Friday, 24 January 2014

Little Earthquakes

Queens Park Rangers 2 Huddersfield 1

I am a huge Tori Amos fan. And so is the rest of my family. Although I must say my obsession with her calmed down somewhat after my teenage years and early twenties. We fell in love with her music when she released her first album Little Earthquakes. With a brother who was soon to come out, young parents in their late thirties, and myself an angsty-ish teenager interested in making music she was one of the artists that bonded us. A strange choice you might say- her songs were angst-ridden, sad and sometimes painful. But her music was all the better for all the crap that was going on in her life. Many years later in the early noughties she came to London for a concert at the Hammersmith Apollo. I jumped at the chance of buying tickets for all four of us as a Christmas present. We were sorely disappointed. She had no band. It was just Tori and the piano. And it was just Tori singing songs we didn't know, and Tori acting very normal and boring. She had just found her ‘partner-for life’ and had a little girl with him. I remember walking out of the venue thinking how disappointing it had all been, and my Dad said to me ‘She is so boring now that she is happy. It was much better when she was f***ed up’. I think there was some truth in that. She didn't release too many (in my opinion) interesting albums after that- at least for me nothing quite as powerful as the early releases.

Recently, there’s been a lot of talk about the flat atmosphere at Loftus Road. It’s a fact that this season it hasn't been that loud fortress we know it can be. Some people are blaming it on the style of play, others are blaming it on fans who expect too much from the team. I certainly do not have the answer but I can understand the psychology of it. I think back to the last two seasons, and in particular the first season back in the Prem (11/12). I’ll be honest, there was nothing more exciting than beating those big teams at home: Arsenal, Spurs, Liverpool…Chelsea. We cracked them all and the excitement was so intense we made a huge amount of noise…and we had the bruises on our legs to prove it. Although last season was much more traumatic we didn't complain about the atmosphere quite so much because the excitement generated from the volatility of our situation overcame all other feelings. And it was a terrible masochistic pleasure.

However, I will never call last season anything other than traumatic. As you know, I do not ache for the Premier League (other than the opportunity of wall to wall coverage and the fact that Niko might stay with us if we go up). This season, we've been winning which itself is wonderful, but has also made that post-match beer all the more pleasurable. In addition, I am able to focus my blogging efforts on a range of topics other than why we have such horrible players that don’t care about us at all. While I would absolutely love it to be as loud at Loftus Road as it can be, or as it is when we sometimes travel away, I’ll take the atmosphere now over any of our two seasons in the Prem – and yes, even over beating Chelsea.

Maybe it’s the fact I’m getting a little older (yes, yes I know I’m not that old), but having lived through plenty of personal traumas at such a young age, there is nothing I like more than peace and tranquillity nowadays. Maybe it’s boring but I’m happier for it. And a little like Tori Amos maybe I have found myself and care less what people think.

But wait a minute, am I saying that QPR aren’t playing creatively enough to get me excited? I think not. And I challenge anyone who tells me we don’t show glimpses of a wonderful style of football with players like Philips, Kranjcar, Simpson...I truly believe these players are also learning about the Championship and this is a journey for them all.  So far it might look boring but they are delivering and doing their job. Recent results where we have been winning by larger margins also suggest that we’re getting a bit better and having more fun.

So what of Tori Amos? Well her hubby is actually from the UK, and she lives here with her teenage daughter. And last year she wrote and produced a musical called The Light Princess which showed at the National Theatre. It received mixed reviews although most were good apart from one from the Daily Fail’s (which in my opinion is a good thing). The whole family watched it together. It was a totally unique experience, and whilst labelled a ‘musical’ it didn't have any of the hallmarks of a musical: catchy tunes, funny gags, corny story-line. The story itself was based on an old fairy tale about a girl who took the death of her mother so lightly that she floated in the air all the time. She falls in love with a boy who was so down about the death of his that he was always so dark and sad. It was modified for a feminist and modern audience and sprinkled with Tori magic of sweeping orchestration and piercing vocals. And it was rich in staging: sparkly lights, a flying princess, floaty seas and skies. Tori was inspired by not just her childhood but also by her own teenage daughter.

And we loved it. In all her happiness and stability, Tori was still able to create something magnificent which still divided opinion amongst critics. Perhaps she will never again create something like Little Earthquakes. But stability didn't stop her from creating something special. And nor should it stop us fans from feeling like we can’t sing, or even from feeling guilty for not! I’ll admit Dad walked away from the musical purse lipped and slightly ‘weirded out’ by the whole thing. I think he didn’t like it quite as much as the rest of us.

As for me, I'm all for people doing things differently and positively, especially female role models. Loftus Road will no doubt bring us many Little Earthquakes in the future. But we might be surprised one day when it gives us something completely, and uniquely different. 

Tori Amos singing Caught a Light Sneeze of my favourite angsty performances

Sunday, 12 January 2014


Ipswich Town 1 Queens Park Rangers 3

A lack of funds in the traditionally poor month of January prevented me from visiting Portman Road yesterday. But I must say my poor away record (1 win, 1 draw and 3 losses) didn't bode well so staying away was possibly the good luck charm that the Rangers needed.

I was, however, heartened by the online coverage and the fact that so many friends were there singing their hearts out for the boys. And I was going to save this post for next week, but after watching our game on Goals Express and the The Football League Show about twenty times I felt inspired to write a short piece.

