Perhaps it was Bob Cartwright’s entertaining reminiscences, or maybe Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch (and yes, Bob, I did buy it on your advice and thank you for introducing me to a rather wonderful book), but slowly the germs of an article grew in my mind - a tale of how I came to support QPR, a tale of trials and tribulations, of melodrama and comedy. However, when I sat down to write the blessed thing, I realised the story of how I came to support QPR would be not so much a classic to rank with Tolstoy and Dickens - more a pebble in the literary landscape.
The reason I support QPR is extraordinarily simple - and boring. For anyone who is interested, I spent the first 10 years of my life living in East Acton; close enough to Loftus Road for my street to be packed with supporters’ cars on a Saturday and close enough to see the glow of the floodlights from my bedroom window on a weekday evening. It was only natural for me to grow up into a QPR fan. This then is not a story of how I came to support QPR, but more a story of why - and why have I stuck with what has been a pretty painful hobby for the last 15 years.
For a start, let me state categorically that I feel extraordinarily suited to being a QPR fan and would not swap Rangers for any other club. I know the club isn’t perfect (don’t I just!) but I adore most things about us - the neat little stadium (our average crowd of 12,000 would just look plain silly in a San Siro or a Bernabeu), the fans… and our football. It is, of course, the football that primarily draws us and, personally, I am intensely proud we have the heritage of Marsh, Bowles and Currie and still maintain traditions of passing.
I often wonder what would have happened if I’d grown up in Sheffield and became a United fan. Would I really have cheerfully watched 80-yard punts and scuffles on the edge of the area for 90 minutes or would I have tried to find a more aesthetically pleasing team? Happily, I never had to make the choice. By an accident of birth, I grew up watching QPR pass, so I’ve never faced such a problem.
Recently, a close friend, who is not the slightest bit interested in football, was perplexed at another Rangers-induced sulk (the day after Wednesday knocked us out of the Coca-Cola Cup, after we’d been all over them for most of the game and typically let in two sloppy goals) remarked how odd it must be to have something that has such a hold on your emotions. Happily, she refrained from saying, “It’s only a game” - or I may have turned violent.
Why then does QPR have such a grip on me? This is probably best understood by a process of elimination. Firstly it’s not the ground itself - the bricks and mortar of Loftus Road. I do prefer seeing Rangers at home - parking the car in the same place every time (back in the street in East Acton where I used to watch others park) and following the same route to the ground has achieved a feeling of pilgrimage in my soul. However, there is no doubt that wherever Rangers play, and indeed whether I’m at the match or not, then I feel every bit as strongly about QPR.
Secondly, it’s not the players themselves. Of course I adore the players in the team with a passionate and (probably dangerous) amount of feeling, and when a player leaves I feel like I’ve lost a personal friend. I was particularly heartbroken when Parker left. Having said that, I display the same empathy to any player once he pulls on the blue and white hoops. There are times though when my patience has been tried: the most recent example was the sheer disbelief when we signed Devon White, and even that lump has begun to occupy a special corner in my heart!
Thirdly, and perhaps obviously, I don’t support QPR for success. I was born in 1972. Since then the QPR honours list has read: runners-up in the League, the Milk Cup and the FA Cup. And the less said about that Sunday at Wembley in 1986, the better.
So why do I support Rangers? For a start, I get a sense of belonging. I am a white, middle-class Southerner and, as Hornby argued, I have no roots, nowhere I can look back at and gain a sense of identity. Ever since I attended my first game (I knew I was hooked when the opposition - Manchester City - scored and I promptly burst into tears; I only calmed down when my Dad explained it was offside and didn’t count). I have gained membership of a community and I have inherited a whole litany of history, tradition and knowledge.
Since I started supporting QPR, I have moved from London up to Cambridge, then down to Southampton. I’ve changed my friends, and my taste in everything has changed completely. Except QPR. Whatever I’ve done, wherever I’ve been, those omnipresent hoops have been there. I’m not exaggerating when I write omnipresent; whatever I happen to be doing, QPR always lurks in the back of my mind. I can remember sitting in my A-level physics exam and instead of concerning myself with atoms and whatnot, I spent my time worrying about QPR - I only got a D in that exam, so I really should learn to concentrate on things other than Rangers sometimes.
Related to that, QPR and the week-in, week-out routine of matches is intensely satisfying, once one match is over and the result digested - a Saturday night pint never tastes quite so nice as when it’s drunk after a win - then my mind immediately switches to the next game. However, take away my Saturday afternoon opiate and immediately I’m lost - a pathetic individual seeking solace. The last month, with no game between the two Manchesters, was particularly difficult. Somehow, sitting on the local park bench, staring at a patch of grass whilst chanting and singing, wasn’t the same without a game going on in front of me.
Finally, supporting Rangers gives me a chance to escape from real life. I look at the technological developments in virtual reality with a wry sense of ‘old news’ - us football fans have always had our own ‘other world’ - just step through the turnstile and you’re there. When you’ve seen us cheated by the ref up at Anfield or watched Stejskal gift the draw Man City always seem to get, then who gives a toss about global warming or the EC? When I take my seat in Ellerslie Road for 90 minutes, nothing else matters but how we’re doing, and usually the next hour and a half will have a direct effect on my ensuing few days. I am what would probably be referred to as a “bloody typical Guardian reader”. I do read the Guardian and I like to think of myself as a reasonable, liberal reconstructed 90s man. However, stick me in front of QPR and I turn into a raving lunatic, leaping up and down, screaming and shouting, veering from periods of disgust, through despair to delirious happiness. Just you typical football fan really.
It is perhaps pointless to try and define what attracts me to QPR - why I keep coming back for more - and maybe it is that very mystery that is part of the allure. Rangers has completely taken over my life and I can’t imagine not being a Rangers fan. It may have often reduced me to tears but equally I’ve had many, many good times: New Year’s Day at Old Trafford, semi-final of the Milk Cup at Anfield, 6-0 winners over the Premier League No-hopers. Surely it is the exquisite feeling of true joy followed by the masochistic pain of defeat that keeps bringing us back. And Zen? Well, who needs religion when you’re a QPR fan?
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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