How do you write a review of a season that was, in a word, disastrous ? It’s not easy ! There were far too many lows and very few highs.
Despite a whole host of so-called “superstars” being signed by Mark Hughes during the close season and what looked like a decent pre-season arranged in the Far East and Germany; the opening home game of the season – against Swansea – spoke more about the way the season was going to shape up than, I think, any of us truly realised ! A humiliating 0-5 drubbing was not what the doctor had ordered at all !
We were assured that this was a “blip” – a minor hiccup in Hughes’ plans – caused by the fact that so many new faces hadn’t yet had time to “gel” ! Well, after a 1-1 draw away to Norwich, a 1-3 defeat away to Manchester City, a 0-0 draw at home to Chelsea (perhaps, at the time, seeming like a “high” seeing as how they are the “auld enemy” after all); and then a 1-2 defeat away to Spurs (despite playing extremely well, seeing Granero and Faurlin linking well in midfield, and dominating the game for a good 80 minutes !!! – I was still waiting for this squad to “gel” ! And when September ended with a 2-3 loss at home to Reading in the Carling Cup, I was beginning to question the pre-season hype !
October and November were really not much different. We lost a feisty encounter against West Ham at home 1-2 on 1st October, which was followed by a 2-3 loss away to West Brom. In fairness, Jose Bosingwa could have equalised for us at the death but, as we were soon to find out, he really didn’t give a damn about QPR – only his pay cheque – so his blast over the crossbar instead of under doesn’t really count for much in my book !
We then faced Everton at home, where we (somehow) managed to get a (seemingly) respectable 1-1 draw; before losing 0-1 to Arsenal in a game that we more than held our own in – that is, until Stephane Mbia saw red mist towards the end of the game which was quickly followed by a red card ! Down to 10-men for the last 10 minutes, it was no surprise to me that, with the officials unable to understand the offside rule and therefore allowing Arteta’s definitely off-side goal to stand, here was yet another loss to chalk up to Hughes’ mismanagement !
We managed a 1-1 draw at home to Reading in the league fixture on 4th November – a game that, I am sure, Hughes had convinced himself we would win to get our season up and running at last (in November ?!) But when I heard Mark Bowen’s shockingly honest interview on the Open all R’s podcast a few days later, I knew for certain there would be no revival – not when he admitted that training policies such as that there wasn’t a training policy for the defence !
We trudged up to Stoke to see QPR lose 0-1 and then, the next “must-win” home game on 17th November against newly-promoted Southampton, dawned. Fans were calling – no, baying – for Hughes’ head but Chairman Fernandes was holding firm, claiming loyalty and continuity and other such adjectives as to why he was seemingly content to let Hughes destroy our beloved club !
After a shocking – horrific even – 1-3 loss to the south coast team, Fernandes finally bit the bullet and sacked Hughes. And that, to me, was a most definite high ! So high that, when I was told (at school on that joyful Friday morning of 23rd November) I literally danced around the pupils’ desks singing and waving my arms in triumph ! The kids loved it – nothing like a teacher acting like a plonker to make a kid happy (!) – but I realised, at my spontaneous whoops of glee, just how drained I had become. Hughes and his so-called “superstars” were more like deep black holes who had sucked the life-blood out of me and my club.
I wasn’t – and am still not – convinced that Harry Redknapp was the answer to the Hughes question. But I vowed to support the new man and hoped he could turn Hughes’ sow’s ear of a squad into something more resembling a silk purse, when his appointment as new man-at-the-helm was confirmed just before we faced Manchester United at Old Trafford on Saturday 24th November (which, by the way, we lost 1-3 – no surprise there !)
Harry’s first official game in charge was a midweek trip north to Sunderland – which we managed to draw 0-0 – giving no clues as to how Redknapp’s reign would pan out.
Two more draws followed – at home to Aston Villa (1-1) and away to Wigan (2-2) – before we faced Fulham in one more of my personal “highlights” of the season. Saturday 15th December saw the Cottagers come to Loftus Road – and QPR notch their first league win of the season in a 2-1 game that will be remembered for the fall-out from Jose Bosingwa’s refusal to sit on the bench than the two goals from the Moroccan Magician, Adel Taarabt, or my indigestion (panic ? ) when Petric pulled a goal back for Fulham on 88 minutes !
It had taken 17 games for us to notch up a league win this season – but it created a huge feel-good factor especially as the much-needed 3 points did move us above Reading in the table.
This good mood quickly evaporated as “normal” – awful – service was resumed with three losses out of the remaining 3 games of 2012: 0-1 away to Newcastle, 1-2 at home to West Brom and then a mauling at the hands of Liverpool, and Luis Suarez in particular, which saw us lucky to lose “only” three-nil !
And so it was with a very heavy heart, dragging my feet all the way up the King’s Road, that I found myself following my team to “that lot” from South-West London, Chelsea.
I think the whole experience of being together with our fans and out-singing their fans, taunting Ashley Cole as he warmed up at our end of the ground, was as fantastic as actually watching in utter disbelief as Shaun Wright-Phillips fired the only goal of the game to give us a precious away win, a very valuable 3-points and bragging rights – totally priceless – for the rest of the season !
How can this victory be anything but the most wonderful of “highs” – and it started 2013 off so positively. “Here We go ! Here We Go ! Here We Go !” we all thought, as we headed out of Stamford Bridge – the QPR revival under Harry “Houdini” was on !
