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|Antti's Six Knee Jerks: QPR 2 Boro 2|
at 14:00 11 Nov 2019
The gloomy inevitability of another two goals left me resigned, reduced to a grim empty vessel, floating along in the misery of the South Africa Road stand, buffeted by shouts of 'forward', 'wake up' and 'anything other than total domination and a 46-game winning streak is not good enough for me' until I exited the ground to a torrent of grimy p!ss, streaming down from the grey west London skies, the cold, needle-like droplets skinning my fair cheeks and forcing me to wonder: has Adam Clayton been playing for Middlesbrough since 1973, oris that my imagination?
1. DEFENCE: I don't know. I have nothing new to say on the matter. Can we defend? I'm not sure. I think blaming us for not being able to defend doesn't quite stand up when the two goals we conceded, like so many goals this season, were not down to a defence unable to withstand quick passing or lots of pressure or high balls into the box, but by a wing back winning the ball then deciding not to collect the ball, and a striker deciding to play the ultimate assist, just to the wrong man in the wrong team at the wrong end. That's not about defending. Is it? Or is it the inevitable consequence of us trying to play football at all times? Even though in both those circumstances, pressure was not strong on the man making the mistake, is 96 minutes of high-risk football so much that, while we're actually far more comfortable doing it than what sounds like 95% of an extraordinarily screechy, jittery crowd who can't stand anything other than a big ol' hoof up the pitch, unless that is an actual tactic employed, in which case they'll tell you they love intricta epassing football, the law of averages means we'll always make two catastrophic errors that almost inevitably result in goals? I have no clue.
The only thing I will say is this: already the usual suspects are out. The Twitters are explodng. The Insta is imploding. The Facebook (is anyone still on that? How? Why?) is probably self-mutiilating. The same old posters who are fed up of any manager within three months are already beginning their lengthy campaign, as endless as the US political cycle, for change. For change may bring the one who will change it all and magically develop us into the club that we were. Once. For about 12 months. Rather than the one we are now, which is the one we have, on average, been for most of any of our lifetimes. But as we watch Liverpool conquer Europe and smash the double-champions and triple-crown winners into funny little light blue pieces, we all forget, don't we, how it was before the Coming of Virgil. When Liverpool, like us, tore everyone apart but constantly shipped goals. Their incredible yacht, so beautiful, yet a hull made of patched-up cling film. Are we going to be the new Liverpool? No. Are our defenwsive problems magically going to end? No. But as we have a manager who knows what he is doing, has made a side that created about one chance in a game into one that creates about 10 per game, can we just try not to go too hard on recriminations? Can we not get too upset about what he says in an interview when it doesn't tally precisely to what exactly we think he should say, even if saying that would be rank stupidity? Can we all calm down at games a bit? Can we all try enjoying it a bit more? Please?
2. HUGILL: There's been some great posts on here since Saturday, from Brian Mc, plus measured, sensible ones from jonno and gazza, and some great thoughts from Hunter. I'm usually on Hunter's side, but I wouldn't go quite as far as he did. I don't think, for example, that you should radically alter your game because it's rainy. I also don't think we should radically alter our game because we have a new back three - it's not like they're strangers, they see each other every day. But I was surprised that Hugill did not start for a whole load of reasons. I think he's playing well. I think Boro have a huge team, although not quite as ludicrously huge as they were last year, and we could've done with Hugill doing some bullying and some hold-up play. And there's also the fact it's his old club, his home town club, and superstition tells us he'll probably score if given most of the game (as it was, he could, maybe should, have had two). I don't think we should start abandoning the way we play - it needs to be tweaked of course, and practised, but to get better at a style you don't abandon it when things get tough. It works. We score a lot of goals. Teams are afraid of us. But it does seem odd to me that Hugill didn't start this one. His strength and power and ability to at least win a few balls in the air would have been invaluable. Still, I like to look at reasons why. Wells is on fire, scoring most weeks. So if you keep him, a midfielder has to go. You need Ball or a Ball-type. He wants to get Amos back in, I think, to help the back three or four have someone in the middle who will show for it and take it under pressure. I get that. It can't be Eze. So it's Chair. But take Chair out and we're left with one creative midfielder, who the oppo will then likely double mark, knowing his options are few. So I disagreed with it - but it's worth looking for reasons why, sometimes.
