Sunday noon. High Noon. I find myself in West London confused as how it has come to this. I am sitting in the West Paddock in the Loftus Road Stadium within holding hand distance of some lovely looking fellas from Yorkshire who are keen to point out where they come from. They come from Leeds. I don’t come from Leeds.
Loftus Road is about 5km west of Paddington. I know this because I walked that distance. It was also hot and I was wearing clothes more suitable for Denmark. On my way, I did get to see the sights of Notting Hill, the Westfield Shopping Centre and the Shepherd’s Bush Gyratory. I then get caught up in a police escort taking the Leeds fans to the stadium. Based on what they were saying, Manchester is not worth the visit.
Loftus Road Stadium is truly compact. Tucked in what seems like the back garden of some neat rows of terraced houses. It felt like a maze. If QPR were considered a more intimidating club, I am not sure I would like to walk around here as an away fan on evening match. As it is QPR, the QPR seem like a fairly sedate bunch: an impression not helped by the weird kick-off time and the glorious sunshine.
Loftus Road on South Africa Road.
Much like Berlin Tegel, there is no depth to the stadium. Turnstile to pitch is about five meets and involves navigating some narrow corridors under the stand proper. As stated above, my seat was wedged right in the corner adjacent to the Leeds contingent. Simple rule here was not to make eye contact. The Leeds fans were in good voice.
The game saw the return to Rob Green who had been frozen out at QPR last season due to the fact that he had an automatic contract extension if he played a certain number of games. So he was left to contemplate his existence well away from first team football before signing for Leeds in the summer. He received a warm enough reception from the home fans. I think there was a fair degree of sympathy for his plight. That sympathy vanished on four minutes as he made a fair howler as the ball bobbled around the six yard box, flapping at an aerial ball with no authority to allow Nedum Onuoha to score from about 30cm out. 1-0. “Greeno, Greeno” hollered around the small stadium. Welcome back!
Seat photo. Plus man’s back
The early goal did not dampen the spirit of the away fans although their team offered them very little to cheer. QPR went on to hit the woodwork twice in the first half. The first was fortunate with the ball richocheting of the shins of a player and onto the post. The second saw German striker, Sebastian Polter, break clear before cutting the ball back onto the same post. I think I may have seen Polter before in a long and distant game in Berlin. I wonder if he remembers me. I waved, but he did not wave back. Guess he did not see me. Leeds were struggling to create anything and I do not recall a shot on target. Leeds fans were not struggling to create anything with an offside decision being met by ‘Stay out of the sun, stay out of the sun, you ginger b’’’’’’d, stay out of the sun.’ It brought a few chuckles at the expense of the pale official.
Half time brought welcome respite from the beating sun. QPR were the better side and a penalty on 70 minutes put the game to bed. But brought the action around me to life. My section was pretty quiet, but the upper tier and section along was full of QPR fans happily reminding Leeds of the score and that Londoners also like some swearing. This did not go down too well. I avoided eye contact and took shelter behind the ginger kids next to me (who I hoped had SPF 50 on). A coin was thrown. It was only 10p. A Leeds fan in the small wheelchair section in front of us, stood up and turned around to a QPR lad to tell him to sit down. I had no idea what was going on.
Leeds crumbled contriving to miss a simple one on one that might have added some life to the final ten. Polter slammed home in the dying embers of the game. 3-0.
“Dad, I think we will win the league,” I overheard on the way out. The young and their optimism. Life will crush that out of you. Ask any Leeds fan.
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