And after January had ended with us defeated – following draws against Spurs (0-0 at home), West Ham (1-1 away) and Manchester City (0-0 at home), who was I to disagree with that positive assessment of our fortunes ? And when we continued that undefeated streak with a 0-0 draw at home to Norwich on 2nd February, hope was trickling back into my worn-out heart. I should have known better. Fool that I was !
A 1-4 drubbing at the hands of Swansea in Wales brought us all back to earth with a bump. This was followed by a 0-2 loss at home to Manchester United; but when we went to Southampton on 2nd March and pulled off a remarkable 2-1 away win thanks to goals from Loic Remy and Jay Bothroyd (only our 3rd league win of the season), “hope” was still to be found beating, albeit faintly !
Then came our 3-1 home victory against Sunderland, with goals from Loic Remy and crackers from Andros Townsend and Jermaine Jenas (all newly arrived in the January transfer window, by the way, despite Harry assuring us he wasn’t going to spend the Board’s money unnecessarily – he clearly felt it was very necessary, seeing as how most of his squad were either useless or not trying or both and we were going one way with them – down !).
Now my heart was filled to the brim with hope: I was positive we’d pull the white rabbit of safety out of this particularly dark hat – especially as our next game was a visit to relegation-candidates Aston Villa. A win at Villa Park and the miracle would occur – of that I, along with so many of us, was so sure !
When Jenas put us 1-0 up after 23 minutes, and we literally peppered Villa’s goal with attempt after attempt after attempt – to be denied only by the woodwork or the brilliance of Guzan in the Villa goal – there seemed to be only one winner. That is, until Agbonlahor drew Villa level at the death of the 1st-half, and we went into the break at 1-1 instead of being 3-0 or even 4-0 up, as our play had merited.
It was obvious to us all how the match would pan out after that – and we were right – and when the ref blew time with the final score reading: Aston Villa 3 – QPR 2 (Weimann having put Villa ahead on 59 minutes with Townsend levelling the scores at 2-2 on 73 minutes only for Benteke to break QPR hearts on 81 minutes), I believed our fate was sealed. The relegation trapdoor was wide open and we had just dived head-first through it !
I know there were 8 games to go – but this was the season-maker or breaker game, in my view (and many other fans) – coming when it did and against opposition hanging perilously close to the drop themselves. Defeat at Fulham (2-3) was followed by a 1-1 draw at home to Wigan. Many fans have highlighted this game as the moment they knew we were doomed.
After a tight encounter, on 85 minutes, Loic Remy had conjured up a beautiful goal, only to see sloppy defensive work and ill-discipline result in a late, late (93 minutes) equaliser through Shaun Maloney, undoing all Remy’s good work.
A 0-2 away defeat to Everton was followed by a poor 0-2 home defeat to Stoke and that was followed by a dull and drab encounter, in front of the Sky TV cameras, at Reading which saw both teams relegated simultaneously as we limped through 90 minutes of a 0-0 bore draw. The highlight of this game was the fun banter between QPR and Reading fans to establish just where each set of supporters were prepared to travel in the Championship next season !
Arsenal at home (yes, we lost that game too – merely 0-1 through a Theo Walcott goal within the first 30 seconds of the game starting thanks to, frankly, appalling defending – was there any ?!); Newcastle at home (lost 1-2) and then the final game of the 2012/13 season at Anfield where, yes, we lost !
Liverpool didn’t have to break sweat in what was Jamie Carragher’s swansong, with Philippe Coutinho’s goal separating the two sides on 90 minutes – but a whole division separating us next season !
There was one “highlight” for me though – and that was seeing the youngster Michael Harriman drafted in at right-back. Talk about dumped in at the deep-end, but Harriman did a sterling job and definitely looks like a bright spark for the future.
The season has taught me that it is pointless having hope when you know full-well that most of your squad don’t give a stuff about the fate of your club. Football players don’t have that love, devotion, loyalty, history, that we fans do – unless you are a Bircham, Gallen, Rowlands or Cook, that is (!) This group of players was, in my view, the worst we have ever seen at Loftus Road – they had come to QPR because of the lure of the pound-note, not the desire to play for the club.
Our Chairman, a self-confessed novice in matters relating to running a football club, admitted to the “sin” of trusting those who were supposedly “professional” and let Hughes and his cronies bring in a whole host of players who just did not fit the QPR “profile” – not a fighter to be seen amongst the likes of Bosingwa, Park, Granero et al.
I hope Fernandes has learnt his lesson now because this mistake has been a very expensive one to have made – but I cannot, and do not blame him for putting his faith in Hughes and his team in the first place. You should be able to rely on those who have spent their entire careers in the “beautiful game”, shouldn’t you ?
But Fernandes had the wool pulled over his eyes and our beloved club has suffered relegation as a result whilst Hughes lords it up as manager of Premier League outfit Stoke City as we head into the new season That grates on me, I can tell you !!!
But I won’t give it – or Hughes – a moment’s thought come Saturday 3rd August 2013, when I shall be found back in my usual seat in the South Africa Road Stand as I begin the new season once more following my beloved QPR around the Championship in season 2013/14.
Come on you R’s !!!
Sandra Lerman aka @sandyhoops (also known on vitalQPR as sandyl)