3. PLAN B: In my experience, people who talk about a Plan B mean a willingness to boot it randomly up the pitch and hope something happens. I've seen a few comments with Plan B coming up, the odd bit of pining for last year's Matt Smith. But it's a waste of time. MW will never play like this except maybe in utter desperation in the last minutes of a do or die game. That he doesn't do this does not make him inflexible, in my opinion. He's a man who understands the game and what is *most likely* to work. So strap in.
4. BALL: Really impressed with Bally on Saturday. I thought Amos was perhaps the only one in the chaotic opening minutes to show some real bite - two big, crunching tackles from him set the sort of tone we like to see. But it was Ball who played in that manner for longer. The big improvement for me was his touch on the ball - he controlled it well, shielded it well, and looked for the right pass every time. He may not be the best player we have, but he looks bulletproof in terms of belief and confidence. Never hides, always fights. Good to have around.
5. EZE: Customary Eze jerk. Thought he was great again. That late run, from the edge of his box, where he rode an assassination attempt from someone who didn't seem to get booked, and was only ended by a desperate foul just outside the box, was superb. He's becoming a leader, now, like Freeman did. Tiring of everyone else's failures, he finally just decided it was encumbent upon him to sort this mess out - and he very nearly did. Now basically playing centre midfield, working hard, yet as cool as a glacier throughout, never rushed, always seeing the bigger picture. Absolute gem.
6. LUMLEY: I think Kelly looks a decent keeper. I think Lummers is a decent keeper. Not really sure if there's much between them, but I wasn't sad when I saw his name on the teamsheet, and I thought he played very well in tough conditins. He punched when he had to, could do nothing about the goals and shambles in front of him, and his kicking was assured, despite the panic in the stands. Real fight on for that spot in goal.
|Chance for Masterson?|
at 12:38 8 Nov 2019
With Toni ranked as 50/50 for tomorrow and no Beardy, we are light on Cbs tomorrow. Hall will play obviously, but then options are sketchy. three at tha back could mean a permutation from Hall, Rangel, Wallace, Cameron and Masterson. A flat back 4 would possibly favour Masterson as a specialist CB. Tough one for Warbs, but I suspect he'll go with Rangel and Manning as wing backs with a back three of Cameron, Hall and Wallace.
|Prediction||Prediction Logged by at 12:13:21|
Queens Park Rangers v Middlesbrough prediction logged
|Had an awful nightmare. Need help|
at 10:14 5 Nov 2019
Dreamt Clive finally decided his life was worth more and gave up doing LFW. It was fkn traumatic. Send help. Genuinely, if he sets up a Patreon I'd be willing to donate a bit every month to make sure this catastrophe never happens in my lifetime.
|Prediction||Prediction Logged by at 15:33:11|
Leeds United v Queens Park Rangers prediction logged
|Prediction||Prediction Logged by at 13:09:04|
Queens Park Rangers v Brentford prediction logged
|Antti's Six Knee Jerks: QPR 2 Reading 2|
at 22:21 23 Oct 2019
A game heavily marred by the actions of one man, who seemingly just wanted to be noticed. Not the ref, I'm not animal. Bloke behind me. Constant 'coaching' throughout the whole game, his head ready to explode at every misplaced pass from minute 1 to 90. CHANNELS! HIT THE CHANNELS! Gave me an earache.
1. DEFENCE: Had an interesting debate on the way out. Why exactly are we conceding two goals per game? Is it that we are poor at defending? Is it that we are too gung-ho? Are we poor positionally? Or are we actually pretty ok at all the above, but have two or three mind-blowing moments of defensive weakness per game that basically gift goals? I honestly don't know. Asking for a friend. And for me.
First goal we were caught cold, we were high up the pitch and Puscas timed his run beautifully after a great ball from the outstanding Ejaria. It was a really good goal. I've seen some criticism that we were defending too high there, but BFG was on the halfway line and we were in possession - I'm not sure that was particularly wrong, although I'm no expert on defence, trust me. However, as with Hull on Saturday, I did feel Kelly, who had made one superb save earlier for what should have been a goal, was a long way out. Had he been further back, Puscas couldn't have shot and Leistner would have likely headed him off as he cut in. Still, harsh to be too critical there. Second goal, I'm with Warbs on. It wasn't so much the unmarked players as the three players who failed to close down Swift getting the cross in. And that is certainly a real problem on our part at the moment - we do not stop crosses very often, particularly from down our left hand side.
