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A long time between drinks - Preview
Wednesday, 13th Dec 2023 09:57 by Clive Whittingham

If ever there was a fixture to stir the nostalgia and memory of my generation of QPR fans, it's one with Plymouth Argyle with loads riding on the outcome.

QPR (5-4-11 DDLWWW 22nd) v Plymouth (6-4-10 DLWLWL 18th)

Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Wednesday December 12, 2023 >>> Kick off 19.45 >>> Weather – Wet and windy >>> Loftus Road, London, W12

A little after midday today I’m going to stick on an out of office reply, close up my laptop, and take a northbound walk into town, over the river, to an Italian in Covent Garden that’s still owned by the same family my dad knew when he took me there as a kid. There I shall have one of the great beers.

Before I’ve even sat down - while I’m still stripping off layers of coat, under-coat, scarf, gloves, hat (alright, you shave your hair off and see how warm your fucking head is) – the paper list of the day’s specials will have arrived along with a shimmering green bottle of Peroni. There it will sit, glinting in the light, chilled to half a degree north of freezing, condensation running down the side of the bottle. Before I’ve done anything else at all I’ll take a sip of that, feel the chill on my lips, and the warmth of the alcohol on the back of my throat.

It’s up there among the great QPR beers: the first beer on the train to an away game; the first beer on the long haul back from Butt Fuck Nowhere The North after a positive result; the first beer on the first day of the season; the beer you buy for that guy you haven’t seen at QPR for 20 years. The first beer on a Wednesday afternoon, over a bowl of molten lunch, when you’ve got a half day, and the whole city is still at work around and above you, and you’re going down the Uxbridge Road, to see the Queens Park Rangers… and they’re playing well. The midweek, work leave, QPR game, icy cold, first beer of the Wednesday. Eyeball Paul would have poured it straight into his retina, and he’d have been right to do so.

Nothing boosts the euphoric headrush of your fix like withdrawal. Have a glass of water now, it’s a glass of water. Car conks out in Death Valley and you have to do a dozen miles on foot to raise help, whatever quality of water awaits you at that service station will taste like nectar. Starve the patient, and it’s amazing how much they’ll rave about whatever you give them to break the fast. The was a great QPR beer shared in the Crown a couple of Tuesday’s back when, after one win in 23 home games over more than a year, we came back to beat Stoke 4-2 and Ben Pearson - of all the cunts in all the shitshows – scored an own goal. I saw people in there I haven’t seen for months. YouTube’s own James Alcott was there – “I couldn’t go home after that, I knew you’d be here.” You need to share these moments, these drinks, together after such a long time. One home win in a year, and then a Ben Pearson own goal in the last minute. I’m amazed there’s any beer left in the Bush. And how good did it taste?

I’m sure if you asked a normal person for their greatest beer you’d hear about their wedding, their favourite holiday, the birth of a child, the buying of a house. Normal stuff from normal people with their life in perspective. Ask them for their favourite football moment and they’ll tell you it’s the Aguero goal; the Tony Adams “that sums it all up” tin hat on Arsenal’s first Wenger title; “and Solskjaer has won it”. Were they there? Like hell. Nick Hornby managed to get a book and a film out of “it’s up for grabs now… Thomas” and he was at home watching it on a sofa with Mark Strong. (Incidentally if you do fancy burning off half an hour, pop in the Crown and ask Mel what the biggest problem with Fever Pitch was. Spoiler – if you had to win at Liverpool on the last night to win the league, you’d have fucking been there).

These people look at me absolutely gone out when I say that, still, my favourite moment following QPR across 30 years is a goal in a Second Division play-off semi-final at home to Oldham Athletic. Oldham are now a non-league side, and QPR lost in the final anyway. I’ve seen us beat Chelsea, home and away, before and since. I’ve seen us come back from two goals down to beat Liverpool. I’ve seen Clive Wilson score a last-minute penalty to put us into an FA Cup quarter final, and I’ve gone from London to Manchester in the back of a carpet van with 16 other like-minded nutcases to see that game. I’ve seen Jan Stejskal save an injury time penalty at St James’ Park, I’ve seen Trevor Sinclair bicycle kick in the greatest goal of all time, I’ve seen Bobby Zamora score in the last minute at Wembley Stadium. I’ve seen Adel Taarabt. And yet: “Carlisle, through the middle for Paul Furlong… away from Hall… FURLONG” will never be beaten.

