When you look at his two years at Loftus Road, the Queens Park Rangers career of striker Jamie Cureton was unexceptional. During the promotion season of 2003/04, he scored just two goals. The following year he found the back of the net on a further four occasions. But look closer and there was at least one team that would have been sick of the sight of Cureton.
Coventry City visited West London in September 2004, and would be put to the sword by the diminutive Rangers striker. Jamie Cureton scored a hat-trick for this midweek fixture, as QPR ran out 4-1 winners. The first and the third of his goals came about thanks to well-taken right-footed finishes. But his second goal of the night was something special.
Taking advantage of a mis-timed defensive clearance, Cureton found himself clear in the penalty-area - but with just a narrow angle at goal in which to aim for. This didn’t matter, as his brilliant volley gave the Coventry goalkeeper no chance, with the ball finding the opposite corner of the net. Paul Furlong scored the other goal to complete an excellent evening’s work. This hat-trick, by the way, would be the last one a Queens Park Rangers player would score in a league match until Charlie Austin repeated the feat - against West Bromwich Albion in a Premier League fixture in the 2014/15 season.
In the return fixture, Cureton would cause the Sky Blues even more misery, when he scored from eight yards out, following good work from both Gareth Ainsworth and Paul Furlong. He even had opportunities to get another hat-trick, but missed out on this occasion. Coventry equalised in the second-half - but in the final minute, George Santos scored with a curious goal that would probably be referred to the goal-line technology cameras had it taken place in the Premier League. Thankfully, the DVD for the 2004/05 season has a close-up view - and shows the shot from Santos was actually handled over the line by the Coventry goalkeeper - thus it joined the ranks of weird and unusual goals that have helped the QPR cause over the years.
Those four goals against the West Midlands side accounted for all his goals during the season - and two-thirds of all that he ever managed for us. The funny thing about Cureton’s odd goalscoring exploits at that time was that it had the feel of something that would happen against us, rather than for. A bit like how so many former players score when they come up against QPR, having previously played in blue and white hoops.
At the end of the 2004/05 campaign, Jamie Cureton moved on to Swindon Town. His career would also see him take on loan or permanent spells at Colchester United, Norwich City, Barnsley, Shrewsbury Town, Exeter City, Cheltenham Town, Leyton Orient, and Dagenham & Redbridge. A journeyman footballer, in every sense.
Yet looking at Cureton’s Wikipedia page, it should be noted that his post-Rangers career saw him go on to score a further 129 league goals for his respective clubs. With Kevin Gallen and Paul Furlong enjoying a great partnership that guaranteed their places in the starting line-up, he was unable to force his way back into the team. But looking back at his long and productive career, I wonder if Rangers ever truly got the best out of Jamie Cureton.
The game away to Newcastle United in the 1993/94 season would provide one of the most dramatic finishes in any QPR game for the entire decade. Les Ferdinand only passed a fitness test at the last minute - and, subsequently, had one of his best-ever performances for Rangers. Ironically, he got one of his scrappiest-ever goals for QPR.
Following a superb pass from Ray Wilkins, his right-footed shot was not the cleanest of strikes but went beyond the goalkeeper - hitting one post and then the other, before bobbling over the line. Against an in-form Newcastle team, QPR had taken the lead - and deservedly so.
In the second-half, the hosts drew level with a fine volley from Malcolm Allen - and on another day, it might have looked like Rangers would do well to hold on for a draw. But this side had other ideas. From a Wilkins corner, Ferdinand won the header (in the post-match interviews which you can still see on YouTube, Newcastle manager Kevin Keegan noted that it was the first time he could ever remember an opposition forward winning every header in the air), giving Bradley Allen the chance to volley home from close-range. With QPR having a number of chances in the game and Les Ferdinand generally tormenting the Newcastle defence all afternoon, that would normally have been ample drama for any given Rangers game.
However, the most memorable incident happened in the dying seconds, when a Newcastle cross from the right hit Alan McDonald on the arm and referee Keith Hackett awarded a penalty. It was a very harsh call; if anything, it was, ball to hand, and not the other way around. The Rangers players were furious, McDonald in particular, looked like he was ready to have a punch-up with the linesman Roger Fernandez, who had flagged for the spot-kick.
It seemed like two well-deserved points would be lost thanks to this poor decision from the officials. But QPR were about to find an unlikely match-winner. Having already scored with a fine strike, Malcolm Allen stepped forward to take the penalty. He hit it reasonably well, but our Czech goalkeeper, Jan Stejskal, went the right way, diving to his left and saving with both hands. A mere six seconds after that save, Hackett blew the whistle to end the game. Most of Stejskal’s teammates went to embrace him, while McDonald was still angry with the match officials.
The Czech international played over 100 times for QPR - and this was undoubtedly his finest moment for the club. The first half of the 1990s is filled with so many outstanding league wins for Rangers, it is easy to forget about some of them. Ask supporters to pick their favourite - and this Newcastle game might not be the choice of too many of our number. But when it came to exciting finishes, this was as memorable a Queens Park Rangers win as any game during that particular era.