But are we a poor defensive side? Or one that lacks concentration? I just don't know. Hard to be too critical because we are in the play-off spots and it's exciting to watch, but we can't keep shipping two a game, surely?
2. FORMATION: It was an odd line-up when I saw it. I expected Hugill to come in at the expense of Wells, but didn't expect a change of formation. Whether that was to surprise Reading, or perhaps to give ourselves more protection down the flanks, or because he felt two strikers would really hurt them, I'm not sure. But it didn't work - although when you give the ball away as frequently as we did in that first half, you'll find most formations won't work. Still, it was an odd one, and it must've been a boost to Reading following Saturday's performance to see Eze placed out wide, where surely he would have less influence. And so it proved. They were able to box him in out there and pretty much the only time he got away in the first half was when he nutmegged a defender to set up Wells's sweet finish. It didn't really work anywhere. We lost the midfield battle, no one got hold of Ejaria or Swift, we were out-paced by their forwards and generally, it has to be said, were second best throughout. The move to 3-5-2 did help for sure, but it's always difficult to drag yourselves back when you've started so slowly.
3. SUBS: Warbs's subs have been overwhelmingly good this season. Last night, they didn't have much effect - at least not a positive effect. Kane for Rangel was the right call, even if it was possibly enforced by injury, but while the change in shape helped to some degree, Kane himself had a bit of a shocker, giving the ball away too many times under little or no pressure, and worse still giving it away in key areas by opting for a pass back towards goal - usually to a Reading forward. The shape change did at least help us get a better grip on Ejaria, as Scowen looked to be detailed to sit on him, but did little to halt Swift, who sat deep and was almost always available to receive the ball and very, very rarely wasted it as he showed an impressive range of passing.
Contrary to some opinon on here, I didn't mind Amos for Wells as I thought it might help us tighten space in midfield, where we were struggling somewhat, but sadly Amos couldn't get to grips with the pace of the game. I don't think there's much doubt he's a very decent player, but at the moment, possibly thanks to a stop-start season for him, he's looking a little lost. It's not for want of trying - last night he berated himelf several times for errors, but that in itself shows he's frustrated at his own form. The problem is, we haven't really got the luxury of him playing himself into form, so somehow, if he is to make the impact we expected this season, the sort of impact Ejaria was making, he needs to find a way of finding form quickly when his opportunities do come.
Then finally Pugh, who I really like, was again unable to really change things very much. He charged round looking for the ball, but never really got on it - only once, when he nearly went through did he threaten to make a real positive contribution. I think the ideas behind all subs were sound, but as a team we weren't quite there last night.
4. PERSISTENT FOULING: King Pep himself instructs his slick City team to foul, foul and foul again. Stop attacks, take turns, don't be afraid to make niggly fouls. It's not something we do (according to the BBC, our first actual foul we committed was, astonishingly, in the 54th minute, before the dam broke somewhat (Hugill being the main culprit). Reading, however, were all about the fouling and that was a big secret to how they managed to contain Eze and the rest of our team fairly well. They were helped by a referee trying to be lenient. But if you are as lenient as he was, teams continue to take more and more rope. The idea he was being bullied a bit was not helped by the fact that three or four Reading players were in his face for many decisions - acts he did little or nothing to dissuade.
The stats do not make great reading for the ref. Reading's persistent fouling was pointed out on TV, I'm told, and yet it took him until the 56th minute to finally show a yellow. This was Reading's 13th foul of the match, and it took Rinhomota four fouls to finally pick up that one yellow. Overall, they committed 23 fouls and just two bookings were issued. One fot Rinhomota and one for Miazga for bodily throwing Hugill to the ground - an offence which could have easily counted as violent conduct and a red card. Miazga, incidentally, was not booked for any of his four spoiling tackles, and his elbow in Rangel's face was ignored. Lucky boy. McCleary managed three fouls in just 23 minutes after coming on, but despite all three arguably being bookable, got away scot free. Puscas managed four without a yellow. And perhaps worst of all was Yiadom, who five times committed fouls, twice with clear and deliberate handballs, and yet was never booked. And that leaves aside his other clear and deliberate handdball that should have led to a penalty and a yellow card, but was ignored.
