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

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