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In the ten years or so I’ve been writing for these pages it’s never been too difficult to think of something to write about. Something is usually going on - and there is always something to complain about; but when it came to writing this latest article I was a bit stumped. We’re playing reasonably well at the moment, the games are enjoyable to watch, I like the manager, the players all seem likeable and I love the work the CEO and Director of Football are doing. Now, I’m sure with this being QPR the general air of contentment will quickly be followed by utter misery and chaos - but during this quieter than normal time, it seems a good opportunity for a bit of nostalgia.

 

Whilst many at QPR have recently been celebrating the 50th anniversary of the League Cup win, and all the nostalgia that goes with that, I’ve got my own anniversary coming up in the next few weeks. It will be 20 years since QPR beat Grimsby 3-0 at Loftus Road, when even Steve Slade scored - or as it’s better known in my household, 20 years since I got together with my now wife, Carly.

 

I’ve always found it easier to remember dates by what happened at QPR. I couldn’t tell you off the top of my head what year I turned 19 - but I do know we beat Chelsea 1-0 that night, with Kevin Gallen getting the winner. Me and my wife’s relationship has been linked to QPR from day one. A lot of couples have a romantic story of when they first met - the kind you see in movies where Tom Cruise walks in the room and he has you at hello - but ours was slightly less romantic.

 

QPR were away at Port Vale one Sunday afternoon and with the game only shown live on ITV in the Midlands, I had to rely on Radio 5 commentary in the kitchen with six mates all listening and enjoying the game more than me. Rangers were 4-0 down by half-time and the game was so one-sided the BBC didn’t bother with the second-half commentary, instead switching to the build-up for the afternoon Premier League game. I stormed out of my student halls fuming at how QPR, my QPR, the club who were beating and finishing above Arsenal and Chelsea what seemed like only five minutes ago, were now four goals down to Port bloody Vale.

 

A few beers were drunk in the pub - and with not long left of the game, I opted to ring Clubcall to see how bad it had got. It was now 4-2, a slight comeback but still not enough; but as we poured forward at Vale Park and my weekly student loan was poured into a Middlesbrough phone box the comeback was completed as John Spencer made it 4-4. In a fit of delight, I jumped in the air and put my foot through the window of the phone box, which thankfully was only plastic but still quite painful.

 

I headed back triumphantly, ready to laugh in the faces of those who mocked me picking up a bottle of vodka and a bottle of coke to drink the evening away in celebration. I decided using a glass was for wimps, so in I burst back into the Halls of Residence like a returning superhero, wearing a QPR shirt as a cape, pouring vodka and coke into my mouth at the same time, whilst singing about there being only one Johnny Spencer. Carly was sat on the floor observing this buffoon drunkenly shouting and celebrating a draw between two teams she’d never heard of - but to her it might as well have been Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire... “You had me at Johnny Spencer.”

 

To this day I’m not sure if it was more out of pity than anything else - but, after that day, we hung around together as friends and eventually became a couple the day before that win against Grimsby. At that stage she didn’t really know what she was letting herself in for, as she quickly decided she’d support QPR as well. She did get a pretty good clue, though, on the final day of the season when QPR travelled to Bradford... oh the glamour!

 

Bradford needed to win to stay up and the game meant nothing to QPR, but I dragged her along to the students union bar, so she could get her first taste of watching a live QPR match. The trouble was the bar wouldn’t show the match as no-one was interested. Instead they played MTV on the many television screens but relented and said if I got enough people in to watch it, then they’d switch it on.

 

This was a time when I didn’t have a mobile phone and neither did anyone I knew, so it was back to a phone box ringing around the student houses to get mates down to watch the game. Not an easy task on a Sunday morning. Eventually a dozen or so arrived and the barman agreed to switch over. I can still remember the moment the game appeared on one of the television sets. It was one of the small screens over the bar at first, before about 15 seconds later it came on the big screen. Those 15 seconds were enough for me to see that QPR were 2-0 down already; and after making such a fuss about them putting it on, I had to sit there as a dozen hungover students took great delight in laughing at me. The barman asked if he should switch back. Of course I stuck to my guns: “No leave it on. We are QPR. We can come back from this...” We didn’t: we ended up losing 3-0 - and Carly still says that was the day she knew what to expect from QPR.

 

It wasn’t long before she attended her first match at Loftus Road, a thrilling 0-0 draw against Ipswich on a day so hot she got sunstroke. Her first away game came a year later, a 4-2 defeat at Norwich, so it’s safe to say her start to life as a QPR fan wasn’t the most thrilling. She didn’t see us win a game for over two years and when Rangers had to beat Crystal Palace to stay up on the last day of the season, she made the barmy choice to drive me to the game from Middlesbrough but not attend, in case she really was a bad omen. She did finally see us win a few games the following year, so I talked her into getting a season ticket, which went well as we were quickly relegated to the third tier of English football for the first time in my lifetime.

You’d think after that woeful start to life as a QPR fan, she’d have given up - but that’s kind of where we get on; both of us always want to believe things can get better, and neither of us want to give up on what quickly became our football team rather than just mine.

 

Over the last 20 years we have had some great times following QPR at glamorous locations such as Port Vale, Chesterfield, Wrexham and Grimsby - which sounds like hell but was really a lot of fun seeing a QPR team fighting hard for each other (well, most of the time anyway) and really feeling part of it. Whilst her family and friends questioned her sanity, she still says it was some of her happiest times seeing the Holloway team win promotion. We have seen so much at QPR together: we were there when the club was skint and when it became rich. We were there when Ainsworth scored at Rushden, when Eric Sabin scored at Grimsby - and when Nygaard scored at Leicester.

 

The arrival of our son meant giving up her season ticket and, more importantly, the away trips - so her total of seeing QPR at 67 different Football League grounds hasn’t increased in recent years. We’ve seen a range of good, bad and dire QPR teams but still not been there together to see us win an FA Cup game. I’m sure we’ll see plenty more highs and lows in the next 20 years, although hoping to see us win an FA Cup tie in that time may be slightly ambitious.

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No Football, No QPR: Day 53

Posted: Thursday 7th May 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.

Love Me, Love My Team

Dave Barton recalls how he met and introduced his wife, Carly, to QPR on the day Rangers were staging an unlikely comeback at Vale Park...

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Issue: 325

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