It will never be beaten because of what had gone before. I’d belatedly started following this thing called QPR, which I had no real idea or care for, to be able to spend time with my dad. Truthfully, I did it because I wanted my dad to like me and pay me some attention and not think he had some odd little trainspotter for a son. I chucked myself at it to make him happy, and I was delighted when they won because he was delighted. He’d give me a big drunk kiss on the top of my head on the District Line back to Richmond, and mum would be waiting there in the car with a face on because “don’t pull that Ealing Broadway shit on me again Robert, I know there were Richmond trains because there have been QPR fans walking past here for the last 90 minutes”. I’d walk with unsteady grandad from The Goldhawk up to the wall at Batman Close a little after 2pm, and we’d sit there and wait for the group to appear following us down the road. We’d cram in through the Upper Loft turnstiles and I’d run along to the P Block at the far end as the team came out and the line up was announced. Stejskal, Bardsley, McDonald, Peacock, Wilson, Sinton, Wilkins, Barker, Impey, Ferdinand, Allen. You could basically reel it off. Sure, sometimes Maddix, sometimes Holloway, sometimes Penrice. Later Sinclair, Gallen. But that was it, and I thought it always would be. It never occurred to me Ray Wilkins was already 37 by this point. I just watched him mesmerically ticking things around, my dad’s best mate Stuart would occasionally nudge me and say “just watch what Ray does for the next five minutes here, this is how you play football”, and I thought that’s just how it would always be.

QPR fell apart at roughly the same rate and exactly the same time as that ideal little existence I had. We replaced Les Ferdinand with Mark Hateley. We hung onto Trevor Sinclair until all we could get was £1m and several used parts from a crap version of West Ham. I went from travelling from Hampton to watch us play Man Utd, to travelling from Scunthorpe to watch us play Crewe. I went from Parker, McDonald, Maddix, Peacock, to Karl Ready, Steve Morrow, Matthew Rose, Alan McCarthy, and their oh so many creative ways of laying up a back pass to the keeper just short enough to either concede a crucial goal, or break the goalkeeper’s legs, or both. It should be pointed out at this point, for accuracy, that Tony Roberts was always fucking dreadful.

It was amazing how quickly “we’ll be champions next year” and “oooh some new grounds” turned into a First Division quagmire, and how swiftly Chris Wright’s bold new era evaporated into a financial meltdown and relegation to the third tier. Through my first decade as a season ticket holder QPR finished in a lower league position every year bar one (a brief cough into life under Gerry Francis in 1999/00) and everybody who took me to football in this time died on me. I used to joke (accurately) that we’d never been as high in the league since we stopped running out to Tina Turner before the match. Secretly I thought it was something I was doing. Little teenage boy, praying each night, that if I could not swear tomorrow, and restrict myself to one wank a week, could whoever’s in charge of this stuff please not let us lose at Stockport this weekend. We used to lose at Stockport an awful lot in those times.

The Francis, Thomas, Bowles team was the one my dad fell in love with. The Fenwick, Currie, Stainrod team was the one he got his mates and my grandad into. The McDonald, Wilkins, Ferdinand team was the one they infected me with. The team Ian Holloway put together out of those ashes was my first QPR team. Day, Forbes, Carlisle, Shittu, Padula, Rowlands, Bircham, Gallen, Ainsworth, Furlong, Thorpe. You could reel it off once more. Supporting characters like Steve Palmer, Aziz Ben Askar, Kevin McLeod, Jerome Thomas and Lee Cook, sure. Richard Pacquette’s hot streak coinciding with a Championship Manager release in which he became the greatest striker in Europe. I devoured every bit of Billy Rice’s QPR World video content. I turned up at college with a Marc Bircham blue and white rinse (God has since taken my hair away, he was right to do it). I thought Ollie Burgess was the one.

When my dad passed away my mum, who hates football and QPR in particular, saw a chance to snap my connection and turn me back into a normal person. “You cannot possibly go to QPR by yourself from Scunthorpe”. It’s a fair point. Stuart, who I was connected to purely through my dad, intervened immediately and said he’d take me to the games. A best friendship sprung up between a mid-60s prostate cancer sufferer, and a lonely teenage lad. His rule was all the home games, and any away game we can do with one change from Doncaster. My God how we loved telling my mum, and his wife, that of course Brighton away was within one change of Doncaster, stupid, cos of the Thameslink innit.

Plymouth became a theme in all of this. They had been a mostly dreadful third and fourth tier club I was more used to catching on midweek nights at Blundell or Glanford Park. They played in a largely decaying old, terraced stadium in the middle of park at the summit of their city, and nobody very much cared for or about them. Their rise coincided with our renaissance. They played magnificent football, primarily under Paul Sturrock with the wonderful David Friio in midfield, and then later under a variety of managers with Akos Buszaky, David Norris and Peter Halmosi doing bits and pieces. I used to love going down there, and enjoying the pubs on the Barbican (one change at Doncaster mum, honest), and the footballing battles those two teams had back then were way ahead of their time for that level. Martin Rowlands doesn’t get talked about enough, what a player.

My ravenous hunger for any QPR content from afar brought me onto the Rivals message board as a precocious, cocksure, gobby teenager (as opposed to the precocious, cocksure, gobby adult you guys get now). Ron and Simon ran it back then, and the camaraderie with the Plymouth equivalent, their GreenGob et al, was unrivalled. We were united by our mockery of Bristol City, who’d spit teeth and bits of old boat at you when you visited Ashton Gate in those days (one change from Doncaster mum, honest) and ran a “Promotion Calculator” on their website which seemed to always result in them ending up on 112 points regardless of the results you put into it – four points for a win in those days, or so it seemed.

Things came to a head in 2003/04 – three into two automatic promotion spots would not go, and at one point City won 11 games in a row. Captain Brain Tinnion gave a public interview saying both QPR and Plymouth were “running scared” and that it could “all be over bar the shouting” come Easter when the three teams were all due to meet each other in consecutive games. QPR lost both, at Bristol, and at Plymouth on the day they sealed the title. We won automatic promotion anyway, such was the scale of Bristol City’s annual shit out that year. The QPR and Plymouth fans rejoiced together, a “POP” thread ran to many thousands of pages on the Bristol City message board. Plymouth fans hung sheets from motorway bridges to greet them home. They lost in the play-offs to Brighton. How we laughed.

The season after QPR were locked in a boardroom power struggle. Gianni Paladini wanted rid of the QPR-supporting owners, and Ian Holloway, who’d created such wonderful memories. Ramon Diaz was lined up. Olly’s team needed a victory. The Bush Ranger was packed out. Plymouth message boarders, and our own Rivals lot who’d clubbed together to bring Seb (QPR Arg) over for the first time to see a game. Paul Furlong did the business, Rangers won 3-2. They’d eventually win seven on the spin, including a 1-0 homer against moneyed West Ham. Ramon Diaz had a failed few months in charge at Oxford.

Plymouth faded with their declining financial backing. Holloway, and Gallen, would both have a stint down there themselves. Buzsaky would come and play for us, in the Premier League, with skilful distinction – one of my favourite modern day QPR players. We’ve been up, and down. They’ve been down, and up. It’s wonderful to have them back, and as we come together again now in the same league for the first time in a decade I’m filled with nostalgia and joy. For a generation X of QPR fans, so desperately thirsty for success after such a long time between drinks, they were the good old days.

Links >>> Friendly rivalry rekindled – History >>> Home and away – Interview >>> Harrington in charge – Referee >>> Plymouth Argyle Official Website >>> Plymouth Herald – Local Press >>> Argyle Life/Green and White Podcast >>> Pasoti – Forum >>> Cornich Janner – YouTube Vlog

90s Football Conspiracy Theories No.19 In The Series – Julian Joachim thinks Alex Scott being parachuted into the Football Focus hosting job is part of World Economic Forum (WEF) plan to exterminate the Y chromosome.

Below the fold

Team News Injury and suspension wise QPR can pick the same line-up they did on Saturday if they wish. Jack Colback remains sidelined by the strain he picked up at Preston but should be back shortly, Morgan Fox is easing his way back in after his operation but this game comes too soon, Albert Adomah is back in training this week for the first time since Rotherham. Reggie Cannon has picked up various niggles in his short time with the club so far, perhaps understandable after a disrupted personal pre-season, but the bang he took to his knee at the weekend will not sideline him here. Whether Marti Cifuentes does stick with the starting 11 that got the job done against Hull is far from certain though. Rangers play three times this week and five games in 17 days over Christmas and Cifuentes chose to rotate through the three-game week a fortnight ago, even if that meant dropping key men like Steve Cook and Ilias Chair after good performances. Several of the key performers in the recent uptick – most notably Chris Willock and Jake Clarke-Salter – have dreadful recent injury histories and much of the hope of this uptick continuing to survival in the Championship this season will depend on Rangers’ new Spanish manager keeping the core of a threadbare squad fit and available for selection.

Plymouth, despite a dire away record we’ll come onto and weekend thrashing at Leicester, travel to London for this midweek fixture backed by the thick end of 2,000 supporters. Whether goalkeeper Michael Cooper is among the travelling party remains to be seen. He suffered a dead leg at the end of the weekend game and hasn’t trained this week, with Northern Ireland’s Conor Hazard – a summer arrival from Celtic - set to replace him if he’s not fit. Cooper has only been back nine games after a significant long term knee injury and his absence would be a huge blow to the Pilgrims. They were promoted as champions ahead of Ipswich and Sheff Wed in 2022/23 despite conceding far more goals (47) and facing vastly more shots than both rivals. Cooper was a big part of the effort, making the League One team of the year two seasons running ahead of the likes of James Trafford and Gavin Bazunu who went on to play in the Premier League. Striker Ryan Hardie missed all of November but is pushing for a first start in more than a month after two substitute outings as he recovers from a hamstring issue.

Elsewhere: QPR can move out of the bottom three for the first time in two months tonight after a collection of favourable results in the Tuesday night games.

Huddersfield’s recent mini-revival came to a shuddering halt with a poor performance and 3-1 home loss against Preston, while Rotherham’s new manager Leam Richardson had the scale of his task laid bare to him by a 2-0 home loss to West Brom. Stoke dispensed with Alex Neil after the team he furnished with 19 new signings in the summer lost at home to Sheff Wed at the weekend to drop further into the mire, and they only responded to that decision with a draw at home to Swanselona.

QPR worked themselves into such a hole at the bottom of the table it’s taken three consecutive wins just to get back in touch, but having achieved that there are now suddenly four teams in direct striking distance, and another clutch not too far ahead of them. A fourth victory in a row this evening will see us climb above Huddersfield and Stoke, and level with opponents Plymouth. It should also see us usurp Millwall who are on a bit of hiding to nothing up at Leicester, who’ll be keen to regain their league leadership after Ipswich’s ridiculous 2023 continued with a 2-1 win at Watford last night which put them top for the first time.

The next little clutch of teams a further three points ahead include Bristol City who were beaten at Blackburn last night, Wayne Rooney’s Birmingham City who continue to crater under his tactical stewardship ahead of a trip to Cardiff this evening, and Coventry who host Southampton. Sheff Wed, who we’ve held six points away despite their own revival under a young, creative European manager, are away to Norwich.

At the top end a damaging defeat for Leeds at Sunderland was mildly hilarious – the Black Cats back into the play off picture with two wins from two since Moany Towbray was sent on his way. Middlesbrough host Hull this evening.

Referee: Premier League referee Tony Harrington missed the majority of last season injured after doing our defeat at Luton under Mick Beale, and has also sat out a chunk of this campaign too. His latest comeback after a two-month absence continues here. Details.


QPR: Three wins in a row now for QPR after two in 17 to start the campaign, the first time they’ve won three successive fixtures since Sheff Utd, Bristol City and Reading were vanquished in a week last October. Home victories against Stoke (4-2) and Hull (2-0) followed a run of one home win in 23 matches going back a year, and is the first time the R’s have won consecutive home games since beating Cardiff and Wigan to top the Championship table last October. Marti Cifuentes’ 11 points from his first six games is the best start by a new QPR manager since Don Howe also won three and drew two of his first six having taken over from Trevor Francis in November 1989. QPR haven’t won four league games in a row since beating Bristol City, Birmingham, West Brom and Coventry over Christmas 2021, and given that run was separated by an FA Cup draw with Rotherham you have to go back to February 2021 when Watford, Bournemouth, Brentford and Blackburn were all beaten during lockdown for an unbroken run of four straight QPR victories.

Rangers have done this by rediscovering a goalscoring touch – eight goals in the last three matches is as many as this team had scored in its prior 13, and six in the last two home games is as many as they’d got in the previous 14 home games combined. It’s the first time we’ve scored two or more goals in three successive games since beating Middlesbrough, Hull and Coventry at the start of 2020/21. Ilias Chair and Chris Willock have done the heavy lifting, scoring five of the nine goals under Marti Cifuentes between them. Prior to Rotherham away Ilias Chair hadn’t scored in 23 games. Chris Willock’s drought had gone on even longer: he hadn’t scored in 32 games before he registered three in the last three. QPR are still yet to lose any of the 19 games Willock’s scored in for them.

They’ve also done it by tightening up at the back. Two consecutive clean sheets for the first time since Preston and Cardiff away last December (1-0, 0-0) and three clean sheets in Cifuentes’ six games in charge after only keeping three in the previous 17. The last time R’s kept three clean sheets in a row was in beaten Ipswich (2-0), Sheff Wed (3-0) and Villa (1-0) in a week in October 2018 under Steve McClaren.

Plymouth: In news sure to strike fear into the hearts of QPR fans everywhere, and bring memories of John Jensen, Lloyd Doyle, Swindon Town and others flooding back, Plymouth arrive in town on Wednesday without an away win in ten attempts since their promotion in the summer. Only Rotherham are also yet to win away in the Championship, and only the Millers and Sheff Wed have scored fewer goals on the road than Argyle’s seven. They arrive in W12 on a run of four successive away losses – although fixtures in this league don’t come much tougher at the moment than Ipswich A, Coventry A, Leeds A and Leicester A. Their three draws away from Home Park have come at West Brom (0-0), Hull (1-1) and the first game at Watford (0-0).

This is all in remarkably stark contrast to their home form where they’re unbeaten in four. At Home Park the Pilgrims have won six and drawn one of 11. Only the top three in the division have won more on their own patches, and only Ipswich (30) in second have scored more home goals than Plymouth’s 24, with Huddersfield, Blackburn, Sheff Wed and Boro all conceding three in the South West and Norwich shipping six. Morgan Whittaker is top scorer here with eight goals in 19 starts and one sub appearance since his summer permanent switch across from Swansea – still fries my brain the Swans let him leave on the cheap while also losing Michael Obafemi and Joel Piroe from their attack.

These two went from 1968 to 2002 without facing each other in a league game, then played 16 times in eight years. Plymouth won only one of the eight meetings at Loftus Road and QPR did likewise in the away games – frequently on Boxing Day. There has only been one meeting in the last decade – a 3-2 win for the Pilgrims in a lockdown League Cup tie, played on a Saturday in September during those strange times, despite Ryan Manning giving Rangers the lead after a minute. Rangers have won only one of the last dozen meetings, but there have been six draws in that period after only one draw in the previous 38.

Prediction: We’re once again indebted to The Art of Football for agreeing to sponsor our Prediction League and provide prizes. You can get involved by lodging your prediction here or sample the merch from our sponsor’s newly extended QPR collection here. Just three games left until our ‘top at Christmas’ prize is handed out, with SilverFoxQPR currently ahead by five points. Let’s see what our reigning champion Aston got for us this week…

“Maybe for the first time this season, we come into a game as the form team and with some expectation behind us. Schumacher is doing a wonderful job down there but they've faltered recently with speculation of him taking one of the many vacant Championship jobs. I think we'll win this one but Plymouth attack and they'll score too. 2-1 to us, Willock to continue his run and score first.”

Aston’s Prediction: QPR 2-1 Plymouth Argyle. Scorer – Chris Willock

LFW’s Prediction: QPR 1-1 Plymouth Argyle. Scorer – Ilias Chair

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BlackCrowe added 10:52 - Dec 13
A lovely read, thank you.

SMBRANGER added 12:01 - Dec 13
Hi Clive,
I'm 75 in a couple of weeks and been supporting QPR since the sixties, lucky enough to have a season ticket through the seventies and saw us in the FA cup final. But having said all that my favourite match of all time is that Oldham game for all the reasons you mentioned plus I was with my eldest son, it was wonderful to share it with him its an evening we both treasure.
I'm sure I remember Steve Palmer saying that he had played in stadiums with 50,000 fans but they did not match the noise and atmosphere of Loftus Road that night.

_tf_ added 13:55 - Dec 13
Couldn't agree more SMBRanger - there was something about that evening under the lights and I will never forget the collective held breath when Furs was put through. An immense silence followed by an incredible finish and then pandemonium. A week later a friend at a newspaper sent me a beautiful photograph of PF with his top off after the goal standing with both arms out, eyes closed and looking up to the heavens. In the backfround you can see (I think) Fitz Hall slumped over and the SAR is BOUNCING. That photo immediately replaced all the other inconsequential one of parents, children, weddings etc in the middle all our other photos and it remains there to this day.

dutch added 16:17 - Dec 13
My best footballing mate was a magical man called Rob Partridge, head of press at Island records. Originally from Plymouth he moved opposite the Crown and Sceptre in the 70's and did what we all say is sacrilege and changed allegiances to the R's. Became a fanatic, we went home and away together in his BMW with the best music playing. When we first played Plymouth after many years I saw him go through emotional turmoil, but he rooted for the hoops. He died of cancer years back. I will think of him tonight. Born green but died blue and white. Loved that man.

AlexWard added 17:14 - Dec 13
Fantastic preview as always. The Oldham game was special, all the other games you mention I have been to as well but that Oldham game was something else. Atmosphere is not necessarily the bigger the crowd = the most noise and therefore the best atmosphere. Atmosphere is when you look around you and see that everyone is totally invested and living every second of the game. That was the Oldham game, everyone there had lived through all the hassles of supporting QPR - there were no glory hunters or casual supporters. We deserved it. That game was special, it was absolutely electric. I will never forget it.

Royboy48 added 18:34 - Dec 13
It doesn’t need repeating that the matchday experience is every bit as important as the match itself.

Similarly the beer has to match it although for me the pint of London Pride at the C&S is a thing of beauty and a joy forever.

I’ve seen Marsh and I’ve seen Bowles.
I’ve seen losing streaks I thought would never end
6 nil demolitions of Chelsea
Allen and Fenwick in the 82 cup
Bannister’s 6th surfing on a bow wave against Partizan
Michelwhite’s late goal, the 10th in game against Newcastle
The return of the Black cat to save us against Palace

But there’s just something about that Oldham game…

TacticalR added 19:12 - Dec 13
Thanks for your preview.

I am quite jealous of those who got into football through family members - nobody in my family was remotely interested in football so I had to find my own way to Loftus Road in the late 70s.

I keep saying it, but I think I've still got PTSD from all the losses last season, so I can't quite believe that we've managed to get a few wins under our belt.

Aston says that as the form team we actually have some expectations going into this match. This is something we have rarely been able to handle.

BuckAtkins added 15:48 - Dec 17
I recently started betting on sports at and was pleasantly surprised at how many different sports you can choose to bet on. For example, I tried betting on the biathlon and guessed the results of all the competitors! I was simply delighted when I saw a round sum on my account and immediately put it to withdrawal. I was pleased that the service allows you to do it almost instantly!

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