As a landscape gardener from Middlesex and now living in the North-East of England, you tend to live life as the eternal optimist, with a very thick skin. Constantly praying for some form of summer resembling the type once enjoyed in my earlier years living near to the capital (the forecast is that we will have three hours of sunshine on the second Wednesday in July - big bonus!) and putting up with any amount of stick from the Mags (Newcastle) and Mackems (Sunderland) - even Hartlepool fans have enjoyed the chance of having a laugh at Rangers' recent predicament.
Hopefully, you can see the problems faced. With the prospect of another cold summer ahead and Rangers' disastrous form leading up to the end of the season, a serious dent had been made in my normally ‘rose-tinted’ view of life.
Still, there was a trip across the Pennines to look forward to, to see Rangers finally get the much-needed three points for safety, and a lifting of that grey cloud hovering over us all. When will I learn? I can't think what was worse: the defeat, Carl ‘Anything Robbie Fowler can do to the away fans, I can do better’ Griffiths, the sight of police horses running into cars and fans alike after the game - or the endless stream of Mackems laughing at the QPR stickers on the rear window of my trusty van on the way home. Roll on August, when the Hammersmith Horse and the Mighty Quinn take the Premiership by storm..
The coming week was not going to be easy. It was probably the same for all Rangers fans but I spent the whole of the week with a feeling of mixed emotions. The prospect of the dreaded drop constantly on the mind, yet excitement at the prospect of travelling to a packed Loftus Road overrode everything.
I just wanted the whole thing to be finished and the team safe from relegation. Apart from the few Mackems who still blame Mike Sheron's two goals on Good Friday for Sunderland's failure to gain promotion last season, everyone else up here seems to have a soft spot for our beloved Hoops and wished them well.
After a highly anxious week, Saturday night finally arrived. Should I go out and risk hearing "Going down, going down..." all night, followed by the mother of all hangovers in the morning - or be a complete saddo and finish typing some estimates? Took the saddo option, and by midnight I was looking back on a bad decision, as my mind was constantly on the following day, resulting in the computer nearly going out of the front window on more than one occasion. Why is it football can do this to a person? Only one thing to do - pray!
My lift to Durham Station arrived nice and early in the morning for the train to 'the Smoke', where I'll meet up with two seriously loyal Hoops, Kevin and Ian. If you've ever heard the Blaydon Races sung at Loftus Road by a hooped Geordie and wondered what was going on, it's probably because one of these two are sitting next to you. Ask them nicely and they might even translate.
A couple of minutes into the journey and it's obvious that nerves are on edge. Endless pointless banter about what a trerrible week it's been lead to confessions of vows not to drink before the game. GNER must have seen us coming, as Fullers London Pride appears in the buffet quicker than Fulham's newly-found legion of fans.
A couple of hours and a few bottles later, we arrive at King's Cross. Typically, London is about a million degrees warmer and I'm wearing winter clothing. Happens every time without fail. The tube to Shepherd's Bush is full of anxious-looking Rangers fans, including a 'Boycie' look- and sound-alike train driver/announcer at Edgware Road Station. Poor bloke, he must be sick of Marlene jokes.
On to the ground to collect the ticket and it seems like everyone is kitted out in hoops. The place is buzzing in a way that makes me wish it could be like this every week. The usual Rangers balls-up in handing out tickets for collection ensues, but I finally get my hands on the prized possession and go off to my favourite spot in the Upper Loft. The atmosphere is magic. Surely the players won’t let us down with this backing...
It was obvious from the start that the players looked tense but that may have something to do with not wanting to play football, but instead to impersonate five-year-old kids and jump head first into the heaps of balloons everywhere. Just as well Tony Roberts wasn't around.
Rangers looked good and I felt confident. Oh for a goal, I kept thinking - and then it happened. QPR 1 Palace 0. My prayers answered ... and then came more, and more and more. Surely I must be having a dream. I pinched myself and realised I hadn't died and gone to heaven. But Rangers had survived the drop. Life had suddenly become a whole lot more pleasant as our fans embraced each other, with smiles as large as the club’s overdraft.
I didn't want to sing on the journey back to Hartlepool - the voice had gone anyway. I just wanted to savour the moment. The three of us had a few beers and said our farewells for the summer. I was off to Hartlepool town centre for more celebrating and enjoy hearing people say the magic words: "Some result that, wasn't it?" No-one could take the piss now. We'd just won 6-0 and stayed up. The team may be rubbish and perhaps the future doesn't look good, but so what? Who knows what's around the corner? Personally, none of that mattered to me at the time because, as they say around here, "Thut was champion, thut was."
Even the cold summer nights of Hartlepool will seem warmer now, and we might even get a heatwave. The eternal optimist has returned to normal.
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