I was first attracted to Q.P.R. in the early ‘70s after watching them a few times on The Big Match, enthralled by the team that were superbly marshalled by the genius of midfield general Terry Venables and driven forwards by a young powerhouse called Gerry Francis. It wasn’t just the sublime skill, interminable guile and boundless charisma of the team playing in the distinctive blue and white hoops that grabbed the attention of an impressionable schoolboy from South East London, but their inventiveness from dead ball situations. Free kicks and corners were not just blasted at goal or crossed in hope towards a big centre forward, but clipped artfully over the defensive wall into the path of an onrushing player, shot through a gap created by an intruder in the wall or cleverly worked wide for a better placed player to cross. I had finally discovered a team whose imagination fired mine, I was completely and utterly hooked. Gordon Jago was superseded by Dave Sexton as manager and he unveiled the greatest passing side that this country has ever seen. Heartbreakingly pipped at the post by a thoroughly professional Liverpool team that went on to dominate European football for the next few seasons, Sexton’s team broke up, but my dreams lived on.
That was the start of a rollercoaster ride which, in my opinion, is unrivalled in world football. Both on and off the field Queens Park Rangers are rarely out of the sporting headlines for long. Our club thunders along, racing up and down, twisting this way and that, barely clinging onto the tracks, constantly defying all perceived wisdom, ensuring that all Q.P.R. supporters suffer a hectic, white knuckle ride. Apart from the inevitable relegations and promotions, playoff escapades and F.A. Cup humiliation, there has been a period in administration, boardroom back stabbings that put Dallas or Dynasty to shame, the tyrannical reign of Flavio Briatore who at his peak made nine managerial appointments in two seasons, the ”Great Brawl of China”, and the F.A. investigation into the signing of Alejandro Faurlin which threatened to cost the team promotion back to the Premier League. The tragic deaths of Kiyan Prince and Ray Jones make these footballing matters pale into insignificance, two young men with potentially glittering futures cruelly ripped from this world.
These events barely scratch the surface, dig a little deeper and you’ll discover an incredible array of personalities, the effervescence of Ian Holloway, the altruism of Lee Cook and the wholehearted commitment of Gareth Ainsworth, all revelling at the club sparked into life by Alec Stock and Jim Gregory. Dig deeper and more and more phenomenal characters emerge, many virtually unknown outside of Loftus Road, such as Harold Winton and Bill Power. I regard myself as remarkably lucky to have stumbled across a club whose glory is encapsulated by the passionate characters associated with it not simply recorded by trophies won. A unique club where turmoil is the norm and controversy is a way of life, I take comfort in this chaos. As hard as Tony Fernandes and Amit Bhatia, the current guardians of the club, seek stability, it remain elusive. Their hopes that last season’s miraculous escape from relegation after battling through the hardest run in ever seen in Premier League history would be a precursor to a period of consolidation and steady growth have been extinguished. New manager Harry Redknapp is the latest man to accept the challenge of taming the club’s predilection for self destruction. His first mission will be to perform an even greater escape than last season’s.
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