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There are many worries you have when you first start a family. The main one for any football-supporting parent is always... what team will he or she support? It may seem a small thing compared to many of life’s choices and challenges that await your first born, but I’m sure everyone reading this would be desperate to make sure their kids share the same passion they have for QPR - and look to share a lifetime of disappointments and memories with them down the Bush.

         

As a kid, I don’t really remember having much choice in the matter. One of my earliest memories is of my first visit to Loftus Road. I can still recall standing in the Paddock that day. I’ve no idea if we won or lost, or even who we played - but I can still vividly remember the noise of that day and the smell of roasted peanuts, for some reason, which always seemed strong back then at football matches. My Dad raced on to the pitch at the final whistle, leaving me stood with one of his mates, feeling confused as to what on earth was going on. He returned with a piece of the pitch. I wondered if this was something that happened in every game, but it turned out to be the last game on grass before the plastic pitch was brought in.

 

It was a weird start to life as a QPR fan but things got better with the FA Cup final - and every game I seemed to go to was a massive win. All I can remember is Clive Allen scoring every time and Rangers winning by several goals. It always seemed a lot of fun; and whilst my mates all supported big clubs but never got to go to actual games, the excitement of seeing it all live every week, and those odd away trips every year, made sure my lifetime obsession with this football club was sealed. So four years ago my son, Freddie, was born and the push to brainwash him began. His first teddy bear was from the club shop, which we named Buzsaky the Bear - and after much debate, my wife agreed that his middle name could be Ferdinand - after the great Les, naturally. As he learnt to speak, I got him to boo every time the word ‘Chelsea’ was heard - a trick that backfired in the park one day when he saw a Chelsea fan and ran up to him shouting “Chelsea... boo!” The fella in the Chelsea shirt didn’t seem to see the funny side of it. Strange that.

 

I must have been around five years old when I attended my first live game, but young Freddie was just three months old at his. It wasn’t at QPR either. I took him to St James’ Park with his Geordie step-grandad to see his namesake, Les Ferdinand, play in Sir Bobby Robson’s testimonial. Freddie is unlikely to remember even a second of the game - but it was an emotional day, as it turned out to be the last time Sir Bobby was seen in public, as he sadly died just days later.

 

The likes of Gazza, Shearer, Beardsley, Waddle and Shilton all played in a typically entertaining charity game - but Freddie was fast asleep when Les Ferdinand scored that day. He was obviously far too young for a proper game at that stage, though, and as he was born with a cleft lip and palate, we were going to face complications with taking him to a football match. After several operations, he still had very sensitive hearing so loud noises seemed a lot louder to him. What seemed like a deathly silent Lower Loft to me, was like standing in the Q block for him - something we quickly discovered after taking him to his first QPR game just after his first birthday.

 

It was the final game of the 2010/11 season. His Geordie grandparents were down and ready to see their team lift the trophy at Loftus Road, so we all went along to see what turned out to be a pretty uneventful game. Freddie sat and watched the game before the noise of people telling Tamas Priskin where to shove his yellow boots got too much in the end - and he left in tears due to the volume rather than the sentiment. Even at his tender age, Freddie knew Priskin was useless. Our promotion year was a good one, though, to continue the brainwashing. I used to sing “There’s only one Jamie Mackie” to him of a morning. Jamie quickly became his favourite player - and as we won most weeks, letting him watch the Football League Show was a pleasure rather than what followed after promotion.

 

Once we got up and the defeats started with alarming regularity, I opted to create elaborate stories to go along with Match of the Day whereby the opposition, having stolen and worn the QPR kit, would then be defeated by a QPR side nobly trying to win their kit back. It would have probably been easier to just not mention it in front of him but it did genuinely make Match of the Day more enjoyable last season. Those lies were a bit difficult to spin when he came back to see a few games last year. I opted for the games we should win - like West Brom in the FA Cup and then MK Dons. Sadly those didn’t end well, forcing Freddie to ask if he could support the team in red when MK Dons went 4-1 up, as in his words “QPR are rubbish”. Oh dear!

