The following article was written by Benjie Goodhart and appeared in ‘The Guardian’ on 30th October. Much of it will be familiar to R’s fans but I wanted to leave it complete:-
QPR used to be skint and unattractive but with money, supermodels and a new Manager swishing around, the future looks bright. The regular reader of my outpourings (love you, Mum) will know that I’m a QPR fan. This is because I tend to shoehorn gratuitous references to the Hoops into articles ranging from Jose Mourinho to string theory. But today is a special day, a blue-and-white letter day. Today, I get to write about QPR unadulterated. Waitwhere are you going ? Don’t click that, it’s interesting, really it is. It’s not that I don’t understand your eagerness to leave (try actually visiting Loftus Road sometime). It might appear the height of self-indulgence to dedicate a whole article to a team struggling at the arse-end of the Championship. A team that was last in the top flight over a decade ago. A team grown used to living off past glories – past glories being almost winning the League 31 years ago and winning the League Cup 40 years ago. It hardly makes us the Milan of the 80’s.
But bear with me because what’s happened at QPR in recent times is without doubt the strangest stuff ever to happen to what one national newspaper referred to as, ‘Britain’s strangest football club’. And yes, you’d be forgiven for thinking (as you almost certainly are) that this is your typical journalist hyperbole. See if you still think that at the end. The simplest way of putting it, is that almost overnight, we’ve gone from being the Albert Steptoe of football clubs (skint, unattractive and just about existing in Shepherd’s Bush) to being the Cary Grant (debonair, classy, glamorous and rich). But that doesn’t begin to tell the full story.
A potted history then
QPR was originally formed back in 1882 by the old boys of Droop Street Board School, a place that sounds like a Beano-based establishment specialising in erectile dysfunction. Appropriately enough, the Club was named St.Jude’s after the patron Saint of lost causes. The Club changed its name in 1886 and began playing friendlies against Spurs, Fulham and others. According to the Club Website, “remarkably, the only equipment the Club owned at this time, were four posts and two lengths of tape for the crossbar”. This has subsequently come to be regarded as the Club’s years of plenty.
Fast forward 110 fairly inglorious years. In 1996, we were relegated from the Premiership at almost the exact moment it began to make squillions of pounds. Our parachute payments were, if memory serves, ¬£3.15 and a jar of pickled eggs. The Club took the slightly avant-garde approach to regaining our top-flight status of buying a mixture of crocks and geriatrics for vastly inflated prices, on condition that they played monumentally badly while claiming gargantuan salaries. Financial ruin followed, not helped by a number of loans taken out with huge interest rates. Since then, we have staved off administration (again) by selling all our best players and depending on the munificence of certain supporters and Directors. But rumours began to fly around in August on the various message boards, that September 1 would represent a new tax deadline and bankruptcy for the Club.
Oh, I almost forgot, in the meantime, we had our Club Chairman allegedly held at gunpoint in the Boardroom and appeared to have declared war on the world’s largest army, having taken on the might of China in a rather unseemly on-pitch brawl. Of course, we had also lost two of our best young players, Kiyan Prince tragically murdered outside his school and Ray Jones killed in a recent car crash. A third Youth team player, Harry Smart, was almost killed falling from the platform on the London Underground, in an incident where Tu Quang Hoang Vu, a commuter, was killed. You’ll appreciate then, that it’s not the easiest of times. So when it was rumoured that Formula One giants, Flavio Briatore and Bernie Ecclestone were sniffing about the Club, everyone took it with a truckload of salt. We’d had more false dawns than a 24-hour floodlight factory and yet, even as we were wiping the tears from our eyes in the aftermath of Ray Jones’s death, the deal went through and overnight we became a glamour Club.
The day we were taken over seemed to inspire the players, the Southampton players, who beat us 3-0. But while we remain at the un-nerving southern end of the Championship table, good times are ahead. We’ve been linked, however absurdly, with Alessandro Del Piero and Francesco Totti (if they’re prepared to fight for their places with Stefan Moore and Danny Nardiello) We’ve had supermodels and ‘IT-Girls’ come to watch us. We’ve been told that money is no object – the figure of ¬£40m has been mentioned for transfers and we’ve got two big, successful, rich guys determined to take us back to the ‘Promised Land’. And now we’ve got a Manager too – Italian Luigi De Canio whose CV includes spells at Napoli, Udinese, Reggina, Genoa and Siena. I just hope he’s got a strong stomach. At QPR, it tends to be one hell of a ride.