I was reading AKUTR’s on my way home from the QPR v Wimbledon FA Cup tie. Indeed, I was on the Sittingbourne to Sheerness train - which makes me the runner-up of our matchday programme’s competition ‘QPR Supporters in Unusual Places’, losing to the Rangers fan pictured with his head in the gas oven. It was then that I noticed a piece by Anthony Hobbs, wanting to know the whereabouts of ex-regular programme contributor Barry Shenker, a man who he asserts wrote the highly-acclaimed ‘QPR in the Universe Cup’ feature. Well, I do not know the whereabouts of Barry Shenker (so that’s this story over with, then?), but I have heard of a girl called Sherry Banker. At least, I think that name’s been said to me a few times. It could just be rhyming slang.
Anyway, the person who wrote the legendary ‘QPR in the Universe Cup’ was not Mr Shenker but a bright young upstart called Russell O’Connor. Just out of college (it was half past four) young Russell wrote an article for the programme on how he became a QPR supporter. The then programme editor, Ron Phillips, loved it - he would, because it was better than his other feature, ‘My cat, Tiddles (I’m sure he does) is a QPR supporter and here’s a picture of him knitting a Rangers scarf with the ball of wool I gave him to play with’. Indeed, he was so impressed he asked Russell to be a regular contributor. So Russell promptly sat down and wrote 20 episodes of ‘QPR in the Universe Cup’ for an agreed payment of £10 an episode. It was rotten money, especially for the economic boom of the mid-80s - but Russell would do anything for money, which is why he cannot remember who sold his Dad to.
As it turned out, Mr Phillips reneged on his promise and only about half a dozen were ever published, leaving ‘QPR in the Universe Cup’ somewhere in mid-air. Russell consequently lost a potential £140 and was allowed to go on a free transfer at the end of the season. His sad departure left the programme struggling with tired old features, like Derek Buxton’s 2,976th statistics page (which, incidentally, he got a complimentary seat for!) and regular mentions that our “match ball was sponsored by Richard Branson and therefore not likely to spend much time in the air”. Russell went on to script and host his own radio show (hopeless QPR PA man beware), write a regular satirical/topical column for the Kent Messenger for four years and became a columnist for two national magazines. It was often argued - admittedly by himself - that if England had a comedy writing team, he would surely have been in it. He was the Matthew Le Tissier of the writing world. He had an exceptional talent. It was a talent everyone took exception to.
However, as in most good stories - usually involving Manchester City - the mighty have since fallen and Russell’s recent attempts to find gainful employment in the literary world (including asking if he could write regularly for the now defunct London FC - they should have signed him up) have been largely ignored. Although if any editor is reading this, he is not beyond grovelling. Indeed, Russell’s decline has been so rapid and dramatic, Mr Hobbs, that his only regular employment for the past two years, on and off, has been writing for the very same publication that you do - AKUTR’s. It’s funny how the things you want to find are always in the last place you’d expect to find them, isn’t it? Oh, and when asked if he minded you crediting Mr Shenker with his own masterpiece, Russell said: “Not at all, a lot of my early work was credited to Shakespeare, you know.” Although which Shakespeare, he conveniently wouldn’t say.
So, how do I know so much about this man? Simply because, in the words of Max Bygraves in Deck of Cards, “I know, because I am that soldier.” So, now I’ve solved that puzzle, who the hell is Barry Shenker?
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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