Tuktuk Day 100

QPR

It’s a bit of Déjà vu  today as I know Justin kindly hosted a QPR day but I have always had a soft spot for the Rs since the days of Stan Bowles, Dave Thomas, Rodney Marsh etc and I happily used to walk to Loftus Rd along Uxbridge Rd, if for no other reason than it was faster than the 607 bus! This week I have passed the stadium most days and I thought I should comment on a couple of interesting events. Hope you will indulge me! I will get to MK Franchise….sometime, maybe

First off we have a programme fair. Now there is nothing too extraordinary about that but this is the first one since 1986 so it’s a bit of a novelty and hopefully will be repeated. I know Les Easterbrook will have a huge selection of badges and I am told that a good crowd is expected. Last week was Kensington (see below) and that was a record attendance. Just seen that there is an event in Stoke too. It would be rude not to add it. These programme fairs are held regularly throughout the year. Ping me if you need dates/venues. Many are impressively organised by Barry Dixey Enjoy.

As I was writing this I noticed a Facebook thread by life-time QPR fan, journalist and hispanophile, Eugene Costello and I cheekily asked whether he would pen some thoughts on the club. He happily agreed to. Top Man!

“Yesterday’s drubbing of the Hoops by the Tigers at the MKM Stadium means we are beyond flirting with relegation and getting ready for a second date.

That said, it’s not really the second date. We were relegated to the third tier of English football previously. I had a season ticket in the early Noughties when we were in the third tier and Ian Holloway took over from Gerry Francis. I was there for the excruciating loss to Cardiff at the Millennium Stadium – in Cardiff, to rub it in. I remember screaming “Square it, Tommy!” as the speedy but hapless Tommy Williams executed a beautiful run down the left almost to the byline, leaving himself an impossible shooting angle that he fluffed when the only move was to square it to legendary poacher Paul Furlong. Then again, escaping from Cardiff with locals on motorway bridges throwing objects at our coaches was bad enough. Maybe it’s just as well we didn’t win.

The three seasons in the third tier were sobering. The club mascot is Jude the Cat, and perhaps it’s more than a coincidence that St Jude is the patron saint of hopeless causes. Whatever way you slice it, following the Rs has been useful in terms of managing my expectations in life. I was asked to come up with some good memories about life in the lower leagues. I have to say, it was hard to pick out many. Thin gruel, as Jacob-Rees Mogg might say, recalling his boarding school meals, no doubt.

I will say there are good memories of the camaraderie of going away with my mates to “real football grounds”, including my late mate Declan McHale, dyed-in-the-wool Rangers. Northampton, Peterborough, three-sided Bournemouth and so on. Usually treated as a weekend away, with plenty of drinking afoot.

And some golden memories. Portman Road against Ipswich when as players were walking back to the halfway line, their keeper kicked the ball out – only for it to hit Paul Furlong’s head and drop to the floor. Incredulously, he looked at this gift and – poacher through and through – began to sprint back towards the hapless goalkeeper and fired a screamer past him. Joyful.

And then two beauties from Gareth “Wild Thing” Ainsworth at the former Dr Martens Stadium against the former Rushden and Diamonds in the 2003/04 season. The part-time rock idol, full-time winger wrangled his way past two defenders and unleashed a rocket from 30 yards out that beat the keeper to land in the left-hand corner of the net. Beautiful. He himself would describe it as his “second best goal of all time.”

And the first? Same game, slightly earlier. A long pass across the pitch from the left wing to Ainsworth in more or less the same position, and it drops onto his right foot for an exocet of a volley. It screams, rises and drops into the same left-hand corner. In an interview, Ainsworth describes it as “magical”, and “a treat” for all the travelling Rs supporters who were there that day.

Ian Holloway laughs when he remembers R&Ds’ Barry Hunter screaming at the keeper, and says “What could he have done?” 

Ainsworth would return as manager last season, fortuitously.

From qpr.co.uk. “QPR begin the season in similarly fine fashion under new head coach Mick Beale and were top of the Championship after 16 games. But Beale’s departure to Glasgow Rangers in November instigated a campaign of struggle, ultimately. Neil Critchley replaced Beale as boss but departed in the February. Popular former winger Gareth Ainsworth left Wycombe Wanderers to take over from Critchley and steered the R’s to safety on the penultimate weekend of the season.”

So dark days, results wise. But some delicious memories.

I mentioned my beloved friend Declan McHale. In 2019, he was diagnosed as having a brain tumour. He went down fairly rapidly. He lived for QPR so I contacted Paul Morrissey, director of communications at the club. His response was incredible. The club would, he said, like to offer a box for 12 people, with free half-time catering and a space for a family member as mascot. This was for the Stoke game on the 15th of February. The family was overjoyed. I arranged it in coordination with his older brother Austin, whose claim to fame is that he once appeared on Mastermind where his specialist subject was “QPR: 1967 to now”.

And that sense of family is what makes QPR stand out. Later that year, Declan would pass. But I’ll always smile when I remember how the club gave him and his family that incredible memory. I can’t see that happening at some of the bigger, “more successful” clubs.

So if you are fearing the drop, all I can say is, “Don’t Fear The Reaper”. 

There is more to being part of the QPR family than statistics.” 

Eugene Costello
Freelance journalist and editor

NUJ number: 009926

Founder and editor of Valencia Life
https://valencialife.es


Thanks so much for that unique view, Eugene. One of the first ever games I saw was QPR at Gillingham back in 1964. It was a 2-2 draw and in the “old” League Division Three. Just checking on 11v11 there appears to have been 58 games between the two teams in League Division Three (South) and two at the second level. This sort of confirms where the two clubs have spent most of their lives. I will remind everybody, however, that QPR have spent seasons at the Top Table – remember Warnock! The current plight is therefore even more distressing. There IS hope although Millwall’s win against Cardiff and Blackburn Rover’s MOST unlikely win at Leeds Utd did not help the cause!

Good Luck, guys. I will be back later this week to talk about QPR’s work in the community.

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