The best fiver I ever borrowed (and I’ve borrowed a few I can tell you…)? This was of the old type. You know, the big blue and white ones with the Duke of Wellington on it, not the modern day George Stephenson’s rocket Monopoly-type that goes nowhere. This one was cunningly cadged from my Dad, whilst stopping off in Shrewsbury late in May 1981. We were on our way home from a week’s fishing holiday in Wales, and had stopped so Mum could get some serious shopping done. It meant this young lad had some time to kill which, fiver tucked safely into jacket pocket, was killed at Gay Meadow, home of Shrewsbury Town Football Club. It was the last game of the season and the visitors were Queens Park Rangers.
I don’t know why but I stood behind the goal with the Rangers supporters. Many were in fancy dress, and most had obviously had a couple of sherries before the game. The game was a thrilling 3-3 draw, and included the rarity - so I was to discover many years later on buying a copy of The History of QPR - of an own-goal by Gary Waddock. From that day on, I was obsessed. For a spotty 15-year-old with something missing in his life, it was the start of a love affair. At school on the following Monday, I sang as many of the Rangers chants as I could remember. All my mates were Bolton, United or City fans - and totally uninterested in this idiot singing about QPR. Soon after I sent off to the club shop for a bobble hat and scarf.
The next game I saw, many months later, was an evening game at Blackburn. I travelled via Bolton, catching two buses in the process, and it cost me all of 20p each way. Rangers lost 2-1 and it poured with rain all night. A British Rail strike meant there was only around a hundred QPR fans there. It was hardly the most romantic of beginnings for this particular love affair.
Next up was Oldham at Boundary Park. I got there at midday for 3.00pm and, too young to go into the pub, spent two hours loitering around the main entrance. An hour before kick-off, the team bus arrived and off walked my boys: Waddock, Hucker, Stainrod, Gregory - and following behind, Terry Venables. He was immediately surrounded by travelling Rangers fans, all seeking complimentaries. “Have you got a spare ticket for me?” I asked. “Sorry son,” he replied on hearing my Northern accent, “I can only give them to QPR fans.” At this, I got out my scarf and protested, “But I am a QPR fan.” “Good lad,” he said, ruffling my hair and handing over the precious ticket.
It was at this game that I met two other lads from Manchester, Andy Hulme and Ken Hampson, both of whom had been supporting Rangers for years. Our friendship is still going strong (despite Andy’s world famous farts on away trips). Together we have travelled the length and breadth of the country, and Leicester, following the boys. I have watched Rangers on 52 different grounds, as well as at Wembley. I have sold personal possessions and gone without dinners to get the money to go to matches. And all because my Mum wanted to go shopping in Shrewsbury all those years ago.
The best goal I’ve seen? A toss-up between Gary Bannister’s last goal against Partizan Belgrade at Highbury (not the most spectacular, but it sticks in my mind for some reason) and THAT goal at Leeds. The best performance? Undoubtedly ‘All’s Quiet on New Year’s Day’. All quiet, of course, except in A Stand, where 600 of us experienced utopia as we humbled United. I was drunk for four days after and, much to my girlfriend’s disgust, didn’t take my Rangers shirt off for a further three. And for someone from Leigh, who had worked at Trafford Park for seven years, who passed United’s ground five days a week (launching a phlegmy gob in its general direction each time), and who boozed with United fans, who could blame me?
Man United fans bother me. I know some lads who go home and away and have done so for years. I can relate to those. It’s the other 50 million who went once in 1977 and still think Gordon Hill plays for them, wear a replica top but haven’t the faintest idea who they are playing on Saturday that piss me off. More best and worst: Best chippy? Carlisle. Worst chippy? Oxford. Worst ground? Oxford. Worst-ever match? Oxford. Best ground after Loftus Road? A tie between Gay Meadow and the Hawthorns.
You may have read the write up about me in the Oldham programme last season. If you did, you’ll understand when I say I’ll see you all soon at a game somewhere. I’ll be the one with the walking stick, but there’s a chance I might not be needing it for much longer. Beat United on the opening day, and I’ll be able to walk on water.
While top-flight football is suspended for the foreseeable future, you are cordially invited to visit this page in order to get a small fix of QPR. Each day, we will post a random article from our archives - and with over 15 million words making it in to print over the years, we can sit out this one for as long as it takes! Underneath each new daily article, we’ll provide a link to previous postings, so you won’t miss out. Of course, if you like what you read and decide to subscribe or to take advantage of our special 2019/20 season bundle offer, that’s what will really keep us going through this! So settle down and enjoy your free daily fix of QPR... on us.
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