A copy of my book, Loftus Road Legacy – The History Of Shepherd’s Bush Football Club, came up for auction recently at Graham Budd Auctions in association with Sotheby’s. The price guide was £300-400. But if you do have a copy, don’t turn your house upside down to find it. The book accompanied a 1914 advertising poster in that sale. The match was the West London Junior Charity Cup Final, featuring Simmaries against Star United at the Loftus Road Ground, 27th April 1914. Bidding closed at £200.
I clearly remember the night I had discovered my family’s contribution to the home of QPR. I had been working in Hammersmith Archives and the family was at the match. It was a Tuesday evening in late September 2001. Driving home, I picked up Iain Dowie’s half time comments on the radio. (He was there as a summariser for the BBC.) The future of Loftus Road was up for discussion and Iain commented on what a great little ground it was and his hopes that QPR would be able to remain there. So far, so good – and in October 2004 Loftus Road chalked up its century.
Back in the summer of 1904, the ground was little more than a dump – literally. Contractors building the ‘new’ Underground railway from Shepherd’s Bush to the City had left Loftus Road four feet deep in heavy London clay. Shepherd’s Bush Football Club was looking for a new home because its Wormholt Farm ground was being developed for housing. The Loftus Road site was ideal but massive piles of clay had to be removed before a professional contractor could come in to lay the pitch. Fencing, entrances, pavilion, stand and press box were installed. This was all achieved within a four-month deadline (and ahead of final planning approval given on 15th October by Hammersmith Borough Council !). At 3.00pm on Saturday, 22nd October 1904, the local MP kicked the ball into play to start the first of many matches at Loftus Road – Shepherd’s Bush against Old Malvernians. And such was the calibre of the ground that it was selected later in the Season to host the 1905 FA Amateur Cup Final when West Hartlepool defeated Clapton by three goals to two.
Despite early successes, the club committee repeatedly rejected professionalism. Of course, they regularly lost some of their better players to QPR and other professional teams and by the end of 1914, many others had joined up to fight in the Great War.
While the family were established supporters, my first visit to Loftus Road was on 7th May 1983 when QPR beat Wolves and went on to win the Second Division title. Of course, we had no idea of any ‘family connection’ then. Since that time, we have held Season tickets in the Loft with many of the same ‘matchday friends’. Driving through Shepherd’s Bush, we pass the pubs that once hosted club meetings and after match ‘smokers’ and provided hot baths and changing rooms for players. The houses in Ellerslie Road and Loftus Road are the same ones where people hung out of windows or sat on the roof to watch Shepherd’s Bush games free of charge. Some things may change but I am sure that the atmosphere and the hope of ‘a win today’ is much the same as it ever was.
My piece of the QPR plastic pitch is now almost 20 years old. What are its chances at auction in a hundred years time ? (with a copy of the book of course)
The first print run of ‘Loftus Road Legacy’ sold out. Further copies have been printed and are available from Yore Publications, 12 The Furrows, Harefield, Middlesex UB9 6AT.
Tel/Fax No. 01895 823404, website: www.yore.demon.co.uk and the price remains at £9.95 plus postage and packing.