Sunday, 20 January 2013

Two tales from two QPR women

West Bromwich Albion 0 Queens Park Rangers 1

West Ham Utd 1 Queens Park Rangers 1

One week ago, temperatures began to plummet and QPR fans had written off the possibility of an FA Cup run with the prospect of WBA away. Today, we have had three days of snow with more to come and QPR are in the fourth round of the FA cup (something to be celebrated at a club that isn't exactly blessed with a plethora of trophies). However, we still sit at the bottom of the table, and as time goes on I just wonder whether we will really make it. It certainly is strange sitting at the bottom and not actually feeling like we are, as performances so far in 2013 have been pretty good - bar the 2nd half against West Ham yesterday. 

Yesterday I was invited by a friend to sit within the hardcore season ticket holder section of famous Upton Park. It was a challenge I had to accept given he had sat with me in the Upper Loft when we played West Ham earlier in the season. And I must say I was nervous and excited, as well as conscious of the fact that I had been pretty upset about the Spurs fan sitting behind me last week who couldn't keep his mouth shut. I had an interesting experience. 

Last Wednesday my mate @gemcricketmad went to the FA cup replay between Arsenal and Swansea, and had an interesting experience there too. I've asked her if she can write about what it's like to experience a match where neither team is one you support. 

So here's a blog about experiences other than a typical QPR one...a tough gig for two QPR-obsessed women. 

QPR fans in hiding

The Ultimate Betrayal 
by @gemcricketmad

On a freezing Wednesday evening last week, I accepted an invitation to accompany a ST holding friend to the Emirates to watch Arsenal play host to Swansea in their FA cup replay. Now for me, any opportunity to avoid kids bedtime, drink beer and watch football is one to be jumped at, especially on the back of having watched my beloved QPR booking their place against the MK Dons in the next round.

So I jumped in a cab, running late and not wanting to miss a quick trip to the bar before the ridiculously early 7.30 KO, urged my driver to get to The Emirates as quickly as possible. He, being a Gooner immediately wanted to talk teams and to my horror, it dawned on me that he actually thought I was an Arsenal fan. I promptly put him straight and so began the dawning realisation of what I had let myself in for.

On Tuesday this week, it will be the 30th Anniversary of my first football match, Crystal Palace v QPR where my poor father tried and failed along with a whole gang of Palace ST holders to convince me, the tiny lone QPR fan, that she was supporting the wrong team. I stood and cheered alone as we won 3-0, having no fear as the horrified around me could only look at my father in dismay as their team was thrashed. I never looked back.

On Wednesday evening I realised that I had never in my life, been to a football match where I wasn’t watching QPR and as I approached the Emirates I started to feel slightly sick.

Having met my friend, I walked down the streets feeling like a foreign spy dropped in behind enemy lines. Surely everyone would know that I was a QPR fan? I half expected a sudden shout and then a mob to round on me and hound me back to Loftus Road. Funnily enough the Gooner fans just aren’t like that. Immediately, I felt hugely defensive of my adored QPR and started to compare every minute detail of the experience, from the glitzy turnstiles to the more expensive beer, the substandard bar experience, the far too many stairs to climb and the positively silent fans (who do all leave far too early in true fire drill style).

And so to the game; perched high up facing the clock tower, I felt a million miles from the pitch. It was useful for spotting offsides, but that was about it. There was none of the buzz and noise I had felt in the away end on previous visits and as I stared at the friendly but passionless fans around me who remained firmly rooted to their seats throughout, I felt like I should have brought a book to read as I could have heard a pin drop. As I weakly tried to join in with the occasional and highly original “Arsenal Arsenal” chants (I promised my 10 yr old I would) I longed for our Blue flag songs and Loft full of QPR Managers.

I declared to my friend that I had just realised, that to feel nothing at a match, no stress, no desire and no passion and indeed not to care when the goal went in was the most bizarre and unrewarding feeling on earth; but to my amazement, she leaned over and whispered “I don’t actually feel it either – I’m really a Bristol Rovers fan.”

At that moment I knew I had betrayed my beloved team. Despite a lovely beer in a distant Islington pub afterwards, I knew I could never stray from QPR again and will only ever go back to The Emirates parked firmly in the away end.

In disguise
by @elmodedude

It was a long trek to the other side of London, and with the northern end of the Jubilee line down again everything was just that little bit more of a pain. I had never been to Upton Park before, so experiencing it, especially as a 'home fan' was definitely like jumping in to a fire. It was painful to leave home not wearing any colours  - not even a scarf (note to self, must buy QPR pants for occasions such as these). Before heading for the actual stadium we met a group of friends at a fantastic Keralan restaurant in East Ham (foodies, you can find info on this place here: Thattukada). This is a side of London I am entirely unfamiliar with, and going out there reminded me of one of the reasons why my football passion has been so enjoyable - as it has taken me to all sorts of places around the country and on the other side of town. Just walking around a place, from train station/tube to ground, you get a real sense of the recent history and what sort of community you might expect at the football club. 

