The run-up to the Milk Cup Final in 1986 was fantastic, beating the South-West London side and singing: ‘Michael Robinson from the Half-Way Line’ and: ‘Thank You Very Much for the Milk Cup Chel$ea, Thank You Very, Very Much (the old Scaffold hit and Cadbury Roses TV advert).
Then a very drunken night in Liverpool where some of us nearly didn’t make it into the ground, but the Scouse stewards and turnstile operators thought that it would be safer all round if we joined the rest !
So, hopes held high we (me and two friends – one pictured, one taking the photo) chipped in to create the banner via some ‘friend of a friend’ from the Flora pub in the Harrow Road.
On the Sunday morning of 20th April 1986, we met in the North Pole pub at around 9am which was packed with QPR supporters. We had a few drinks, a bit of dancing and then….the police ushered us out.
There were various splits in the crowd, some elected to walk up Scrubs Lane, we (mainly from Notting Hill) decided to tour through Ladbroke Grove, Golborne Road and Kensal Road (stopping in any of the pubs that might let us in), eventually a couple of hundred more of us joined at the Harrow Road junction of Ladbroke Grove for the 4-mile march to Wembley (with a police escort).
All was fairly quiet until we approached College Park where the majority of the march was coming from. This tributary was mainly “Shepherd’s Bush”, (the animosity between Notting Hill and the Bush was always close to erupting). The two marches merged, singing, chanting and enjoying the warm spring day.
I remember some alcohol being “liberated” from some of the off-licenses around the Jubilee Clock in Harlesden until the police shut them. Then we reached the North Circular Road and the police closed it and I later heard, although I’m not sure whether it was true or not, that they closed it for an hour to let the, by now, thousands of expectant R’s fans to cross safely.
There was a party atmosphere in the environs of the stadium with lots of photographs being taken, some were, what is now called, ‘photobombing’ of other groups pictures.
Then, we had never heard of Ray Houghton (well some Tony Incenzo types later pointed out that he was on our books at some stage and we told him that he wouldn’t make it), or John Aldridge, Jeremy Charles, who had left us for Oxford the year before after only 12 games, hardly registered either.
They mullared us !
The deflation of the day almost turned into anger (one QPR supporter did get a punch inside the stadium), me and my six or so close friends, were outside after the game angry, tired and when we saw and heard a young little boy (in full kit) look up to his dad and say tearfully: “Dad, why didn’t they try ?” We were choked and decided to go home.
We walked back, I’m not sure why, maybe because we had waited for an 18 bus for some time and none came.
The top photo was taken on the Harrow Road opposite Kensal Green Cemetery, just after ‘The Mason’s Arms’. I think we decided to do it then as two in the group were going to leave us then. The banner still exists (in my loft) and it did make one other appearance in 1988 when I took it to Parkhead, Glasgow, for the Old Firm game – the juxtaposition of the shamrocks, the word ‘Irish’ and the word ‘Rangers’ caused a small sensation and lots of confusion and I was asked, politely, to roll it up and put it away !
My thanks to Tom for sharing those memories and also for giving me permission to use some of his excellent photos. Some of the people featured are sadly no longer with us so he is understandably protective of their image and memory. These photos can only be copied with specific written permission from Tom who can be contacted via the following email address: email@example.com