan just outside Wigan Wallgate station. it is about 5.30pm and it's dark, drizzling and about 5 degrees. Shops are closed although a couple of chippies are open. And although QPR have drawn it feels like a loss for QPR fans given the dire situation we are in. On the train heading back across the Pennine's we will start to see people come on and off the train under-dressed and oranged up for their big night out in Bolton or Sheffield. We'll stare and giggle at them, but really we're probably a bit envious because they haven't just spent their whole day travelling across the country for 90 minutes of pretty bad football and will spend their money on a few drinks to cheer themselves up while we've just spent our last penny on a pie after the £70 quid we've spent on our ticket, train journey and beers.

I arrived back in Doncaster after being questioned by the taxi driver who was probably thinking; 'who is this woman? She has a strange accent, she is wearing a QPR top, and she wants to go to Balby.' The reason why  I knew he was thinking this was because he did the pointed 'you're not from here' comment, and then said he didn't quite know what road I was heading for because 'people from poor areas' don't use taxis from the train station. I honestly felt like taking my QPR scarf and strangling him with it for a moment. But I took a deep breath and decided I didn't want to spend the rest of my life in prison.

At my aunt's house I was greeted by my beautiful three year-old niece at the door, and after dinner the whole family sat down to watch Paddy Kenny (also known as Christopher Maloney) sing and get knocked out of the X Factor Final. Everybody wanted to know what kind of pie I had at the DW, and laughed because my answer was meat (what type of meat Emily??). QPR had equalled the record for worst ever starts but I was still looking forward to all the games that are to come.

I am very grateful for the wonderful experiences I have had in my life. I may travel around the world a lot for work to exotic places like Brazil and India.  But sometimes the biggest lessons you can learn are much closer to home and right in front of your face.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Feeling the love

Manchester Utd 3 Queens Park Rangers 1

Sunderland 0 Queens Park Rangers 0

Queens Park Rangers 1 Aston Villa 1

After the Southampton game two weeks ago, I had made up my mind that we were going to be relegated. My hope was that we would at least be going down with a fight. But with a manager at that point who had the personality of a plastic bag, and a bunch of players who looked as if they didn't want to get out of bed that morning I suppose I was being rather overly optimistic. I even suggested that it wasn't yet time to fire Hughes. I was worried about the potential effect of another 'new era' at Loftus Road.

But as has been the case with QPR in more recent times, we faced yet another tumultuous change at the club. We witnessed a turn of events that saw Harry Redknapp cleverly play the Ukraine's interest in him to his advantage. It eventually meant that QPR did change from the 'long term plan' to the 'short term plan' (one of my tips for Fernandes). The situation appeared to have forced the hand of the board of QPR within a matter of 2-3 days. Before we knew it, we had a new manager. And not just any manager, but the manager that was meant to be the England manager earlier this year, a manager whose speciality is saving clubs like us from the drop. And a manager with a bit more personality than a plastic bag.

Three matches later, and two matches in to Harry's official reign the club is still without that elusive win. But while I may be frustrated and pretty sick of writing either D or L on my QPR Season Planner I'm heartened by the more passionate performances we are seeing from the team. Judging by the tweets this afternoon, there are many people who believe there are still a number of players that are grossly under-performing. My view is that there is a vast improvement in performance. I will even say that Bosingwa (the player I have a 'healthy contempt' for) was rather useful today against Villa. However, we still have some very worrying problems. And if we can't solve them quickly, I fear that by the end of December we will know for sure that we will be relegated. They are as follows:

1. We do not have a prolific enough striker.

I love Jamie Mackie. He plays with heart, he plays with passion. But he isn't an out and out striker. And nor are any of the other players that we had out there 'up front' today: Hoilett, SWP...Plus we have two 'strikers' in Zamora and Johnson who are both injured. And an inconsistent Cisse.

2. We are having problems in the final third

We're starting to see some creativity in the midfield. Moving Mbia in to more of an attacking position has been an absolute revelation (and I really hope that he was not injured seriously today). But anywhere near the box or in it and we're either lacking ideas, or smashing the ball (yes Taarabt, you) against random legs as opposed to the goal itself.

3. Our defence is still shaky

It's looking better I must say. Bringing Clint Hill back means we've got at least another player other than Nelsen who's willing to put his body on the line. But we don't have a huge amount of options. And with Cesar out (for I am not sure how long) we have a rather 'nervous' looking Green in goal. Did anyone else think that perhaps Cesar might have saved that Villa goal today? Perhaps I'm being harsh but tonight's replay will help me decide.
My very sad QPR Season Planner

Having said all of the above, I'm much happier than I was two weeks ago. Win, lose or draw, relegation or not, I truly believe that with Harry on board our journey will be one with some fight and some pride. It feels good to actually cheer and sing Harry's name. There's another dimension to being at a QPR match now which hasn't been there since Neil Warnock left. In all honesty, I am not sure we ever really felt like Mark was really on our side. I don't think we as fans, ever felt the love. And if we don't feel that from our manager, then how do we suppose the players might have felt about him? Or more importantly, how do we suppose the players might have been lead to believe it was okay to behave like? Perhaps it is, therefore, no surprise that we hear of SWP standing outside LR sprouting off about how it is the fans' fault they lost against Southampton (allegedly). Something tells me behaviour like that will not go unnoticed under Harry's watch.

And quite frankly, that's about all I could ask for right now. We wanted our Rangers back, and we just about have them. But we can't have the best team in the world because Mark Hughes lumbered us with a bunch of under-achievers. While we have improved, they still aren't as good as they should be. We also know that there will probably be no money for Harry to spend in January - with just one or two loan players a possibility we cannot expect wholesale changes. So all I want to see is Harry sticking a few rockets up a few arses. Ideally, if we find ourselves in a position where we don't think we'll survive by the end of December, I'd like to see us let go of many of our highly paid under performers and focus on playing with some pride and perhaps causing a few upsets along the way while we head back to the Championship.

I'm starting to feel the love with Redknapp in charge, especially because his grand kids are apparently availing themselves of QPR gear. I suppose with the media circus that tends to surround him, it also means that the Rangers still make the headlines even though we probably don't deserve it. But what the heck, us poor fans have got to take what we can get right?

On another note, the past few months have been extremely hectic in my work and personal life. And amazingly, even though we've been losing or drawing,  Queens Park Rangers has still managed to give me something to look forward to. And today I made it to Loftus Road with a pretty bad case of a sore throat and left it with an even worse case of it after screaming and singing for 90 minutes. But it was worth it, as I had the chance to meet some good friends that I have made through this amazing QPR fan journey.

People who aren't interested in football would probably be surprised to hear that there's a great sense of community and friendly spirit that I feel whenever I get to the football. But that's half the reason why I go, and half the reason why I enjoy it so much. Call it corny but with members of the #qprtwitfam advising me on which medication I should be taking to sooth my throat, I must say I was feeling the love today in that way too.

So where to now for QPR? I'll be at Wigan next weekend hoping to witness our first away win in 'like years dude'. But, win or lose, just give us a decent fight boys and I'll still keep on singing.