After a quick lunch and a hop skip and jump back to Upton Park, we were straight in to the Bobby Moore stand. I think I kept my side of the deal by remaining motionless and quiet throughout the match, at least in the first half anyway. In the second half I was able to groan a lot more because all those West Ham attempts on goal from crosses allowed the whole ground to moan and groan in exactly the same way: West Ham fans through frustration, and QPR fans in fear: altogether in one big sense of agony. I thought I was doing really well as there wasn't a peep from me when Remy scored (absolute boundless joy and excitement inside and of course I quickly texted my father and Gemma to let them know about my boundless joy and excitement). I could understand why in the Bobby Moore stand exposing myself in any way as a QPR fan wasn't a good idea, in comparison with that Spurs fan sitting behind me at South Africa Road. I suppose now I know why they call SAR the pensioners stand because we're all fairly polite and PC there. From behind me I could hear all sorts of things I am not sure I should repeat on the blog so in the interests of safety I won't. But I was surprised to be hearing things like that in this day and age. I did think to myself, perhaps it's a different generation, but then how would I explain the SAR pensioners?

While we were lucky not to be 1-0 down in the first half as opposed to 0-1 up, I was pleased with our performance. I started to get excited about the way Taarabt and Remy linked up together, but I knew that West Ham would come in to the second half fighting. It felt like we had collapsed in the second half, and I was not entirely sure whether the substitutions were right,  but given that we managed to keep ourselves level perhaps they were after all?

At this stage, I was looking at my phone quite often. That's when a guy next to me shouted 'Hey, are you a QPR fan?' I realised then that he had noticed the crest that is on my phone wallpaper. I looked at my friend in fear, and he had his head in his hands, embarrassed at this turn of events. I said, 'oops, sorry' and the response was 'Just make sure you don't let any of the lads behind you know.' I realised there and then, that even if I try to hide the fact that I am a QPR fan I simply can't. Not only in my words and thoughts, but it's right down to my phone wallpaper and ring tone. This obsession is now reaching silly levels. For example, I had guests over the other night for dinner, they complimented my on my newly refurbished bathroom 'It's like a posh hotel bathroom,' they said, but they weren't sure about the 'Proud of be a Super Hoop' flag stuck to the mirror. 

So, the second half was a real a defensive debacle. If I were a West Ham fan I'd be very disappointed it wasn't a 3 or 4-1 win.  Interestingly when Joe Cole scored his goal the guy next to me tried to get me up to pretend I was excited about the goal. I just couldn't bring myself to do it, and when I watched his movements in detail I realised that he was faking it (hand and arm movements all too stilted, and not proper jumping up and down). This was confirmed when he sat back down and said 'Come on, you should at least try to pretend you are happy.' He and his friend also left 5 minutes early. I understood from my friend that they weren't regulars. 

It was a twenty minute walk to Canning Town. We avoided the massive crowd at Upton Park tube and passed a few traditional pie shops which I have pinpointed as eating venues if there is a next time next season...And we passed the famous 'The Champions' sculpture, very much the pride of West Ham fans. 

Like Gemma, my cab from West Hampstead tube to home had me chatting to another football fan - this time a West Ham fan who growled when I told him I was of QPR ilk. 

Unlike Gemma's experience though, I could see that West Ham hadn't yet lost it's soul in the way that Arsenal has at the Emirates. It's a big club, unlike QPR, with plenty to its history in comparison. Fans are aggressive and passionate - I respect that. But QPR's 'smallness' is also the reason why I love it so much. Our ground holds half the people that Upton Park does, and everybody really does know everyone. I stand by the fact that we are a a unique family club and I really hope that it stays that way. 

Will Remy learn this about our club, and do we believe after all these years Taarabt has a sense of it? I hope so. 

Have a wonderful remainder of the weekend everybody!

You RRRRRRSsssss

Monday, 14 January 2013

A bit of stability

Queens Park Rangers 1 West Bromwich Albion 1

Queens Park Rangers 0 Tottenham Hotspur 0

Memories of the Chelsea match are still so fresh in my mind as I write this week's blog post. And despite still being at the bottom of the table, I am feeling happy and rather content about being a QPR supporter. I can proudly say that we are still unbeaten in 2013, which was not what I thought we would be when I walked out half way through our match against Liverpool.

