The last game of the Season, and as an 11 year old, it all seemed so simple to me. All we had to do was play Aston Villa away, beat them, and we would be in the ‘Promised Land’ (the old First Division) for the first time in our history. I was lucky enough to be taken to the game by a family friend.
We set off early in the morning in his old Zephyr 4, with our blue and white scarves hanging out of the windows. In those days there was no segregation between supporters within Grounds and they opened earlier than they do these days. So we joined what seemed like thousands of our fans towards the rear of the Holte End. Eventually we heard shouts of ‘Villa Villa’, which got louder and louder as the home fans arrived via a staircase to the left and rear of the terrace. Now those days were the beginnings of the original ‘Skinheads’, complete with exposed steel toe capped boots. The violence I witnessed was frightening.
As Villa’s numbers grew, our fans withdrew further down the Holte End and the side terraces, well….all except for a petrified 11 year old and his Dad’s mate. As the violence went on around us, he put his arm around my shoulders and said: “Just stand still and don’t move.” This wasn’t a difficult request to comply with as I was already frozen with fear. So we stayed where we were for the whole of the 1st half, adorned as I was with a blue and white scarf and a large rosette that was almost as big as I was. Quite a few of the Villa fans were aware that we were there, yet not one of them said a single word to either of us. Looking back, I can only assume that a grown man standing with a young lad, were considered ‘Out of Bounds’.
At half time we were one down, so we slowly made our way out of the Holte End to the left and ended up somewhere near where the dugouts are today. I remember that there were lots of R’s fans already there and it certainly felt less hostile. As Steve Russell has previously mentioned, I can remember missiles being thrown in our direction including an apple with razors sticking out of it. The 2nd half seemed to last forever and people around me started making comments about what a good Season it had been and that maybe it would be our turn next year. Yet as a ‘just turned 11 year old’ who had only known Cup wins and promotion, I still never doubted that we would win. Then we equalised, or did we ? I saw the ball hit the bar and little else as the crowd surged forward, but the referee gave the goal. Then with a few minutes left, an own goal by a Villa player made it 2-1. We held on until the final whistle.
We had done it, we were promoted and we were in the First Division. Everyone was cheering and shaking hands and I don’t remember any trouble with the Villa fans after the game. We shook hands with some of them, while others wished us luck for the following Season. I don’t recall seeing many QPR coaches or cars on the journey up there, maybe it was because we had started off so early. But on the journey back, I remember seeing loads of cars with scarves flying and a few of those round fronted old fashioned coaches full of our fans. But when I think back to that day, one memory stands out above all others…..
Arriving back at the top of the Hendon Way (where it joins the Finchley Road), there were loads of cars (it seemed like hundreds), stopped at the traffic lights and not moving as the lights changed sequence a few times. People were out of their cars, cheering and dancing in the road. It was brilliant, a perfect end to a perfect day.