Fair play to Reading - their tactic to disrupt worked very well, even if it couldn't stop two moments of very good football for two good goals. But they were aided by a weak referee who compounded his lenience with the booking of Eze - his first foul of the night, and while I agree it was a yellow, the fact he was continually fouled deliberately and cynically, just as his attempted trip was, but the perpetrators were never once carded, only shows the poverty of the refereeing display we had to endure.
5. HUGILL: Quick word on Hugill, who I thought grew more and more into the game. I love his attitude, I love he's a bit nasty and doesn't mind getting in where it hurts, and I love that he doesn't hide. In most games he's missed decent chances (again here he spooned a presentable chance over the bar), but he keeps going and also, generally, gets his reward, as he did last night with a very fine, if deflected, goal. I thought he did particularly well on the air, and he shielded the ball well too. A really dangerous player who has already surpassed his total goals for last season with his goal last night. Hardly surprising - chances don't come often in a Pulis team, but they are rarely rare in a Warburton side.
6. DANCING: That was the groundsman was it? More of this, please. Was like some kind of fever dream to watch at half time. The cat v the groundsman dancing to the music of a noted paedophile.
|Prediction||Prediction Logged by at 14:53:50|
Queens Park Rangers v Reading prediction logged
|Prediction||Prediction Logged by at 13:42:52|
Hull City v Queens Park Rangers prediction logged
|Exciting QPR Friday game|
at 13:45 11 Oct 2019
I say a QPR player (past or present) next person says another one, but first letter of first name must match first letter of previous surname. Two to start to demonstrate. all welcome!
|Antti's Six Knee Jerks: QPR 4 Blackburn 2|
at 14:54 7 Oct 2019
ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?
1. WELL? ARE YOU NOT?: I only ask because in a game of six goals and some bl00dy lovely football, it all seemed surprisingly flat from our fans. OK, flat is an exaggeration. But before the season started if someone told us we'd score four in a game (it was only two months ago the 'Twitt-R-arti' were lighting flaming torches in readiness for a march on the KPFS, armed with an effigy of Lee Hoos, an old Shoot! poster of Les Ferdinand with an angry red cross scrawled on his face in lipstick, and RED RUM written across his chest instead of Holland Fly KLM and a baby blimp of Tony Fernandes because we hadn't signed any strikers, #DONTANNOUNCECHRISMARTIN #ANNOUNCEWELBECKHESONAFREE) I think we'd have all collectively lost our sh!t - pandemonium in the stands, man with Mexican hat falling into the Paddocks to be caught by Jude, that girl from the Palace 6-0 game who stripped and ran up and down the top of the exec boxes doing it all over again sort of thing. On Saturday, at least near me, there was a lot of harrumphing, a lot of heads in hands, and then some three-quarter-hearted cheering as we rammed in four pretty sweet goals.
I'm not sure why this is, just as I'm not sure where the fans who turned up in number for the Luton game have gone, unless they simply thought things would never get that good again. And maybe that is the issue a bit. We saw half an hour of near-perfect football, so the feeling among some is: 'well why can't we play perfect football and score a goal every 10 minutes EVERY MATCH. WHY NOT?!'
I am, of course, being over-dramatic for (limited, yes all right) comic effect. But I do have a serious point. I think the reason why no one was getting very carried away in the way we did against Luton and in the way we might have done in years past is because none of us really know what is a safe score with this team. And it's not about playing out from the back. For all the complaints, we're actually decent at doing that. It's just that we do look really, really vulnerable in defence. Even on Saturday, Kelly did not have a save to make other than the two that went in, and yet there was still that nagging fear that somehow we could give it away. The bravado of 'you might as well go home' after 30 mins v Luton was completely absent after 80 mins and 4-1 v Blackburn. No one felt safe. The Luton game has perhaps created a weird paradox, where we're desperate to see that swaggering perfection again, but at the same time so scarred by their mini-comeback that we're not sure any score his safe.
Still, it's much fun.
2. BREAKING THE CYCLE: Since Ollie took over in 2016, we've endured these runs: 6 losses in a row. 5 without a win. 6 losses in a row. 7 without a win. 5 losses and 1 lucky draw in 6. 5 losses in a row. 7 without a win.