It  feels as if it's been ages since I have written a blog post, as Santa has been in action this New Year. And I must say I do feel as if I can't really top his reply to me. So today's blog post is a pretty straightforward one. My view on how the last two matches have gone, and some random musings on food and entertainment related to football.

Let's start with the our FA Cup draw at home against West Brom. Like many other fans I felt that the ticket pricing was ridiculous, but unlike many others I actually bought a ticket. Why oh why, does the club not make it a tenner for adults, and free for kids in matches like this that have such low interest? And low interest was really the name of the game that day as both teams didn't look like they were particularly  bothered about winning the match. It's a real shame that some draws bring about these attitudes from the club and from players. I can't for the life of me understand why they don't try to fill the place up. A draw was probably the worst result we could have hoped for, as a replay away in the middle of important league fixtures is not quite what we need. On the other hand, isn't it better not to lose? And I was really pleased that Dyer had scored the goal, only to be disappointed that we released him a few days later. I know we can't afford a liability like Kieron given the situation we are in but the softy inside me was hoping we could keep him on a pay as you play deal. I suppose we just aren't in that luxurious position. We can't afford passengers.

So, tomorrow we face them again and I just wonder whether we will actually get through to the next round. I would be AMAZED. But if it is a home draw, please please QPR sort out the ticket prices.

Our match against Spurs was largely a dour affair as well, but dour for the right reasons. We parked the bus and made it difficult for them. I was a little disappointed that we did not bring on another striker towards the end of the match, but Harry was probably right. We couldn't get greedy and even for ten minutes open up a gap. But please, Harry...if Park is having a bad game, take him off. There's something really inconsistent about him at the moment.

The match was also a lesson for me, in just how civilised QPR fans are. I was sat in my usual ST seat, and behind me I noticed at least 3 Spurs fans. One fan was with a group of QPR supporting friends, and another right behind me was sat in one of the 'non-ST' seats that were up for general sale. I'm not entirely against people sitting in opposing fan sections. However, I do expect that those people keep their opinions to a minimum. I was shocked to be hearing all sorts of remonstrations if Spurs weren't playing well, and lots of cheering when Parker had the ball. I don't have a particularly violent streak but I was quite close to lamping him one at one stage. I knew that would obviously not be the sensible thing to do, so I just very vocally shouted my outrage at this fan's obvious outbursts. The chaps sitting next to me simply laughed at me. They thought I was hilarious...but I was so wound up. Am I the only one who would get wound up? Does anyone feel the same way I do? I'd love to hear people's opinions on this matter. So feel free to comment on this blog or tweet me on this subject.

And on that note, this weekend I have foregone my ticket at the away end at Upton Park to sit with a pal who is a West Ham fan. I am told I must be very careful and not even pretend to be a West Ham fan because apparently they are very aggressive. This is something I am obviously not used to (see above), so I am rather nervous. But yet again it absolutely confirms everything I have learned about QPR over the years. We are a family club and by and large we're a pretty pleasant and civil lot.

This can be supported by the fact that we went for a bit of a boogie post-match at the 'bok' last Saturday along with several QPR fans, and one Spurs fan. It is my understanding that he thought it was one of the best bars in West London (he having lived in the area for several years and having never been there before). Perhaps we can yet turn him in to a Rangers supporter?

Perhaps not.

In other news, I wanted to draw your attention to a fantastically funny article I read this morning in today's Metro about the fact that Premier League club kitchens have been tested by H&S and Manchester Utd and Chelsea have come up as two of the worst clubs in the country. Old Trafford is 'riddled with rats' (YUK), and apparently Stamford Bridge is serving pies that are out of date (I knew that cheese and onion pasty didn't sit well with me). Check out the article on Sportsmole to find out more.

Anyway, my hope is that I feel as upbeat as I do about QPR in the coming weeks: win, lose or draw. So far, while we haven't quite 'offloaded' a load of players, my LEAST favourite player Bosingwa is now nowhere to be found, and I'm seeing a bit of passion and pride on the pitch.

This is all I ever asked Santa for, and so far he's doing his job.

Wishing all the QPR fans a great start to the New Year.

You RRRRRRSsssss.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Dear Emily

Chelsea 0 Queens Park Rangers 1

Dear Emily, Queen of the Park Rangers,

I am sorry for the late reply. As you probably know I get so tired delivering presents and sorting out other football fan wishes that after the 25th I just spend my time chillaxing in front of the telly and playing computer games. It was a bit of a surprise to receive it and I needed time to digest the information. I wanted to thank you for the biscuits and the milk but sadly haven't been able to eat a lot as I've been on my yearly diet (wifey tells me I'm fatter than ever now and isn't best pleased, even if I am getting more organic food nowadays). I also received the big red bus, which is parked just outside the house here.

