I got that on New Year’s Day 1974. I remember it being a freezing cold day, although a recent programme article stated that it was a ‘mild day’ ? Maybe for the Mancs in attendance as they were used to cold weather, but not to a scrawny little nine year old it wasn’t. I had started to stand in the School End as it was cheaper at 10p compared to 15p in the Loft and 5p got you a load of cola cubes and pineapple chunks in those days. These two women took pity on me and my mate Frank O’Donovan as we shivered in a snowstorm. They gave us some warm cocoa from a flask and even took off their blue and white hooped gloves they’d obviously knitted so that we could keep warm. They also stood back from their place so that we could sit on the wall below the School End clock. 32,339 saw Bestie for the last time in the red of Manchester United…beggars belief nowadays.
At the end of my first season, my dad took me to Arsenal. Bowles scored in a 1-1 draw. I was convinced that I’d made the right choice. The week before, Loftus Road was a sea of yellow as Don Revie’s Leeds celebrated winning the League. How I hated it, even though one of my favourite players was in yellow. He was famous not just for his feet, which were magic, but for being able to leap over a mini car and throw a golf ball the length of a football pitch. Those two things must’ve come in handy at some point in my life. Little did I know that we’d be celebrating on the last home game against Leeds in two years time.
Following my first season, we went from strength to strength. The next campaign included away wins at both Spurs and Chelsea. In fact, we did the double over Chelsea for the one and only time and for my first four seasons we were the Kings of the whole of London, not just in the West. We almost became the Kings of England as well and even Europe one year ! We were the business, regularly finishing above bigger clubs, even those considered the top four these days. My addictions started to branch out into other areas.
In March 1975, my Dad took me to my first England match at Wembley. Ian Gillard played as we beat West Germany 2-0. For my next England match a few months later, three QPR players started the game, Gerry Francis, Dave Thomas and Ian Gillard. England struggled to a 2-2 draw with Wales, saved from a miserable defeat by the introduction of substitute Brian Little, in his only England appearance. On the way out of the ground, my Dad spotted Bruce Rioch and Archie Gemmill. Scotland were next up three days later, again at Wembley. I remember my Dad saying: ‘Scotland will easily beat England on Saturday’ and Rioch replied with: ‘I hope so’. My Dad refused to take me. He said that there was always trouble and that anyway England were rubbish. Instead, we went down to the family caravan on the Sussex coast for the weekend. The history books show that Gerry Francis ran the Scots ragged and he scored twice in a 5-1 rout. I could of cried !!!
The first time that QPR made me cry was in February 1977 at Highbury. When I say QPR, I should say Aston Villa and Brian Little (him again) as he scored a hat-trick to knock us out at the semi-final stage of the League Cup. In October 1979 I’m ashamed to say that I got arrested at a game against Preston and my Dad banned me from football. A few weeks later we played at Kenilworth Road and I asked my Dad’s mate if I could go with him. He asked me if I had asked my Dad and I replied that I had. The following day they got talking and my Dad found out that I’d been to Luton. I then had to explain that when my Dad’s mate had asked, ‘did you ask your Dad ?’…I wasn’t lying when I said ‘yes’. Okay, so my Dad had said no but I did ask ! As for the game, it was a crap 0-0 draw. We did make it onto the ‘Big Match’ the following day somehow and I was found ‘Not Guilty’ at Court. It was around this time that I started going to a handful of away games outside London, usually with my Dad’s friend as Dad had now relented on the ban. He had tried stopping me but to no avail. I later started going to away games with my mates.
Back in the mid-eighties, I started going to England away games as well. I’ve travelled to over fifty countries in the past twenty five years, mostly to see England but always on the lookout for a game if I’m on holiday. I’ve seen Ian Gillard, Paul Parker, Les Ferdinand, David Bardsley and Andy Sinton all make their England debuts and all as QPR players. I would’ve added David Seaman but he played in Saudi Arabia and it’s impossible to get a visa for that country. However, I did the next best thing and saw his second game in Copenhagen. I also saw England play Northern Ireland at Wembley with a QPR player on both sides, imagine that today ? I’ve managed to see a football match in such places as Uruguay, Argentina, Vietnam, Japan and the old Yugoslavia. I once flew home a day early from China when I was at my father-in-laws funeral to enable me to see a game. It was Vauxhall Motors at home !!! There was also the time when I flew back from Delhi in 1992, got a tube to Hammersmith, met my mate who then drove us to Bury for a League Cup tie and still with my rucksack in tow. We did win though, 2-0.
Why do we do these things ? Well, because we are QPR. We are like an extended family and I’ve met so many friends through following the club up and down this green and pleasant land. I’ve seen us relegated more times than I care to remember and promoted a similar number but like all of you out there, I keep coming back for more. Life wouldn’t be the same without QPR in it, so if anyone from the Club is reading this…if the rumour is true about a name change…stop there right now. WE ARE QPR, we will always be QPR. It’s the easiest word to find in the sports section of any paper, that’s how unique we are.
And here’s to the next 35 years of ups and down, heartache, monumentous joy and beating Chelsea once again. It’s been emotional.