Wednesday, 21 May 2014

QPR: misfits R us?

Yes, this is my england has bored on at length twice (here and here) about having felt a bit underwhelmed during the current QPR Championship campaign. But, like any fairweather fan upon whom one cannot rely in the mythical "trenches" about which I hear so much from various Twitter interlocutors (a "melt", if you will, in the vernacular de nos jours), I am finally feeling a real sense of excitement as Saturday looms. That sense of excitement would probably be felt even more keenly were I currently in the UK and spending my weekdays at my usual office, which offers a very good view of Wembley Stadium from one window.

Instead, I am writing this from faraway Bangalore, a week into a ten-day trip. I'm having a busy time of it out here: Meeting. Meeting. Meeting. Meeting. etc. So the distance and the lack of spare time are, respectively, dialling down the sense of being amongst excited people and leaving very few pauses for anxious thoughts.

That said, I am keeping an eye on the build-up to the weekend's Championship play-off final via various online outlets. The buzz of anticipation is, of course, palpable when I look at my Twitter timeline.

Apropos of said timeline, I spotted something there at 7.13 a.m. local time. That's 2.43 a.m. back in England. It was a photo tweeted by our West Ham loanee Ravel Morison.



At the centre of the picture we can see Morison himself. He's surrounded by a group of what I take to be his friends, some throwing rascally gang signs. The setting could well be a nightclub. So Morison would appear to be out and about and having it large during these last few days before what is QPR's biggest fixture for quite some time. Late at night, it seems.

I guess he can't have been doing anything likely to impair his performance. I guess nights out like these are something Harry Redknapp is fully aware of and does not see as a problem. If not, why would Morison make such a picture available to his 108,000+ Twitter followers and to any tabloid journalist (who all hate our club, remember) looking to stir up a bit of shit for QPR? That said, Morison did delete the picture shortly after I spotted it and asked whether he's keeping himself in good nick for Saturday's game.

I guess if the West Ham man is, in fact, being pwopa nawty and thereby affecting our chances of win in some small way, it's just a case of same old same old. We thrive on the legend of Stan Bowles being in the betting shop minutes before kick-off. For quite a long time, many of us were indulgent of Adel Taarabt's apparent lapses of discipline. Both players, after all, delivered the goods many, many times. So I'm sure my worries regarding Morison will not only come to nothing but that he'll also pop up with a dramatic last-gasp winner come the weekend. It's in the script, right? Talented misfits: it's what we're all about when we're at our best, right?

U RRRRRRRRRssssssssss

Thursday, 8 May 2014

The silent season ends now?

To date, this blog has featured 88 pieces related in some way to the game of football. This one today is the 89th.

The vast majority of this stuff has been about QPR. I am, after all, much more of a QPR fan than a football fan. Queens Park Rangers can have me ranting and raving and cheering and swearing and all that. Almost any game not involving the Rangers, though, tends to leave me cold. This includes England matches. Because it's been ages since I watched our national team with anything beyond lukewarm interest.

So I've never been a Sky Sports subscriber. If QPR are playing away and it's live on Sky, then I'll make the short trip to the pub at the end of my road. But I've never felt any desire to watch, say, Aston Villa vs. Everton playing live from the comfort of my own sofa. I just don't have a dog in a fight of that kind.

The same goes, I might add, for the razzle-dazzle of whichever league is currently meant to be the best in mainland Europe. I'm dimly aware, for instance, of a UK craze for watching encounters between Spanish sides. But I'm quite content to confine my consumption of that stuff to an occasional YouTube snack: some much-discussed and improbably brilliant goal, for example. A few seconds is fine. But I don't need more.

The Rangers, though. That's always been different. The purely partisan fervour of following my own little club, however dispiriting their adventures have often been. That's what I'm all about. Why, then, has this blog not said a word about the club since January?

All I can say is that without always fully understanding why, I've found the 2013-14 season to be the most weirdly alienating period I've known in almost 40 years of supporting the Superhoops. It's just been a bit meh. A bit blah. A bit whatever. Not for you, maybe. But for me, it really has. I've cheered a few (too few) goals, of course. But I cannot recall swaggering away from a match on an emotional high. It was all oddly boring, I thought, even when the team was occupying top spot in the Championship table.

In QPR terms, then, silence has reigned at this is my england this season. But not only here. At Loftus Road too.

It has been quiet down there, hasn't it? Think back to times when the old dump has really rocked. Even when we lost! I recall, for example, Kevin Keegan's words back in 2003. The then-Manchester City boss brought his team down to London for a League Cup tie and watched them win by a three goal margin. After the match he raved about the noisy, passionate atmosphere at our ground. That all seems a world away from the listless response of the home crowd this season.

The last time I wrote about these feelings, a couple of commenters weighed in with their thoughts. Someone called littlestint6 wrote this:
The issue is partly about the some of the drab football that we have produced this season but also about the conundrum of Premier League struggle against Championship success... I cant go to QPR and want us to lose so that, as a consequence, we dont get promoted but neither can I get that excited about the prospect of us going up only to go back to getting hammered most weeks! The Premier League is in equal parts both the Holy Grail and the Poison Chalice.
This seems very neatly put. Both of our recent Premier League campaigns, after all, offered far more pain than pleasure. Of course there were some bright spots. Jamie Mackie's late winner at home to Liverpool in March 2012 and that improbable Shaun Wright-Phillips goal at Stamford Bridge the following season are the ones burned most firmly into my memory. But stuff like this was rare.