Anyway, back to your letter. I must admit that I was a little upset to have received the requests so late in the day. While the gifts are great the other fans do send me their requests a lot earlier and they tend to send me a lot more. So, to answer your questions, that has meant that I have favoured the other promoted teams (i.e. Swansea and Norwich). What can I do? It's a cluttered market out there, and volume and creativity stand out. However, having thought about it over my dinner that night it is true that the big teams obviously have more 'supporters' so I notice their messages more (hence why it's always the 'big ones' at the top of the table). And it is also true that over the years I haven't really had that many requests from QPR fans. Like you say, it seems that QPR fans possess a masochistic quality, and perhaps a fear of asking for something they feel they don't deserve? Bearing all of this in mind,  and bearing in mind all the pain that QPR fans have been going through, as well as the fact that you were very creative with the double-decker bus, I resolved to help you with some of your requests.

You are right, there was no way I could organise to help for the Liverpool game. And so you see, the Rangers were bound to lose quite badly, because, as you rightly pointed out you were on a bit of a downhill slope after a poor couple of results over the Christmas period. And it looked as if some players were still not putting a shift in. The match was beamed live on Santa TV here and I watched it because of your letter. And I am sorry that it was so bad. But I noticed that you, Emily, left very early on in the game. That was very unlike you and I would have normally written you off my list for next year, but the performance was so poor I completely understand why you felt so angry for the first time in a long time.

As you know, we are already in the January transfer window, and to start off, I am in conversations with various agents about taking on some of your players on loan in order to train them with my reindeer here in the North Pole. There's nothing I'd like more than to show Jose Bosingwa what really hardcore training is in sub-zero, arctic temperatures. I cannot promise that the deals will push through but what I can promise is that Harry Redknapp and I see eye to eye when it comes to 'mopers' and lazy people. So he will continue to fine and reprimand those who simply do not show a willingness to perform or fight for the honourable QPR badge. On that note, I am pleased to say that DJ Campbell is indeed heading back to his club. I can see that this has already buoyed up the fans over the last day or so. Whether he plays this Saturday in the cup game I am not sure, but he certainly is the type of player you need and is in good form right now.

On the point about the QPR media team, go easy on them Emily. They have a tough job dealing with all sorts of abuse from irate fans on a regular basis. And they can't help that they support a different football team. In time, I promise that there will be more people who QPR supporters AND are qualified for the job working within the QPR PR machine. For now, try to appreciate the job that they do and the pressure they are under to get news out to fans quickly. Anyway, at the end of the day, if there were no media team, there would doubtless be something else the fans would direct their anger towards. That's just the way the football biscuit crumbles I'm afraid.

Interestingly, you didn't ask me for a better performance from the current set up of players. Even though your last note came before the 3-0 thrashing by Liverpool it came across to me as rather despondent and resigned. You asked me to give you some entertaining football at Loftus Road and that was it. I thought that was rather sad (and I refer back again to my point about masochistic QPR fans). So I started studying QPR history and noticed that the next match was away at Stamford Bridge. I learned that Chelsea were your fiercest rivals, and that you hadn't had a win away since 2011! And if there is one thing that Santa can conjure up, it's a little bit of a surprise. So I made sure that Rafa (who I notice has had just as many biscuits as me this Christmas) had picked a second choice starting line up, and I had a chat with Harry about the double-decker bus which you had given me and said 'Park that bus 'Arry, this match means a lot to Rangers fans'. Seems I didn't need to - he said to me 'Santa, I haven't won here myself for ages, and I know just how much this means to QPR fans. I'm a London boy after all.'

So there you have it, last night I pulled out the stops to surprise everyone by getting 'non-favourite' Shaun Wright-Phillips to score a goal, away from home, at Stamford Bridge, and against Chelsea. I even made sure that everyone had a good time on the tube ride home - didn't it feel like there were more QPR fans than Chelsea fans? (Oh, and by the way, I've also invited that annoying announcer for an arctic 'training camp' to join his buddy Bosingwa).

You knew I could never promise that you wouldn't be relegated so you didn't ask me for it. And this is still true. But now I hope I have at least provided you with a story you will one day tell your children. And that you will be able to enthral them with this story about the magic of football which you almost forgot existed (I heard you say 'lambs to the slaughter' several times yesterday!).

Now, I will head back to hibernation mode and will leave QPR, you and all the other QPR fans to build on this positive result if you can.

I will keep an eye out for you this year, and wish you all the best.



Encl. One Big red double-decker bus (returning this in case you need it against West Brom on Saturday), and a sprinkling of magic.