 

So the fear that he might not end up Rangers was still nagging at me as this season started. A  BBQ at my brother-in-law’s didn’t help my paranoia, when I saw a glimpse of the future. My brother-in-law is a big Liverpool fan and I’d always assumed his three boys from a previous marriage would all have followed him to support the same team. It was a shock then when I had a chat with them and it turned out one supported Man United, one was Chelsea and the other was not fussed either way. The look of disappointment in their Dad’s eyes was obvious to see - and I just couldn’t let that happen to me. Freddie was going to enjoy going to QPR, whether he liked it or not.

 

So on the opening day of the season, after weeks of hyping it like a trip to Disney World, we made our way to Loftus Road to see our first taste of Championship football for a couple of years. Now, much like his Dad, Freddie seemed to enjoy the pre- and post-match drinks more than the football in previous visits, the chance to stuff his face with crisps and lemonade the obvious highlight for a four-year-old. The club couldn’t have done much more to help my cause that day. As we walked into the Lower Loft, waiting for us was Spark the Tiger - a ridiculous creation really, with no link to our heritage if you are over 10 years old. But to a four-year-old, a six-foot tiger in a QPR shirt was the coolest thing he’d ever seen. After having a photo he was met with a bloke handing out kids football bingo cards, where they could cross off corners, shots, goals, etc. It was a simple idea but a godsend for parents trying to keep their kids interested for ninety minutes.

 

The noise was again an issue and his mood wasn’t really helped by Sheffield Wednesday taking the lead. He sat on my lap and said: “I don’t want to support QPR, they always lose.” It was at this point that any caring father with their child’s best long-term interests at heart would have taken them home... but sod that! I told him we’d come back and win - whereas, inside, I was thinking going home wasn’t such a bad shout. Rangers then equalised out of the blue and, after a few tears due to the noise, Freddie asked me why everyone was shouting. After explaining they were happy that QPR had scored, he announced he would be happy next time we scored and before he’d hardly finished speaking, we only bloody scored again. This time he gave a fist clench and cheered - and, for the first time, I thought this might all actually work; perhaps he will be Rangers, after all.

 

Now, you can’t have everything in life and he managed to sleep through the final tense moments of the game before being confused as to why we weren’t getting a trophy at the final whistle. I must stop showing him that promotion DVD! It was a successful day, though, and possibly made more successful by what happened two weeks later. At 6.00am he came running into my bedroom to ask what day it was. He got very little in the way of a response from me but his Mum told him it was Saturday. “Oh good,” he said, “I want to go to QPR.” Now, upon hearing that, I was ready to get up and get going straight away, before he changed his mind; but we had to wait a few hours instead.

 

I won’t pretend the Ipswich game was a classic, or that he took any notice of most of it. He spent the first-half asleep and the second- taking photos of the back of people’s heads - but he seemed happy enough. No tears, no moans. He was quite happy and even cheered the team on a few times. Success at last... until that final minute, when Tom Hitchcock scored the winner and all hell broke loose. My mate, Neil, leapt across Freddie to grab me for a group dance up and down, like lunatics - a moment that only a last-minute goal can produce. It was pure joy but then I pictured Freddie, sat in his seat, traumatised by the noise and big scary people jumping on him. My heart sank. All that hard work had gone to waste.  He was never going to come again. I bent down to see him on his seat and was met with my son smiling and punching the air, shouting: “We’ve won!” As a QPR-supporting parent, it doesn’t get much better than that.

 

We’ve still got much to do to make sure he keeps coming - and I doubt he’s going to remember a second of the football he’s currently seeing when he gets older. But we just might be creating the kind of positive and exciting memories of QPR that we all had as kids and maybe - just maybe - another lifelong fan may have been created.

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No Football, No QPR: Day 11

Posted: Thursday 26th March 2020

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.

The Wonderful Thing About Tigers

Every club needs a new generation of supporters, regular columnist Dave Barton is doing his bit, with the help of bedtime stories, Les Ferdinand, Jamie Mackie... and a six-foot tiger in a QPR shirt.

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Issue 284

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