That tells you how important it was to win on Saturday and snap the cycle quickly. True, this is a different team now, but after such a good start, it would have been awful to start slipping down the league and, worse, losing confidence into what had got us so many point so early in the first place. While we might have spent half an hour of this game being a little more cagey than before, it was good to see that we weren't suddenly abandoning everything. This team knows it did not play badly in the last two games, as much as they deserved to lose both, but that's not a reason to chuck everything away and start again. Strength of charatcer, fortified by Wells's opener, helped us overcome doubts to turn in a smashing performance.
3. MANNING: Another excellent performance from our left back/wing back. One of the great things about this side is how everyone is comfortable on the ball. Even Dom Ball, rested on Sat, and not the most technical player in the squad, has no compunction about demanding a pass. Manning, though, has all the technical skill required for passing, controlling and, to deadly effect, crossing. There can't be many games where a left back can pretty much claim three assists, but currently almost every time struggles with his energy, determination and quality of delivery. One in the eye for the 'round pegs, round holes' brigade. His tackling stats are also hugely impressive.
There's a but coming - you can sense it, I know. I'm just wondering. Unlike some people I wasn't hugely enamoured with the performances of our CDMs on Saturday (see below). There was a suggestion last week of pushing Manning into one of those slots and moving Wallace to left back. I'm broadly against that for various reasons: Manning is performing so well, you don't really want to move him. Wallace surely cannot match Manning's delivery, which has been crucial from wide areas. And I'm not quite sure if Manning is right for a CDM role. But, six goals we have conceded this season have come from attacks down our left side, plus a seventh deep cross from the right against Luton where Manning did not track his man all the way (many of the rest were set pieces). Two of the six from the left were dreadful pens given away by Barbet, for which he is of course responsible, but still, they were dangerous attacks down our left with Manning not really in the picture. This is tactical as much as anything, so please don't see it as an attack on Manning - clearly he has license to be a valuable attacker, often forming that lethal triangle with Chair and Eze higher up the pitch. But teams are targeting him, both with high balls to exploit his lack of height and with balls in behind him. Blackburn several times on Saturday drifted balls over to him to get their right winger away, particularly in the first half, and Luton were particularly keen on bombing deep balls in from the right to isolate Manning's size. So I don't know if there's a solvable issue here or not. Would Wallace be better in terms of defence, with Manning becoming more of a quarter back alongside Cameron or Ball? Or would that cut off one of our major attacking threats to our detriment? If Manning is being targeted by high balls or balls exploiting his position higher up the pitch, do we just accept that as an unavoidable consequence and trust he'll do more damage than they can? I don't honestly know.
4. DEFENSIVE MIDFIELD: Good games for Cameron and Scowen on Saturday, but I'm unable to join in some of the love shoved their way. I felt the excellent Rothwell and the decent Dack too often had too much time and space to hurt us. Rothwell, at least, was coming from deeper before playing some really very sharp key balls, several times cutting us in half, which made him difficult to pick up. But there was no such excuse for Dack. Especially when we had two defensive midfielders in his space, and even more especially when he was still finding large pockets at 4-1. At that stage, surely, Scowen could've just man-marked him, ensured he didn't hurt us as he frequently threatened to do, as the game was won. The fact he didn't may have been down to Warbs a bit, who I felt could've sent on Ball for the tiring Cameron with instructions to stand on Dack and take him out of the game (legally obvs, I'm not an animal). For me, this was where our main problems stemmed from on Saturday, because apart from The Beard's classic tackle, I found little to fault the back four.
5. BOS: An odd game for Bright. He's been taking some mild criticism that his approach play is great, but his end product not so much (for wingers, twas ever thus, was it not, friends?). But on Saturday it was the opposite. He wasn't his usual ebullient self with ball at feet and legs on fire, but he set up won and stylishly scored another. I was thinking of him last week and he reminded me a bit of Andy Impey at his age. Younger fans may not remember, but Imps got some fearful stick at one stage from the LR faithful. But then, it slowly began to change, most memorably when he got two away at Ipswich, and he went on to be player of the season and one of our most consistent and reliable performers. I wonder if Bright may follow suit. He has all the tools, he's still only 21 and he has a great attitude. Was really pleased he scored such a good goal on Saturday - hopefully that'll give him confidence to score more going forward.
