Sunday, 10 February 2013

My QPR and other Animals

Swansea 4 Queens Park Rangers 1

For me, this week has been pretty mammoth as far is life for a QPR fan goes. Within one week, I feel as if I've experienced the ups and downs of whole lifetime, and I write this post with a heavy heart looking back what has happened.

I was fortunate to be asked on to this week's QPR Podcast, episode of 'Lucky Knickers'. Widely considered to be one of the worst or 'crappiest' of episodes it was a fantastic experience to meet QPR  hosts Paul Finney, David Fraser and Chris Charles at the studio bunker in Marylebone. It is true that for that episode, there was little structure, no special guest, and I am not sure the guys realised I thought I was going to be asked about my blog...but we muddled through and I don't think I've ever laughed so much for a long time. I realise I have a very loud laugh so you may have noticed I was trying to hold it back quite a bit. In spite of the lack of structure, I believe that episode is representative of exactly what a football fans podcast is meant to be like: all heart, soul, ramblings - warts and all. I'll admit I did wonder what the hell I was going to say about two 0-0 draws and as was always the fear with writing the blog: I am not a football pundit. I know and love the game, and am a passionate supporter but I can only talk about what I think I understand. A little bit like wine: I know nothing about what makes it good, but I sure do know when I'm drinking a great bottle of the stuff. I'd like to say thank you to the lads for inviting me on it, and hope it wasn't too painful an experience. And without wishing to make the podcast sound better than it really was, I do believe it's important that the QPR Podcast continues to invite a range of different fans from different backgrounds so that other fans can see what an interesting range of people love and support this club. While the hub of QPR is very much about West London and those who do get to go to matches both home and away, not everyone has the chance to do this, and it is possible to have a bond from far away Premier League or no Premier League - and the Melbourne Rs we mentioned on the show is one of those examples.

Another big event for the QPR Fans Forum on Thursday. Being the first forum in 5 years this was a pretty big deal. And unfortunately I was not invited. I am not sure whether a QPR fan blog qualifies me, but I was not hugely disappointed given that I knew there would be plenty of people representing and in all honesty I was ever so slightly suspicious about the potential level of spin and just how controlled an environment that would be. I heard from friends and read on twitter that we had all sorts of questions ranging from the Christmas parties through to what was happening with players like Bosingwa and others who may not be putting in the effort. Interestingly, while the forum itself appeared to be pretty successful with a largely happy contingent of fans leaving with some questions answered and others on hold - to be discussed, another contingent of fans on twitter who were not able to make it appear to have found reason to be concerned about the quality of the questions. It seems that there were fans who felt that questions about what football players were doing for the community or whether the club shop was stocked correctly were irrelevant given the relegation predicament we are in. I must say I did have some sympathy for those comments. Especially as I really felt after the Norwich game that we had really lost our chance of staying up and had run out of luck.

However having been busy all week with various engagements, I finally watched the recording this morning. And while it was funny to hear someone talk about his wife who teaches in a 'Chelsea' school being let down by Faurlin, and it was also amusing to hear Harry admit that Mbia does roll about a bit, I actually felt very much that the forum was exactly what it should have been. It was an opportunity for all fans to be able to tell the club about what mattered to them most, and I could really feel that in the way people were asking questions. I am not saying that fighting relegation is not the most important thing, but as we discussed on the podcast this week, this club is not just about the football. And to raise a good point that Finney made perhaps it's not just a 'football club'. Or perhaps, to put it better, a football club is not just about the football. So while we all have a right to have an opinion about some of the questions, we should also respect that those things happen to be important to them because those are the things that those fans believe represent QPR in the best possible light.

Do I honestly believe that some of the 'to be discussed' options will happen? I don't know. I am not part of the LSA and don't know enough about the history of past meetings between them and the club. But as fans, we must act not only solidly, and in unison but just as business-like as the club itself. It is no good behaving like kids and throwing toys out of a pram when we are angry and things don't go our way. Sometimes, things will mess up and we need to be able to approach each issue in a considered way, with facts and numbers to back ourselves up. And I also believe that while it's a shame that Faurlin did not go to that school we need to be much more realistic about what's going on when it comes to charities and community projects for the club and in the area. I'd like to understand a bit more about what the strategy overall is for the club;  the various charities each player personally supports or even sets up on his own, and how they decide on what the community projects are, or how they raise money for projects like the Tiger Cubs. These are the questions we need to be asking - and we should push them for the business plan they have for these. Because, make no bones about it, charities and community projects are a business in this part of the world and we need to understand exactly what good is being done and what impact it is really having.

Overall conclusion of the forum? It's the first step in an exercise that the club must continue to do more regularly. It was also important that it was streamed live - I understand that 17,000 fans viewed it online so there is an obvious heavy interest in what the club has to say everyone.

So as the week drew to a close, I looked forward to the Swansea trip which was a last minute decision. Being a match that we were on the cards to lose, I was hoping we may cause an upset. And the line of the day was 'don't let 90 minutes ruin a perfectly nice day out.' As we steamed up the motorway the banter in the car was priceless. We discussed everything from what to do if a QPR fan married another QPR fan; they had a baby and both needed to go to the match but could not get a babysitter,  through to what we thought about the Viagogo arrangement with the club. We drove through hail, snow and rain to reach the relatively balmy temperatures of Swansea city. And for the next 90 minutes I don't think I've ever experienced a more miserable away stand. There were no songs, there were fights in the back, there were fights in the toilets, there were programmes thrown in the air within the first 5 minutes, there were people getting thrown out, there were people lighting up cigarettes. And all because we were just so shockingly bad on the pitch that I think everyone just felt it was a step way too far to be in any way enamoured by what we were seeing.

It was awful. We played with no real centre forward to start, and had lined up a very poor midfield in Jenas, Mbia, Derry and Townsend. While individually each player has his skills, this was not the context for them to play together and I am not sure that as a unit they were really meant to fight against the power house of 5 midfielders that Swansea had. I think it killed us, and even if we could claim a clear penalty this is the kind of luck that we can no longer hope or rely on. It was so so depressing coming back, and as we sped down back to West London, it was really hard to find one positive from the day. Nice Swansea fans? Tick. Free coke refills at the local Harvester? Tick. Going to away matches in Brighton next year? maaaaybe tick.

So it is now Sunday and after an evening where I fell off the smoking ladder and smoked 5 cigarettes due to depression, and had a little too much wine to drink, I am now lying in my bed planning a day ahead that aims to be as constructive and positive as ever. I shall be throwing away those cigarettes, going for a run, and I shall cook a lovely meal and catch up on my soaps and crime dramas. Why? Because you can't go on in life feeling sorry for yourself. You must pick yourself up, dust yourself off and move on or life simply isn't worth living. And by the same token, QPR is going through some serious s*** right now. But remember, this isn't the first time we've been through this, and we have managed to pick ourselves up and keep coming back. And this time will not be last time we do either. Finney is right when he says the only people who stay loyal to a club are the fans. It is absolutely spot on. And that is why I dedicate this blog to all the fans - even the ones I completely disagree with. Because, as the podcast experience, the fans forum and the trip to Swansea shows: the fact is we do care. No this is not a football club, it's my family and other animals.

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