Last month there was a new addition to my daily routine, my list of basic tasks to complete each day is now; get out of bed, turn my alarm off, shower, brush teeth, go to work, come back from work and watch Jamie Mackie’s goal versus Man City from the last day of the season and, eat three meals. The Jamie Mackie goal is the newest one, if you were wondering – I’ve been brushing my teeth daily for almost three months now. I kid, but the beauty of that Jamie Mackie goal is not just that it was a belting diving header (which you don’t see enough of now-a-days), but because of what it felt like at that moment.
At that point in time, this newly promoted club from Shepherd’s Bush, fighting the drop with the worst away form in the league, had gone to fortress Etihad and had taken the lead against the galacticos of title challengers Man City. We were winning and I think even the most pessimistic R thought, “bloody hell we’re going to get something here.” Football had gone absolutely mental, anything was possible. Pigs could fly, hell can freeze and Stewart Downing might make the England squad.
I screamed (not screamed, roared. A masculine roar like a bear/Viking) so loud and for so long after the ball hit the back of the net I had to crouch in the foetal position afterwards, being careful not to be trampled by all those around me doing an ironic Poznan, because it was such an intense release. Not just because of frustrations from that day, the goal was against the run of play and our captain had been sent off (Joey Barton it was, you’ve probably never heard of him), but from an entire season spent circling the drain.
Throughout the winter months I tried to console myself countless times after defeats against teams we should be beating, as those ten or so daunting fixtures loomed ahead of us. “At least tickets will be cheaper next season”, “At least we’ll actually win games in the Championship”, “Will it even matter what league we’re in if we get to celebrate John Terry doing time ?” We were losing games and we were losing our heads, we managed to notch up a record amount of red cards. We had so many red cards we were the only club where the fans were referred to as the 11th man. A return to the second tier seemed inevitable. You know you’re in trouble when a well-respected and great footballing mind like Ian Wright said that we won’t get another point. Just to be clear, I can’t stress enough how sarcastic I was being in that last sentence about Ian Wright.
Our season was at best inconsistent, at worst, consistently poor. Some could argue that our new signings weren’t living up to their names and, early on, some worried that our ‘Championship players’ weren’t good enough to make an impact in the world’s most lucrative division. (In fact I recall at one point reading a match report in one of the more right-wing broadsheets, comment on the performances of “Frazier Mackie” and “France’s Adel Taarabt” by their head football writer.)
But then, something magical happened; an unnamed event had just clicked. Was it a miracle ? An act of God ? Who knows, but out of nowhere, for some reason, QPR started winning games at home. And it was bloody lovely. Some say it started with the Hollywood style comeback against Liverpool, others when Barton started his Twitter sabbatical and gave his ctrl, c and p keys a rest, but those in the know have no doubt that our fortunes changed with the pitch invasion orchestrated by one single, gutsy squirrel against Everton, nevertheless Loftus Road had become a fortress, a fortress with a moat, closed drawbridge and dock off dragon.
If we can take that home form into next season, it will be much less of an ordeal. Looking back, there wasn’t much to cheer about until late on – apart from the January transfer window of course, the only time when every fan in the country envied us. We were buying big as the Arsenal’s and Man United’s of this world, scoured retirement homes for talent, like a horny Wayne Rooney. In a winter where Man U brought back Scholes, Arsenal brought back Henry and Chelsea and Liverpool brought back racism. QPR brought in new players and a new manager, all of whom I’d argue have been a success to varying degrees. I digress, I’m convinced we won’t have a relegation battle ahead of us next season and think we might even get in with a sniff of a Europa League place.
Is it me or does “in with a sniff of a Europa League place” sound ball-bleedingly dull compared to a down-to-the-wire relegation battle this season and a league winning campaign surrounded by doubt the season before that ? I know I’m being a spoilt football fan, but I just worry how boring a drama-free season could be, like drinking room temperature water listening to Alan Shearer. Especially when I think back to how it felt when Jamie Mackie scored against City, the net bulging like Brian Blessed wearing Christina Aguilere’s onesie. For that second, I was convinced the season had been written and this was the happy ending. We were going to do the unthinkable, beat Man City and stay up. But we didn’t. We did the thinkable. We lost. Sorry for the spoiler.
But did we really lose ? Really ? Did we really lose ?
….Yes. Yes we did. We were condemned to be a footnote in the most dramatic finish to the greatest Premier League season in history (a season so good that a team that scored 8 goals past Arsenal in one game lost the league on goal difference.) In the end, that fantastic Mackie goal didn’t amount to a hill of beans and fortunately four goals, each one flukier than the last, at the Britannia had managed to fall in our favour, keeping us up.
But it didn’t feel like a loss. Despite witnessing a defeat, I felt utter joy. Was it because we stayed up ? Was it because I had just witnessed the greatest finish to a Premier League season ? Was it because I’d got a lift to the game with my City fan mate and didn’t fancy my chances walking back to the car park in my QPR top through an ocean of City fans after costing them the league ? I suppose it was all of those things…but mainly the last.