6. FOUR SCORERS: If ever there was a sign of the new QPR, this was it. Four goalscorers - the only thing missing, and from this season too, is one from Moroccan Messi. When it does come, surely, it's going to be a pearler. The fourth of course came from Hugill another (still another!) getting some stick from some quarters, despite that being his sixth of the season (none of our team got more than 7 league goals last season). What a Warby sub that was. 3-1? Better get another striker on, come on lads. Attack, attack, attack, attack, attack. Great header - couldn't have been placed better. Nahki's seventh means he is averaging a goal every 91 minutes at the moment. I insisted in another thread a Prem club wouldn't take him. Having read that, I'm not so sure. Eze's finish was a thing of beauty. We're currently on course to score 50% more goals than we did last season. Woohoo!
|Prediction||Prediction Logged by at 10:51:11|
Queens Park Rangers v Blackburn Rovers prediction logged
|Prediction||Prediction Logged by at 10:18:49|
Cardiff City v Queens Park Rangers prediction logged
|QPR Life Goals|
at 10:13 2 Oct 2019
Haven't heard Theo Delaney's podcast yet, but i think it does a thing where you talk about the goals of your life, the ones with the biggest impact that you saw your club score. I know we've done games and atmospheres etc before, but what are your top 10 QPR goals in terms of ones that stand out in your memory - so not best goals, but, I suppose, important ones. A few we'll all share I'm sure. I would put Gerry v Liverpool in, but I wasn't born, so forgive me. Here's mine, from 10-1.
10. JOHN SPENCER v PORT VALE, CHAMPIONSHIP, 1997
The only one I wasn't there for, but it gets in because I went batsheet mental. I was at uni and for some reason this potential dog of a game was on ITV. So me and my housemates settled back to watch it. At half time, sulking and embarrassed, their laughter ringing in my ears, I skulked off to my room to watch the second half alone, and in silence. Goals one and two barely stirred me. But I let out a yelp on goal three. And when goal 4 went in it was payback time because we had DRAWN. With Port Vale! Take that, suckers. Will never forget that look on John Spencer's face, a look that said, 'Of course we did it. Of course it was me.' 'I'm yer fkn man' indeed.
9. ISHMAEL MILLER v LEICESTER, CHAMPIONSHIP, 2011
There are goals I've left out - Austin v Wigan, Blackstock v Preston, Kulscar v Palace, that were probably bigger. But I love this goal so much. Miller didn't really do a lot else for us, (or, oddly for a player who seemed very decent, for anyone else), but this more than paid for his loan deal. It was a tough game against a strong Leicester team and to be honest by the end I was fairly happy with a point and a clean sheet. And then a tackle by Ale (of course), a superb outside of the boot ball by Routledge, and there was Miller, sprinting away like Les in his pomp, holding off a challenge, and sliding it home, before showing us his bum and trying to pull his shorts up like it hadn't happened. The day I knew we were going up (Paladini madness notwithstanding).
8. CLIVE WILSON v MILLWALL, FA CUP, 1995
The last time I thought we might win a Cup. Just the 24 years ago. An incredibly tense, even game. The Wawll lads at boiling point to my right (I was in the Paddocks). A ridiculous handball and then Willo, one of my all-time favourite players, the best left back we've had over the last 30-odd years, stepped up and nervelessly stroked it home. I did one massive cheer, one flick of the Vs to the Millwall fans, then waited by the exit for the final whistle before pegging it from the inevitable mayhem on the streets.
7. ADEL TAARABT v WATFORD, THE CHAMPIONSHIP, 2011
Of course, he scored better ones. Scunthorpe, Cardiff (twice), Swansea, Fulham and on and on. But this was the one. The thing about Adel that season was that, for all his flaws, when the big games came, he delivered. Both Cardiff games. Barnsley after we'd just lost 4-1 to Scunny without him. Swansea after our December wobble. And this one. In an incredibly nervy game as we limped over that b'stard finish line, who scored when we needed it? Adel. A lovely little finish, too.
6. KEVIN GALLEN v SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY, PREMIER LEAGUE, 1994
A personal one this. It was a scuffed strike, but it felt like the start of something special. It was Kev's long-awaited home debut. Gerry Francis had been getting some stick for not chucking Gallen in the side the season before, but finally, aged 18, he was in for the new season. He had a goal robbed off him at Old Trafford on the opening day, but he wasn't to be denied in a superb game against Sheffield Wednesday, in which three of my all-time faves all scored (Les, Trev, Kev). This one was in front of us in the Loft, and it bobbled in, just about, to give us the win. And we all thought we had a future England star at the club. I remember Howard, editor of In the Loft, a great old fanzine perhaps unfortunately often in the shadow of AKUTRs, had written months before that when Kev would finally make his debut, 'it would see the birth of the greatest striker the country has seen since Gary Lineker.' I really believed it.