Such was the regularity of getting drawn away from home, when QPR hosted Huddersfield Town in the third round of the 1996/97 FA Cup, it was only the third time in 15 draws that our name had come out of the hat first.
Rangers drew 1-1 against the team from West Yorkshire, Mark Hateley scoring a late equaliser. Stewart Houston’s team won the replay 2-1, thanks to a Danny Dichio free-kick and an Alan McDonald header. Then followed the 3-2 home win at home to Barnsley. This fourth round victory was significant for a number of reasons. Ridiculously, it was the last time QPR won an FA Cup tie without the aid of a replay. It was the last time we won two FA Cup matches in the same season. It was undoubtedly the last memorable Rangers performance (well, for the right reasons) in the competition. And for good measure, Trevor Sinclair scored one of the greatest goals in the history of this football club. That mini cup run came to an end when the R’s lost 2-1 away to Wimbledon. But the day was still memorable for a travelling support that numbered well over 10,000 on the day. And there was the added bonus of taking the lead against our Premier League opponents, before at least going out with a spirited display.
So you would probably be right in thinking that it was one of the rare occasions in which Queens Park Rangers exited the FA Cup free from embarrassment? Wrong. In that Wimbledon game, Hateley celebrated his goal by cupping his ears to the QPR supporters. He did something similar when he scored in the Huddersfield cup game previously - an act that did not impress Rangers supporters, given that it was his first goal in nine months, and the Terriers had an outfield player in goal after their regular keeper went off injured.
In all honesty, Mark Hateley did get some stick from our supporters at the time, though not as much as sections of the media would have everyone believe. But that was no surprise given that he was the club record signing, yet he was injured most of the time, had a very disappointing goalscoring record - and matched Sandro for his inability to string together a run of appearances for the first team.
When it comes to Queens Park Rangers, I do actually believe in the ‘greater good’ - and if Hateley could have made the meaningful contributions that would have justified the £1.5m transfer fee that bought him down from Glasgow Rangers, then I would have have been genuinely pleased for him. However, his two seasons at Loftus Road yielded a return of just five goals, including two in that 1996/97 cup run. By the time he returned to Glasgow Rangers for a fee of around £300,000, his transfer value had declined by 80 per cent - meaning each of his five QPR goals came in at a cost of £240,000.
When you look back at the decline of the club between 1995-2001, you can see numerous examples of the wrong sort of players arriving at Rangers. Yet despite that, Hateley’s FA Cup goal at Selhurst Park that afternoon should have represented his finest moment with us. Instead he managed to spoil the moment through his own misguided arrogance.
The official Queens Park Rangers review of the 1989/90 season features 12 minutes’ worth of highlights for the fixture at home to Nottingham Forest. Having often spoken fondly about Don Howe’s time as our manager, I can honestly say, looking at these highlights again, the football played under him was every bit as good as I had previously recalled. Rangers won 2-0, with a fine goal from Andy Sinton after his excellent one-two with Roy Wegerle had put the winger through on goal. And the points were made safe when an in-form Simon Barker struck a superb shot from the edge of the box, which flew past a crowded penalty-area and found the corner of the net.
In what was an outstanding team performance, if one Rangers player had reason to be disappointed by the events of the day it was Paul Parker. Now, Parker’s place as a club legend is assured. He deservedly appears in many supporters’ all-time QPR XI; and the day he signed for the club, Jim Smith completed one of the finest pieces of transfer business in our history. Yet for all his brilliance as a defender, Parker had a long-standing weakness in the opposition penalty-area. The 1989/90 season was the England international defender’s third at Loftus Road - and he had yet to score a goal for the club.
The visit of Nottingham Forest would be a source of huge frustration for Paul Parker. In the second-half, a Rangers attack saw the ball being played around nicely, with most of Parker’s teammates enjoying possession, whilst the visitors couldn’t get a look in. A smart pass from Alan McDonald put his fellow Rangers defender through on goal, but with just Forest goalkeeper Steve Sutton to beat, he scuffed his shot badly - and it wasn’t even close to being on target.
The formation QPR played under Don Howe during this period was a 5-3-2, Paul Parker the spare man in defence and effectively given licence to go forward whenever he could. Minutes later he had another opportunity finally to get that first-ever goal for the club. This time it came from a move that started when Parker dispossessed one of the Nottingham Forest players. He then passed to Barker - and his low cross was returned to his defensive colleague, who was on the edge of the six-yard box and presented with a glorious opportunity to score. But this time his shot flew over the crossbar. It was agony for Paul Parker and the R’s supporters.
Much was made recently about the fact that midfielder Massimo Luongo finally scored for Queens Park Rangers in the win over Rotherham. But that was nothing compared to our desperation to see Parker end his own long and miserable run without a goal.
This most brilliant of QPR defenders did finally break this duck the following season, scoring the final goal in a 6-1 home thrashing of Luton Town. But thinking back to that game against Forest, when I stood in the Loft with thousands of other supporters, we would have collectively tried to suck the ball into the back of the net if it would have helped Paul Parker score his long-awaited first goal for QPR.
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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