Bright Future must not overlook the Lessons of History

My thanks to Garry Coady for alerting me to this superb newsletter written by Dion Fanning for the Irish Sunday Independent:

‘QPR are a club that believes that some good will come from everything. There is very little beauty at Loftus Road yet it is currently the ground I most enjoy visiting. This is not because it is the football ground closest to my house, although maybe that adds to my affection.

It isn’t necessarily because the floodlights light up the rows of terraced houses as you approach it in the way that English football grounds are supposed to do but that also helps. It does have something to do with those streets.

It does have something to do with Shepherd’s Bush and walking along the Uxbridge Road past the pubs that contain the type of Irishman who never feature when they write the perennial magazine story about the Irish in London, even though those Irishmen are still here and probably haven’t gone any place else.

Those Irishmen went into these pubs on the Goldhawk Road or to the old Irish haunts on Ladbroke Grove, which have nearly all disappeared, and a lot of them never came out. As a friend of mine says, “We lost more men here than at Suvia Bay”.

All these things are part of it and it has something to do with memory too. My uncle is a QPR supporter and I remember him saying once back in the mid-80’s that he felt there were important lessons in life that came from supporting a team like Rangers.

They were fatalistic lessons but lessons nonetheless about futility, hope and the connection between the two. No matter how exited you became as a QPR supporter, there was always a voice telling you, “Nothing will come from this”.

It was a tough message to tell a kid but happily I dismissed it out of hand at the time, sure as I was that something would come from everything.

He had come to QPR relatively late in life but like the man who takes up drinking at 40, he immersed himself fully in the details, attending reserve matches and talking about promising players coming up through the youth team.

The side of the Jim Smith era is the one I remember most vividly. My uncle would talk about the late Alan McDonald’s strength, the class which John Gregory brought whenever he was used and his frustrations that a player as limited as Terry Fenwick could become an England international.

I remember going to stay with him once and he gleefully put on the videotape of the 5-5 draw with Newcastle United in which the R’s had recovered from being four down at half-time. It was the club-issue video, filmed on one fixed camera and released without commentary. We might have watched it more than once.

In January 1987, during one magical weekend, we went to London and saw QPR play Everton on the Saturday and then to White Hart Lane on the Sunday where George Graham’s Arsenal, including Niall Quinn, beat a Tottenham side which included Glenn Hoddle, Ossie Ardiles and Clive Allen who would score 49 goals that season.

Sport is about memory as much as anything else and so for all these reasons and many unexplained ones, I enjoy going to Loftus Road more than any other ground right now.

Part of the enjoyment also comes from the high-wire act QPR are currently engaged in, desperately trying to avoid relegation for all the usual reasons as well as a few of their own they’ve added just to make it more interesting, like the potential fine when they once again fall under the jurisdiction of the Football League or the ‘nuclear option’ that they would be relegated to the Conference.

They have based their attempt to escape on their form at Loftus Road where they have won four times, drawn with Manchester City and lost inexplicably to Liverpool. It is an atmospheric ground and the atmosphere, of course, comes from the stadium’s design and the way the crowd hangs over the players.

It comes also, I believe, from the history, from the knowledge that men have stood in these seats before, providing support and abuse to players for generations and, in the case of Stan Bowles, providing information on the winner of the 3.10 at Haydock Park.

Last weekend, 17,785 people went to Loftus Road to watch them beat Burnley and there are those with big ambitions for the club who think that is not enough.

QPR are something else now, they are a club that believe that some good will come from everything, even if their speculative attempts to make things better have only made things worse. They are £177m in debt.

QPR have the smallest ground in the Premier League and most of its supporters accept the idea that they must move elsewhere as Loftus Road can’t be expanded. It is a parable for the age. QPR need a bigger stadium so that they aren’t tempted to make the same mistakes as when they spent more than they could afford.

In the season they were relegated if they had doubled their turnover they would still have made a loss. “The club has ambitions to be an established Premier League club,” their website promoting the new ground states, “and it needs a stadium that reflects those ambitions.”

To ensure nobody goes crazy with the cheque book again in pursuit of those ambitions and signs the next Jose Bosingwa, it is regrettably necessary to destroy a bit of history, to remove another connection with the past which, and this is what distinguishes it from hopeless nostalgia, also takes something from the future.

QPR will move to a stadium with ample parking and increased revenue streams. Loftus Road will be “redeveloped for other uses”, although it’s unlikely to become a drop-in centre for the Shepherd’s Bush bewildered.

Tomorrow QPR play at Goodison Park. They have no points away from home and have scored twice which sounds a lot like the club my uncle fell in love with.

When you walk to Loftus Road, it is that club too, even if it is a club in danger of overlooking the lesson he understood: that there is a liberation, not a restriction, in believing that nothing will come from this.’

One thought on “Bright Future must not overlook the Lessons of History

  1. Great article and pure poetry!
    I live away in Essex now having moved from the Bush in my early twenties but when I do return to the Bush it is like slipping a well worn glove on. You can take the man out of the Bush but not the Bush out of the man.
    Great opening few lines and the night matches still have that magical quality that needs bottling for posterity!

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