5. TREVOR SINCLAIR v BARNSLEY, FA CUP, 1997
I was there, were you? I saw it go in and next thing I knew I had run 12 steps down to the front of the Loft, screaming 'DID YOU SEE THAT?'. The best goal I have ever seen live, or will see live.
4. LES FERDINAND v EVERTON, PREMIER LEAGUE, 1994
Les scored loads of goals that could have made this list. But this one is a special memory. Matt Le Tiss scored the last goal at the Dell for a Southampton win, which I love, and Les scored the last goal at the Loft End terracing to give us a win, which I also love. Our equaliser by Devon White in this game had, let's say, a hint of handball about it... in that he punched it over the line quite blatantly. But this late winner was wonderful, a classic Ferdinand goal from the era. The Bard gets it, plays a trademark ball over the top, Les outsprints the defence: bang. 2-1. Goal. Game. Bye bye terraces. A sad day, but what a way to end it. Still have the certificate, signed by Gerry and Richard Thompson. Odd.
3. JAMIE MACKIE v LIVERPOOL, PREMIER LEAGUE, 2012
Few players loved a dramatic goal as much as our Jamie. And this, for someone who scored a few of them, was the best. People were leaving on 75 minutes as we drifted to defeat and, it has to be said, almost certain relegation (we would have gone down, actually, had we even drawn this). But then Derry - Shaun Derry! - rose to get one back. Cisse touched home another, got cramp, and yelled at Taiwo for celebrating when he was in so much pain. And then came Jamie Mackie with the coollest finish you could ever imagine considering what was at stake, the lateness of the game, and the match situation. I accidentally destroyed a seat in front of me celebrating, while my Liverpool mate next to me stood in dead silence.
2. BOBBY ZAMORA v DERBY, PLAY-OFF FINAL, 2014
Not quite top spot, but clearly an incredible goal. Not many groups of fans can genuinely claim to have celebrated a goal, a win and a promotion all effectively in exactly the same moment. I sent this goal to someone the other day when they emailed me about the Derby car wreck, and I watched it 12 times. You can't only watch it once. And you find something new each time. Zamora almost angry. Redknapp trying to remain calm and issue some instructions. Charlie going mental. And *that* Derby fan. A bizarre goal, really, from almost nothing, and yet when you watch it now, it's as if we fans sensed something. We were going mad on the throw-in FFS. Absolutely incredible. All my life I wanted to see us at Wembley. It's done. There isn't much else, really, that's feasible.
1. PAUL FURLONG v OLDHAM, PLAY-OFF SEMI, 2003.
This, for me, pips Zamora. I know Zamora's goal was bigger, and in the end meant a lot more. But sadly several things mean it can't be number one (Redknapp, Barton, and, yes, sorry, the fact it wasn't Austin who scored, because if anyone deserved it that season, it was him).
This was different. I loved this team. Full of Rs fans. So many individual stories, or 'journeys'. The emergence of Gino. The relentlessness of Bircham. Langley's best season, cruelly curtailed by tw@ttish referee Steve Bennett. Ollie's incredible personality to bounce back from the depths of despair. Gallen's return to form. Danny Shittu's cult status. Who didn't have cult status in that team? But perhaps the best story of all was Paul Furlong. A player no one wanted. A player who proved we were right not to want him with some poor performances. And then a player with the belief, determination and quality to prove everyone wrong, to turn the entire crowd on his side, and to later end his career with us as a modern-day legend. Such a legend that he even bequeathed his own son to us, who has since forsaken his birthright to join a rival family, the b'stard.
Anyway, where was I? Well, this was the culmination of years and years of absolute rubbish. People complain about last season or JFH and I think - Jesus Christ, you cannot have been there in the late 90s/early 2000s when we were seriously, seriously useless. We put up with it all (most of us - there seemed to be a lot more by the end of the season), and when this goal went in and we then won the game, they heard the roar throughout W12. Grown men crying. Children dancing. Culkin and Day hugging. Team, management, owners, fans, all as one. It was a special, determined goal, by a special, determined player.
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