In last week's post I did wonder whether confidence was a key reason for the run of poor results. It is hard to believe that a team with such quality on paper would have such an issue. Perhaps sometimes we place our players on such a pedestal that our only possible reaction is a complete meltdown and booing our team. And it is, I suppose only right that we should place them there. These are people who we, and our kids, ultimately look up to, consider our heroes and who, earn an amount of money that we can only dream of.  But I think it is so easy for us to make quick judgements about situations and people we don't know.

When I think about it, I try to remember that you cannot assume nor expect a player to think and behave exactly like another. And while I'd really like to think that everyone who plays for QPR loves being at our club or is a Rangers supporter (been a while hasn't it?), we have the reality of where and who we are: a small club with a limited but loyal fan base, with owners who have big ambitions. However, I do believe there is a level of commitment and respect which has to be a minimum requirement for anyone who plays for us. It just isn't fair on us fans who invest in supporting the club to give us players who aren't prepared to put a shift in.

And this is why I write this post this week with a face that is beaming with a smile. Because yesterday's match was indicative of the huge difference between the QPR we watch now, and the one we watched a year ago. We don't know if half of these players are going to be with us next season. Many players are out of contract and many of our best at the moment are borrowed. They probably are not hugely loyal to QPR but for the most part most of them do care about how they play. Call me naive but I loved watching the goals again and again on TV because you can see just how happy they were when they scored the goals. No arrogant 'sliding movements' (although I do like a good sliding movement) and no robotic dancing, but group hugs all-round. Okay, so Traore raced towards the away supporters with his hand to his ear, but who wouldn't when our fans were in fine form with some great songs about Charlie and Niko?

So whilst I am a little sad that I did not get to go yesterday I am happy for the win and for the more positive vibes. And Charlie is never to far away as I settle in to a Sunday of highlights and reviews of what was a great day at the office for the Rs.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Greedy Guts

Queens Park Rangers 2 Doncaster Rovers 1

Everton 4 Queens Park Rangers 0 (FA Cup 3rd Round)

I'm spending the last day before going back to work in bed with severe stomach pains after eating way more than I should have for dinner last night. I'm actually on a diet, but give myself a 24 hours per week reprieve when, for some reason, I think it's ok to pig out even though I'm actually not really hungry. I think I've learned my lesson. It is, however, extremely annoying given that this past holiday season has actually not been hugely excessive so to end on a low is disappointing. Well, with eyes bigger than my stomach what did I expect?

Last Wednesday's win against Doncaster was a huge relief. I'll admit for the most part I was miserable, scared, worried, angry. For a team that had one of the best defences in the league I couldn't understand why we were being caught on the break so much. It was awful awful weather too- rain pouring, wind swirling. Cold. It was one of those games where you wondered just what the hell you were doing supporting QPR. However, as soon as we had scored that first goal the change it had made in our tempo and attitude was huge. I'm not saying we played to a high standard, but we were better. Which just goes to show just how much this is all about confidence and belief. It's hard for me to believe that such an experienced set of players could lose confidence but I was having a discussion with a friend about it and he was saying he felt that that was the single biggest difference between the good teams and the not-so-good teams: The clinical belief that one would create a victory out of nothing or out of a negative situation. Of course, Manchester Utd is a case in point where we will often see them concede early on. But more often than not, they clinically turn the game around and finish it off with a victory. That, I'm afraid is not a typical QPR way. But nor, for that matter, is it the way of several other clubs in the country.

What I am saying is, let's not have eyes bigger than our stomachs. You guessed it - I'm referring to the post-match 'meltdown' which I also referred to in my last blog Collective Psychosis.Yes, it is annoying that we aren't really that good, and that we've got some expensive players that don't consistently perform as we'd like. But we're a good championship club with most players actually delivering on par.  With all the negative vibes - calls for Redknapp's departure and shouts of Austin being rubbish (oh, by the way he scored again this week), I'm surprised we haven't seen any QPR shirts floating on the shores off Beachy Head recently.

It seems as if, since we have come in to money as a club our expectations are much bigger than they should be. Fernandes certainly does not help at times - naturally his ultimate goal is to deliver us back in to the Premier League and he does love social media, so we all get totally brainwashed in to thinking a bad result is the end of the world and the end of this quest. But I don't remember us feeling quite so suicidal when we lost games last time we went up. Surely Fernandes has a plan B or C, as any good business man would? And frankly, on yesterday's performance against Everton this is hopefully the reality check he needs to remember just how far there is to go before we're even ready.

Please, do not mistake me for being negative at all. In fact, this year has been fantastic. We've been winning games more, away games are so much cheaper, plus I haven't had to sit next to someone who isn't a QPR supporter yet. But remember what happened when we got greedy last time, brought in loads of wonderful players like Bosingwa and Zamora? Brought in Mark Hughes and his dodgy agents? No thanks. I'd rather have the stability we have now than a bloated team of players and staff who simply don't care.

And speaking of players, as you know Charlie Austin is someone I've admired from the moment he started playing for us. He is hard working, positive and skillful. My face was beaming not only when he scored the winning goal against Doncaster but when, soon after, he tracked all the way back to defend the ball as well. For me, this is so much more valuable than anything we could ever say about our poor tactical strategy, individual errors or formation. We haven't had such an individual for a long time and I'd swap 10 Taarabts for 1 Austin.

Or is that just being greedy now?

Happy New Year everyone!