Last summer, wanting to consign all of that firmly to the past, I tried my best to recover my enthusiasm for going to matches by looking forward to more exciting times in the Championship. This is not meant to imply high hopes on my part, I might add. I really had no idea about how far QPR's ragbag of overpaid failures would successfully adjust to life below English football's top table. Looking ahead then, I had no clear picture of what to expect. Would it be a blue-and-white cakewalk, with rampant Rangers dispatching all opponents with ease? Would it be a spectacular disaster, with ragged Rangers spiralling down to the foot of the second tier and following poor old Wolves into the league's lower reaches? Would it be - as has turned out to be the case, of course - something else in between? I just couldn't call it. That uncertainty, in fact, added a frisson of nervous excitement. But this was soon to pass.

Why? Well for one thing, I'm not alone in having found the brand of football on offer to be mostly pretty boring. Our friend littlestint6, after all, opened his remarks with exactly that observation.

But that wouldn't be a problem if dullness had been accompanied by unqualified success. I'm sure I'd be feeling OK about having already secured promotion on the back of a long series of unentertaining victories. Mourinhoesque bus parking. Ruthless efficiency. All that stuff.

But here we are, trailing in the wake of far more enterprising Leicester and Burnley outfits and facing the nervous business of the playoffs. If you think in terms only of QPR's wage bill and transfer budget, that has to be seen as a reasonably disappointing outcome. Sure, that won't matter if we all get to see QPR's first successful Wembley outing since 1967. Euphoria and a big knees-up should that come to pass: fully justified.

But for my part, with tickets secured for both legs of the impending playoff semi-final, I'm still not feeling anything like the emotional turmoil I experienced in 2003 when Oldham Athletic stood between us and a day out at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium.

I guess this could simply be because I am eleven years older, tireder and generally more jaded. Perhaps my emotional range is just getting flatter as I pass into the second half of my short stint on this earth. But I think it's more than that.

For one thing, try as I might, I've just not been able to put aside my reasonably intense (and growing) dislike of Harry Redknapp. I never bought the whole Redknapp thing when he was managing other clubs and I fervently hoped that Tony Fernandes would look elsewhere when seeking to replace Mark fucking Hughes. But he didn't, did he? So I wanted to get over my aversion to the new manager. Success, I reasoned, was all that was needed. Or, if not success, then some sign of really wanting to be at QPR and really caring about our club's future ought to be enough.

But as the months unfolded, I found I could not bring myself to watch a Redknapp press conference. Even a short clip of him being interviewed after a match soon had me wincing. 

Look, I can't read the man's mind and it goes without saying that I don't know him personally. All I have to go on is the evidence of my own eyes and some experience of dealing with human beings. But to me, Redknapp looks bored, tired, irritable and detached. To me, he looks like a man pissed off about his exit from Spurs and about not getting the England manager's job. He looks like a man who wants to be elsewhere and who thinks he's doing little QPR a favour by taking the club's money. To put it, for a moment, in terms of trying to care about his feelings, he just doesn't look happy. Perhaps it's time for him to retire from the game. Or at least from management. His place among the TV pundits, after all, is surely secure.

Redknapp aside, I wonder if my lack of excitement about the playoffs may also have something to do with trepidation about the way ahead. On one hand, this country's shitty newspapers are bandying about the idea of some insanely swingeing FFP-related sanctions being imposed on QPR should the club remain in the Championship. On the other hand, it seems hard to believe that promotion would not be followed by a Premier League campaign as trying as the ones we've recently endured.

Beyond that, I'm finding it hard to decide how I feel about the longer term future of our little club. When I filled out the recently distributed questionnaire about the proposed new QPR stadium, some of the questions filled me with dread. How would I feel about a neutral section? How would I feel about a fucking singing section?? I'd feel incensed. That's how I'd feel. After all, I've been to Craven Cottage in recent years. I've seen what it's taken to attract crowds of 25,000 or so to a club that used to play in front of a fraction of that number. I've seen it and I hate it. Neutral section? Up your arse! Seriously.

It all fills me with a vision of watching a team in blue and white hoops in a very comfortable but completely sterile arena, surrounded by visitors to London who are pleased to have the opportunity to get tickets for what they think of first and foremost as a Manchester United/Liverpool/Arsenal fixture. I guess it's a way to balance the books. More than balance the books. But it doesn't sound like much fun for crusty old QPR fanatics.

Thinking too much... forget all that. Let's just see what happens tomorrow. I'm bound to get excited at some stage. Unless we get a solid tonking in Wigan tomorrow night, I guess. Should that happen, I guess quiet despondency may be the order of the day on Monday - and not just on my part.

But if we return from Lancashire with a realistic chance of getting to Wembley, then surely Loftus Road will rock anew come Monday evening. Surely. Perhaps I'll even be moved to write something optimistic. Perhaps our hitherto silent season will roar to a noisy climax of some sort. I bloody hope so.

U RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRssssssssssss