Seven years after QPR visited my home town Hoganas, it was finally time for me to watch QPR for the first time and it was going to be twice in three days ! Rangers had arrived in Sweden about a week earlier and started off their pre-season tour by beating GAIS 3-1 in Gothenburg in front of 1,617 spectators and two days later a crowd of 830 watched amateur side, Myresjo being comfortably beaten 7-2.
The third game of the tour was played in Denmark, about 150 miles south of the team’s base on the Swedish west coast. Hvidovre is a Copenhagen suburb and 1,419 people saw QPR running out 2-0 winners against the Danish part timers. The next match was against Halmstad based side Leikin on Monday the 26th July and two days later top flight side IFK Gothenburg were the opponents in a match that was to be played in the village of Valinge, just outside of Varberg.
I had managed to talk my friends Roger and Ola, cousins and the kind of guys that looked for Liverpool’s results in the paper on Sunday mornings, into coming along. Unfortunately Roger, the only one of us with a driver’s license at the time, got the underside of a size 12 Adidas Copa Mondial in the face whilst playing in an around-the-clock tournament on the weekend before the game. There was a certain amount of worries, both amongst us and his team mates, but the tournament doctor ensured everyone that his nose wasn’t broken, but that a scan could be arranged for later in the week if he felt that he needed one.
Roger played two more 60 minute matches as a central defender on Sunday morning and on Monday morning he got the news that he was scheduled for a scan on Wednesday afternoon. This meant some changes to our plans. We had planned to travel the 50 miles to Halmstad on Monday afternoon, watch the game and then continue 75 miles north to Gothenburg in the evening and stay there until Wednesday before going back south via Valinge. The plans were now changed so that we went back on Tuesday night and I was going to catch a train on my own on Wednesday.
Hours before the trip on Monday we got company from a fourth traveller, Roger’s neighbour Magnus was able to find enough cash in his pockets to join us. Kick-off was at 7.15 and we left home at about 5. We easily found our way to the ground at the part of Halmstad called Sannarp, thanks to the fact that Magnus had played ice hockey in Halmstad a couple of times and the ice hockey arena is located on the other side of the road from the stadium. We got there just after 6 and spotted the QPR players warming up on one of the nearby training pitches. I noted that the team was going to wear the red and black hooped away strip. Just in case I had brought both my blue and white shirt with the Influence sponsor as well as the red and black Brooks shirt.
After going through the turnstiles, I met up with some of the members of the Loyal Swedish Supporters Club, a club that existed during the 90’s as an alternative to the Norwegian based Scandinavian Supporters Club. Via contacts with Rangers’ kit man at the time, Ron Berry, the LSSC Chairman had managed to get hold of some match worn shirts from previous seasons and I took the opportunity to increase my collection of QPR shirts from three to four when I purchased the number 12 shirt that Gary Penrice was given when he was an un-used sub at Old Trafford on New Year’s Day in 1992.
I was also lucky to discover that two other guys would make the same train journey for the match against Gothenburg as me two days later and that they had arranged to get a lift from the train station to the ground. Whilst I was talking to the Swedish QPR fans, my mates had found good seats. The ground at that time had only a small amount of seats, but it was possible for all visitors to sit down on the terraces that were built on the grass covered embankment that surrounded the pitch.
Whilst waiting for kick-off, three of us did our best to convince the fourth guy that the old gentleman standing a couple of yards away from us was indeed Swedish ice hockey legend Roland Stolz (1931-2001). Whether we succeeded or not is still unknown to this day ? Stolz, by the way, played for Sweden 218 times and was part of the teams that won the World Championships in 1957 and 1962.
The opponents Leikin were at the time in the third tier of Swedish football. The club was formed in 1928. The club name is not the name of any Swedish town or village. A look on their website shows that the word ‘Leikin’ was used in Scandinavia several hundred years ago and meant, ‘honest, hardworking and successful ‘. Leikin normally played in orange shirts with black shorts, but with QPR wearing red and black they turned out in their all-white change strip.
Jan Stejskal was in goal. Maurice Doyle appeared in an unusual right-back role with Rufus Brevett on the left side of defence. Tony Witter and Alan McCarthy were in central defence. Dennis Bailey played wide on the right with Simon Barker and Ian Holloway in the middle and Andy Sinton on the left wing. Gary Penrice and Devon White started up-front.
The match kicked off and it only took QPR about 5 minutes to score their first goal when Penrice put Bailey’s cross into the net. As the match re-started after the goal, slight rain started to fall. Rangers dominated the game and with 30 minutes played, they earned a free kick just outside the Leikin box. Sinton’s left-footed shot was parried by the goalkeeper. White reacted quickest to the loose ball and his header meant 2-0. A Leikin player was then booked for the second time a couple of minutes later and the home side were down to ten men. To make matters even worse for them, QPR extended their lead when Bailey played the ball back to Brevett who side-footed the ball past the helpless keeper.
During the half-time interval, Gerry Francis had requested that the home team should field eleven players in the second half. It didn’t help much as Sinton scored inside the first minute when he played one-two’s firstly with Brevett and then with Penrice, before slotting the ball home. The rain stopped about 10 minutes into the second half and Magnus and Ola, who had gone off to check the ice hockey stadium to avoid the rain, returned just in time for QPR’s first substitution of the night. Sinton got a slight knock and was replaced by Michael Meaker.
Meaker had a decent reputation among the Swedish fans after making a good appearance as a sub in a televised match at Oldham in 1992, his only appearance that season and many thought that he was unlucky to be at QPR the same time as Sinton, Andy Impey and later, Trevor Sinclair. Five minutes later QPR scored twice within a minute. Devon White scored one from close range to make it five and then completed his hat-trick when he headed the ball past the keeper. Karl Ready, Ray Wilkins and Les Ferdinand entered the game with 15 minutes to go, replacing Barker, Holloway and White.
Interestingly, all the used subs wore the shirt number of the player they replaced rather than wearing numbers 12 and upwards. The substituted players and the remaining substitutes started to head for the dressing room and were, of course, surrounded by autograph hunters. I managed to get Andy Sinton, Tony Roberts and Darren Peacock to sign my autograph book.
The final whistle was blown a couple of minutes later and the players on the pitch were next in line to be surrounded by fans wanting their autographs. Ray Wilkins was the main target and he urged everyone to wait outside the dressing rooms instead. That was when I and two or three others took their opportunity. I then turned to Rufus Brevett, who gladly signed his autograph. Someone from the LSSC had mentioned that Brevett was the nicest guy in the squad and that seemed to be true. All the way to the dressing room he talked to me about the training camp, the upcoming season and that he was looking forward to playing against Gothenburg. I told him that I was going to that game as well and wished him the best of luck for the season. He thanked me and headed into the dressing room and I went towards the car park where my friends were waiting.
We went up to Gothenburg and rounded off the day with some miniature golf before spending the Tuesday at the Liseberg Amusement Park. We arrived back home in the evening and I double checked my bus and train times for the Wednesday trip. Roger went for his scan on Wednesday and was told that he had played the two games on the Sunday with a broken nose !
Final Score: Leikin (0) 1 – QPR (3) 6
Attendance: 1,411 (including unused free tickets)
Team: Stejskal, Doyle, Brevett, Barker (Ready 75), Witter, McCarthy, Bailey, Holloway (Wilkins 75), White (Ferdinand), Penrice, Sinton (Meaker 56)
Scorers: Penrice (4), White (27, 62, 63), Brevett (42), Sinton (46)
(The above pic shows Barker, Bailey, Holloway and Sinton making their way to the pitch before the game)