It was November 2011. Everyone thought Bradley Wiggins was a character from a Charles Dickens book, Kim Jong-il was feeling “alright, thanks – can’t complain” and Queen’s Park Rangers were playing well. It’s hard to think that these events even happened, let alone less than a year ago. It seems so long and inaccurate it may as well be a pass from Charlie Adam.
QPR had just beaten Stoke City at Stoke and I was happy, despite Stoke playing football that reminded me of tales of atrocities committed during the Rwandan Civil War. I was convinced after that victory that QPR would do well this season. That night I went to a function feeling very optimistic and I bet a non-QPR supporting friend ¬£10 that QPR would finish in the top-half of the table and possibly mount a challenge for Europe. I won’t go into more detail as my friend was so drunk that he has since forgotten about said bet and I’m worried he’ll read this, remember and ask for his money. So let this be a warning to you; take any predictions I make in this article with the smallest pinch of salt, I don’t know what I’m talking about and if possible I will not honour any bets I make with you.
So now let’s get stuck into the article. I’m feeling very optimistic this season, I think QPR will finish in the top-half of the table and could possibly mount a challenge for Europe ! As John Lennon once said (and Emeli Sande in one of her forty seven appearances at the 2012 Olympic Games): “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.”
If the Premier League was decided like Top Trumps (if you don’t know the rules to Top Trumps, it’s where each person has a hand of cards with numerical data on and they compare values and the one with the highest number wins – it’s probably like hedge fund investments, if I knew what that was), I say we’d have probably the 7th best squad. I know football doesn’t work like that, but there are so many teams of players worse than ours that could end up in the relegation scrap this season (Villa, Fulham, Norwich, Reading, Southampton, Stoke, Swansea, West Brom and Wigan) that being able to string two or three spells of home form together should be enough to keep us out of any danger. But that’s enough of that.
I could write about our chances for this season, who’ll be our star man, who’ll be the best new signing, where our strengths are, where our weaknesses are, but you’ve already read that article seven or eight times by now, each one by a writer a lot more knowledgeable than myself. So I’m going to pull on my tie-dye t-shirt, slip on my sandals, sit backwards on my chair and do something a little different.
I write sitcoms, so I always see life as a narrative. I don’t think things just happen. I see stories in real-life events. I see beginnings, middles and endings as if absolutely everything has been scripted by a writer. I see great plot twists and great drama in all forms of life and usually things finish with a bang or a nice tidy conclusion. Just look at the rags-to riches tale of QPR for proof of my theory, there’s always been drama at Loftus Road – with last season’s grabbing of victory from the jaws of defeat (with…actual defeat to Man City) or the sitcom seasons before that starring Flavio Briatore in the role of ‘Taxi’s’ Louie De Palma. So here’s my prediction, sit down for this one, make sure you’ve no drink in your mouth as you’re going to spit it out and just take your socks off because this will knock them off…….
Joey Barton will save the day.
Yeah, Joey Barton, you didn’t see that coming, did you ? Unless you read the title of the article and put two and two together. But, I can just see it happening. The last chapter finished with a ‘happily ever after’ for QPR at the Etihad, but it left the tale of Joey Barton on an ‘Eastenders’ style ‘dum-dum-dum-der-der-der-der-cliff-hanger. He’s the villain, he’s been given a twelve match ban, he’s been sent off to train with Fleetwood Town and he’s not even on a mission to merge the club with Macclesfield Town to form Fleetwood Macc.
Some QPR fans don’t care if Barton ever returns. Other QPR fans actively don’t want him to ever return. I doubt he’ll even be named in the squad for the first-half of the season, but we probably won’t be able to sell him to anyone besides West Ham. So here’s my prediction: It’ll be January, he’s still at QPR, maybe he’s been on a short-term loan deal. It’s announced he’s registered in the squad. There’s uproar from some. A short time later we end up in some sort of turmoil. I’m not sure what, but we’ll be in a spot of trouble; maybe we’re starting to slip into the relegation battle or we’re losing in a cup semi-final or maybe the fans are trying to think of a song to sing about John Terry’s moment of stupidity when he said “please” four times in his racism court case.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man.
Joey will step up. Maybe he’ll drive the squad out of the relegation scrap. Or maybe he’ll help turn round that cup semi-final and grab the winner. Or maybe he’ll suggest the fans use a re-wording of one of his favourite Smiths song, ‘Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want’. I’m not sure what, but if I wrote the Premier League (which would look great on my CV) I’d say the stage is set for Barton to save the day.
I know it’s a flawed theory looking at the squad now, regardless of what went on in Manchester in May, Joey would have to fight for a place in the first team – he’d have to seriously fight, dead legs and headbutts wouldn’t cut it. Only Man City themselves have more midfield options available to them then us (don’t check that, that might not be true – I just made it up, it just feels like a fact).
I’m not standing up for what Joey’s done. I’m not commenting on him as a person. I’m not debating whether he deserves a second chance. But I will say this in his defence; on his day he can play. Those days may have not been as frequent as they should have been last season, but when Joey turns it on (and turns Twitter off), he’s very good. I think back to his home performances at the end of last season, namely the Arsenal game – he drove the midfield, pulled all the strings and fought like a terrorist cell. He’s got the ability and events have conspired that he’s now got the opportunity to go from zero to hero or another less 90’s clich√©.
I saw him having a Twitter row (stop gasping, it happened) with stone thrower and glasshouse resident Vinnie Jones and I thought back to Vinnie’s career. Vinnie’s actions were comparable to Joey’s, but to this day he’s held in high regard by Wimbledon fans. Well he would be if they still existed. So this is my prediction, Joey will come good this season, he’ll write his name into the QPR history books.
Either that or he’ll be sold the day after this article is published on the website and I’ll look a massive tit for the rest of time as the truth clatters me with relentless, brutal force like a tackle from Charlie Adam. So I wouldn’t put any money on this happening if I was you – I might but I won’t pay up.
Charles Lawley (@charleslawley)